Hartford, Connecticut, 1988 – Trembling, five-year-old Connor raced out of the darkened bathroom, leaving the faucet running. Desperate for any source of light, he ran without bothering to carefully spread his arms out in front of him to make sure he wouldn’t bump into a wall.
Which was precisely what he did, instead of rounding the corner like he wanted to. He let out a shriek and stumbled backwards as the pain reverberated through his head.
“Connor?” A few seconds later, a pair of arms wrapped around him and drew him close, rocking him back and forth. “Shh, it’s okay, it’s okay.”
He continued sobbing as he clung to the figure. “Mommy, why did the lights turn off?”
Margaret didn’t answer. She rubbed his back and whispered comforting words in his ear. Connor’s sobs soon dwindled into hiccups and sniffles.
“Mommy, can you turn the lights on?”
She froze for a second. “N-no.”
She swallowed and continued to rock him. Because I couldn’t pay the electricity bill. Because I can barely keep a job long enough to support you. Because I didn’t-
“Mommy?” His tiny voice interrupted her thoughts.
“Connor,” she started. Her throat felt clogged and she cleared it. “Sweetie, I can’t turn the lights back on because…because I can’t pay for it.”
“You have to-” Sniffle. “-pay for it?”
“Yes. This time, I couldn’t. I-I lost my job last week.”
She felt Connor’s head tilt up. “Why?”
“They didn’t like me.”
“But I like you!” Connor insisted. “They’re mean!”
Margaret chuckled. “If you say so,” she said. “But no matter what happens, I promise I will do everything I can to take care of you.” She stood with him still in her arms and took him back to his room.
“Mommy, I’m still scared,” Connor said as she drew the covers up to his chin.
“You may be right now, but someday, you’ll be older and bigger, and you won’t be afraid of the dark anymore.”
“Are you sure, Mommy?”
Margaret grabbed his stuffed bear, one of the few toys he had left, and handed it to him. She leaned over to the window above his bed and opened the blinds. From what little of the night sky they could see, only the stars were visible.
Thankfully, a light did shine from the building next door, and it was bright enough to let them see each other a little.
“I guess,” she finally said, brushing his auburn hair away from his forehead. He needs a haircut, she mentally noted. She kissed the top of his head. “Now close your eyes and go to sleep. I love you.”
“Love you too, Mommy.”
©H.S. Kylian 2019
(Critiques are welcome and appreciated!)