"Is it time now?"
"Oh........how 'bout now?"
"No, Pazi. It's been one second since you asked."
"Well, I can't read a clock. I'm only six."
Bernard rolled his eyes—he seemed to be doing that a lot more than usual—and pointed at the wall clock above the couch. "I told you, like, five times already," he huffed, "we'll leave when the big hand is on the three."
Pazi jutted her chin. "But that's gonna be FOREVER!" she whined, and then groaned with the fury of a thousand lions.
Bernard sighed with equal rage, as he looked away from his sketchbook and stared up at the ceiling. "It's only ten minutes," he said. "Be patient. Just let me draw, okay?"
And astonishingly, all was suddenly quiet.
It was bliss.
Bernard had continued to draw his nameless female, as he started to bolden the lines that required such. He had given her a knee-length sundress, which he personally found to be quite pretty. One hand lay daintily at her side, and the other held to pose in the air. He really liked this picture, and that was saying a lot. He was his worst critic; though to clarify, he was his only critic. Bernard never really felt the urge to show anyone his work. He didn't see the point in presenting his pleasure drawings to others. He already had a hard time receiving compliments. Whenever he was given the rewarding praise he apparently deserved for literally everything, he would always become flustered, for he never knew what to say back. The embarrassment in the end wiped out the satisfaction of a "well done", so Bernard just avoided such situations at all costs.
"Can I see it?" Pazi suddenly requested.
Bernard didn't look up from his drawing. "Nope," he put simply, as he began on his model's hair. She would bear no color, he knew, but Bernard knew that her hair would be brown. Not just any brown, however. A shade darker than blonde, but lighter than chestnut. Though not quite oak, yet not exactly sienna. It was a shade that he and he alone knew, one that no one else would ever figure exactly. Unfortunately Bernard was not as talented in coloring as he was in drawing, so his special tint would remain a mystery to all. How he wished to show others this shade he was aware of, to expand their color-knowledge. Not that he would consider himself an expert on color; that was certainly not true. Bernard only viewed the world as being much more than just green and blue, black and white, or any of the other glorified hues of oh-so-famous ROY G BIV. He knew reds to be rose, purples to be lavender, yellows dandelion, whites cream and blacks coal. Thousands upon thousands of colors to be blanketed by their simple one-worded primaries, waiting under the covers to be discovered by someone and displayed before many. Perhaps Bernard could carry out this task some day in the future. But as of now he was still learning to sketch. One skill to be acquired at a time.
He had just accomplished the task of creating her head of flowing hair, when the bliss was destroyed.
"How 'bout now?"
Bernard was about to blow his top, and his notebook was about to take some sick air. Though as his eyes peeked at the wall clock behind him, he saw that...it was nearly time to leave.
"Oh, uh," he stuttered, "actually, yes."
Pazi's eyelids perked open. She hadn't expected a confirmation. "Yay!" she cheered. "Let's go!"
The girl burst from the couch and ran to the door, reaching for her black flats. Bernard rose to his feet as well, setting his book on the side table. But he wasn't moving towards the front door, and Pazi found this peculiar. "C'mon, Bernie! Let's go!" he ordered, slipping her shoes upon her feet.
Her brother turned to her. "We will," he assured. "Once I get out of the bathroom, okay?"
She groaned in protest, but seeing as she had no way of preventing nature from taking its course, she allowed it. "Okay," he gave in. "But hurry, please." She didn't need to tell him twice. Her brother was already hurrying, for he also had no way of bending the calls of Mother Nature.
Pazi stood by the front door, at the ready to dash through the entrance once Bernard came out. She paced back and forth in front of it, her flats clip-claping on the wood floor. She expected to be out that door in no time at all. How long did it take a guy to go to the bathroom anyway?
Although before her mind wandered too far into that topic, she heard soft footsteps creak down the stairs. Pazi spun around to see, her dress flaring at the turn. A woman arrived at the bottom of the steps, smiling a tired smile. "Hey, baby," she muttered, sifting her fingers through her big hair.
Pazi smiled back. "Hi, Mommy," she greeted. "Did you sleep good?"
Her mother walked into the living room. "That I did," she confirmed, grabbing the black heels she had left by the couch. She sat down to place them on her feet.
"Bernie said your work is stupid," Pazi said.
The woman's head whipped around, her wide eyes staring at her daughter. "Pazi!" she scolded. "What did I say about using that word?"
"But that's what he said!" Pazi retorted. "He said that's why you can't do 'family-dinner-night'. That's what he told me, Mommy!"
She had put her shoes on by this time, but didn't grab her purse, as she had planned on doing originally. The woman looked at Pazi, nearly painfully. "He told you that?" she said.
Pazi nodded. "Uh huh."
Her mother sighed, as she put a hand to her head. "Well," she said, as if defeated, "there's nothing I can do about that."
Pazi stayed where she stood. "Is your work stupid, Mommy?" she asked.
Her mother looked back up at her. "Pazi, stop using that word," she told. "You know better." The girl gazed down at her feet, realizing that she had performed most rashly. Her mom reached out to grasp the handle of her purse. "And no, my work is just fine," she answered. "One of my coworkers got sick. I just need to take his place for a few hours." Her eyes glanced about the room, perhaps checking for anything that might need her attention before she left.
"But why?" her daughter asked, as the woman noticed a notebook on the side table. Not that a mere notebook was of any urgency, but she hadn't seen it laying out in the open before.
"Who's notebook is this?" she asked.
Pazi was thrown a moment, at her mother not explaining her inquiry. "That's Bernard's," she informed. "But can't your work get someone else to do it?"
The woman seemed to pay no heed, which aggravated Pazi slightly. Her hand lifted the book from the table, and set it upon her lap. "What does he use it for?" she asked again.
Pazi stomped. "Mommy!" she shouted.
The woman looked up from the notebook in a flash. "Oh! I'm so sorry, honey!" she apologized. "Um...well, if the bank is minus one person, then it won't run very smoothly." The book caught her interest once more. She was ever so curious as to what lay in its pages. Whether they be words or images, curiosity urged her to open it immediately. Though she knew that this was not her possession, but Bernard's. It was not right for her to snoop around her son's belongings. Her hands set themselves atop the blue cover, but her self-control wouldn't give in. Whatever was hidden amongst those horizontal lines, she would need Bernard to give her the a-okay. Not that she allowed her children to tell her what to do. She alone held the authority of the family, and she could do with that authority whatever she wished. It was less a matter of "Will you allow me to?" and more a "Would you mind if I did?" Her children had their own issues, their own problems, their own small secrets. As much as she could tell them to spill the beans, which she did do a lot, she felt that sometimes it was best to let the kids have their own little things that they were permitted to keep to themselves. And even she would admit it: most times it was hard. She loved her children, beyond what they could imagine. And she wanted to be a part in their lives, even if she had to work many a day, and few a night. She sometimes just wished that they would tell her everything, but she knew that there were some things that were unnecessary to tell. And that was okay. Of course, most issues were deemed important, which she asked, and many times commanded, her children tell her. But for petty curiosities, such as this notebook in her lap, she found it unimportant to know.
The woman, concluding that she was certainly not going to flip through the unrevealed contents of Bernard's notebook, lifted the spiral-bound pad of paper to set it back on the table. Yet maybe she should have been quicker on the latter intention.
As the urgent call of duty had finally been answered, Bernard opened the bathroom door. He rounded the corner that led into the hallway, which he knew in turn led to the living room. Down the hall he could see Pazi was still standing by the front door, on the edge of her seat (a phrase that would have made much more sense if she weren't standing) to get out of the house. Yet as irritated as she had been earlier, Bernard would have expected her to be paying close attention to the bathroom door. And here she wasn't. Pazi barely acknowledged his presence, which was a strange occurrence, to put it lightly. The girl's interest had been captured by a figure on the couch, whom he immediately recognized as his mom. She thankfully looked much more refreshed now, and Bernard was relieved at that fact. Her high heels back on, her purse looped over her left arm, and sketchbook in hand, she seemed completely ready to head out the door.
...sketchbook in hand...
Bernard's eyes widened, and his heart leapt from his chest. "Mom!" he yelled, jerking the woman's gaze from the lifted notebook. And she performed just as he.
"Oh. Bernard," she named, stumbling over her words.
Her son began to walk across the living room towards her. "Mom, that's private!" he exclaimed. The woman eyed the paper pad in her hand, slowly coming to the realization...that she looked very guilty.
"I swear I didn't look at it!" she vowed, free hand palm-forward. "I was just about to put it back!"
Bernard was already directly before her, near enough to grasp the book from his mother's hand. "I don't want you to look at it!" he continued, not recalling what the woman had just said.
"I promise I didn't!" she reiterated. "I don't even know what's in it!"
Bernard clutched the sketchbook to his breast, a sour look upon his face. The two stared at each other for a while, as both were thinking of what in blaze's name to do next.
His mother was the first to think of something. "May I ask what's in there?" she inquired, her voice soft and soothing.
Bernard gazed at the ground, before he muttered, ".....drawings..."
The woman widened her eyes, which she seemed to be doing quite a lot today. "Really?" she said. "Drawings of what?" Bernard didn't lift his eyes, and only shrugged. His mother wanted to kick herself; that was a stupid question. "Well...can I see them?" was the real question. Her son said nothing, though he seemed to be pondering his options. She edged a bit closer. "Please?"
In the end, after what felt like an eternity of silence, Bernard removed the sketchbook from his chest. The woman held her hand out, which he set the book upon. As she lay it back on her lap, she patted the cushion beside her. "Here, sit by me," she said. Although he was as reluctant as could be, Bernard nonetheless moved to the couch and took a seat. And as he did so, he felt a body lay on his side. He didn't really need to turn to identify who it was.
His mother gingerly lifted the blue-colored cover, flipping it over to the left.
What she saw was beyond what she had thought.
Firstly, the lined paper shown a flower. Although its species was unknown, that fact was irreverent. The numerous petals flared out from its pollen middle, stretching outwards and ending in dull points. A leaf protruded from the stem, rustling in the image's nonexistent wind. Below at the bottom-left corner was scrawled the picture's artist and year.
"Ooh!" Pazi remarked. "That's pretty!"
The woman turned the page, to see a female figure. She faced forward and stood quite rigidly, as if she were a soldier at attention. Her long hair blew in the invisible and sourceless breeze, as did her floor-length gown in the same way.
"That one's not very good..." Bernard spoke in monotone, as if someone had just shot his dog (They had no dog, however; Pazi was allergic to them).
His mother turned in shock. "What are you talking about?" she blurted incredulously. "She's beautiful!" Her son only shrugged again, and the woman eventually looked back at the sketchbook.
She eyed the signature and date, and then continued her journey through the book. Next she discovered an apple—a little random to see—but with the most accurate of shading she had ever seen. And after that followed a dark profile of a person, like someone standing in front of a spotlight. Bernard said nothing, and shrank back a little bit in the couch. The woman stared in awe at this notebook before her. She would have never thought that these drawings would be the creations of an eleven year old, and her child as well. Page after page she was dumbfounded by each image, some being around-the-house objects, yet most being of women.
Pazi was the first to point that out. "Why do you draw a lot of girls?" she had asked, which Bernard predictably ignored. Though as many mothers and fathers alike would be perturbed by the unsettling amount of female models, for some reason she wasn't worried. She knew her son, and she was fully aware that there was nothing of concern about it. Each and every picture was exceptionally elegant and beyond artistic, and perhaps that was the reason why she found them stunning, as opposed to concerning.
And never failing to make an appearance, her son's signature always found itself at the bottom of the page, along with the year in which he finished each drawing.
Bernard Mallory 1985
"Bernard, these are amazing!" she praised. "You are so talented!" She turned to Bernard, only to find him somber. He twiddled with his fingers, as he stared straight down at them. The woman frowned. "What's wrong, hon?" she asked.
He didn't look up from his hands. "Nothing," he muttered, although anyone could tell that that wasn't true.
His mother reached behind him and grasped his opposite shoulder. "How come you didn't tell me you could draw?" was the next inquiry.
When after he still stayed as quiet as a statue, she sighed. As she had decided earlier, her children were allowed to have their own secret tidbits. But this was a completely different situation; this was no secret. From the way he stared at his hands to the silence that he created, this was something Bernard was ashamed of. This of all things—and not the very many drawings of women in his notebook—worried her. And she knew, and he knew, and even Pazi knew, that if there was one person that any of them could confide in, even the most terrible or horrible of situations they could find themselves in, it was their mother.
"Baby, you can tell me," she assured, using her motherly tone. "I promise I won't tell anyone." Although her son would still not tear his eyes away from his hands, he decided to confide.
"I don't like getting compliments," he admitted.
His mother caught herself before she did it, but she almost rolled her eyes. "Ohh, so that's it," she said. This was not any new knowledge. Bernard had had this problem with any compliment he was given as long as she could remember, whether it be praise on his grades, a kind action, a well-done job on his chores, or any impressive task he carried out. His mother was not surprised in the slightest. This issue was barely a shock, and was ever so easy to fix.
"Hon, I should have guessed," she said, a smile peaking at her mouth. "But please don't let that stop you from sharing your talents with people. Especially Pazi and me."
Finally, Bernard lifted his gaze. "I know," he said. "But...I—I never know what to say back. And it's embarrassing."
His mother nodded; she understood. "Try saying, 'Thank you'," she recommended.
Contrarily, Bernard shook his head. "That's kinda awkward though," he opposed. "Don't people expect you to say a little more?"
The woman had the self control of a comedian at a funeral. She nearly started laughing. It was foolish to find this humorous, but...he was just so much like her. "Not at all," she answered. "At least, they shouldn't. Just take the compliment for what it is, and they will be grateful that you acknowledged what they said."
Bernard turned his eyes back to his hands. "Okay," he mumbled, gnawing on what he had been told.
His mother wore a full smile. "And if they aren't," she expanded, "well, that's their own problem, not yours."
He took this all to heart. This was new information to him. And it really made sense.
"I think you're really good, Bernie," said the little girl beside him.
Bernard turned to look at her; he had forgotten she was there. A smile spread across his face. "Thanks, Pazi," he said, coming off of what he had just learned. His mom internally high-fived herself. She was still a good parent.
"Now," she spoke, turning her attention to the sketchbook on her lap, "if you don't mind, I would like to finish looking at these pictures." Bernard, with this latest knowledge fresh in mind, would have been most certainly alright with this. But when he noticed which picture his mother had stopped on—a maiden in a Victorian gown—he shot his hand upon the book.
"No no no," he spewed, preventing her from turning the page.
The woman looked at him. "What?" she asked, afraid what she had said had gone through one ear and out the other.
Yet slowly, and strangely to see, Bernard grinned. "I'm not done with the next one," he told, recalling that the following page was his unknown-brown hair model from earlier. "I'd like to show you it when it's done."
She let out a sigh of relief. "Oh," she said. "Well, that would be fine." She flipped the notebook closed, the blue cover showing at the top. The woman embraced the boy at his shoulders. "Thank you for letting me look at your notebook," she said, leaning her head lightly on his.
Bernard returned the hug, wrapping his arms around her as well. "No problem."
The boy suddenly felt another embrace, by a pair of tiny arms. "Yeah! Thank you, Bernie!"
The moment was so blissful; Bernard, Pazi, and their mother, together and happy. Rare moments like these were hard to come by in the Mallory household, as their mother was at work so much of the time. But that only made them even more special. And when they did happen, it was the greatest feeling in the world.
Though after a few seconds it was over, and the woman slowly removed herself from the hug. "Well, if I don't leave really soon, those crazy bankers will have my head!" she joked, raising herself from the couch. "And knowing you two you're probably starving."
Pazi nodded her head, rather violently. "Yeah, Bernard, I'm starving!" she yelled. "'Cause you took forever in the bathroom!"
Without her knowledge, the woman leaned down to her daughter. "Love you, baby," she said, placing a kiss on Pazi's cheek.
The girl's expression suddenly changed from rage to joy. "I love you too, Mommy!" she exclaimed.
Her mother smiled, and moved over to where Bernard was sitting. "Love you lots," was her statement to him, and she gave him a smooch as well.
"Love you, Mom," he said, as the woman stood upright.
"Alright, I'll see you guys later tonight," she promised, and she made her way to the front door.
"Bye, Mom!" came one voice.
"Bye-bye, Mommy!" came the other.
Their mother unlocked and opened the door. "Bye, guys!" she called, and made her way through the exit.
"Wait, why do the bank people want Mommy's head?"
The woman stifled a laugh.
She had the greatest kids in the world.