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The Mark: Chapter 2
It started out a normal day, Mom and Mark had fought for most of the night so they were too tired in the morning to get into anything heated. Mom slipped out the door before Mark awoke, kissing me in the forehead as she went. From my makeshift bed in the hallway I saw her walk all the way until the large tree that blocked my view, a few blocks from her destination: A small cozy coffee shop with a bus stop right across the street. Many people were already about in the streets and you could see busses pulling around corners into pockets of the world Teddy couldn’t be sure existed, because he never saw them, but Mark said they were there and so he believed him, mostly. But mom didn’t leave so early to reach a bus, hers came a whole half our later, she left so she could be alone.
Ever since dad had died, Mom had acted different, she would eat a lot less even though she now worked much more, and for a few hours every few weeks she would disappear somewhere and leave Mark and Teddy with nothing but each other. She always came back but it scared Teddy each time, what if she never did?
Teddy pushed the thought away; he didn’t need to think about any more scary things. He closed his eyes and focused hard on the tiny red dots he saw, he imaged them being very small people, each who had a bigger person in the real world, or thing. Things were something Teddy firmly believed in, but he had never met one so he couldn’t place exactly what they did. But Teddy was smart, once when he was with his dad he told Teddy things were real, that they were people’s inner souls and Dad had never lied to Teddy, except once, but that wasn’t his fault right?
Again his thoughts pushed through but he ignored them, or some of them. The things left a trail though, even though they were careful about it. It was the little people, when Teddy found a weird one he would study it and learn more about the Things. His favorite one was Dad’s, he would stare at it all day sometimes in preschool, well until dad died.
Teddy always felt funny about Dad’s death, he didn’t know about the little people too much, but once, when his Grandma Rose died hers turned different. Teddy loved Grandma Rose, she was so beautiful, and so was her little person, even though Dad and Grandma Rose weren’t really related, theirs were similar, he loved them. When she died it turned a bright light blue, the most beautiful light he had ever seen. It was like Grandma Rose had become a goddess.
When Dad died Teddy looked all night for him, Teddy looked through all the little people for his Dad’s unique thing, but it was gone, like it was always just outside his view. Teddy searched for a week before he finally gave up. That was the night. Dad had broken his promise and left Teddy and Mark and Mom alone.
Teddy cried, Dad’s death had affected them all differently, but one thing was for sure, they weren’t a family anymore. Teddy looked to Grandma Rose’s star for comfort but none came. The tears came willingly now, Teddy wanted everything gone. The stair creaked and Teddy squeezed his eyes tighter and tighter until all the stars were choked out and gone, and them he fell into the deep abyss of darkness Teddy had once had good dreams.
Waking up later Teddy saw his older brother Mark watching him from the stairway. Mark had an odd look in his eye but Teddy was growing used to this.
“Good, you’re up,” He growled and moved off to another section of the room. Teddy knew his mom asked Mark to watch Teddy while he slept since Teddy had been getting very sick lately and their mom couldn’t pay for a doctor, but he still felt good that his brother had done so, Mark was becoming more unpredictable lately.
Taking a moment to wake Teddy blinked a lot because the sun was in his eyes. His insides squirmed some and he smiled with untouched joy when he realized the date. Tonight was mom’s Halloween party. Dad always made a big deal of Halloween and mom threw a big party for us and some of our few friends from around the block. Most kids in the area didn’t get to go to school for the entire year since they couldn’t pay so that eliminated the issue of school friends. Mark and Teddy were somewhat lucky, although they too never got a whole year of school, they didn’t have to work like some of their friends, and mom wouldn’t let them. Mark wanted to get a job, so he could help he said, but Mom thought different though she never told me why.
Teddy reached for his knight, a small black chess piece his dad gave to him when he was little, or littler, but came back empty. He looked at his bedside and saw just his clean white sheets; reminding him of how poor they were and how much trouble he put his Mom through. Slowly easing back he remembered where the little knight was…
The silence was eerie, creeping through the house like a snake, wrapping them in it. The door creaked open and Teddy ran towards the door to his mother for comfort. Mark was sealed in his room and Teddy was scared, his mother was late and father wasn’t there when he came home from school. He approached the door but stopped dead when he saw his mom’s face, the terror and pain on it were unimaginable to Teddy. She was sitting in a chair in the corner of the hallway near the front door where my bed is now, Teddy thought, and the tears down her face showed Teddy he had to be strong. He ran to get Mark and by the time the two made it back her tears were gone but her eyes were red and big.
Mark seemed to understand something in this and picked Teddy up and brought him to his bed. Tucking teddy in he could see the pain in Mark’s face as thought after thought went through Mark’s face. I cried and asked him what was happening, he looked away as he spoke but I couldn’t miss the venom spewing from his mouth.
“He’s dead Teddy,” Mark choked out, “Dad is gone.”
Mark left Teddy to sleep and went back down to help mom. Teddy never knew how Mark learned this but he didn’t want to. He knew his brother would lie about that, but then he never thought his father would either.
Crying Teddy ran outside despite Mark calling him back. He climbed up the tree house where he last saw his dad only hours before, but to Teddy it was already years.
"Keep this safe my son, one day, in your greatest time of need it will guide you. Remember, you will not be the king or his royalty, but you will serve a more important cause, you will be the knight…”
The rest escaped Teddy, he didn’t want to think of Dad anymore, and the pain hurt Teddy too much. Gathering together all the strength the small boy had, he threw the knight hard aiming for the neighbor’s chimney but missing and hitting the asphalt street with a clunk.
Then he just sat there, he just sat and cried until morning where he awoke sick and frail from the night.
Teddy shuddered at the memory, his eyelids flickering as he held it for as long as it could go. A tear escaped his eye but caught on his cheek leaving a trail of memories. He tried to shake off the feeling he had but he couldn’t. Mark was back at his post; Teddy hadn’t seen him come back, most likely from the scene he had experienced. He calmed some because his big brother was there but the knot in his stomach just grew. Fear has nothing to do with it. Teddy agreed with the stray thought but tried not to dwell on its meaning.
Mark grabbed his phone and a small smile played across his face as the screen lit it up. Teddy guessed at the cause of this anomaly but the answer bubbled out of Mark,
“It’s Halloween,” The words floated in the air, the silence holding them more from admiration of the words than awkwardness.
Halloween was Teddy’s favorite time of year, when they all got together. He knew that there would be no party this year, Mark had told him because they couldn’t pay without dad’s help. But Teddy still got excited, people or not, mom had let Teddy decorate for it and so Teddy and Mark set to it.
A few groans escaped Mark’s lips but never fully reached Teddy and so he was oblivious to the reason Mark was upset, or mostly. Teddy didn’t have such a creative spark in designing, and so he just brought stuff to Mark like the cumbersome, (a new word he learned from his daily “school lessons” with Mark) large letters that spelled Halloween. H-A-L-L-O-W-E- He didn’t get to finish though because as he brought the E in through the door he hit Mark and tripped him.
“Watch where you’re going, dude!” He blasted at me as he threw the glass vase at the ground. I was shocked, mom loves that glass.
Teddy was so confused he did not hear the next thing Mark said but he did blurt out something himself, “You are so busted!”
The silence that occurred after this lasted a very short time but Teddy could’ve sworn it was minutes, and then, like the calm before a storm, Mark exploded.
Teddy ran out of the room trying to find a broom but before he fully left he didn’t miss the weird look that played across his brother’s face as Mark bent down to the vase. Although Teddy left with the intention of a broom in his mind he somehow came back with a mop, although he didn’t realize this until Mark yelled at him yet again for his stupid-ness.
Teddy grew sullen and ran out of the house to find their mom, after shoving on his shoes and jacket of course. Mom didn’t like Teddy running on the streets, but he couldn’t understand why, so he walked fast hoping she wouldn’t count that as running. It was always Mark who got in trouble though when he was out, running or not.
Teddy tripped over a foot roots sticking out of the gravely broken sidewalk that snaked around his town like a rugged monster river. Teddy fell again at this thought and as he got himself up he dusted off the bad thought and hung a bright picture of his once happy family in his mind.
The grass still tugged with the roots as he ran but they didn’t bother him as much, they were more an old friend saying they were there, not a monster and he welcomed his friend’s touch. He walked/ran for a long time before coming up to the corner where one of the only two busses in town stopped.
Teddy paced for some time because he had seen people do this in a movie when they were bored, but he grew tired quickly and finally sat down on the bench a few yards from the stop, but then moved straight to the spot on the ground because it was closer to the bus and also concealed slightly by a bush so joggers wouldn’t see him.
Teddy counted cars: 1, 2, 3, 4
Time stretched on around him and the cars became blurs as Teddy became still in space. Green blob, blue blob, tree blob, bus blob, yellow – wait bus?
Teddy got up and ran the opposite way for a moment, then gained a better sense of direction, and headed back towards the bus. He was prepared to get on but his mom blocked the path, and Teddy ran right into her. She picked him up although she looked very tired and carried him back.
Her face was gaunt and he went through the motions of explaining why he was out as she grew quieter and quieter.
Oh no! He came to the realization, Mom had seen him running to her, that’s she was mad. He wanted to tell her that it wasn’t Mark’s fault but he grew scared when he looked up at her and his tongue stayed in his mouth with the secrets.
Mom went left and right, curving though the path and cutting through the river so fast the ripples behind her didn’t have enough time to form before they too disappeared. Teddy was nervous but he tried not to let it on, He had come to get her right?
But he couldn’t remember why he got her, and now seeing her Teddy felt maybe this wasn’t the smartest decision. He was losing his mom, just like he lost his dad. The silence accompanying them cut through Teddy and left him numb. It was a realization that shook through Teddy’s clothes and crawled under his skin until it reached the open wound in his heart and in attacked taking the only bit of happiness with it.
Teddy knew things would never be the same after dad died but he could never imagine such a thing as his mother leaving them too, but yet as he stared in his frozen position in his mother’s dark stormy eyes he saw the truth in them, she was as gone as dad.
The trip back went by with agonizing time but the clock on his hand tried to lie to him about it. The sun was slowly inching into the mountains, more than eager to leave the sight of their dreadful family. The moon slowly crept up from its hiding place as the sun was gone but it face was turned away, but Teddy imagined the look on its face and shivered.
Into the house and the blanket of warmth that suffocated it. A path of cold crept through here and there but it held up well enough. Teddy spied his makeshift bed in the corner but didn’t have the strength to get to it; he thought he was dying as he watched on the ground Mark and mom fight. It was a one sided fight and unlike their usual epic ones Mark left her screaming into the thick cloth.
Teddy couldn’t take it and finally got himself up on his feet and out of the door. The fresh air welcomed him and helped him back to his feet. Going to the back, a tall tree stood above the rest, it’s branches so thick Teddy thought God himself had made it, sowing smaller trees into the sides for arms. A thin line, illuminated by the glow of the moon’s back, hung from an arm and welcomed teddy. Climbing up to the house in the top he admired the view, but then crawled into the slight warmth of the house. A small notch in the corner signified the book but Teddy took his time getting used to the palace that was once his and fathers.
It was once a magical place, you could see a dragon on the top, and the breeze flowed through in such a way Teddy knew that if he had jumped it would catch him and he would fly. The spark now though held very small magic; a faint rustle of wind and a warm touch that might’ve been fire, but very old.
The nook held something very special to Teddy, the only thing he had kept from dad. It was a book that was magic beyond the tree house, it described different people, and worlds and gods. Teddy loved to sit there all day and just hug it close when he was little, and then hope at night father would read some.
It was written in a special language that only father knew and he said he would teach Mark or Teddy, but he never did and so the book too lost some appeal. But even so Teddy lifted the latch and cradled the book in his arms as he admired the cover, the markings etched in that no matter what light seemed to glow. And as he lay there Teddy breathed in the book and the breeze and could’ve sworn he saw his dragon, skip, before he fell into a deep dreamful sleep.