“Yo Momma so old-“
“My Momma is dead,” Jonathan said matter-of-factly.
For a split second, Patrick froze, as if to consult his conscience, but then quickly regained composure and burst out laughing.
“He’s quick on his feet. I like it,” Patrick said to Tim who looked mortified.
“His mother really IS dead, you fool,” Tim admonished Patrick – his long-time friend.
The bell rang and the kids, who roamed the hallways at a snail speed just a moment before, rushed towards their classroom at full speed.
Jonathan breathed a sigh of relief, thankful that he was able to postpone the interrogation. He knew that, sooner or later, he would have to answer questions, some for which he did not even have answers himself; kids were nosy like that. All Jonathan wanted was a normal life, but apparently, that was too much to ask for now that his mother was dead, having been murdered.
Once back at home, Tim told his parents all about Patrick’s insensitivity. They all tried to cheer Jonathan up, but it only reminded him of the fact that he was a long way from home, living with strangers. Since he did not have any family members left once his mother died, Jonathan was assigned to a foster family – the Solomons. Jonathan was worried they would be mean and abusive, as some of the foster families he had seen on TV, but Fred, Wendy, and Tim were nice. Too nice. He wanted to be treated like any other 14-year-old boy, but they treated him like he was made of glass; handled with care as if he would break if any wrong move was made.
Fred was a used car salesman, while Wendy – a stay-at-home mom. Even though they did not earn a lot of money, they never let it show, and Tim seemed to have the latest gadgets. That was probably the reason why he was part of the ‘cool kids’ club.
“I gotcha,” Tim said to Jonathan the very first day they met. And so far, it held true. However, Jonathan was not fully comfortable with that. Used to being the man of the house, he had a hard time adjusting to being taken care of. He wanted to resolve his own problems with Patrick, to punch him if need be, but since he did not want to cause problems for his new family, he left it to Tim to deal with his buddy.
“How come you never ask me about my mom?” Jonathan asked, staring at the ceiling.
“I know she’s dead. My parents told me to leave you be. You might be… traumatized… or something, and it’s better not to ask questions and let you talk when you’re ready,” Tim answered from the bottom bunk.
“Made of glass,” Jonathan grumbled.
“What?” Tim asked, hoping that it was finally time for Jonathan to tell him all the gory details surrounding his mother’s death.
“Nothing. I’m tired. Night.” Jonathan turned to his side, towards the wall.
“Night,” Tim echoed half-heartedly. Just like Patrick, he, too, wanted to know what happened to Jonathan’s mom.
Jonathan laid with his eyes open, long after Tim began to snore softly. Like every other night since the funeral, Jonathan could not stop thinking about how he found his mother in a pool of blood upon his return from school on that dreadful Monday afternoon. It had been raining since the day before, his Math teacher administered a pop quiz, which Jonathan was pretty sure he had failed, and Katie was spotted holding hands with Mike. It just could not get any worse. Until it did. He watched enough movies to know that the hit was personal since nothing seemed to have been stolen. The police had no leads.
The funeral was absolutely pathetic. The only people there were a priest, one of Jonathan’s teachers, a social worker, and an undertaker. Funerals are to be attended by dozens of people; all sobbing uncontrollably, wearing dark sunglasses. Or so the movies say. As Jonathan walked away from the casket, he saw a man standing under a weeping willow about 20 yards from where the ceremony was held. The man wore a black suit and matching sunglasses. “He must have watched enough movies to know how to dress for a funeral,” Jonathan mused before being directed to a car by the social worker.
Every night since the funeral, Jonathan wondered who that man could have been. Even though he wore dark sunglasses, Jonathan knew that the mystery man was staring right at him and that it was no coincidence.
A couple of days later, after Tim went to get some snacks from the vending machine, Patrick approached Jonathan and sat down next to him.
“Hey, man!” Patrick extended his hand towards Jonathan but was left hanging. “OK, I get that. You’re mad at me. Sorry about the joke, dude, but I had no idea your mom was dead.”
When Jonathan did not respond, Patrick continued. “Tim told me you found her in the living room, guts and brains all over white sofa and walls.” Patrick took a peek at Jonathan to see if he was going to get any sort of response, but Jonathan was like a statue – frozen, with his gaze far into the distance, beyond the schoolyard.
“Pat, I told you to leave him alone.” Tim came running in their direction.
“I didn’t do anything,” Patrick replied before hurrying away.
“I’m sorry for whatever he said. He’s an idiot, but he’s harmless.” Tim passed gushers to Jonathan, who barely even registered Tim’s arrival.
“These are your favorite. C’mon,” Tim ushered Jonathan who kept staring up ahead.
“Do you see him?” Jonathan asked in a whisper.
“Him. There,” Jonathan replied, still staring beyond the fence.
“Who is he?” Tim asked, only to engage in a conversation with a traumatized boy who was now seeing things. It was worse than his parents thought.
“I don’t know.” Jonathan was half-way to the school gate before Tim realized what was going on.
But Jonathan was now sprinting, too fast for Tim to even try and catch up.
The man was wearing jeans and a T-shirt this time, but Jonathan knew it was the same man he saw at the funeral.
“Who are you and why are you following me?” Jonathan asked, now slowly walking towards the man. “Just remember that if anything happens to me, my friend saw you. He’ll tell the cops,” he added. Hopefully, Tim really did see the mystery man.
“I’m not trying to hurt you. Quite the opposite – I’m trying to protect you,” the man wearing dark sunglasses said as he began to approach Jonathan.
“Stop. Don’t come any closer or I’ll scream. Are you some sort of a pervert? Spying on underage boys?” Jonathan asked, wondering why he ran out there without thinking it through first.
“OK,” the stranger halted. “Look, I know your mother is dead. I’m so sor-“
“Did you kill her?” Jonathan charged at the man in front of him.
“No. I did not… but she might have died because of me,” he answered and embraced Jonathan to restrain him. “I’m your father,” he added softly as Jonathan tried to break free.
“Let me go,” Jonathan asked, and the man wearing jeans and a T-Shirt released him.
“This can’t be true. My dad died when I was little,” Jonathan thought as he ran back towards the school, tears streaming down his face.
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