48 comments

Fiction Sad Contemporary

     As the movie credits scrolled onto the screen, Lane clutched her arm rests as if her life depended on it and angst filled her abdomen. She turned and studied Charlie as he scooped a handful of buttery popcorn from the oversized bucket on his lap. She smiled as she watched him shove the kernels into his tiny mouth, several pieces landing on his Spiderman shirt. The last time she saw him he was obsessed with Pokémon. This time, it was Spiderman. She leaned her head against the seat, hoping there would be some sort of encore. Do movies have encores? No, that’s only concerts, she thought. Lane had spent half the movie staring at Charlie and the other half, staring at the screen, wishing it would never end. Why are children’s movies so short? she wondered with a sigh.

         She took the pack of half-eaten Sour Patch Kids off her lap and offered them to her son, trying to buy more of his love with sugar. She had used the last of her tip money on the snacks. Whatever she could do to make Charlie happy. Make him love her. When he didn’t take his eyes off the screen, she shook the sugary box closer to his face. She watched as his eyes lit up in delight and he grabbed the box, swapping the popcorn for the candy.

People sitting around them began to get out of their seats, leaving remains of candy wrappers, popcorn boxes, and paper cups behind them in their wake. Don’t people have any regard for the employees who work here? Lane thought as she took her phone out of her bag to check the time. It was 5:15 pm, she had fifteen more minutes until Charlie’s dad came to get him from her. She tried not to waste the space in her head on the leftover trash in the room and focus her attention on Charlie.

         “What’d ya think kiddo?” she whispered to Charlie, lightly poking him in the stomach playfully. He used to love being tickled as a baby. Always giggling and wiggling. The happiest baby in the world, people always told her.

         With a mouth too full of sour candy to respond, Charlie gave his mom a thumbs up, indicating he enjoyed it. His big, brown eyes glistened in the dim light. She leaned over and tousled his dirty blonde curls and then allowed her hand to linger on his head, slowly lowering it down his back. She wanted this touch, this moment, to last longer. Longer than the two hours in the movie. Longer than her court appointed time with him.

         “Unsupervised visitation granted,” the judge had announced, after an excruciating six months of having someone she didn’t know supervise her with her child. Someone watching her eat with him at McDonald’s. Watching her walk with him in the park. Watching her push him on the swings. The child she had spent nine months carrying. At least this was better than that.

         “It’ll be over before you know it,” her mom had assured her. “Just clean up and get yourself straight.” As if that was the easiest thing in the world. It should be, shouldn’t it? Lane had thought.

         It wasn’t as if Lane wanted this. She wanted more than anything in the world to be with her son. To be a good mother. But sometimes, her demons were stronger than what her heart wanted. Sometimes, she hated herself more than she loved her son.

         The lights began to grow brighter, and Lane glanced around, noticing that she and Charlie were the only people left in the theater. Charlie leaned over and took his bottle of water from the cup holder, taking a long sip.

         “Mommy, everyone’s gone,” Charlie acknowledged, pointing towards the empty seats. He rubbed his eyes, leaving a residue of salt and butter behind. Lane wished she had a baby wipe to wipe his face clean; she used to keep a pack in her purse. Always dabbing at his face, wiping his runny nose. But now she didn’t need them anymore, did she? What was the point if she only saw him every other week for two hours? She took the sleeve of her shirt and dabbed at his face, trying her best to make him presentable for his father.

         Lane looked down at her phone again: 5:27 pm.

         “We still have three minutes, baby,” she assured him, leaning her head against his shoulder, trying to savor the last few minutes she had with him.

         “Are daddy and Kara picking me up?” Charlie asked, poking her forehead with his greasy finger.

         Hearing Kara’s name, Lane tried not to wince. Tried to keep a smile on her face.

         “Yea, baby,” she said, placing her hand over his.

         “And you are going back to your house?” he asked, scratching his head.

         “Yea, baby,” she said again. Charlie hadn’t ever been to her halfway house. She didn’t want him to see her there. As soon as she got a year of sobriety, she’d get her own place and try to get more custody. Get him a room of his own. A bed with a Spiderman blanket.

         Her phone began to buzz, and she looked down, knowing who it was.

         “Is that daddy?” Charlie asked, pointing towards her phone.

         “Yea, baby,” she said. “It’s time to go meet him outside.” She tried to hold in the tear creeping out from the corner of her eye.

         “I can’t wait to tell him about the movie!” he hollered, getting up from his seat as he ran towards the exit. “Come on, mommy, let’s go!”

Lane’s hand instinctively reached up to catch him. Get him back. Just one more minute. She retrieved her hand and placed it on her forehead where he had poked her earlier. A simple touch she would think about all week. She grabbed the empty popcorn and candy boxes from their seats and followed Charlie towards the exit. One day she would get him back.

One day she would get him back. 

May 22, 2022 22:46

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48 comments

Bradon L
01:50 May 26, 2022

“But sometimes, her demons were stronger than what her heart wanted. Sometimes, she hated herself more than she loved her son.” - These lines hit hard! Well done!

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Kathleen Fine
15:34 Jul 06, 2022

Thanks Bradon!

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13:13 May 23, 2022

You’ve captured Lane’s intense longing to be with Charlie so powerfully that this story literally lingers after it’s finished. A tender, painful perspective.

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Kathleen Fine
15:34 Jul 06, 2022

Thank you L. Maddison!

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Nicole Of 2022
00:09 May 23, 2022

Aww I actually loved it. I could relate to it a lot.... except in the child's place and my dad being in Lane's place. This was definitely my new favorite story on here. This was such a great story i really did love it so much I can't even express my feelings for it. I cried reading it. I love this ALOT!! Keep up the writing.

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Kathleen Fine
15:34 Jul 06, 2022

Thank you so much --what a compliment!!

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Nicole Of 2022
22:52 Jul 27, 2022

You're so welcome. You really deserve it.

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Todd Johnson
04:35 Jun 03, 2022

This piece hit me hard! Because I went through a similar scenario as a child, I can admit with shame I never really considered how it affected my parents, and you seem to have captured this in a way that gives me some insight. I absolutely loved her countdown savoring every remaining minute even as Charlie’s dad began intruding into her blissful moments with her son. Amazing work! Thank you so much for sharing this!

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Kathleen Fine
15:35 Jul 06, 2022

Hi Todd, thank you and I am sorry you dealt with something similar!

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Richard Tallman
03:38 Jun 02, 2022

Kathleen, The story may have been fiction, but it felt real. Painful and agonizing. It is also sad, but also hopeful, as the situation gives Lane the determination to recover and get her son back. This story also reminds me of how little of life we as children have of the agony our parents go through. It is all about fun and popcorn for us and very little awareness. Well done.

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Kathleen Fine
15:36 Jul 06, 2022

Thank you Richard. Children don't know what parents go through!

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21:39 Jun 01, 2022

Oh my goodness. This is very beautiful and sad--you did an amazing job capturing a complicated moment and making it very real for us. Thank you!

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Kathleen Fine
15:36 Jul 06, 2022

Thank you Julia!

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Bruce Friedman
15:40 May 31, 2022

Kathleen, more emotion and imagery than one could expect in this relatively short piece. I real standout.

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Kathleen Fine
15:36 Jul 06, 2022

Thanks Bruce!

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Scott Tibbs
03:32 May 31, 2022

I know it was difficult to write this piece, but you did it well. I like your prose in and the way it was written, and how it pulled me in. Breakups are always hard, especially when children are involved.

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Kathleen Fine
15:36 Jul 06, 2022

Thank you Scott!

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Ava Raim
03:03 May 31, 2022

So beautiful.

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Kathleen Fine
15:36 Jul 06, 2022

Thanks Ava!

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Seán McNicholl
13:44 May 30, 2022

Kathleen, loved this! Well done! Heart wrenching and raw. “Sometimes she hated herself more than she loved her son” - what a line!!! Beautiful

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Kathleen Fine
15:36 Jul 06, 2022

Thank you Sean!

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Mike Rigby
22:48 May 29, 2022

Gave me goosebumps. Poor Lane.

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Kathleen Fine
15:36 Jul 06, 2022

Thanks Mike!

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Mike Rigby
22:47 May 29, 2022

Gave me goosebumps. Poor Lane

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Michał Przywara
19:02 May 29, 2022

Great use of the prompt and the sad tag. The opening paragraph is also strong. Lane's behaviour is unusual for something as commonplace as a movie ending, so it got me thinking her kid was either dying or it was a custody thing. Yet even though it's a sad story, it's also a hopeful one. We've learned she's made progress in her recovery, and she has a plan for a future with her son. We can hope she has the strength and support to follow through.

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Kathleen Fine
15:37 Jul 06, 2022

Thank you Michal!

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Bobbi Brone
14:43 May 29, 2022

Kathleen, You captured in exquisite expression the agony of a beleaguered mother. Quite an accomplishment in itself and powerful enough to persuade hearts to stretch a little to include the suffering of often maligned mothers.

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Kathleen Fine
15:37 Jul 06, 2022

Thanks Bobbi!

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Courtney Renee
01:17 May 29, 2022

The feel you gave the movie theater, I felt like I was there with them. I love where you went with this prompt, it was very moving

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Kathleen Fine
15:37 Jul 06, 2022

Thanks Courtney!

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Benjamin Togate
01:01 May 29, 2022

So sad! You captured her emotions beautifully.

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Kathleen Fine
15:37 Jul 06, 2022

Thank you Benjamin!

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22:40 May 28, 2022

A sad, but hopeful story. "One day she would get him back." So painful for a mother to have only two hours with her son, every other week. I can hardly imagine such torture. Prolonging every minute of the visit, committing to memory the feel of his touch. But at least she was granted "unsupervised visitation," which is some progress. I am glad she's hopeful and doing the best she can to secure a future with Charlie. Getting out of the half house, getting a place of her own, a room for her son and a Spiderman blanket. Good story, Kathleen....

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Kathleen Fine
15:37 Jul 06, 2022

Thanks Gabriela!

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Rebecca Miles
12:47 May 26, 2022

I liked how you broke up the narrative present with her hidden reflections. It created a poignant tension with the sunny exterior she had to present to her son. I liked the pairing of mother and child, resisting the way the prompt could be interpreted, conventionally, as about a romantic couple. Well done.

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Kathleen Fine
15:37 Jul 06, 2022

Thank you Rebecca!

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Kevin Marlow
03:53 May 26, 2022

I dig it. I feel like my story leads to your story on this prompt. Serendipitous in a sad way it seems.

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Kathleen Fine
15:37 Jul 06, 2022

Thank you Kevin!

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Sharon Hancock
01:34 May 26, 2022

Awe so sad I can feel her heartache and struggle through your words. This part really made my heart hurt for her. “But sometimes, her demons were stronger than what her heart wanted. Sometimes, she hated herself more than she loved her son.” The relief comes when he jumps up and happily runs to meet his dad, bc it reminded me that the kid was okay and it would be so much worse for the mom if the kid wasn’t being taken care of. Great heartfelt story.😻

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Kathleen Fine
15:38 Jul 06, 2022

Thanks Sharon!

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