He cried for four months straight when he was a baby. Her lips were bloodied from biting them, sucking on them all those torturous nights pacing the cold tile of the kitchen floor. She wanted to throw him out the window. She didn’t want him.
He was four when he peed on the ficus in the entryway. He was four when he fell into the Chapmans’ pool. He was four when he learned how to draw hearts, big red lopsided hearts to match his goofy crooked grin and cowlick in his hair.
That entire year he would eat only Fruity Pebbles. The obnoxiously colored cereal bits mocked her efforts at proper nutrition. She pureed cauliflower and stirred it into the milk. She told him it was normal for milk to be lumpy like cottage cheese. She was still in charge of her son’s body.
At six, his laughter drifted through the patio doors as she flipped through cookbooks in the kitchen.
At ten, the angry jeers at the soccer game, his tears on the shoulder of her blouse. Everybody makes mistakes, baby.
At fourteen, the essay about his dad; his dad was his hero. It was one of two times she’d seen her husband cry. The other time is now.
Sixteen. The accident. Twelve days of staring at a monitor, holding his hand. Beeping, beeping, beeping, her whole life depending on one more beep. She planned out in detail how she would kill herself if the beeping stopped. She never told anyone about that afterward; she pretended she’d been strong the whole time.
Three years ago, she walked in on them in bed. She knocked his CD tower over with her handbag and squawked out of the room. That memory is not her favorite.
Now here she is, at the goodbye that isn’t a goodbye, her stomach churning with nerves, with disbelief, with the shot of brandy she took to keep her hands from shaking. She looks at the grown man with the lopsided grin and the cowlick in his hair. The music begins but it’s not the music that brings her to her feet; it’s her gut.
One foot forward to run but too late, she can’t stop it. She empties the contents of her stomach once, then twice, at the foot of the altar. His bride is not even halfway down the aisle as she retches away their wedding of white lilies and white ribbons. The guests sit stunned and wide-eyed in their fancy pressed clothing.
She stays hunched over, unable to face the people whose eyes are unavoidably drawn to the bright colors on the floor. His bride looks so lovely. His bride’s mother behaves as a mother should, holding the hand of her husband with proud tears filling her eyes halfway.
Oh, beloved son, don’t be upset with me now, she pleads, this woman who feels too strongly, this woman who holds on too tightly, this woman who ate Fruity Pebbles for breakfast and now everybody knows it.
Melinda Jones is a Seattleite mother of two living in Paris. She writes for several travel websites and loves to attempt short fiction in her free time. She writes about her realistic life in a fairy tale place on her blog, An American Mom in Paris.