In the morning, I fiddled with the cheerios in the bottom of my bowl, pushing them under the milk so they had to bob back to the surface like a drowning person. Mom ruffled my hair as she walked by me, and I hurriedly smoothed it back down.
“Oh, stop. Your hair is cute when it’s all scrunched up.”
“Mom, I don’t want to be cute.”
Mom laughed, depositing dishes into the sink. “Sorry. You look handsome with your hair scrunched up.”
I dropped my forehead to the table with a groan.
“How about some school shopping today? You need some new clothes, right? Maybe some shoes, too.”
“Sure,” I said to my feet under the table.
“Good. It will be nice to get out of the house.”
The drive in to town was quiet. Mom didn’t even turn on the radio. But she hummed a weird little song under her breath. Once we were out of our neighborhood, the change in scenery was dramatic. Houses looked more lived in and there were kids’ toys in yards. And actual kids on the sidewalks, riding bikes or playing.
Where were all the kids in my neighborhood?
I stared at them longingly.
Mom pulled into the parking lot of the large department store, and I followed her inside.
“Go pick out what you want. Make sure you try on the pants. I don’t need you getting clothes that are too small. I’m going to go look at something in housewares. Meet back at the front in… half an hour?”
Mom had never let me go pick clothes by myself before. This was a welcome change. “Uh, sure.” I walked away before she changed her mind. She always had to fuss over the clothes I picked. She wanted me to look like a small man, not a kid.
After I’d gathered a few things I liked and tried them on, I lugged the pile back to the front checkout area. But when I got nearer, I heard a commotion. And there was mom, yelling at a security guard. He had ahold of her arm and was dragging her towards the door.
I dropped my things and ran over to them.
“What’s going on? Let go of my mom!”
The security guard glanced at me and rolled his eyes. “Kid, your mom’s being escorted from the building. We caught her trying to shove kitchen knives into her purse.”
My jaw dropped, and I didn’t know what to say.
Mom tugged her arm free and straightened her shirt. “We’re leaving, anyway. Come on, Steve.”
I looked back to the pile of clothes I’d left on the ground, a little disappointed I wouldn’t be getting them. But the guard ushered us out the door and I followed mom back to the car.
She didn’t say another word the whole way home. I was so confused. Why would mom try to steal knives? We had knives. And we had money. I wondered what she was going to tell dad.
Back at the house, I trudged into the backyard to kick the soccer ball around and mom disappeared into the house. But only a few minutes passed before mom poked her head out the back door and called to me.
“Steve! There you are. I’ve been looking all over for you.” She stood on the back porch, hands on her hips.
I wrinkled my forehead and shrugged. “I thought you saw me come back here.”
“I most definitely did not. I asked if you wanted to go school shopping and then you were gone. I was looking forward to it.”
For the second time, my mouth fell open. Then I took a closer look at my mom. She was wearing a dress and heels, a string of pearls around her neck. She’d definitely not been wearing that a little bit ago. She’d had pants on, of that I was certain.
I didn’t know what to say. And I thought back to the weird situation with dad the day before and I began to wonder if my parents were losing their minds.
Or I was.
That night, I stared at the sky again. I wasn’t sure what to say to my parents anymore. If they were the ones going crazy, how would I even start? But if it was me, they’d put me in a hospital. And I didn’t think I was crazy. But that was what most crazy people said, right?
The sky swirled purple, and a flash of green crossed the small opening in the skylight. Then I swore I saw the outline of a small hand waving back and forth over the window. I blinked rapidly and sat up to try to see better, but then it was gone. And the sky looked normal dark blue again.
I tried to let my eyes go out of focus again to see what would happen, but I was too alert.
I started to wish we had never moved into this house. Something about it was giving me the creeps.
Thank you so much for reading!
I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment or message.
If you’d like monthly updates on my writing process and other behind the scenes info, subscribe to my newsletter