Torn and Broken

We were always together, August and I. For three years he’d been my life, been my everything. But that ended one night in a spray of red, a scar that washed away in the rain, as though August had never existed. I won’t forget though, and I’ll never forgive the ones who killed him. Not until their blood joins his, their bodies rotting somewhere out of sight, somewhere no one will ever find them.

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3. Chapter 2: You're Worth It

 “Shh,” I scolded quietly, clutching August to my chest. His little fist flashed out again, thudding weakly against my chest, but I barely felt it. As long as he wasn’t screaming, it was alright.

 They all stared anyway, of course. I didn’t understand why I continued going to church, why I’d sit through the hour of stares and hushed whispers. At first it’d been alright; I think the other parishioners had thought I was babysitting. But now? Now it was like I was the source of some sick entertainment.

 I was that teenage mom. The unmarried one. The one raising a kid. The one who couldn’t get a clue.

 Why did I still bother, I wondered sadly as I rocked August. But it was for him, of course. I’d do anything for August, suffer any indignity, even if Aidan stopped coming with me. He said it made him uncomfortable, and he wasn’t religious anyway, so there was no point in him wasting that much time.

 And I understood that. Sitting there, I wanted nothing more than to stand up and leave. But I couldn’t, because I had to think about August’s soul. Even if my baby wasn’t baptized yet – we’d decided to let him choose when he was older – he still had a right to salvation. I believed that. I had to believe that.

 Even if I was beyond redemption, August would go to heaven. And I’d smile, wherever I ended up, because I’d always know my baby was happy.

 An hour, give or take. It was a long hour this time, Father Mike droning on and on about marriage. I could feel the stares burning into my sides as everyone glanced at me. Fine. Whatever. If they wanted to apply the homily only to me, that was their decision. I was old enough to handle myself – handle more than myself! I was raising a child, for god’s sake!

 Finally it was over. I didn’t go to communion. I think they might have stoned me if I had. I’m a whore, after all, at least in their eyes. My parents were there too, watching me. Watching my son. Of all the stares, theirs hurt the most. The naked shame and disgust in their eyes burned, though I’d thought myself closed off to that sort of thing a long time ago.

 “Hey babe,” Aidan said cheerily when I called him from the car. “You coming home now?”

 “No, I want to go eat somewhere.” I didn’t want to go back to our apartment like any other night. After all, it was August’s birthday, and we ought to do something special for him. “Augie wants something nice, don’t you honey?”

 Aidan sighed. I knew he wasn’t happy, but I’d won. He couldn’t say no to August any more than I could. Besides, if he could afford to go drinking, we could buy our child a nice birthday dinner. “Where are you headed? I’ll meet you there.”

 “That dinner on 3rd, the one with the milkshakes. Oops, gotta go. I’m driving and a cop just turned in next to me.”

 I ended the call with a flick and put both hands back onto the steering wheel, decreasing my speed to the legal limit. The cop drove by slowly, taking an age. He turned at the corner, heading the opposite way I was, which was a relief.

 In the distance I heard sirens switch on, but it was far enough away that it didn’t matter.

 The dinner was almost deserted when I pulled up into the lot, just two other cars and a parked RV. Pulling August out of his car seat, I held his hand as we walked slowly into the restaurant.

 “What’s we doing, Mama?” he asked sweetly, pulling his finger out of his mouth.

 “We’re going to have a party, Augie. It’s your birthday, remember?” I picked him up and danced around a little. I probably looked like a fool, dancing in the parking lot, but I didn’t care. “We’re going to have a special party, with yummy food and ice cream, and then Daddy will give you your present!”

 “I wanna eat… mac!” he cried happily, wiggling away from me. “Mac, mac, MAC!”

 “Ok. Just wait for Daddy. He’ll be here in a minute.” I pulled August back toward the restaurant and together we pushed open the door and found a nice clean table.

 “Be right with you,” the waitress called from across the room. She looked about my age, probably a senior in high school. I wondered if, had I never met Aidan, never fallen in love with a man five years older than me, would we have been friends? Me and this waitress? Would we have been classmates? Partners?

 Pointless thoughts anyhow. I wasn’t in school anymore, didn’t need it. They didn’t ever teach me anything anyway, just wasted time checking to make sure our skirts were long enough and our shoes were on properly. I was much happier this way, moving on with my life and getting a jump on things early.

 “What would you two like today? Can I start you off with something to drink?”

 “MAC!” August yelled happily, clapping his little hands.

 “One kids macaroni, coming right up. Do you want some milk or juice with that?”

 “Just water is fine for both of us, thanks. And can you wait with the food until his father gets here? Thanks.”

 She gave me that “Oh, a babysitter. I understand,” look. I wanted to correct her, but it was easier to just let it rest. I wanted to marry Aidan, I really did. I was nineteen now, legally old enough to do it, but he still didn’t want to, claiming that a piece of paper didn’t mean anything anyway. Besides, we didn’t have the money.

 “Mac, MAC, MAC! Mommy, I want MAC!”

 “I know baby. Just wait for Daddy, okay? Please?”

 August gave me a look far older than his three years, one of an old soul suffering my ineptitude. Then he gave in and giggled, breaking open the crayons to draw on his menu.

 “Be right with you,” the waitress called again when the doorbell jingled. I turned to look, expecting Aidan.

 It wasn’t Aidan.
 

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