Young Adult Fiction posted January 10, 2010


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Kids get hurt by parent's decisions

Broken Love

by Dustman6180

Mark sprung out of bed, startled by what sounded like a semi-truck honking its horn over and over again. His stockinged-feet slid across the hardwood floor, conveying him rapidly toward the clothesbasket parked in the center of his bedroom. Trying desperately to avoid the obstacle, Mark fell rump-first into the pile of overflowing clothes that surrounded the bin.

"Stupid alarm clock!" Mark barked loudly.

Still dazed, he made his way back to his bed. Kneeling on the edge, he reached across and slapped the switch on the noisy clock/radio. The honking stopped.

He peered across the room at his brother's bed to see if he had been wakened. Timmy was sound asleep, totally unaware of Mark's early morning acrobatics.

"Stupid kid!" Mark whispered under his breath. He grabbed a handful of dirty clothes and threw them at his brother.

"Get up!" he shouted. "Didn't you hear the alarm?"

Timmy groaned.

"And what did I tell you about throwing your clothes all over the floor like this?"

Timmy rolled over to face his roaring brother. He closed one eye tight in an attempt to focus.

"What's your problem, Mark?"

"You're my problem! I'm sick and tired of having to share my room with a pig!"

"Your room? This was my room until you had to come back home. Why don't you go back and live with Dad? Mom and I were doing just fine without you!"

"Why don't you go live with Dad? I did my time with him, now it's your turn. Or is Timmy afraid to leave his wittle mommy?"

Timmy slid his legs over the side of his bed to the floor. He dragged his scrawny frame, still rubbery from a nights sleep, over to where Mark stood.

"Why don't you just shut up!" he shouted, just inches from his brother's chin.

Mark placed his hands on each of Timmy's shoulders and pushed him backwards, toward the clothesbasket.

"Why don't you make me, whimp?"

Timmy tried to turn and stop himself from hitting the basket, but he tumbled and his knee hit the floor--hard. Lying on his back, he turned quickly to face his brother, holding his knee to his chest in a short rocking motion. He didn't say a word, he just stared up at his older brother through water-blurred eyes.

Mark could see that Timmy's knee was hurt. But he also knew that the glistening moisture in his eyes was from a hurt much deeper than a bruised joint. He felt sorry for having pushed his younger brother. He reached out his hand to help him up, but Timmy slapped it away.

"Fine! Stay there for all I care! Just make sure you pick this mess up!"

Mark stormed toward the door that led to the upstairs hallway. Before exiting the room, he turned to look at Timmy on the floor.

"Stupid kid," he said, shaking his head in disgust.

Mark's mom met him at the bottom of the stairs.

"What's all the racket up there?" she asked, pointing to the upstairs bedroom with a movement of her head.

Mark squeezed past her, and continued walking toward the kitchen.

"It's your whimpy son--he tried to get tough with me!" he shouted back at her. From the corner of his eye he could see his mother had started up the stairs. "Mom -- don't baby him!"

She continued climbing while he entered the kitchen.

Mark was finishing up the last of his breakfast when his mother came marching into the room.

"Mark--Alan--Nabhor!"

Mark liked his name. He boasted often of how even his initials proved he was a M.A.N. What he didn't like, was when his mother used all three names to address him. That always meant trouble.

"Timmy's knee is swollen the size of a softball!"

"Mom, I-"

"What gives you the right to be beating up on your brother?"

"Mom, I hardly-"

"Mark, you're twice his size, you could have really hurt him."

Mark stopped trying to speak. His mother stood only five feet tall, but he knew better than to interrupt her when her hands went to her hips, her mouth tightened, and her eyes became so focused they were like lasers in the hands of a surgeon. She was doing surgery on him right now.

"Well?" she asked, "have you got anything to say?"

"Mom, I didn't mean to hurt him. He got in my face and started telling me I should have stayed with dad, and how you and he don't need me here. I just tried to push him away and he fell. I even tried to help him up, but he slapped my hand away."

His mom pulled a chair from under the table and scooted it closer to her son. With one hand on his shoulder, she turned his face until he was staring into her eyes. The lasers were gone now. In their place were soft aqua pools. Her voice was soothing.

"Honey, you know I need you. When your dad and I decided to separate, we thought it was best for you to stay with him while Timmy stayed with me. Neither one of us could stand the thought of being alone without the company of our children."

She removed her hand from the side of Mark's face, slid back in her seat and rested her hands on the table in front of her.

"Unfortunately, your father's job keeps him away from home a lot and he wasn't able to spend much time with you. He-"

"You don't have to make excuses for Dad, Mom. He never has time for any of us, that's why you two aren't together anymore." Mark stood abruptly.

Grabbing his bowl and glass, he carried them to the sink. His mother followed.

"You've got to be patient, Mark. Your dad's new job is very demanding. He couldn't devote his all to the job while I continued to nag him about how little time he spent with us. Things will get better, you'll see. In the mean time, go easy on him--and your brother. Okay?"

Mark turned from the sink to face his mother. He had a hundred angry replies bouncing around in his head. Looking down at his tiny mother, her pleading eyes looking up at him, he surrendered.

"Sure, Mom," he said, smiling half-heartedly. He wiped his hands on the dish towel and left the kitchen.

Timmy was limping toward him as he neared the bottom of the stairs.

"How's the knee?" Mark asked.

"Terrible--thanks to you!"

"Well, I was going to give you a ride to school, but now you can just ride your stupid bike. Let's see how your knee feels after that."

He walked past his brother and bounded up the stairs, touching only every other step. When he entered his room he noticed that his brother had picked up the pile of clothes. He walked to the edge of his bed and sat down. On the nightstand next to the alarm clock was a three-by-five picture frame. He laid across the bed, positioning himself directly in front of it.

Why can't we all be together again, he thought.

He closed his eyes, recalling the misty mornings and the afternoon rides through the country during their last outing as a complete family. He opened his eyes again to see the image of his mom and dad hugging, while he and Timmy posed goofily for the camera on the steps of their mountain cabin. That was only last summer.

"Why'd you have to take that job, Dad?" he whispered to himself. "Now you've ruined everything."

Mark got ready for school in a hurry. He wanted to leave before his mother had a chance to guilt him into taking Timmy with him. He stuffed his school books into his backpack and began frantically looking for his soccer playbook. After several minutes of searching, he found it under his own pile of dirty laundry thrown down at the end of his bed. After adding it to the bag, he left the bedroom and loped down the stairs.

He glanced toward the kitchen as he made his turn for the front door. His brother was sitting at the table facing away from him. He couldn't see his mother, but her hand came into view as it reached out to Timmy and tenderly patted his hand. She coddles him too much, he thought. Shaking his head in disgust, he headed for the door.

"Bye, Mom!" he shouted as he exited the house. He scurried to his car without waiting for a reply. As he pulled out of the driveway, he refused to look back, convinced that his mother would be standing at the door motioning for him to wait for Timmy. He wasn't in the mood for Timmy right now.

Throughout the day, Mark felt melancholy. He found himself close to tears several times as his mind would transfer him back to the place in the photograph--the one that sat on the table next to his bed at home. In it, Mom and Dad were happy, and Timmy and he were getting along--having fun. The moisture in his eyes would well up when he thought about how those days were probably gone for good. He prayed silently for this day to pass quickly, but it dragged on.

After school, Mark sat on the sidelines while his team-mates darted around the soccer field. He told the coach he didn't feel well and asked to be excused. Coach Jackson knew The M.A.N. was not ailing physically, but was troubled by something inside. Since Mark's dad took the job eight months ago, Coach had become a father-figure to him, helping him to cope with the many changes that were taking place in his life. Coach often spoke the words he needed to hear to find comfort, but he also knew when to say nothing, leaving Mark to search his own soul for the answers.

Today, Mark was searching his own soul.

Sitting with his legs extended straight forward and crossed, he leaned back against his arms and hands and tilted his head backward to view the bright blue sky above. Remembering the events of the morning, he closed his eyes with remorse. His thoughts began to flow:

Why did I push Timmy? I should have told him I was sorry. I can't believe I told my Mom she was just making excuses for Dad. I shouldn't have stormed out of the house this morning. I should've given Timmy a ride to school. Our family used to be so happy-

Mark's thoughts were interrupted by the sound of Coach Jackson's voice calling his name. He opened his eyes to see the coach motioning for him to come. Principal Cummings was walking back to the building, having just conferred with him. Mark hopped to his feet and began walking slowly across the field, somewhat hesitant. When he sensed that something was wrong, he began to run.

"What's the matter, coach?"

"I don't know the particulars, but Timothy's been in an accident. Your mother needs you down at the hospital right away!"



Mark sat in the chair beside his mother's, clasping her hand tightly in his. The room was crowded with crying children and moaning grownups. One lady, sitting behind a glass window, seemed to argue with every person who walked through the automatic doors. Women dressed in white smocks, white shoes and white hats were running in and out. Occasionally, one of the brightly clad women would stick her head in the room and call out someone's name.

Mark watched nervously, repositioning himself in his chair to get closer to his mother. He wished he could rip out the chair-arms that were between them so he could lay his head against her soft, reassuring shoulder. He looked over at his mom.

She was trying not to cry.

A thought popped into his head, and he felt his face tighten and blood begin to flow rapidly through his cheeks.

"Where's Dad?" he demanded.

"He'll be here, honey. They had to get him out of a meeting. He'll be here soon." She touched the side of his face as she had that morning at the breakfast table. Mark nearly melted. He wanted to cry and blubber in her arms, and tell her all the hurt that he was feeling because of her and Dad's breakup; but he knew that now wasn't the time. There was a more immediate hurt to contend with--Timmy may be dying.

Mark spied his father standing in front of the glass window. The woman behind the glass never spoke a word, she just lifted her hand and pointed in his direction.

"Dad's here!" he blurted, not sure whether he felt relief or anger.

He was surprised to see his mom jump up from the chair and dash to him, her arms open wide. The tears she had been holding back were now cascading down her cheeks, flowing steadily onto his father's expensive suit. His long arms wrapped around her small frame, his trademark black briefcase still clasped tightly in his hand.

A flood of guilt came over Mark when he realized how good he was feeling, seeing his mom and dad embrace. How could he feel any joy, knowing that his younger brother was lying on an operating table just down the hall. After all, it was his fault Timmy was here. If he'd only given his brother a ride to school, his mom would have picked him up and driven him home, and the accident wouldn't have happened.

"Why was I such a jerk? I'm sorry, Timmy." Mark covered his face with his hands so no one could see him cry.

"Now, now, what do we have here?" The big man set his briefcase on the floor and squatted in front of Mark's chair, pulling him to his chest.

"It's going to be all right, Mark. Timmy's a strong kid. He's going to pull through."

Somehow his dad's words comforted him. He threw his arms around his father's neck and squeezed so hard that he heard him moan.

"I love you Dad."

"I love you too, son."

Mark looked up at his mother. The cascade of tears had turned to trickles and the glistening droplets were being trapped by her up-turned mouth. It felt good to see her smile. Mom, Dad, and Mark: the family was almost complete. The three sat in silence awaiting word on the well-being of the fourth and final member of the family.

A few minutes later, a short, round man wearing blue scrubs and glasses came over to where they sat. The surgical mask pulled down under his chin jumped up and down as he spoke.

"The young man's in a light coma, but he's stable."

Mark heard his mom gasp. He turned to see his dad put his arm around her and pull her into him.

"He hit his head pretty hard. There was quite a bit of fluid and swelling around the brain, but we were able to drain most of the fluid and relieve the pressure. He'll be in I.C.U. for a couple days, or until he decides to wake up. He's a strong young man, and I have every confidence he'll recover just fine."

"When can we see him?" Mom interrupted.

"I'd give it till tomorrow, then go in one at a time and speak to him for short periods of time. He may not respond, but it seems that people in comas snap out of them quicker when they are spoken to."

As the doctor walked away, Mark felt his dad's arm reach around him--pulling him into his parent's embrace.

"Timmy's going to be alright," he said.



Mark went with his parents to the hospital several times over the next few days, but never could get up enough nerve to go in to see Timmy -- not while he was in a coma. He would spend the hour or so sitting in the waiting room reading magazines and trying to find the right words to apologize to his brother for his attitude the morning of the accident. On the fourth day after the accident, Mark's parents walked into the waiting room, smiling from ear to ear.

"He's awake!" shouted his mother over the heads of several strangers.

It took only a second for her words to register in his mind. He was unaware of the many eyes watching him as he jumped out of his chair and raced across the room.

"Let's go see him!"

"We can't tonight, son." explained his father. "The doctor says they need to do some tests and make sure he's comfortable. He asked us to come back tomorrow. We'll come up as soon as visiting hours start, okay?"

"I guess."

"Hey, let's get something to eat!" interrupted his mom. "I'm starved."

Mark beamed as the three of them left the hospital as one. Soon, the family would be complete again, he thought. At the restaurant, he asked his parents if he could go in to see Timmy first in the morning -- by himself.

"I have something I want to say to him, and I don't know if I could say it in front of you guys."

Knowing the guilt that he had been carrying about his brother's accident, they both agreed.



"He's sleeping right now, but you can go in for a minute or two--if you're quiet."

The lady in the white smock placed her hand on Mark's back, gently guiding him through the door. He stopped just inside the door to get a full view of Timmy's room. His scrawny brother seemed swallowed up by the immense bed he occupied. Tubes ran everywhere. Following them with his eyes, Mark traced a couple of clear tubes over the top of the rear bed-rail, into Timmy's nostrils. This sight almost caused him to turn back toward the door, but he knew he couldn't leave--not until he said what he came to say.

As he walked to the bed, he felt his foot slip on the recently waxed floor. He remembered his episode with the clothesbasket just a few mornings before and grinned slightly. A tinge of guilt hit him, and the half-smile left his face, but only for a moment. As he rehashed the events of the last few days in his mind, the grin returned, this time wider and more deliberate. He shoved the hospital chair closer to the edge of the bed and sat down. Leaning forward in order to speak into the face of his sleeping brother, he propped his elbows on the metal rail and rested his chin in his folded hands.

"Hey, Timmy," he whispered. "Doc says you're going to be just fine. I guess your brain was swollen or something, so he had to drain some fluids. Anyway, he says your skull wasn't cracked and that was a good sign. He should've asked me, I knew you were one hard-headed kid."

Mark snickered, watching Timmy's face closely for any hints of awareness. There was none.

"Listen, I came up alone because I wanted to say something to you."

The inflection in his voice revealed his seriousness. He slid back into the large vinyl chair, letting out a loud sigh, the result of a combination of nerves and the shock of cold plastic swallowing him. He looked up to see if the sound of his movement had wakened his brother, but Timmy never stirred. In a way, he was glad his brother was asleep. He might have to repeat it later, but what he had on his mind right now, he needed to say. If it came out too serious or too mushy he could always tone it down later when his brother would actually hear it. This would be the unpracticed version -- the from-the-heart version.

"First of all, I wanted to say I'm very sorry. I shouldn't have gotten so mad at you the other day. And I definitely shouldn't have pushed you. I guess I've been so upset with the situation between Mom and Dad lately that I started taking it out on everybody else--especially you. I'm really sorry. You know I love you, and I always-"

Mark's eyes swelled with moisture, causing him to pause. He wiped them with the cuff of his shirt sleeve and continued. "Anyway, I'm sorry and I love you. But-"

He sat up and leaned to the bed again. He was smiling now, and his voice revealed a touch of joy.

"Something good has come from you getting hit by that car! I can say this now, because we know your going to be alright."

Mark was speaking much louder than his previous whisper. He didn't care if he woke Timmy with this news. His words flew out like bullets from a machine gun.

"Since we didn't know whether you were going to recover or not, Dad didn't want to go back to work. His boss called him and asked him if he could at least finish up one of the accounts he was working on, and Dad said he didn't think he could. This made his boss mad. Dad just got mad back, and ended up quitting his job. Word sure traveled fast, cause yesterday Dad got a call from his old boss, who offered him his position back. Dad took it! He's moving back in with us, Timmy. We're going to be a family again!"

Mark was nearly out of breath. He was so excited he hadn't noticed the nurse entering the room.

"And when you get better, Dad's taking us all to the mountain cab-"

He was startled by a cold hand firmly squeezing his shoulder.

"Son, you're going to have to leave now. You're starting to get a little too loud, and I told you, your brother needs his rest. Come on."

Mark didn't argue. He said what he came to say. He stood and followed the brightly clad lady to the door. As she held the door open for him to exit, a voice called from across the room:

"Mark?"

Mark turned excitedly to face his brother, the nurse holding his arm to keep him from returning to the bed.

"Yeah, Timmy?"

The voice replied, "I love you too!"


Recognized


I wrote this story a few years ago, but never submitted it to the contest it was written for. It is long, but please take the time to read it -- I think you will enjoy. It is not a personal story, but having ministered to youth for years, know that this is an all-too-familiar story.
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