*First appeared in Tolosa Press in August 2015.
First appeared in Tolosa Press in Novembe
*First appeared in Tolosa Press in November 20
*First appeared in Tolosa Press in November 2014I glance back to tell him to hurry, but he isn’t there.
“Mason?” My stomach flips. “Mason!” I shriek. Blood drains from my limbs and I stand frozen to the spot. News headlines flash through my mind— Four-year Old Abducted At Train Station or Child Dies In Tragic Accident On The Railroad Tracks. I hear my mother’s voice, high-pitched and resentful: How many times have I told you that you can't let him out of your sight? But do you ever listen to my advice?
“Excuse me, but did you know that beavers can stay under water for fifteen minutes?” his little voice chimes from around the corner. A flood of relief hits me like a torrent from a broken dam.
“I had no idea!” a man in a trench coat squats down to Mason’s eye level.
“Yep.” Mason nods, his blond curls bouncing. “And their teeth never stop growing.”
“Wow, that’s amazing,” the man says. “Where did you learn all that?”
“It was on my favorite TV show. But then Dad broke the TV and...”
I yank his arm.
“I’m sorry,” I say, adjusting my sunglasses, “but we have a train to catch.”
I zig-zag through the crowd, dragging Mason behind. His small hand is sweaty and slippery. I tighten my grip.
“Mom!” he cries. “That hurts!”
My knuckles are white. I wish I could lie down, right there on the dirty floor covered in millions of footprints. I want to hug him until everything that is broken in our lives grows back together, seamlessly, like a pale ocean meeting the gray sky on a rainy day.
The phone in my pocket goes off. I jump.
“Is that Daddy?” Mason’s eyes widen. “Do you think he bought a new TV?”
My jaw clenches. I bet he did. New TV, new necklace for me, new toy for you. New bottle of whisky that will lead to new bruises. Old apologies. Ancient promises.
I hear the beep alerting me to a message. Not this time. I’m not going to listen to you anymore.
“I want to talk to Daddy!”
My swollen eye throbs behind my shades. “Listen, darling. You can’t talk to Daddy right now.”
He starts crying. “But I don’t want to go to Auntie Jenna. She always makes me eat broccoli. I hate broccoli!”
I bend down. “I promise you won’t have to eat any broccoli.”
“Why can’t we go to Grandma’s?” Mason wipes his nose on the sleeve of his jacket.
Didn’t I tell you not to marry him? But no – you had to have it your way. Well, don’t come crying to me now. You should have listened.
I kiss his forehead. “We can’t go to Grandma’s right now, baby. She’s too busy. We’ll go see her later, OK?” I pause. “We might not see Daddy for awhile.”
He stands there, so small. Then he lunges forward and hugs me, his arms clasped around my neck, his face buried in my chest.
“Mom,” he mumbles, “did you know that beavers only have one mate for life? Like people, you know.”
Guilt twists my gut, hurting so much more than the punch to my face.
“You’re my smart boy,” I whisper.
“I love you, Mommy,” he says and puts his hand back in mine. “Do you think beavers eat broccoli?”
“I bet they do. I bet they think they’re chomping down little green trees,” I say and help him onto the train.