“Matty, Please!” His mother begged him. “Please listen to me! I need you to find some place safe for your sisters!”
Matt sat at her bedside. “Alright. I’ll call Aunt Shasta. She’ll be happy to hear from me.”
She began crying. “Oh, thank you, Matty. You’re the best son a mother could ask for.”
He smiled to hide his guilt. Had she known why Kim was no longer a threat, she would have him arrested. Even if she didn’t, she would fear him. Possibly so much so that she would never talk to him again. Hell. He was even afraid of himself.
He had learned that he had a dark side that he hoped he never had to visit again. He hated the rage he felt. The burning desire to destroy was not something he cared for. He did not have a violent nature.
But he did what he had to. To defend his mother. To defend his sisters. Even if he had to do the unimaginable.
He looked into his mother’s eyes. “OK, Mama. I promise.”
Her expression changed to one of fear. “Please take them in with you.”
He bit his lip. “Mama, you know I can’t do that. I am not old enough to be considered their legal guardian. I can try and keep them in the family, though.”
Tears welled up in her eyes. “Do whatever you need to, Matty. Or see if Tom and Susie will take them in.”
He nodded. “Alright, Mama.”
Her expression softened. He knew that would be the last he would hear on the matter. Soon enough, she would realize that Kim was never coming back to harm her and find some new man to fill the void. She would probably burn through half dozen men before she found someone as violent or unpredictable as Kim. Still, she would find solace in the arms of a dozen good men before she did.
He wondered why she sought out the bad men. What did she see in them? Better yet, what had she done that she thought was so worthy of such punishment? Why couldn’t she bring herself to love? Why was she so afraid of keeping a good man?
He blinked back the tears. “Mama, I need to go. I will be back this evening, but I have to go to work now. Please get some rest.”
She nodded. “OK, Matty.”
He feigned relief. “I love you, Mama.”
She smiled weakly. “I love you too, Matty.”
He leaned forward and kissed her cheek. Rising, he started for the door. Turning, he smiled kindly at her. He watched her close her eyes, then left the room.
He knew she would not remember any of this. Not the abuse. Not nearly being beaten to death. Not the waking up in the hospital. Not for long, anyway.
She would forget within a month. Maybe a week. He knew that eventually, he would have to ride to her rescue again. He was just afraid that he wouldn’t reach her soon enough the next time. He felt the tears welling up in his eyes. He headed for the nearest waiting room.
He knew he wouldn’t make it, so ducked into the chapel. Dropping into a pew, he buried his head in his hands and began to sob. An hour passed before he knew that he wasn’t alone. A gentle hand on his shoulder brought him out of his troubles.
With the touch came a kindly voice. “Need a kind shoulder, lad?”
He looked up to find an elderly priest standing in front of him. “Father,” he began, “I don’t know who I can turn to. Mama is here in the hospital and she is in bad shape. Nothing I say seems to get through to her. She almost died today and she just doesn’t seem to understand that.”
The old priest smiled understandingly. “Care to talk?”
Matt nodded. “Yes.”
Tom stood at the door waiting for him as Matt appeared. He smiled sadly. Poor boy. No teen was ever prepared to take on the responsibilities Matt had.
A nine-to-five job with occasional overtime. Power of Attorney over his mother’s affairs, though Tom was the main POA. The youth was often father and mother to his sisters. But, at least he was able to home-school and get a full education in the midst of it all.
And he was a genius. His math and science scores were phenomenal. Way beyond what any of the teens his own age were making. Hell. The boy was already doing the work of a senior and he was barely a freshman.
He excelled at language, music, theater, and the arts. No big surprise there. But the surprise came with his fascination with cooking and food. The boy could easily pass as a top chef if he wanted to!
And he, Tom, was proud of his friend. He knew the boy would be able to graduate a full three years ahead of his contemporaries. And knowing Matt, the boy would do exactly that. Even if it was just to throw himself into his career.
But Matt had already voiced the desire to do the college thing. He wanted to go right into it after he graduated. Susie wrapped her arms around Tom as he stood watching Matt approach. “Think our boy will stick to his plan?”
Tom nodded. “He has his heart set on it.”
She kissed his neck. “And no one ever stands in Matt morrow’s way. Not even his mother.”
Tom put his hands over hers. “True. She hasn’t been able to stop him yet.”
Matt stopped at the door. Tom couldn’t help but think of how old he seemed to look. He didn’t look like your average thirteen year old. He looked like he had gained a full three decades in age. Far too old for a teenager to be looking.
He looked tired. Worn out. Tom looked at him. “How is your mother?”
Matt smiled sadly. “As well as can be expected.” He looked over at his friend. “Were you able to contact my aunt?”
Tom looked at him quizzically. “Yes, why?”
Matt’s smile faded to a serious, but worried look. “Mama asked me to find a safe place for the girls.”
Tom gave him a surprised look. “And you agreed?”
Matt nodded. “Yes.”
Tom looked at him. “Where are they now?”
Matt looked away. “At her neighbor’s until I–we can go pick them up.”
Tom nodded. “Then we should go.”