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The Talon House

The Shining Light


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The Shining Light

By Nick

"Again?" my mom exclaimed, trying her hardest to maintain her composure and patience, which I seemed to be testing on a regular basis these days. "How can I trust you to stay home alone when you can't keep track of your damn keys, honey?"

I stood speechless in front of her, feeling a little foolish for losing my keys again and ashamed because I'd missed the morning bell at school due to my forgetfulness. She shoved her hand down between the cushions of our couch, then turned and gave me an incredulous look that was easy to read; she wanted me to get moving, to look anywhere I hadn't already looked.

Of course, by this point, I was a nervous wreck and couldn't think straight. I watched her move from the couch to the entertainment center, looking anywhere she could because not only was I late, but she was supposed to be out the door already. When she moved from the entertainment center to the hutch, I moved to the entertainment center, perhaps in an attempt to look helpful.

"James!" she snapped when she spotted me. "Don't go behind me, honey. Look somewhere I haven't looked yet."

Before I could follow her instruction, she dropped to the floor, on all fours, reached under the hutch and pulled my key chain out, which held two keys on it. One was for the deadbolt, the other for the doorknob. She took a deep breath, gave me a flustered look and held them out for me to grab.

"Sweetie you can't keep doing this," she said softly, but in a tone that let me know that I was being admonished. "When you get home from school today, I want you to hang your keys where I hang mine every day. Is that understood?"

"I will mom," I said sadly. "I'm sorry I made us late again."

"I'm not mad at you honey," she said, her tone turning sympathetic. "But you have to start paying attention to things like that. I'm sorry if I snapped at you this morning."

I stayed silent the rest of the way to school, my mind filled with regret because I did it again. I felt like I should be smarter than that, but for some reason, I couldn't seem to keep track of my house keys when I got home. I would indelibly toss them wherever they might land as I bounded through the door each day, my mind always on something else. Usually it was on making my afternoon snack, a peanut butter sandwich with twice as much peanut butter as the ones I get from my mom, and an ice-cold glass of chocolate milk to wash it down. Since I was alone, I could get away with dipping my sandwich in my chocolate milk, which was something my mom would have scolded me for had she known I was doing it.

I'm James Woodall, I'm ten years old and I live alone with my mom, Patty Woodall. My dad Kerry lives in another state, and I don't even remember the last time he called, much less my last visit with him. Actually, I should take that back. I do remember the last time I saw my dad. I can't say for sure how old I was, but I know that when we said goodbye, he promised to come see me the next weekend and take me to Toys-R-US, but he never did.

I remember going to bed that night, looking forward to our trip and being excited to get to spend a day with my dad. All week long, it was the last thing I dreamt of before I fell asleep, and the first thing I thought of when I woke up. When the day came that he was supposed to show, I was bursting at the seams. When morning passed and he didn't show, I was patient. When the afternoon was halfway burned away, I figured he must have been running a little late. By the time the sun went down, I made up a different excuse for him not being there.

The next day, I made my mind up to ask my dad why he forgot, but I never got the chance. He never called again. Over time, I forgot about the incident altogether, except for a rare moment when I'd think about it for whatever reason. When I do think about it, sometimes, I cry. I don't do it to be a baby or anything, but crying just feels like the right thing to do because it hurts.

I try not to ever let anyone see me cry, but sometimes my mom see's me. When she does, I do what I can to keep a stiff upper lip, but it's hard. Especially when she sits next to me and cries with me. I know that she only cries because she knows I'm hurting, and I hate making her cry. That's why I try to make sure she doesn't see me. Sometimes, if I'm thinking about my dad, I say I'm going outside to play in the backyard, then I go to my clubhouse where she can't see me. That way I can get all of my crying done without hurting her too.

My clubhouse is a thick patch of Ivy Leaves growing along our fence in the backyard. There's a perfect clearing in the middle, and over the years, I've managed to drag an old end table, a couple chairs and an old ice chest to make it a little more hospitable for me and my friends. Sometimes, if I know my mom's going to be late, I take my snack out to the clubhouse and eat it at the table. I just have to be sure I get the dishes back inside before she gets home, or I hear about it.

When we got to school, my mom parked and got out with me. We walked together to the office, and she told the secretary, Mrs. Olsen, what happened. I got a late slip and took it to class, handed it to my teacher so I wouldn't get my name on the board again, and took my chair. By the end of the day, I completely forgot about the incidents of the morning and had my mind on more interesting things. Things like The Pony Express, which was what we read about during our history lesson. I got to read out loud, so it was a really good day for me.

When I got home, I flung my keys off to the side and ran upstairs to go to the bathroom. When I was done, I washed my hands and came downstairs to start on my snack. I resisted the urge to venture into the back yard today because it was getting cold out, and the clouds in the sky were dark and ominous, a sure sign they were full of water. Instead, I turned the TV on and flipped through the channels, looking for something interesting. I stumbled across Jerry Springer and looked around cautiously before settling in to watch the full hour. There were so many strange people on that show, and most of them seemed to be fighting each other.

The show I was watching that afternoon was about a man who liked to dress like a girl when no one was around, but he decided to bring his wife on the show to tell her. Then he also told her that he had a boyfriend, and when the other guy came out, they ran up to each other and kissed so hard it looked like it hurt. I shook my head and giggled when the wife got out of her chair and pulled her husband's boyfriend's hair and a bell rang like it was a boxing match.

When it was over, another episode was on, but I wasn't interested. Instead, I took my plate and glass to the kitchen and set them on the counter, then I went upstairs to the one place I knew I wasn't allowed to go.

The door to my mom's room was wide opened, so I meandered in and approached her vanity. There were different types of blushes, lipsticks and eyeliners splayed out, and I was anxious to open and smell each one. I loved the smell of my mom's make up. Not just the smell, but the thought of wearing it. It seemed like it would be so much fun to be able to make my face up like my mom, so every once in a while, I'd slide a little lipstick on and put some blush on my face. I didn't have the skill or the courage to try the eyeliner, but it was just as well.

Before I knew it, I was all made up and admiring myself in the mirror when I heard a voice call out that made me freeze in my tracks.

"James Woodall, what do you think you're doing young man?"

I turned and saw my mom standing there, looking dismayed at the sight of her only child wearing makeup. I wanted to bolt, just to be out of her presence so she couldn't see me, so she wouldn't be mad at me. Unfortunately, she was standing in the doorway, and I had no choice but to face her.

"Haven't we talked about this already?" she asked, and I nodded ashamedly. "So why are you doing it then?"

"I don't know," I answered in a small voice, barely audible to even myself.

"You need to go wash that off of your face," she said stoically. "Then you need to go to your room."

I did as I was told, looking at the floor in shame as I walked passed her and to the bathroom. It took me a good five minutes to get it all off my face, but I managed. Once my face was clean, I moved slowly to my room, where I closed the door and laid face down in my pillow, too ashamed to face my mom again. I let out a loud sob and wondered to myself why I had to do that.

I heard my door open and felt my bed dip, then I felt my mom's hand on my back.

"Sweetheart, don't cry," she said softly. "You aren't in trouble."

Instead of a verbal reply, I responded by pulling both ends of the pillow up around my face so she couldn't see me. I felt her body shift a little, and the next thing I knew, she was laying next to me, wrapping me in her arms and kissing the top of my head.

"Why do I do it?" I asked, the only thing I could think to say.

"I don't know honey," she answered. "You're the only one who can answer that question."

"Is it because I'm bad?" I wept, still not pulling my face from the pillow.

"No, James," she said in a soothing voice. "You aren't bad. The worst thing I can say is that you don't listen, but you aren't bad."

"I don't mean to disobey you," I cried. "I don't know why I always do it."

"I don't either, sweetheart," she said. "But whatever it is, it'll be just fine."

"Did you have a good day today?" I asked, and I felt her give my frame a firm squeeze.

"Yeah I did," she said. "How was your day?"

"It was okay," I said almost bitterly into the pillow.

"Did you do your homework yet?" she asked, and I answered her question with a groan into the pillow.

After a lot of coaxing, she got me to look at her, then she kissed me on the end of my nose. With that, we got up and I followed her downstairs, where we sat at the table and worked on my homework together. It didn't take us long to get through it, and when we were done, I helped her with dinner.

After we ate, she did the dishes while I took a shower and got ready for bed. By the time I made it back down the stairs, it was raining hard outside, and thunder and lightning were shaking the house, so we curled up on the couch to watch TV. We watched American Idol, then it was my bedtime. Of course, I wasted as much time as I could getting to bed, and I used every delay tactic I could once my mom put her foot down and told me to get my butt in gear.

"Goodnight sweetie," she said, smiling down at me as she brought my covers up to my chest. "You have sweet dreams tonight, and I'll see you in the morning."

"Goodnight mom," I said with a smile of my own. "I love you."

"I love you too James," she told me, leaning down to kiss me goodnight. "Did you hang your keys up today?"

Instead of speaking, I just smiled and shook my head at her. She sighed, but never frowned. Instead, she ran her hand across my face gently before she got up, turned my lamp off and walked out, leaving my bedroom door opened so that the light would shine in from the hallway.

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