Title: A Terrible, No Good Day.
AN: A little Lee story.
Lee didn't mean to be bad. He never did. Today, especially. Today his father was supposed to come home. So he had gotten up early to make sure everything was perfect. Except he had trouble with the stove, burnt the eggs, and got yelled at for almost causing a fire. He tried to help Zac finish his homework, but Zac got mad, and Lee's own carefully done homework had ended up in the toilet – when all the screaming ended, Lee had been the one in trouble.
Things didn't get better at school. Even when he told everyone how his father was coming home that day – his father who was a hero. Lee thought – if that didn't make other kids like him, nothing would. But it didn't.
After school he remembered to pick Zac up from the grade two classroom, made sure to hold his hand when they crossed the street. Once safely across they started running - Lee half dragging Zac as they chanted 'Dad's home dad's home dad's home'.
Except when they hurdled their way over the curb, scrambled up the stairs, pushed their way through the main door – the house was dark.
"Hello?" Lee called. "Dad? Mom?"
Zac hadn't let go of his hand. Lee heard a noise coming from upstairs. He stared at his brother. Led him to basement and turned on the TV. They weren't allowed to watch TV. He left Zac and climbed the stairs to the main floor, climbed the stairs again to the second floor. Then, moving oh so silently, he crept to his parent's bedroom door. The glass knob was cold and slippery in his hand but he turned it carefully, pushing the door open. The room was dark. There was a single shape in the blankets on the bed, an empty bottle on the bedtable. Lee bit his lip.
"Mom?" His whispered voice wavered. He moved closer. "Mom? It's ok. It's me."
His mom didn't move. He raised his voice. "Mom!"
She didn't move. With a trembling hand (she never liked it when he found her like this – he always got in trouble) he touched her arm. Then shook it. "Mom, please. Dad's sorry. He'll come. He's coming. He's just late. Please mom. He can't find you like this. He wouldn't understand."
But she still didn't move. He shook her again, harder, making her head rock back and forth, his rising panic fading as she finally moaned in response, her hand flopping sideways in protest. "Mom," he whispered, mouth to her ear. "Com'on. You can't do this to us."
An empty pill bottle rolled from the covers and his panic rose again, pushing the oxygen out of the room. .
"Com'on Zac." Lee ignored his brother's whining as he turned off the television. "I said com'on!"
"Is Dad here yet?"
Lee shook his head, grabbing his brother's hand. "Zac, com'on. Now."
"Lee, you're hurting me!"
Lee dropped his brother's hand as if it burned. Taking a breath. "I'm sorry. But we have to hurry."
But Lee didn't answer. Just lead the way up and out the house, back through the door they had tripped through so excitedly a few moments before. He should have known. His father's coat wasn't hanging on the hook, his father's boots weren't lined up on the boot rack next to his mother's heel and zipper boots. He should have known. He shouldn't have been so stupid.
"Where we going?"
"Oh kissey kissy" Zac started to make the strangest noises as Lee grabbed his brother's hand again, but gentler this time. Leading him back to the sidewalk, two doors down, and up another driveway. He rang the doorbell. Trying to ignore the shouts coming from within. Zac had stopped smooching his hand, staring up at the house in interest. "Am I going to play with Sally?".
The door opened, and Margaret was there, hair carefully pulled back with ribbons, wearing a dress Lee had never seen, black shoes with lacey socks. Behind her kids ran into each other, wearing pointy hats, as a puppy pulled apart wrapping paper. She was smiling, but when she saw Lee her face fell.
They spoke at the same time.
"I would have invited you but –"
"Hi – I –" Lee swallowed. "I don't have a present but I wondered-."
"- I didn't think you'd want to come."
"I was busy. And I don't – don't have a present."
She still stood there. Lee felt himself grow desperate. "I'm sorry. I know it's your birthday but I was hoping - is Sally there? Can Zac stay and play with her?"
As if she knew she was being summoned, Sally appeared next to her big sister. Blond curls falling into her eyes, face lighting up when she caught sight of Zac,
"Thac!" She called, flashing her toothless smile. Zac started giggling, revealing his own gap-toothed grin as Sally ordered him inside. They disappeared into the house packed with children, their high pitched voices pealing with laughter. .
"You can still come." Margaret shrugged. "If you want."
Lee shook his head. "I don't have a present."
"Well, ok." They both heard someone calling for her.
"I got to go."
Lee turned away before she could, hurried back the way he came. He needed to get things done. His mother – he had to fix his mother. His father could never, ever know. "Don't be stupid Lee," he whispered to himself. "Not now. Don't be stupid. Figure this out." There's always a solution, that's what his father always said. There is always a solution. Like figuring out how fast the plane would have to go, or when the train needed to leave the station. He just had to work hard enough. There was one here, he just had to be smart enough to find it. His mother needed him to be smart.
Back in the house he grabbed his mother's big coat. He couldn't call anyone – they would take her to the military hospital. That would be stupid. His father would know. He was nine. He wasn't a kid anymore. He could do this. He could figure this out. He stuck his hand into the coat's pocket, felt the first stirring of hope as he wrapped his fingers around the car keys.