Helpless — Fiction
The wind blasts Brian’s face and bites through his hoodie. South Texas rarely gets cold, but today looms rare indeed. Home lingers twenty minutes away, but he slows his pace. His gut churns with the thought of what waits there. He shivers but smiles because at least his tummy feels warm.
Today at school he was last out of gym class to hide the newest bruise. So far this year, he’s only had to explain one. The good news is, it only happens every couple of weeks, so it’s easier to hide. The bad news is watching his mom take it in between his turns. She tells Brian everything is fine, but he can see how much pain she’s in.
The wind gusts for a second and Brian struggles to stay upright. If only he stood taller. He could do something about it. The shivering snaps him back into motion and he picks up the pace, even though he can’t stand to be home. The heat from his tummy rises and he swallows it back down.
His stepdad showed up four years ago. Three months later Brian woke up to his mom screaming.
He ran to her room. She was on the floor holding her face with Steve standing over her. Brian was eight at the time and rushed at the man who hurt his mom. He got backhanded for it. Steve picked her up by the hair and whispered something to her. She gasped and scooped Brian up taking him back to his room. She told him that night everything would be fine.
And every night since.
With the wind silent now Brian still shivers. At least he isn’t going to throw up anymore. Of course, that means he isn’t getting any heat from inside either. His house is in sight now and will be warm. His stepdad is home. So is mom. If only he could figure out how to stop all this. He wants to tell somebody, but mom says not to.
He’s tried to hit Steve back. Never works. And usually ends up in more bruises. There’s nothing he does that works. His mom tells him everything will be fine every single day, but it only gets worse. He cries every night. Every day at school he keeps quiet. Some of the other kids laugh at him because he never says anything at all.
As he stands at the front door, Brian knows everything will not be fine. He rubs the bruise on his back through his clothes and tears well up. The door flies open and Steve towers over him.
“You’re late you little piss ant!” He snatches Brian by the hood and yanks him inside.
The now-familiar smell of beer and stale cigarettes catch in his throat as the door slams behind him. His tummy churns again.
“Where’ve you been?”
“Gym class ran late.”
“That better be all it was. Get to your room till your mom calls you for supper.”
Brian flinches but nothing happens. Steve half staggers to the living room. Drunk again. Brian shuffles to his room not bothering to look for his mom and shuts the door behind him quietly before flopping down on the bed. He has homework but left it at school. No point. He’s not going back anyway.
He can’t take this anymore. And mom can’t do anything.
Running away isn’t an option, nowhere to go. Killing Steve sounds good, but Brian can’t even fight back. No way he could kill him. There is nothing left to do. Brian closes his eyes. If only he could disappear. Never have to see or hear or feel again. That would be the best ever. If only they owned a gun.He’s heard other kids at school talk about guns. That could be all he needed. No chance of that either.
A light knock on the door and Brian opens his eyes. His mom whispers through the door supper is ready. He thought about saying he wasn’t hungry but knew he’d only get yelled at, so he follows his mom to the table and sits in his usual spot, careful not to sigh too hard. Another reason to get yelled at. He waits until Steve settles in before he starts.
Brian forces down what was in front of him even though his tummy protested the entire time. Steve slammed another two beers at the table (who knows how many before). Brian could feel the heat rising again, hitting the back of his throat, making his mouth water. Steve leans back and lights up a cigarette. The smell washes over Brian and he knew he was going to lose his supper.
“May I be excused?” He manages to choke out.
Steve exhales a large plume and stares and Brian. “What the hell’s wrong with you boy? You look sick.”
“I just don’t feel good.”
Steve pops up and stalks off to the living room.
Brian looks at his mom for the first time tonight and she nods. Both eyes are bruised.
He darts to the bathroom and slides to his knees in front of the toilet. After the first round of retching, he notices the bathroom door closes softly. He forgot to close the door on his way in.
“What the hell’s all that noise!” Heavy footsteps getting closer.
“I took care of it, baby.” His mom’s voice sounds different than before.
Brian goes through a second round of retching.
When he finishes he can hear them fighting again.
A loud slap.
“What the fuck do you think you’re gonna do with that, bitch?”
Brian covers his ears and crouches behind the toilet.
Light footsteps in a hurry.
The door swings in.
A small trickle of blood trails from the corner of her mouth and she cradles a pistol in her hand.
“Sweetheart, we have to go.”