Alex can through the door with a bang of his full backpack against the wall. Blue immediately hopped up mid-writing and went to the front door, wrapping both arms around the scrawny kid in the large coat. He was always happy to see her, a wide smile on her face and she was always happy to see him. Even if her expression was a bit less enthusiastic.
“Mom.” He always started that way, addressing her in the best way possible. Both of his skinny hands curled around her elbows and drew her deeper into the hug. So deep in fact that she staggered from the weight. He wasn’t getting any lighter and she wasn’t getting much stronger. With an attempt to mask the ground with a press of her lips, she hummed inquisitively at the boy.
Alex craned his neck upwards to give her a full view of his face, bright blue eyes looking into her own. “I got invited to a party!”
The words hit her like a ton of bricks. Why did such a good thing have to give her this sinking dread? With an arched eyebrow, she tilted her nose further into their face. “Oh? Who’s is it?” Her tone attempted to be passive and curious. After all, she didn’t want to make promises she couldn’t keep. Without a car, without her own friends, it was unlikely he could attend anyways.
Then there were the people.
I hate people, she thought to herself. Her mind drifted to the birthday parties in the past. When they did attend, Alex always ended up being the odd one out. A close few friends and family, then there was Alex and his little brother sitting to the side confused on what to do, who to play with, and her wondering why she put them in this situation again.
And the parents… The parents were always watching her. Casting those stares and inquisitive looks like they have questions but are too afraid to know the answer. Who is that woman? Why is she here? The handshakes, the smiles, the cake everywhere. All of it was a hassle, a dizzy twist of reality where people pretended to be nice only to mask their judgment.
The thought of going to a birthday party caused a tense in her chest. Licking her lips to dry them, or perhaps to stop her from screaming, she listened to Alex explain that the kid in question had left a note on every desk. It was customary in schools now, to invite your whole classroom instead of just a few people you wanted to show up. So that everyone feels ‘included’. Yet another reason Alex hadn’t had a big birthday party yet.
“So you don’t know the kid personally?” She asked, again trying to hide the true hopeful intent. He shook his head, the light brown (nearly blonde) hair swaying side to side. “Well if you don’t know them, then we couldn’t get them a present very well.”
“Yeah. I guess.” He took a moment, thinking about it with frantic eyes to her chest. Then those blue orbs twitched back up his way. They never stayed anywhere for too long. “Technically, I don’t know them at all. It just appeared on my desk.”
“How about this. I’ll make some cookies tonight.” It was a clever distraction, one that he so eagerly clung to.
“Cookies! Yeah!” Alex beamed, making a hop and a clap, topped with a clumsy stumbling to the side.
Snaking an arm around his shoulders, she finally drew up from the hug. Sometimes, she felt like her depression was dragging him down with her into a slippery slope. Her knuckles cracked against her palm while she thought to herself. He was still talking, about the school day. He got a lollipop for good behavior, as always.
It was already dark by the time she got to sit down at the computer again. She had fallen so far behind on work, but the cookies and time with the boys were worth it. Or at least Blue hoped it was.
The monitors light glowed brightly against the dark backdrop. All of the lights in the house had to be off for Ben to fall asleep. Otherwise, he’d be found crawling out of bed and sneaking through to flip the switch anyways. So she sat in the dark every single night, the glare of the white web pages stinging her eyes.
With a few clicks, she opened up her messages. A few people were online tonight and that, for some weird reason, made her feel less lonely. But her relief quickly slipped away as she saw one from Jay.
I’m coming over, it said in white letters on the dark application. Blue cursed under her breath, it was sent a little over an hour ago. No warning, nothing. She hopped up and instantly sprang into action. Clothes, towels, random tossed around socks ended up thrown into the washer while the other hand brushed madly at her teeth.
With a choreographed spit and rinse, she quickly shoved her head into the shower and washed her hair, following only briefly with a soap and rinse of her body. The girl was obviously used to the routine, wandering in a wrapped towel to her room as she picked up a variety of toys, balls, and papers from their not so perfect lifestyle. Following the hallway into her room, she grasped both corners of the bedspread and tossed it airily over the mussed sheets. After all, if they were in the bed, he wasn’t going to care if the sheets were messed up before they got there.
Bzzt! Her phone vibrated on the dresser. Her body made a lunge, grasping the device and twisting the screen towards her. I’m here, it said. At least he had the decency not to knock and wake the boys up. Another sweep of her hair with the towel, cold drenched locks hanging at her cheek and spotting the fabric of her shirt’s shoulders, she swung around and hustled through the house to the door.
It opened just slightly, peeking outside to make sure it was who she was waiting for. Jay smirked down.
He was a rugged man, older than herself, with spotted gray in his dark brown locks. When he smiled, his cheeks drew up against his blue eyes and she couldn’t help but smile back at that. Without a word, he held up a Dr. Pepper, the soda glistening in the street light’s orange glow.
The door swung open quickly, and she reached out to the drink, accepting it with a sudden and unexpected excitement. The other arm wrapped around his waist, pressing her cheek against his chest. He smelled rustic, the cologne just enough to permeate her nostrils and draw her deeper into the warm embrace. Blue wanted to slip further into the man, disappearing into the aroma. She had actually missed him and that worried her.