Chapter Two: Uncle Erik never had a child of his own.

Chapter Two: Uncle Erik never had a child of his own.

A Chapter by Brianna Alexandria Wolf



"Gaige, are you awake?"

Erik had never been married. He had never had a child of his own. He had lived his life in the country air, axing down trees for firewood and the stove. He had raised cattle and sheep, and worked construction jobs in the city to make extra money on the side of his farming. So when he could not sleep at night while the thought of his sister's cracked porcelain face that he had not seen in seven years haunted his mind, he tried to remind himself to be stronger than that.

Gaige was his to mind now; he had no choice. They didn't have much family left, and the family they had turned their pretty little cheeks the other way when things went wrong. They had done it before when mom and dad separated long ago. They did not want the responsibility of a broken child; they just pitied him, and Erik, and Milly like they always had.

But when had everything changed so much? When had his stubborn sister turned into a victim? The same little girl who used to fight him over stepping on ants, was being stepped on by a man twice her size. Was it the day they found out dad had cheated on mom? The day each of them picked a child and ran away from the other? They shipped them back and forth for holidays and weeks in the summer, so they did not have to deal with a court system and a judge.

Milly became so bitter with the decision. Mother had become a mess after the incident. She was paranoid about everything; she drank like a skunk till her throat was numb and her eyes as glazed as a cloud in the sunset sky. She was frail as a nail in a squeaky board, and her hair thinned down to the finest threads with her narrow cheek bones. He could remember the black smudges beneath her wide-open eyes when he visited, but she always put on a show for Erik.

When he left Milly would cry and beg to leave with him, but she stayed behind until shared time dwindled and came to an end. By the time father died Erik was a grown man, taking care of himself and had gotten a job at the age of fifteen. He was twenty-two years old and took over his father's house like it was his all along.

Milly became pregnant at eighteen by a boy whose long black hair was slicked back with grease. Who had tattoos of hearts and pin-up girls climbing up his arms, and both ears pierced. He had buttered her up all night by whispering sweet words in her direction, only to sneak out the bathroom window at the crack of dawn. She never saw him again. She met Kasey a year later, and he accepted her child for the first year before she suddenly stopped calling Erik every weekend. 

All this time he had held a grudge against his only sister, all because she did not go to dad's funeral? Just for him to realize why she never showed up, after all these seven years. She could not run away. And he wasn't there to help her when she needed him the most. This time he would not fail her.

He opened the door slowly. Some nights he heard the whimpering down the hall; the twisting of bed springs as Gaige rolled over continuously in his bed. Tonight he had been sitting downstairs in the kitchen sipping on a glass of whiskey when he heard the agonizing screech that sent him clambering up the stairs to the boy's room. Each inch the door opened a little more he felt his teeth begin to itch, until there was no boy visible in the bed.

That's when he heard the scratching sound, and slammed the door open finally. "Gaige?" 

He stepped inside frantically; he felt his heart drop down into his stomach and thump ten times faster than a rabbit's foot inside his gut. This was it. This was what he got for the awkward silence he kept leaving between himself and Gaige for the past couple weeks. He had no clue how to start a conversation with the kid, and now the boy had run away on him. Why did he have to be so starch?

But he found Gaige sitting in the corner of his room, shivering and breathing fast as he pawed at the walls and banged his head repeatedly. His nails were digging so hard they were peeling up plaster like it was an apple, cracking the skin around his finger beds where blood was pooling and dripping down his tiny hands. He remembered what the cops had said; they found him in the closet in pretty bad shape with a busted up forehead.

Erik caught him and wrangled him together against his chest quickly, clutching at the boy's shaky hands and rocking back and forth to calm him down. He hushed Gaige's sobs down to a huffing noise, and with his other hand Erik soothed his fingers through the thick, brunette, and sweat-drenched locks of hair.

What else could he do? He gathered the boy into his arms and lifted him up as he stood, bringing him back to his bed. He set the small boy down and watched him curl in on himself, all feeble like an infant. And he was ashamed that he had never been apart of this boy's life. He had willed himself to stay away from his family; he never knew his own nephew until the moment it was too late. He was not there to save him, or his mother.

He could never imagine what this child thought of him. He felt so much remorse, as he headed for the bathroom to grab some hydrogen peroxide and a clean towel. 

"F**k," he swore, exasperated with himself and exhausted from his lack of sleep. The sides of the sink were so cold as he clenched them, desperately trying not to break-down when his nephew needed him in the other room.

His shoulders slumped as he gazed up into the mirror. A mirror was created to show you a reflection of the person you could not see with your own eyes, yourself. Why would you want to see all your flaws laid out in front of you? Why would you want to look into your own eyes, and stare into the face that has lived your entire life? This is the face of regret. This is the face that has done wrong, and right. The damaged soul dwelling within the man, looking back upon himself. 

"F**k," he repeated to himself, shaking his head to regain control. He opened up the little cabinet hidden behind the mirror and grabbed the peroxide and a fresh towel from the rack, before turning back for the bedroom and telling himself he had to move on.

Erik quietly slid into the bedroom, trying not to wake the sleeping boy from his slumber. The bed was empty again though, and when he looked to the corner there laid Gaige bundled up on the floor again. The man's hands found his hips with a soft chuckle, forehead crinkling between frustration and defeat. This was going to take some getting used to.

This was going to take a lot more than getting used to. This was going to take effort on his part to grow into the role of a parent. His lungs felt so heavy inside of him as he sighed out his held breath and dipped the cloth with peroxide, wordlessly picking up the blanket and pillow from Gaige's bed, and kneeling down to clean the wounds on each little finger carefully. When he finished, he covered the boy with his sheets and rolled him up like a burrito. Maybe that would keep him from clawing the walls like a feral cat?

Erik stayed in the room for a couple more hours, peeking through his dozing eyes and stirring at every noise. He wanted to make sure Gaige would be safe before he left. 

He needed to make sure he wasn't left in that closet ever again.

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"Uncle Erik, are you awake?"

The world shifted back and forth. His neck and shoulders felt so stiff, had he fallen asleep against the door frame? It felt like a million spiders were scurrying through his numb legs when he tried to move them. Gaige's sharp blue eyes were focused on him, confused and  curious with a million questions. Erik's calloused hand rubbed across his face, felt like sandpaper worn down from all the years of work.

"I'm awake," his throat was scratchy with the early morning, and the extra uncomfortable nap. How long was he out, a couple hours at the most? "How are you?"

Gaige's soft round face lowered sadly; he was turning his hands over and counting all the splinter-shaped cuts crisscrossing the tips of his fingers. His lips pursed, but he held back the tears that begged to be released. A stubborn boy, just like his mother. Erik could not figure out how to comfort him. His lips stuttered on the lost words, but he could only find his feet as he stood up and stretched his back.

"Are you hungry?" He finally asked. "Want some breakfast?"

The boy's head gave a small nod, but he refused to look at his uncle's face. 

"I can make some eggs. Do you like eggs? Sausage? Bacon? What do you like? Orange juice?" Erik prodded for a reaction but found no response. "Pancakes?"

But Gaige couldn't look at him. He couldn't bring himself to see his own reflection through his uncle's worried eyes. He couldn't stand to see the face of a boy who had watched his mother die.

"I'll just make a variety of things and you can choose what you like, okay?" Erik knew that look. He ruffled his nephew's hair gently; the only thing he could think to do, to show that he cared. "You get dressed and come downstairs when you're ready."

And the boy felt himself crumple as he touched his hair and began to cry.



© 2014 Brianna Alexandria Wolf


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Added on July 24, 2014
Last Updated on July 24, 2014
Tags: death, fiction, kelpie, scifi-fantasy, teen-fiction, teenfiction, teens, waterhorse


Author

Brianna Alexandria Wolf
Brianna Alexandria Wolf

NY



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I have two mice and two rats. Inked flesh. Wannabe philanthropist of words. What of the flies, WIll Henry? more..

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