I had fallen asleep on the couch after a long, worrying night. I had called all of Calcifer’s friends but none of them had heard from him. I tried Aiden, and even the Bees–but there was nothing. I finally called the cops and they told me they’d find him.
Twice I had tried going out for him myself, but the pain was almost unbearable. So I just curled up on our tiny love seat and wound up falling asleep.
I was awoken pretty late in the morning by doors slamming. I sat up, rubbing my eyes and listening for any signs of life, wondering if I had dreamed the doors. Soon I heard the shower running. I glanced at the clock and saw it had been a little over fourteen hours since he had run off.
“C-Calcifer?” I tiptoed over to the bathroom and tapped at the door. I heard a banging sound and the water turned off. “Cal?” I asked again.
“What?” he snapped.
“I was worried sick!” I said, pressing my forehead against the door. “Where were you?”
“Out,” he replied. “I’m gonna go to bed.”
“You have school,” I said and he opened the door. “What in sam hill did you do to your hair?” I demanded, staring at the thing perched on top of him.
He glowered at me and stamped his foot, something I figured I’d be seeing him do a lot. “I got a new haircut!” he said. “I can wear my hair how I like, and I like this.”
“Cal, I’m sorry for not telling you,” I said.
He blinked at me then walked past, going to his room. He shut the door and I heard him climbing into his bed. He mumbled something and I heard ‘Penny’ so I figured he was once again talking to his doll.
I’m so sorry, I thought, leaning against his door and wishing I knew how to fix this. In the mean time I just called the cops to let them know my son had returned.
Calcifer slept most the day and when he finally woke up, he ignored me completely as he went to his science station. I figured he’d start working but he just stared at it for a long time.
“Cal, can’t we talk?” I asked. “You’re being silly.”
He faced me and gave me one of his old smiles. “Sorry, Mom, I’m not in the mood to talk.” He spun on his heels and returned to his room.
I didn’t know what to do. I had certainly not expected this happening. Angst and hormones, yeah, but not this–this insanity. He was angrier at me than I ever thought he’d get. And the ‘mom’ gibe…
Elouia… what am I supposed to do?
As the weeks went by, Calcifer got moodier and moodier. He was playing tricks left and right. Whoopie cushions in the love seat, hair dye in the shower, and he even rigged the sink up to spray me. I wanted to tell him to stop but every time I tried talking to him he’d just roll his eyes and call me ‘mom’. I had the feeling he had lost all respect for me.
During summer, things got really out of hand. He’d disappear during the day and only come home late at night, giggling. I had no idea what to do. I didn’t know how to control him. He was thirteen, and a complete brat.
I tried taking him to the park like before–for some fishing–but he grew bored and set aside his fishing pole so he could go cause more trouble. I found him putting whoopie cushions on the benches…
And running out of the bathroom like there was someone chasing him. I went into the bathroom and dismantled his sink-sprayer before heading home. I found him in the middle of an argument.
“You don’t understand!” he yelled at–absolutely nothing. “Nobody understands! I’m a monster, okay?”
“Cal!” I said, shutting the door behind me. He spun around, eyes huge. He hadn’t heard me come in and before he could start getting snappy at him, I grabbed his arm. “You’re not a monster!”
He pulled free and backed up, looking torn between being mad and crying. “I am too!” he protested. “I saw what the newspaper said. I looked it up on the computer, too!”
“Calcifer,” I tried again. “Don’t listen to them! They’re the monsters for saying such crap about you. You’re a perfectly normal boy!”
He grit his teeth and glowered at me. “How can you say that? How can you say I’m normal? You’re the one who–who–” He looked down at my stomach then turned away in disgust. “You’re in pain all the time, aren’t you? It’s because of me, isn’t it? Because you were–pregnant.”
“Cal, my health has nothing to do with this!” I said, spreading my hands. “I made my choice!”
“You mean you made a mistake!” he shouted and ran into his room, slamming it shut so hard the windows rattled. I sank down into the couch and buried my face into my hands. Where had I gone wrong? Was it really that wrong of me to try to keep things secret until he was a teenager? Should I have tried to explain to him when he was younger?
Cal had been sort of right when he said I had made a mistake. I had made a huge mistake in not telling him the truth sooner. I was suffering for it but I didn’t know how I could possibly make things right again! Perhaps soon he’ll start calming down.
The rest of summer went by much like that; shortly after school started up another clash occurred. I was called by his friend Ali to please come down to the general store right away. I ran there, knowing it would take just as long to wait for a taxi. I was in pain but it wasn’t too bad and I got there quicker than I thought.
Ali had left by the time I got there but I saw the problem right away. Cal was in a vicious fight with the clerk. The clerk shoved him and Cal slapped him back.
“CAL!” I shouted, running over right before he pounced. “STOP IT!”
“LET GO OF ME!” he yelled, trying to pull free. “YOU WUSS!” he added as the clerk took off running. “Dad! Why did you do that? I was winn–“
“YOU DO NOT FIGHT TO SOLVE AN INDIFFERENCE!” I screamed, shaking him slightly. “You know better than that!”
“No ‘buts’ young man!” I snapped. “And besides, it’s getting late–you shouldn’t be out this late, you have school in the morning!”
“I hate school!” he growled, shaking his head. “It’s so boring, and so… baby-ish! I want high school to start!”
“You shouldn’t be allowed in high school if you’re having this sort of attitude!” I said, starting to pull him towards the exit. He yanked free of me grip and I groaned. “Cal, let’s just go home before that clerk calls the police.”
“You’re taking his side when you don’t even know what this was about!” Cal turned around, pacing forward, then he turned and stormed back to me, sticking a finger into my chest. “How do you know he didn’t start it?”
“C-Cal! I don’t care who started it, you fought back. I don’t like that. I raised you better than–“
Cal’s words felt like a sword through my chest. “IF I HAD A REAL FATHER HE WOULD HAVE TAUGHT ME HOW TO FIGHT!”
“I am your real father,” I said, feeling slightly deflated. “I know it’s not normal but I am your father, no matter what you think of me.”
“A pregnant father?” he retorted. “And you expect me to believe I’m a normal kid? Why should I care about anything, or anyone, when I’m not even human? Don’t touch me!” he added when I tried to give him a hug.
“Calcifer, you’re acting like a spoiled brat,” I said, weary of this. I was handling everything the wrong way and now Calcifer was a little punk. I didn’t want to fight at him. I hated yelling at him–it reminded me too much of me and my own father. He had always been yelling at me and putting me down… always punishing me for things I didn’t deserve. I was so scared that if I started punishing Cal then it would turn into me and my father. Would Calcifer leave town the day he graduated like I had?
That thought broke my heart. I looked up into Cal’s angry face. I needed to ground him and the words were about to be said when I bit them back. He was only thirteen and had been through something that nobody could possibly understand.
“Let’s just go home,” I whispered. “We’ll have some dinner, watch some TV, try to calm down. You can tell me what happened between you and the clerk. Okay?”
Cal looked shocked but he just shrugged in reply. “Whatever.”
It turned out that the clerk had insulted him, and Calcifer had lost it. I was relieved to know that Cal hadn’t just picked some random fight but I didn’t like that he was attacking people. When I told him he couldn’t do that, he just stomped off to bed.
As the rest of the year continued, Calcifer seemed to start calming down again. I noticed that he was talking to his doll again–well, the air. Which he insisted on calling ‘Penny’. For some reason this had a soothing effect on him and he didn’t act out as much.
About a month before Calcifer finished middle school (something he was really looking forward to; especially since he turned fourteen), I got a letter in the mail saying I had won a free trip. Two nights, all expenses paid, at a new bed and breakfast in the country.
I went inside and was about to rip it in half, figuring it was a scam, when Calcifer saw what I was doing and jumped up from the TV. “No! Dad, that’s the thing telling you that you won, right?”
I glanced at him, lips twitching down slightly. “Uh, yeah. A scam or something.”
“No, it’s not a scam!” he said, grinning at me. “I put your name in. There were like, gonna be five winners or something from the Valley. I thought you needed a vacation and knew you’d never go on your own. I didn’t think you’d win though.”
I looked at him, wondering what this was about. “You… put me in this to win a vacation?” I asked slowly, making sure I was comprehending right.
“Yep!” he said excitedly. “I’m glad you won, you deserve it.”
“And what about you?” I asked. “I guess I could ask Aiden if he’d watch you…”
“Awww, c’mon Dad!” he said, grinning widely. “I’m fourteen now. I can stay two nights by myself!” He wriggled his eyebrows and looked excited. “Can’t I? Please?”
“You’re still a bit young…” I said slowly, biting at my fingernail. “I’d feel better if you were at Aiden’s. Or maybe you could stay at a friend’s place.”
“Dad! Don’t you trust me?” he demanded. “Please let me stay by myself!”
“Look, Cal, I do trust you but you’re still too young to stay two nights by yourself. Now, if you wanna stay at a friend’s place that is fine. But you’re not gonna stay here by yourself. Okay?”
He pouted and I thought maybe he’d throw a fit. But then he just smiled again and gave me a big hug, which I hadn’t been expecting since he rarely hugged me nowadays.
“That’s okay, Dad,” he said, his arms tight around me. “You have a good time while you’re away, okay? And I’ll stay at Ali’s house.”
My first night at the B&B was great but in the morning I got a phone call. I should have known, I thought angrily as I packed up my stuff.
A party! An all night party, with both genders–how could he just break my trust like this? Did he not REALIZE? Or did he not care?
Aiden had called me to let me know about the disturbance. Loud music all night, kids coming and going. The police had even gotten involved.
THE POLICE! Calcifer was only fourteen, not even started high school, and already something like this happened. I was angry, I was more than angry. I felt riled up with so many emotions that I couldn’t think clearly as I headed home. I was disappointed in him. I was angry with him. I was angry at myself, for trusting him. He had gone to Ali’s while I was gone but what had happened?
As the cab headed through Sunset Valley, I called Ali’s mother. She told me that she didn’t know I was gone and that Ali had asked to stay with Cal for two nights.
I felt so stupid and so played. I should have done it myself. I should have made sure myself that Ali’s parents were okay with this and not trust Calcifer.
When I got home, Calcifer was zonked out on the floor. I looked around at the mess. Pizza everywhere, cake, trash… everything was filthy. How could he do this overnight? The TV was even broken!
“Calcifer, wake up,” I said, nudging him with one toe. I couldn’t bend over, it would hurt too much. “CALCIFER!” I yelled.
He sat up straight, giving a yelp of fear. “Ah, uh, whuh?” He looked around, rubbing his shoulders, trying to figure out what had happened. When he saw me, guilt washed over his face. “Hi Dad!” He scrambled up, giving me a sheepish smile. “Welcome home. Isn’t it a bit… early?”
I folded my arms and glared at him. “How could you do this to me?” I asked. “You broke my trust.”
“I broke your trust?” he demanded. “You’re the one who lied to me all my–“
“SHUT UP!” I yelled and he cowered back, shocked and scared that I had done that. I was a bit shocked I had yelled at him like that. But I was talking fast, the words coming out before I could stop them–and frankly, that was a good thing.
“I know what I did! I’m sorry I lied to you, but I did it because I thought you were too young to understand and with the way you’re acting, you’re still too young! You really hurt me today, Cal! I thought I could trust you but it’s apparent I can’t. You are GROUNDED!”
“You don’t mean that!” he yelled, stomping past me. “You can’t ground me!”
“Yes I can!” I insisted, going after him. “If you can’t be trusted, then you can’t go anywhere except school. No more friends, no more anything–you’re grounded.”
“Dad, please–no!” he said, scowling deeply. We had a bit of a stare off and then he began crying. “Dad, I’m sorry! I’m sorry, okay? I’m sorry!”
I bit my bottom lip, unsure as how to take this. “Calcifer, why did you do it?” I asked, softly.
“I just wanted kids to think I was cool!” he cried into his hands. “I’m really sorry, Dad. I’m sorry!”
I closed my eyes, sagging slightly. He sounded so earnest about feeling bad but could I trust it? I wasn’t sure what to think anymore. He was my son… but he had broken my trust. I couldn’t just let him off the hook. But he did sound sorry and if I was harsh on him then there might be a gap between us that couldn’t be bridged over. I thought of my own father, yelling and cussing at me. How many times had I cried at him and he just ignored my tears and kept screaming?
“All right,” I said, touching his shoulder gently. He sniffled and looked up at me. “I’m still mad at what you did and some of your privileges will be taken away, but you won’t be… completely grounded. Just promise me you won’t ever do this again.”
He wiped his eyes and threw his arms around me. “Oh thank you Dad!” he mumbled into my chest. “I won’t, I promise. Thank you!”
“Just–go to your room for now. Okay?”
He pulled back, wiping his eyes some more. He nodded, giving me a smile, then hurried off to his room. I watched him go, wondering if I had done the right thing. I felt so tired… my entire body was aching badly and all this stress felt heavy against me.
I staggered back slightly, clutching at my chest. My body felt so strange… everything hurt, even my bones. I wondered if I needed to go to the hospital when I looked down and saw, with shock, sparkles swirling around me.