Drama Fiction Sad

“Do we really get to take a taxi?” Lenny asked, his excitement nearly palpable. He’d never been in a taxi before. He wondered vaguely why today was so special to ride in a taxi instead of taking the school bus home, but he didn’t want to ask any questions and risk his mother changing her mind.

“Yes, Len, we’re taking a taxi. How was school today?”

“It was fine,” he responded, his voice losing some of its cheer.

His mother opened the side door and ushered him into the backseat of the yellow cab. As she slid in beside him, the cabbie turned back and asked, “The Motel 6 in Chester next?” She took a deep breath, sighed, and nodded her head.

“You know it won’t be a small fare?” She nodded again and as Lenny looked at her curiously, his attention was drawn to a dark mark on her neck, peeking out above an abnormally high turtleneck. Lenny thought the shirt looked odd on her, and what was that on her neck? Was it food? Dirt? It wasn’t like his mother to be dirty though. She glanced over at him, then reached to tug the collar of the shirt up, hiding most of the mark from view.

“Why are we going to a motel? Why aren’t we going home?”

“We’re doing something different today, Len. We’re going on an adventure. On a little vacation- just the two of us.” She didn’t look happy though, like she normally did when she talked about vacation.

“Not Daddy?”

“Nope, just us. A little mother-son vacation time.” She blinked hard and her fingers jumped from the neck of her shirt to her lips. They lingered for a moment while she appeared to collect her thoughts and then, with another deep breath, she reached out to touch Lenny’s wrist lightly. “Tell me about your day at school today.”

“Mrs. Tanner is making me give valentines to everyone in the class tomorrow. It’s not fair!” Lenny pouted.

“Why is that not fair? You already made all of the valentines over the weekend, remember? I brought them all with us. I packed them into your suitcase.”

Lenny looked confused for a moment, trying to puzzle together why he would need a suitcase on a school night, but he quickly turned back to the more pressing issue. “I don’t want to give a valentine to Peter, but Mrs. Tanner is making me. If I have to give a valentine to Peter, then I don’t want to give them to anyone at all.”

“I’m sure Peter would like your valentine, honey,” Lenny’s mom said distractedly. The taxi indicated a left turn before pulling out onto the main road.

“I’m not giving him one!” Lenny said indignantly. “Don’t you care that he was mean to me?”

“What?” his mother asked, now gazing out the window at the gray clouds up ahead. “Sweetie, that was weeks ago. Can’t you just give him the candy like everyone else?”

“But Mom,” Lenny whined, his voice rising. “He held Madison’s hand, and she was my girlfriend!”

“Honey, you’re six! She wasn’t really your girlfriend,” she snapped.

There was a shocked silence. Lenny sat frozen, unable to believe his mother’s lack of sympathy.

With a jolt, his mother’s attention snapped back to focus on Lenny. “Len, no, that’s not what I meant. Of course she was your girlfriend. I know you liked her a lot. You still do, right?”

But the damage had already been done. Lenny sat seething at his mother’s indifference. It was like she didn’t even care how much he liked Madison. He glared out of the window, wishing there was a way to make his mother feel the hurt and anger boiling up inside of him. She just didn’t get it.

Even the excitement of being in a taxi for the first time was wearing off for Lenny already. He slouched in the seat with his nose to the window, watching the scenery change from his familiar home town to that of the less familiar surrounding towns, until he had completely lost track of where he was. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d been on such a long drive. He wondered again why they needed to go somewhere so far away and turned to ask his mother, but her eyes looked glazed over and something told him it would be better to keep quiet.

As rain drops started scattering across the windshield, thoughts of the class valentines consumed Lenny again. How could he get away with skipping over Peter when he handed out the valentines tomorrow in class? He considered giving him a fake- writing a mean message on his card and giving him the worst kind of candy- a banana Laffy Taffy, but then Peter would probably just tattle to Mrs. Tanner. It wasn’t fair that he had to give a valentine to his worst enemy ever. He would never hate anyone as much as he hated Peter, he just knew it.

After what felt like ages, the taxi pulled into the Motel 6 lot and Lenny’s mom, who was apparently still absorbed in her own thoughts, kept sitting still, staring unseeing out of the window. “Ma’am?” She jolted back to her surroundings. “The fare is ninety-six dollars.”

She fumbled through her purse for her wallet and pulled out a credit card. She held it gingerly and ran her finger across the raised letters at the bottom. The driver reached for it but she snatched it back. “Maybe cash is better, actually.” She slipped the card into the wallet again and pulled out a small wad of cash, spreading the bills in her hand and counting them slowly, before pulling one off the top and tucking it back into the wallet. Her hands were shaking as she set the bills into the driver’s waiting hand. Putting the wallet back into her purse, she took a deep breath and turned to her son. “Come on Lenny, help me get the bags out of the trunk.”

Lenny, still sulking and immersed in thoughts of the valentine’s debacle, clambered out of the cab and slammed the door behind him. “It’s not fair! Peter’s a big meanie and he doesn’t deserve any candy at all.”

The cab driver stood behind the car now, pulling bags out of the trunk. Lenny’s mom pulled a heavy suitcase out and as she did so, her sleeve slid back to reveal a blotchy bruise encircling her wrist. The imprint of fingers was clearly etched into her fair skin. The driver’s eyes lingered for a moment before she caught him looking and jerked the sleeve back down. “Len, get your suitcase and carry it into the lobby before it gets soaking wet.”

“Fine,” he huffed. Something in her voice put him on edge in a way that made him think he should go ahead and do as she asked. He still wasn’t happy about it though. Lenny grabbed the suitcase and pulled it angrily across the parking lot, splattering mud all across the front of it as he went. He knew he should be happy to be staying in a fancy motel room and on a school night nonetheless, but for some reason, it just didn’t feel fun or exciting.

Lenny was standing in the middle of the parking lot with rain pouring down around when the cabbie came up behind him. “Entrance is over there,” he called, gesturing ahead with a blue duffel bag. Lenny followed, still dragging his suitcase unceremoniously behind him. One of the wheels stuck in a pothole, bringing the whole bag crashing down into the mud. The clasp on the front pocket sprang open and a plastic bag came tumbling out. The valentines!

Feeling panicked, Lenny dropped to his knees in the mud and scrambled to grab the cards and candy before they got ruined. He gathered them up as quickly as he could, shoving them back into the bag. They looked a bit soggy, but most of them had come out not looking too much worse for the wear. Lenny shoved the bag of valentines back into his suitcase and had already begun to walk away when he saw the corner of one last valentine sticking out of the mud. He dove for it and pealed it squelchily up. Lenny had to squint to make out the words now drenched in mud, “To Peter: Happy V-day!” A broad smile crossed his face. He couldn’t wait to see the look on Peter’s face when he handed him this disgustingly slimy valentine. And the best part of it was, no one could tell him off for sabotaging the card because it had really and truly been an accident.

By the time Lenny arrived under cover of the entranceway next to a sizeable pile of luggage, his mother and the cab driver were talking quietly. “You’re sure that you’re safe?” he asked. Lenny’s mom nodded. “Is there anything else I can help you with? Anything at all?” the cabbie asked, with a hint of concern in his voice.

Lenny glanced up at his mom and was surprised to see her wiping her eyes, almost as if she were crying. But it must just be the rain in her eyes. His mom didn’t cry.

“No, thank you,” she replied, her voice rather shaky. “We’ll be alright. Everything’s going to be okay, now.”

Lenny smiled. “She’s right,” he thought, looking at the muddy valentine clutched in his hand. Everything was going to be alright.

August 02, 2023 04:37

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Angela Govender
13:26 Aug 10, 2023

Simple yet beautiful writing, you perfectly ran both the stories parallel to each other and you were still able to make excellent concluding remarks. Your story shows exactly how perception affects life. Tying everything up neatly in a story is always the hardest, but you've done it effortlessly.


Heather Eldridge
06:05 Aug 11, 2023

Thank you!


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Joan Wright
18:31 Aug 07, 2023

Nice story. I love how you had two stories happening at once. Also how it all came together at the end. A child's mind and an adult mind seeing things from their own perspective. And a very compassionate cab driver. Great job!


Heather Eldridge
06:06 Aug 11, 2023

Thank you!


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