Jump to content
  • Join For Free and Get Notified of New Chapters!

    Are you enjoying a great story and want to get an alert or email when a new chapter is posted? Join now for free and follow your favorite stories and authors!  You can even choose to get daily or weekly digest emails instead of getting flooded with an email for each story you follow. 

     

If you enjoyed what you have read, please leave a reaction and/or comment for the author!

The Light You Cast - 3. Chapter 3

No special warnings for this chapter.

I ran until my lungs felt frosted inside and my calves were twitching. A simultaneous urge and fear to call Jonathan dominated my thoughts. Had he gotten home safely? Who would pick up? Would I hear his voice? Would he be angry at me? Hate me? And, the worst question of all, what if he wanted revenge, and his visit was just a ploy to dig me out?

If I wanted to call him, I’d have to drive all the way to town and use a pay phone. Cell service out here was non-existent, and it would probably be a few more days before they fixed the lines.

I jogged over the hill to the sounds of Michael and Leah having a snow fight in the backyard. Their shrieks and laughter filled the air, a welcome distraction from my thoughts. I glanced at the driveway. Mr. Jameson’s truck was gone, so I relaxed a bit.

“Ethan, help me!” Leah shouted after a chunk of snow exploded against her shoulder. Her golden-blonde hair was pulled back in a thin braid, head covered with a knit cap and the hood of a puffy coat. Cheeks red with exertion, her own snowball fell short as Michael dodged it by jumping to the side. The boy rolled over and started packing another glob of snow between his blue gloves.

“Alright, just this once,” I said. I packed a snowball between my hands and fired. It hit Michael in the back of his neck, half the snow filling in his hood. He let out a cry of defeat and shook the snow out. Then he tried to lob a sneaky snowball back at me, but it fell short.

“Not fair!” Michael shouted. “You’re too far away.”

“You sure you’re ready to pick on someone your own size?” I beckoned him at me with both hands, and while he was distracted, Leah caught him on the side with a chunk of loose snow.

“I’m outnumbered!” he shrieked. “I’ve got to take out the little one first!”

“No!!” Peals of laughter rang out when Michael tackled Leah to the soft white ground and started shoveling snow over her with both hands. They became a heap of snow and wrestling and laughter. I couldn’t help watching them for a while, a smile playing at the corners of my mouth.

Eventually Leah gave it up and fell onto her back to look up at the clear blue sky. I could see her breath, little tufts of transparent cloud rising from her lips. She started moving her limbs in slow arcs to make a snow angel. Michael sat there for a minute breathing heavily before he followed suit, and I watched them laying there, two warm little bodies, two sets of snow clothes, dark against the sea of white.

“Ethan?” Leah asked as she lay there, not looking down from the sky. “If they clear the roads today, can you take us out for pizza?”

“No, Leah. What would your dad say? I shouldn‘t even be out here with you. I should be working.”

“My dad‘s a tyrant,” she said under her breath. Then she got up, leaving me alone with Michael. His red ears poked out from beneath a mop of dark hair. With his long limbs and big eyes, he looked like a forest nymph. I sat down next to him and joined him in looking up. He pointed out an owl watching us from among the trees, a rare sight during the day. We probably woke him up with all our noise.

“I think I’m going to leave home,” he said, out of the blue. “When the play’s finished.”

I sat with that for a minute, but before I could say anything, he spoke again.

“Please don’t tell anyone. I just wanted to say it out loud.”

I wasn’t surprised, but the unfairness of it did dampen my spirit. He should have been allowed to be a kid for just a little longer. “Where will you go? ” I asked.

“Keeping it private, for now.”

“Are you going to tell your mom?”

“Not sure yet.” Michael’s expression was pleasant, but I could sense an underlying desperation when he looked back at me.

“Alright,” I said quietly. “I won’t say anything.”

A moment later, Leah burst out of the house, braid flapping against her coat as she ran toward us. “Mom said yes! She‘s gonna take us for pizza later!”

“Hooray!” Michael jumped up and ran for her, tackling her into a hill of snow. His energy shifted from somber to hyper energetic glee on a dime. It wasn’t any wonder. He was an actor, after all.

I left them to their play and headed back into the house. In my basement room, sunlight glowed from a small window near the ceiling, enough to cast a dim light over my scant furnishings. I went to the far back corner and pulled a battered green suitcase out into the light. The latches were rusty, but they opened without a hitch. Inside lay a few sets of clothes, folded neatly, a random paperback book and a DOB kit.

There was also a rusty Folger’s can with a plastic lid. Every time I earned some cash, I’d roll it up and tuck it into the can. I took out all the bills and stacked them carefully over my bed. Six hundred and twenty three dollars. Enough to leave, but not enough to get started somewhere else. I’d have to do something about that. I needed to get away from Mr. Jameson before it was too late.

With a sigh, I tucked the bills into the can and put everything away. If I picked up some extra work and skimped on spending, I’d be a lot better off.

Laying back on my covers with my journal, I pulled out Jon’s business card from between the pages and looked at it for a long time, fingering the sharp corners, mulling over the phone number.

I couldn’t lay around much longer. I had work to do. Heaving a sigh, I tucked the business card back into my journal, slid it under my pillow, and rolled myself off the bed. I didn’t feel much like working. But the odd jobs I did for the family covered my room and board. Slacking would only give reason for Mr. Jameson to pick on me. So I made my way back to the shed and started sanding. While I worked, I watched Michael and Leah shovel out the driveway, a chore their mother refused to let me help with.

A few hours later, I heard the rumble of a snowplow coming down our street. The plow made a quick job out of the four feet of snow that had gathered over the asphalt. The giant dirty banks it left on the sides of the road looked ugly, but at least we could get out again. Three days being stuck at home wasn’t good for anyone, especially not Michael.

Leah came running up to the shed with a grin that pushed up her rosy cheeks.

“You’re coming to pizza with us!” she elated. “Mom said you have to!”

“What?”

“She said you deserve a break, and if Dad doesn’t like it, he can take it up with her.”

“Really?” I asked, a little dumbfounded. Mrs. Jameson was a quiet, moody little woman who rarely spoke to him at all, always muttering to herself and rushing around the kitchen. The storm clearing up must have put her in a good mood. “Okay, let me clean up and I’ll be out in a sec.”

“Yes!” She cheered, pumping a fist in the air. She turned and ran back to the house like a tiny bolt of lightning.

The four of us piled up in Mrs. Jameson’s forest green Jeep Liberty. Leah and her mom sat up front, Michael and I in the back. Leah and Michael gushed about the video games they wanted to play at the pizza shop’s mini-arcade. While they chattered on, Mrs. Jameson smiled at me in the rearview. She had long blonde hair like Leah’s, streaked with gray and held back in a single braid. She kept her face and clothes plain, never bothering with makeup or fancy clothes. Today she wore a lavender sweatshirt under her black coat, jeans and boots. I tried to place a time I’d seen her look even slightly happy, and I couldn’t.

I returned her smile hesitantly.

“It’s good to get out of the house, isn’t it?” she asked.

I nodded. “Hopefully we’ll get a break from storms for a while.”

She crossed her fingers and held them up where I could see them. After that she returned her focus to the road.

Half an hour later, we rolled past the same Tim Horton’s where I’d abandoned Jonathan. It looked different in the daylight, smaller somehow. I pictured him standing there, and wondered what he’d done after I left that day.

“Whatchya looking at?” Michael asked. I realized I had turned in my seat to watch the brick building disappear behind us.

“Oh. Uh, nothing. Thought I saw another owl.”

“Owls are nocturnal. They only come out at night,” Leah recited. I just shrugged in response.

We pulled into the pizza place, tucked between a hair salon and a dentist in a tiny strip mall on the main road. A handful of other cars were parked in the lot. Not enough for a crowd. Michael and Leah raced for the door, each one trying to be the first to get to the Mario Kart console.

Mrs. Jameson and I sat at a booth. My chest felt tight, heart fluttering nervously. I didn’t know what to say to her, so I picked up the menu and pretended to be fascinated by the pizza options.

“What do you think we should get?” Mrs. Jameson asked. “The kids will eat it as long as there aren’t too many vegetables.”

“Maybe the Mountain Special? Should fill everyone up at least.” I was feeling hungry, and it had a bunch of toppings. She flagged down the waiter and ordered a large, along with four fountain drinks.

“Thanks for doing this,” I said when the order was done.

“Of course. You deserve it, working all day like you do.” She glanced up at Michael, who was engrossed in a game of Mario Kart in the back room. Leah stood behind him waiting her turn. There were two consoles for the game, but one was occupied by a kid who looked to be Leah’s age. “There’s also something I wanted to talk to you about.”

My anxiety doubled, gripping me hard enough that I nearly excused myself to use the restroom. Instead, I clenched my jaw and let the nerves push beads of sweat out onto my forehead. “What is it?” I managed.

“Michael’s been acting strange.” She looked down at her small hands, twisting at her wedding ring. “He won’t talk to me about his feelings. Normally he’ll spill everything the minute I put a hand on his shoulder. But these past few weeks, he’s just shut down on me. I don’t know what to do.”

I gave a slow nod of my head. Well, at least it wasn’t about me. The nervousness lost some of its grip on me and oxygen returned to my lungs. “Sixteen is a tough age, Mrs. Jameson.”

“I’m sure you know more about that than I do. When I was sixteen, I was all but married to Jack and already acting like a wife.”

“That sounds hard,” I said.

“It was. I don’t think Jack ever fully appreciated what I gave up for him. But he needed me, and I loved him, so I was there. I’m afraid neither of us really know how to parent Michael right now. And with my husband’s winter blues getting worse every year, I’m afraid he’ll drive Michael away from me.”

“You’re in a tough spot.” I took a sip of my drink. Maybe I shouldn’t say everything that was on my mind. How much truth could she handle? And how much honesty could I squeeze from my tightening throat? I wished it wasn’t so hard to speak my mind.

“I think it’s up to Mr. Jameson to make it right, though,” I said in the end. Well, it was something.

She clicked her tongue and sighed. “Not sure when he’ll be capable of that. In the meantime, Ethan. I hope you can talk to him. See if he’s okay. I’d be very grateful.”

“I’ll try, Mrs. Jameson,” I said.

The pizza took a while to come. In the awkward silence that followed our conversation, Jonathan’s phone number ran through my head. After studying it a thousand times, it was burned into my memory. There was a payphone at the end of the strip mall. But my heart hammered so hard at the thought, I wondered if I could do it.

I wiped my sweaty palms on my pants and excused myself anyway. “I need to make a call or two for work, now that we’re in town. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

I approached the payphone with so much trepidation it was a wonder I didn’t trip and fall on my face in the snowbank. Jingling the coins in my pocket, I lifted the receiver and listened to the dial tone for a while.

My vision seemed off. Everything was too bright, too crisp. I felt like I was standing outside of my own body, watching from just above my head as I plunked in the coins and dialed his number.

The phone rang twice, and then picked up. “Rayna’s Attic Costume shop, Rayna speaking. What can I do for you?”

Hello, Rayna. This is Ethan. Or David. I’ve gone by about five different names since I left home, so take your pick. Is Jonathan back at work yet?

That’s what I might have said. But my voice and my mind never made the necessary connection. Instead I stood there with my finger hovering over the switch hook.

“Hello? Can you hear me?” A loud sound like a bird squawking cut through the silence left behind after her question, and someone else’s voice came through too quietly for me to make out what it said. It sounded male. Maybe it was Jonathan. The thought left me oddly warm, despite my abject terror.

“I can hear you breathing. Don’t prank my store or I promise you’ll regret it.”

I slammed the phone down on the receiver and stared wide eyed at the black numbers. They seemed to split in two.

It took me a long time to calm down after that. I had to go to the bathroom and splash water over my face, then sit in a toilet stall with the door closed, visualizing my dark lake on and off for a full fifteen minutes before I could get my reeling mind to let go of its insanity.

By the time I got back to the booth, half the pizza was gone. I joined in and ate, but when it came to conversation I was useless.

“Save a slice for your dad,” Mrs. Jameson said when Michael reached for the last one.

“You can’t be serious, mom. He’ll just be mad we didn’t invite him.”

“I’m not in the habit of keeping secrets from your father, Michael. He’s working hard on another sale today, and I’m sure he’ll be happy to have this when he gets home.”

“Fine.” Michael crossed his arms. “Can I go hang out with my friend Adam? He lives like right around the corner. I could get a ride home with him later since he has his driver’s license.”

“No. You have school tomorrow, and last time you went over to Adam’s on a school night, you ignored your curfew and you didn’t get home until after midnight. Besides, what about your homework?”

“I can do it at his house!”

“How? You don’t even have your backpack.”

“Yes I do, I put it in the trunk.”

“No, Michael. Final answer. I’ll let you go after the play on Friday.”

Michael grumbled something under his breath, but he complied.

The magic of the day seemed worn off when we got back into the Jeep. Michael wore a sour face and his mom looked about ten times more tired whenever she studied him in the rearview. Leah was the only one who hadn’t lost it yet - she played with her braid and hummed to herself as she looked out the window, smiling and oblivious to anyone’s mood.

We pulled into the driveway only to find Mr. Jameson’s big white Dodge parked in front of the garage.

“Great,” Michael said. “The psycho’s home.”

“Watch your tongue,” Mrs. Jameson snapped.

I turned to go down the side path so I could get back to work, but Mrs. Jameson touched my arm. “Come inside with us. I’ll make some tea. No more work today.”

I nodded and followed them to the front door. Everyone piled up their shoes on the porch before going inside.

“Hi Dad!” Leah ran up to him with the leftover slice of pizza. He was sitting in his chair by the fire, glass of scotch half-empty on the side table. “Are you hungry? We saved you a slice!” She tried to crawl up onto his lap for a hug, but he waved her away.

“You’re too big for that, Leah. You went for pizza? Where did you go?”

“Mountain Pizza!” she said, hopping up and down on her heels. “The one with the arcade games.”

“I would have liked to go,” he muttered. “You couldn’t wait for me, Anette?”

“Yeah, mom,” Leah said with a curious tilt of her head. “Why didn’t we wait for dad?”

I found it interesting how Leah criticized her dad when he wasn't around, but whenever he was in the room, she took his side.

Mrs. Jameson huffed. “I had no idea when you’d be home, Jack. The roads were cleared up and we thought we’d get out of the house, that’s all. Now let me make some tea and we’ll--”

“No, I understand. You didn’t want me there to ruin your fun. Mean old dad, no one wants him around. Can’t find a spark of joy when I’m in the room, might as well leave me out of it.”

“Jack, no. No one was thinking that at all.”

“Let’s go back,” Leah she tried to hug him but he shrugged her off. “You can come with us, and--”

“It’s already done, Leah.” He took a long drink from his glass. “Somebody else can have the pizza. Or throw it away. I don’t care.”

I wanted nothing more than to escape downstairs, but Mrs. Jameson pinned me to her spot with her eyes. Maybe she thought that if I stayed there, her husband wouldn’t fully melt down into another one of his tirades.

Unfortunately, Michael had to get a word in. “So we went for pizza. Big deal. Stop whining and get over it. Nobody cares about you feeling sorry for yourself. You’re supposed to be our dad, not a six-year-old girl.”

“Michael!” Mrs. Jameson yelled. “How dare you!”

I couldn’t stay another minute. I trudged down the stairs and locked the door to my room.

The sound of shouting followed, and things tumbling.

Peace. I just wanted peace. I laid down in bed and closed my eyes, wondering how much it would cost to buy a train ticket to Toronto.

I can't seem to stop writing. It's pretty addicting and motivating, receiving feedback chapter-by-chapter. I love that feeling of motivation and anticipation, even though it feel slightly like I'm on drugs. Thanks so much for reading and reviewing. It means a lot!

Copyright © 2021 headtransplant; All Rights Reserved.

Thanks for reading my first story here on GA. Your feedback, commentary, and critique are most welcome.

If you enjoyed what you have read, please leave a reaction and/or comment for the author!

Recommended Comments

Chapter Comments

The cycle of domestic violence is tragic and affects every member of a family and oftentimes those around the family. Brilliant, accurate and thus quite sad portrayal of the cycle at work. It’s not just Jack and his obvious problems but how the family orbits around him. Leah especially pulled at me.  
I was really rooting for Ethan to call Jonathan. It’s hard to live with a family like the Jameson’s, deal with anxiety and personal demons, and then go out on a limb to reach out. Perhaps Ethan will try again soon. 

  • Like 1
  • Love 3
Link to comment
37 minutes ago, C. Henderson said:

"I could see her breath, little tufts of transparent cloud rising from her lips. She started moving her limbs in slow arcs to make a snow angel."

Your descriptions always paint a vivid picture in my mind. Another great chapter 👌🏼

I’m so glad to hear this. Imagery is often my favorite part about writing. Thank you!

  • Like 4
Link to comment
10 minutes ago, 84Mags said:

The cycle of domestic violence is tragic and affects every member of a family and oftentimes those around the family. Brilliant, accurate and thus quite sad portrayal of the cycle at work. It’s not just Jack and his obvious problems but how the family orbits around him. Leah especially pulled at me.  
I was really rooting for Ethan to call Jonathan. It’s hard to live with a family like the Jameson’s, deal with anxiety and personal demons, and then go out on a limb to reach out. Perhaps Ethan will try again soon. 

Your insights dig straight to the heart of the story. Cycles of violence dig so deep.  Victims are primed for denial, enabling behaviors, and inability to recognize their own boundaries. What saddens me most is that the mentality persists long after the relationship is ended, and causes people to fall into similar situations again and again.
 

Thank you so much for the thoughtful words.

  • Like 1
  • Love 3
Link to comment

It seems as if these folks are lost, stuck in a miasma of their own individual creation and can't get past wallowing in self-pity. I can understand circumstances leading folks towards that general direction but lying, scheming, delusional and being two-faced, isn't helping or healthy either. And these folks have it in spades.

  • Like 1
  • Love 2
Link to comment
7 minutes ago, drsawzall said:

It seems as if these folks are lost, stuck in a miasma of their own individual creation and can't get past wallowing in self-pity. I can understand circumstances leading folks towards that general direction but lying, scheming, delusional and being two-faced, isn't helping or healthy either. And these folks have it in spades.

Thank you so much for reading and sharing your thoughts.

It’s a toxic environment, for sure. Their family dynamic has been built around the dad’s erratic behavior for a long time.

During the good times, the mom holds on to the hope it will stay good, to the point of self-deception. And during the bad times, she feels the need to protect him and tells herself “this isn’t really him.” Meanwhile their kids witness and fall prey to some very unhealthy behavior. An ugly cycle.

  • Like 1
  • Love 2
Link to comment

You are painting a dark yet vivid picture of family dysfunction. Jack is probably too wrapped up in his own unhappiness to realize what he’s doing to his family, or to do anything about it.  Ethan’s instinct to run is probably wise, but will he do it?

  • Like 2
  • Love 3
Link to comment
19 minutes ago, Parker Owens said:

You are painting a dark yet vivid picture of family dysfunction. Jack is probably too wrapped up in his own unhappiness to realize what he’s doing to his family, or to do anything about it.  Ethan’s instinct to run is probably wise, but will he do it?

Thank you so much for your comments.

Jack is suffering from untreated mental health problems, and he’s self-medicating with alcohol, making it even worse. He thought living out in nature would cure him, but he ended up moving the family farther from resources that could have helped. 

Ethan definitely has some tough decisions ahead.

  • Like 1
  • Love 2
Link to comment

The story is good, interesting, the past events and the present situation. The family inter-relationships keep you guessing as does the link to Jonathan. It's a well plotted story, but it's the quality of the writing that makes it so enjoyable to read. I have to second @C. Henderson those descriptions are vivid and create the atmosphere that is not always there in a lot of stories. Here you feel the cold and see the snow piled up dirty at the side of the road.

  • Like 2
  • Love 3
Link to comment
2 hours ago, Talo Segura said:

The story is good, interesting, the past events and the present situation. The family inter-relationships keep you guessing as does the link to Jonathan. It's a well plotted story, but it's the quality of the writing that makes it so enjoyable to read. I have to second @C. Henderson those descriptions are vivid and create the atmosphere that is not always there in a lot of stories. Here you feel the cold and see the snow piled up dirty at the side of the road.

Thank you so much for the motivating comment! I’m really glad you are enjoying it. I’m settling into a rhythm of one chapter a week and hope to continue posting on Sundays.

  • Like 1
  • Love 2
Link to comment

Just like turmoil below the placid lake, so is there light in darkest dark.

  • Like 2
  • Love 2
Link to comment
2 hours ago, RafaelDe said:

Just like turmoil below the placid lake, so is there light in darkest dark.

This is a lovely thing to say, and my brain is trying to make it into a Haiku. Too many syllables but close enough.

  • Like 3
Link to comment

Wow. Ethan is in a tough spot. This family sounds on the brink of disintegration. He needs to be careful, or perhaps become a casualty. Mr. Jameson sounds like he's made up his mind he's his own worst problem, but has no way to deal with it but to take it out on others. The kids are jockeying for fight or flight spots, and Mrs. Jameson just wants to hold it all together somehow.

And then there's still Jonathan...

Good story. I'm slowly getting through it. Worth coming back for! :)

 

 

  • Like 1
  • Love 1
Link to comment
1 hour ago, Geron Kees said:

Wow. Ethan is in a tough spot. This family sounds on the brink of disintegration. He needs to be careful, or perhaps become a casualty. Mr. Jameson sounds like he's made up his mind he's his own worst problem, but has no way to deal with it but to take it out on others. The kids are jockeying for fight or flight spots, and Mrs. Jameson just wants to hold it all together somehow.

And then there's still Jonathan...

Good story. I'm slowly getting through it. Worth coming back for! :)

That’s an accurate description of their screwed up family dynamic. Mr. Jameson tries to drag everyone down to his level so he can feel like he’s in control. But he’s definitely being ruled by his erratic emotions.

I’m happy you keep coming back! Thanks for the great comments 😊

  • Love 1
Link to comment
View Guidelines

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Newsletter

    You probably have a crazy and hectic schedule and find it hard to keep up with everything going on.  We get it, because we feel it too.  Signing up here is a great way to keep in touch and find something relaxing to read when you get a few moments to spare.

    Sign Up
×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

Our Privacy Policy can be found here. We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue..