After they removed her body from the apartment and I got my things together, the coroner brought me a bloodstained note they found in the pocket of Mama's dress. I held it tightly in my hand as the police drove me to what was called a "Group Home," which was basically an orphanage for kids with mental and medical problems; they didn't want to place me in a foster home immediately, which I was thankful for.
Mrs. Pruitt owned the group home, and she was a petite woman with sandy, frizzy hair and large glasses. She wore sweaters under cardigans under cardigans and long, gypsy skirts, which was really weird, but she was so nice to me. I was immediately pulled into a hug and given a kiss on the cheek. She led me to my room.
"Chris is your roommate; he's a dear," she told me, tucking my hair behind my ears. I shook it back into my face and nodded. "Let me know if you need anything, okay?"
I shrugged and noticed that Chris was asleep, so I climbed up to the top bunk, trying not to wake him. I wrapped myself up in the blanket and rolled onto my side, Mama's note clutched within my hands. I hesitantly unfolded it and squinted against the dim light of the bedroom. Her writing looked shaky, spotted with blood. My vision became even more distorted by the tears welling up in my eyes, and I sniffed, wiping them away so I could read. The note was in Dutch, of course, and it read,
Het spijt me zo. (I'm so sorry.)
Ik hou van je. (I love you.)
Zijn sterk, zijn blij, mijn engel. (Be strong, be happy, my angel.)
I broke down again, unable to hold the favor she'd asked of me-"be strong, be happy," the last two words anyone would have ever chosen to describe me.
I called Violet the next day to tell her where I was staying. I wanted to call Rion, too, since it was his birthday, but I wasn't sure what else to say, and I didn't want to tell him what happened. I couldn't leave; I could hardly get out of bed, though I really wanted to see him, and I knew he probably couldn't come by to see me. I didn't want to whine to him, anyway, so I just didn't worry about it.
"I can't come for a few days," Violet told me. "I'm grounded, but I'll come when I can, Conbon."
I bit my lip. "Okay. See you in a few days. Love you."
"I love you, too," she said softly. We hung up after saying goodbye, and I pulled my covers back over my head.
There was a knock on the door that I ignored, but I heard it open anyway.
"Connor, sweetie," Mrs. Pruitt cooed. "I have some soup for you…. Your medicine is here, but you have to eat to take it."
I looked over the edge of the bed and down at her. "Then I guess I won't be taking it."
Mrs. Pruitt was so kind that I felt horrible when I refused to eat or get out of bed, but I just couldn't. I didn't want to. My only comfort was my secluded bed, so I stayed there.
Over the next week, she continued to bring me food, but I would leave it untouched. I had only gotten out of bed to use the bathroom once or twice a day, when I would often grab a glass of water and take a few sips before crawling back into bed.
It was snowy, I could see from my window, this Christmas Eve, and I still hadn't seen Violet or Rion, though they had both tried to call, as Mrs. Pruitt had told me. I wondered what they were doing.
Feeling sick from hunger, I slowly climbed down to the floor and padded to the bathroom, where I had spent the week avoiding the mirror, leaving the light off. Today, I turned it on, closed the door and locked it, and turned to face the mirror.
I was even paler than usual, which was frightening, and I'd cried and slept so much of my makeup off that the few, light freckles on my nose were visible. My hair was back to being black all over now, since the beginning of December, and it hung limply around my gaunt face and neck. My cheeks were streaked with the remnants of my eyeliner and mascara, which did not frame my almost- black eyes anymore; my white lashes stood out against everything else, especially against the red-violet rings that embraced my eyes. I blinked slowly, looking down at my feet, my eyes welling with tears. I was frail; I looked beaten and skeletal. Exhausted.
I put the lid of the toilet down and sat, wiping my eyes. I thought about my face and how I hated my upturned nose and downturned mouth, sharp cheekbones and deep-set eyes, making me look sicker than I was. I looked eternally disgusted by something, but I also somehow looked so much like Mama, though her face was sad and sweet and soft.
I heaved for thirty minutes, but nothing ever came up, so I left the bathroom and crawled back into bed.
Violet came to see me the next day, and she brought a present with her. Mrs. Pruitt brought her to my room, and she climbed up to my bunk and sat at my feet. Her eyes were sad, but she smiled softly at me.
"Merry Christmas," I said, sitting up. I pulled her into a hug, and she kissed my cheek before pulling back. I noticed her bottom lip had been split, but I knew she wouldn't explain if I asked about it so I left it alone.
"I wanted to get you something," she told me. I rolled my eyes.
"Well, thanks, Vi. But you shouldn't have worried about it," I muttered, taking the small, wrapped box from her hands. It was a CD I'd been wanting for a few weeks, and I hugged it close to my heart. "Thank you," I said as excitedly as I could. I kissed her quickly.
"It's not a big deal, Connor. Are you feeling any better?"
I shrugged, setting the CD aside. I felt bad that I had nothing for her. "I'm doing okay. Just…kind of miserable."
"Mrs. Pruitt said you haven't left your bedroom since you got here," Violet said in a small voice. She looked down at her lap. "I'm really worried about you."
I looked off, swallowing.
"You're gonna die if you don't eat, Connor," Violet sighed, her voice heavy. "Please, eat…."
I nodded. "I will."
"I talked to Rion…. He wants to see you."
I looked up. "Oh."
"I just…told him to call you or come by, so…."
"That's fine," I said quietly, hoping he wouldn't come by. I wanted to see him, but I didn't want to look the way I did when he came by.
"So. I like someone," Violet declared. "Someone that's not you," she clarified.
I raised my eyebrows. "Is that so? He must be something special. Tell me about him."
She laughed softly. "He's nineteen…friends with my brother, who got him hooked on meth a while back…."
"We sure know how to pick 'em, don't we, Vi?" I laughed.
She scoffed. "Yeah, I know, right?"
"What's his name?"
I wrinkled my nose. "DJ."
"Oh, shut up," Violet snorted, looking at her lap. "He's…really sweet to me Connor…."
I bit my lip. "Well, your age difference is the same as mine and Rion's, so." I shrugged.
"I don't know," she sighed. "Anyway. I was told to be back within the hour, so." She huffed. "I gotta get going."
"I want to hang out with you soon. Please," I said, kissing her cheek. She nodded.
"Definitely, Conbon. Very soon."
After Violet left, I bathed and left my face free of makeup when I got out. I let my hair air-dry, allowing the soft wave that it held to set. Just having clean clothes on made me feel a lot better. I hesitantly made my way to the common room, holding the frayed cuffs of my grey sweatshirt in my hands. Mrs. Pruitt offered me some noodle soup, which I ate a little of, though I was hungry enough to devour it all, plus the bowl. I restrained myself and drank two bottles of water to fill my stomach. I drew a picture of Violet in my sketchbook and watched a movie I wasn't familiar with in the common room before I headed back to my room in silence. I listened to the CD Violet got me as I fell asleep.
Mrs. Pruitt woke me up before noon the next day, and she brought me an apple, a small bowl of grapes, and a bottle of water. She handed me the water and left the fruit on the dresser.
"I know you aren't very keen on eating, dear, but I thought that healthy food might appeal to you a little more than a grilled cheese…."
I smiled softly, opening the water. "Thanks, Mrs. Pruitt."
"Of course, Connor," she said. "Oh, you've got a visitor. A very tall young man."
My smile broadened. "He can come back here."
"I'll let him know." She left, and Rion appeared in my doorway a minute later. He wore a black suit, which fit incredibly well, and white button down and black tie. He put his hands in the pockets of his black pea coat and smiled up at me.
What a yuppie.
I climbed down, and he grabbed my hand, pulling me closer to kiss me, which I didn't expect. My eyes widened slightly, and I kissed back, the palms of my hands resting lightly on his shoulders. He stood up straight, pulling away.
"Hi, there, big shot," I said, sounding amused. He scoffed.
"Are you doing all right?" he asked. "I'm really sorry about your mom, Connor…."
"I'm hanging in there," I said wryly. Rion cringed at my poor choice of words, which was mostly my schizophrenia fucking me over, making me say overtly inappropriate things. I shook my head and sighed. "I need my meds," I chuckled.
Rion took off his coat and sat on the orange loveseat against the wall. I sat beside him, folding my legs.
"I've missed you," he mumbled, like he didn't want me to hear.
"Missed you more," I told him. "Why are you dressed like that?"
Rion ate one of my grapes and crossed his ankle over his knee. "I'm an intern at this advertising company in Portland. Hopefully, I'll get an actual job there one day. I mean, they pay me, but…not much, at all. And I do a lot."
"I didn't know you were in advertizing," I replied, cocking my head to the side.
Rion took a drink of my water. Mooch. "Uhm, well, I'm working on getting an International Relations degree and a degree in statistics, 'cause I'm basically the statistician for the company. Except I don't get paid for keeping them updated with all their sales and how certain advertisements are working, y'know. But I do that, and I deal with a lot of the international affairs the company has. Plus, I make designs and mottos, sales pitches. All that jazz." He waved his hand flippantly.
I frowned. "You have, like, three different jobs, and they're hardly paying you."
"Well, they need me, though. I know, like, ten languages," he said. It would seem like bragging to anyone else, but I knew he wasn't bragging. He honestly never used his intelligence to impress people. He just thought that was he was normal or something.
"Ten?" I repeated, incredulous.
He frowned. "Yeah. Not counting English, of course; I know Russian, Portuguese, French, Italian, Spanish, Mandarin, Japanese, German, Dutch, and Romanian," he listed. I shook my head.
"You're so smart," I groused. "And that's so much school to go through."
"Oh, no. I'm almost done. I'm getting my International Relations degree online, and I have my advertising degree already. Just working on my degree in stats."
"So, why aren't you at work now?"
"I'm off today; it's the day after Christmas. But I have a business lunch in, like, an hour, hence the attire."
I nodded. "I learn something new about you all the time, y'know."
He laughed. "I'm sorry. I'm not trying to be secretive, promise."
"What else haven't you told me?"
He scratched the back of his neck. "Uhm. Well." He looked over at me, looking cautious. "I have a son."
"A son," I stated blankly. "You have a son."
Rion ran a hand through his hair while I stared at him in awe. Like, what the fuck, Rion? How had you failed to mention to me that you have a son?
"His name's Matt. Well. Matthew. He's two, and he's got a nanny he's with when he's not with me," Rion explained. "His birth mother gave up parental rights as soon as she had him."
I frowned. "Damn." I looked between us. "I want to meet him."
He stood, and I looked up. "Definitely. Come over this weekend, if you can. He'll be home with me."
"Sure, I'll check with Mrs. Pruitt," I told him as I stood. He shrugged his coat back on and pulled me into a hug.
"Good. Call me if you need anything, okay?" He kissed me softly and straightened himself to his full height.
"Yeah. Uhm. Be careful," I muttered. He nodded and left.
I ate a few grapes and did some of the schoolwork Mrs. Pruitt had left for me, since I was now homeschooled, apparently. I knew if Mama were alive, she'd not be happy with me being pulled out of Catholic school, but I certainly didn't mind.
The whole time I was trying to figure out what the fuck was happening with biology, I was simultaneously trying to wrap my mind around Rion having a child. It seemed so odd to me, and though I didn't like kids, I kind of couldn't wait to meet him, see if he looked anything like Rion, see if Rion was actually good with kids, which he probably was. He was good with everyone.
Hope you enjoyed it!
The next update will probably not be for a week or a little more because I'm uploading this a few days early; I usually try and update on a weekend, but I found myself done in the middle of the week, so why not?
If you're reading A Great Perhaps, then the update should be by February 3rd. :) If you're NOT reading A Great Perhaps, then you should be!
Thanks for all your support and feedback. The reviews and comments are so greatly appreciated and very helpful. It helps me know what I'm doing wrong, what I'm doing right, and what direction I should be trying to go in. I want you guys to enjoy the story, so let me know what's going on in your head as you're reading!