Shrieks pierce the morning silence, slicing me out of my tranquil dreams and leaving me disoriented in my dimly-lit room. The dream had been good; I remember the warm sand beneath my feet and the cool breeze playing on my face and lifting my hair in its wake. And most of all, the complete silence that had allowed for my thoughts to flow.
My reverie is short-lived though as the shrieks perpetuate, forcing me to roll out of bed and drag my feet down the stairs. They feel like pieces of heavy lead stuck to the bottom of my legs and seem to have an invisible magnetic force to my bed. Can’t say I blame them.
Angelica is standing at the foot of the stairs, mouth open and emitting ear-piercing wails, her nose running. My first instinct is to get her dummy to make her shut up, but A Mommy’s Guide 101 had warned exactly not to do that. I silently curse myself for reading that stupid book.
I hesitantly approach her, knowledge of her capricious moods at the forefront of my mind. I pray that the kids are good today. Yesterday had been an absolute nightmare—just ask my sunken eyes.
“Hey, Angel.” Whoops. I soften my tone and lower its volume a couple ranks. Clearing my throat of the heavy sleepiness in it, I begin again: “Hey, honey. What’s the matter?”
She heaves out a few more sobs, the words slotted in between them making it hard for me to understand. “M-mommy, h-he took F-fuzzy,” she stammers.
Great. Fuzzy is—or was—quite literally a ball of old fuzz with a drawn-on smiley-face that Grams had made for Angelica on her last birthday. Frankly, I thought it was the cheapest and convenient present she could have given, but of course, I kept my mouth sealed to save my ears from a scolding. Gramps hadn’t even bothered giving her anything, but I could hardly blame him. With Alzheimer’s—it’s to be expected.
I crouch down so that I’m at eye level with her. “Was your brother being naughty?”
She hiccups. “Y-yes.”
I grab hold of her hand and march into the living room. My eyes are met with quite a sight when I take in the trail of stuffing scattered around the living room randomly and ending at Jacob’s sleeping bag. The living room is no larger than my upstairs room, rather stuffy with a beaten-up, moth-eaten couch and two sleeping bags for the kids—but what else can you do with a cut salary as a result of a global pandemic?
Being cooped up indoors all day with only the kids for company is driving me nuts and blocking any existent creative juices from flowing. I don’t know how long I can hold up writing a novel I’m hardly interested in.
The profits from my last book (that I somehow managed to get published) along with the money I got from selling the old TV had managed to pay off last, last month’s rent, but that had been the very last of it. Landlord Bernie knocks at the door every week on Fridays, wondering where his money is. That’s not to say he’s a bad chap—definitely not; he’s given us more time to work it all out than I could’ve dreamed of.
“Mommy, look.” Angel points around the room with over-emphasis, her tear-streaked face now bearing the shadow of a smile from the knowledge that Jacob is about to get a good telling-off.
Jacob is in his sleeping bag, one eye closed and the other peering up at me. Children are honestly so stupid sometimes that it’s comical. “Jacob,” I say sharply. “I know you’re not sleeping.”
“Am too,” he mumbles.
I swallow a laugh and pull my face into a solemn expression for Angel’s sake. “Jacob, you’re to pick up all of poor Fuzzy and apologize to Angel.”
He abandons all pretense of being asleep and sits up, his unkempt brown hair looking sticky in the faint morning night. I see the sun poking up from the horizon from outside the shutters as if playing a game of hide-and-seek. Why the hell do children wake up so early?
“But she carries that yucky thing around, everywhere,” he whines, elongating the last word, and pulling a disgusted face. “I had no choice.” He shrugs. I gotta agree with him. But Angel looks up at me with her big brown eyes, and I remember how much she loved that stupid ball of stuffing.
“Jacob, I won’t repeat myself. Now.”
Establishing power in the role of the mother is the only step I gleaned and implemented from that darn Mommy Guide book. It was working quite well though.
After the stuffing was picked up and Jacob apologized, I finally sit down with my laptop, on my bed. I force my mind not to imagine what would happen if I can’t finish this book in the next week and try to immerse myself in the story of Darius and The Lost Dragon. Just as the image of innocent Darius is about to spur me on to write, I hear small feet bounding up the stairs and crossing the landing to my room. Wonderful.
The door is barged open, demanding heed, but I keep my eyes trained on the laptop screen, the cursor blinking at me and wondering why I’m ignoring my kids. Because they’re so darn chaotic, I reply. Now talking to a cursor—really on the path for success, huh.
“Mom.” Jacob thinks he’s cool saying Mom now instead of Mommy—as if that somehow makes him more mature. “There’s no TV.”
“Yes, Jacob, I’m aware,” I say with forced sweetness, grinding my teeth behind a set of smiling lips. “There’s been no TV for two months now.” The teeth-grinding is almost audible now. “And you tell me the same thing every morning.”
He just blinks back at me. “So?”
“What do I do?”
I resist all the fantasies my mind conjures up and take a deep breath. “Go play with Angel.”
“Eww. She’s all snotty.”
“Jacob.” I frown. “That’s not very nice. Now go play, Mommy needs to do some work.”
I sigh as the door shuts with a creak behind him.
Where was I? Right, Darius and the Dragon. I start typing, taking advantage of the lack of noise around me, and imagining the dragon vividly in my mind. A dragon that breathes fire but is mistaken for a wild beast rather than the kind soul he is. And as he walks, the earth shudders beneath him, recoiling at the glance of his monstrous face. But his eyes are soft and hold a certain brokenness.
My fingers are flying over the keyboard now, racing through scenes and working my way through the plot. My heart thuds with exhilaration; it has been a long time since I felt this. My eyes are dancing all over the page, radiance emanating from them, hardly blinking, when—