Charlie And The Bear
This story is fiction from the author’s mind but themes contained within are child abuse (physical and verbal). If such theme may be upsetting, please read with caution.
“Hiya,” echoed back. He looked up with soft eyes, bringing the small bear he held in his hands closer to his body.
“Have you seen that…?”
“Goddamn it, Charles Leon, where the fuck are you?!”
Before he could spin away toward the screaming voice, I saw the softness of his young face fall away to terror. He scampered to the woman’s side.
I stood casually, observing. I had seen her a few times around the complex. I didn’t make a point to be overly friendly with my neighbors but I said “hellos” and “good evenings” when passing in the corridor or parking lot. She stood near the door to their apartment, baby on her hip. Even from this distance, I caught the whiff of cigarette smoke and stale beer before she slammed the door shut. I imagine it was a move the mother performed often because the shift of baby and her hand connecting seems effortless. Flesh against flesh circulated before his wail of anguish echoed against the building’s walls.
“Shut up you little son of a bitch or I’ll give you something to cry about!”
I agreed with her about the bitch part. I waited.
When she got to the car, she fussed with getting the baby adjusted in the car seat. Charlie’s sobs had turned into small puffs of air. Tear-rimmed eyes downcast to the pavement. When she reached for him, there was none of the gentleness she showed for the other child. If the dark-haired boy didn’t look like a mirror image of the woman, I might of wondered if he wasn’t some other woman’s son. My lips pressed into a thin line as she nearly jerked his farm off causing the stuffed animal to tumble to the pavement.
This time the sounds of his sobs muted when she slammed the car door closed.
“Oh!” She exclaimed, looking quite surprised and it pleased me when I startled her. Instinctively, she tried to step around me but there was no passing. After a few waltz steps, she huffed and demanded I move. The same stale smell from the apartment perfumed her clothes. I pushed my sunglasses off my face up into my hair. On more than one occasion I’d been told there was something chilling about the way I could look at a person. I knew how to channel said look, and I did so.
I saw the way her throat bobbed, her eyes darting behind me, around me. She wanted to back away but found her SUV blocking her escape. One step. Two step. Three. The day was bright and warm, but I could see her shiver then she got very still. Like small animals do when they know they are trapped. She tried to shrink into herself. I tapped her on the cheek to get her attention. To bring those eyes to mine.
“Touch or speak to him again with anything but love and they’ll never find your body.”
What ever tan she had left faded. She was momentarily forgotten while I retrieved Bear and opened the door. He jumped, probably expecting his raging mother. A range of emotions flew over his small face. I patted the gravel and dusted off the stuffed animal and handed it to him. A very different face from the one his mother saw gazed into the boy’s young eyes.
“When you get home later, come knock on my door and we’ll feed the ducks again, okay?”
His silent nod brought my hand forward. Brushing the wetness from his cheek. My lips flickered upwards. The relief palpated in the air. He pressed his face into the top of Bear’s head.
She was staring at me from the back side of the car when I shut Charlie’s door. Eyebrow arched, “it’s hot in the car. You should get going.” Her eyes widened and she whipped around for the driver’s side. I kept my attention on the sleek silver car while it backed up and pulled away. Only when it was out of sight did I head for my apartment.
I felt I would see Charlie’s mom far sooner than I might like. I never made promises I didn’t intend to keep. While I waited for the silver SUV to return and the knock on my door it would bring with it, I sat at my laptop. Research began.
Photo by Oxana Lyashenko on Unsplash