Jake woke up early. He jumped out of bed, barely avoided an untimely accident as he raced down the stairs, and startled Linda on his way to the kitchen. His mother raised her head sharply at the sound of his hasty footsteps on the wooden floor. And as soon as she saw him, they met at the middle of the kitchen, embracing each other.
Jake has gotten used to it by now. He came to realize the pattern after his twelfth birthday. For some unknown reason, his mother, Emily, on the date of his birth, completely changed her attitude toward her youngest son. She would shower him with unlimited love and attention. She cancelled any appointments, or plans she had, just to spend the rest of the day with her beloved Jake. She listened to anything he said with extreme interest, and randomly hugged and kissed him. Jake cherished every second of it.
He wished if time would stop, and allow him to be happy forever. But the hours seemed to fly by much faster on his birthdays. Today, his fifteenth birthday, was no different.
“What do you like to have for breakfast, sweetie?” asked Emily, after she barely let go of her son.
“Pancakes, with lots of syrup, mom,” answered Jake. It was one of the things he didn’t hold back from on his birthdays. He would ask his mother for many things, the food he liked, the games he wanted to buy, and the places he wanted to go to.
Now you may have judged his character from this behavior, and drew an image of a spoiled brat who takes advantage of his mother’s, clearly involuntary, kindness. But please hold your drawing brushes for a second, and think about it. Put yourself in his shoes, and see if you wouldn’t have done the same, especially at that age. A child loves to feel his parents love by seeing them attend to his needs. Jake had only one day each year for that.
The rest of the family assembled on the food table one by one. First it was Linda, then Frank, and finally John, who smiled when he saw Jake standing next to his mother, helping her prepare breakfast, both of them laughing together. If Jake noticed the pattern, John was sure not to miss it. His eyes met Jake’s, and he raised one eyebrow at him. Jake answered him with a happy smile.
As they were putting the food on the table, Jake asked his mother, “Can I skip school today, mom?” It was the usual question he asked on each of his birthdays; he knew the answer already.
“Of course, sweetie,” answered Emily.
His father was oblivious to the conversation, as if he was deaf. Linda, on the other hand, was not amused by the sudden intimacy between mom and the little brat.
“He’s not sick or anything,” she coldly objected.
Emily gave her a sharp stare. “He doesn’t have to be,” she firmly answered.
John winked at his little brother, urging him not to care about his sister’s behavior. In a couple of minutes, he will be alone with his mother. And no one will spoil his beautiful day.
And Jake did spend a very beautiful day with his mother. But he was not as happy as he was last year, or the year before. With each passing birthday, he used to think that this time, his mother will remain the same forever, only to be disappointed by her change of attitude on the next day. And after so many disappointments, he began to accept the grim truth; his mother will forget all about him tomorrow.
That is why he couldn’t stop the tears when he lay in bed next to his mother, which startled her into sitting up, and holding her son firmly by the shoulders.
“Jake?” she pleaded. “Are those tears in your eyes? Why? What’s wrong, sweetie?”
Jake tried hard to stop the tears. He couldn’t utter a word without exploding into a loud weep. He didn’t want to mention anything about tomorrow. Talking about it meant it was real. And now all he wished for was that it wasn’t. Today was so short, it wasn’t fare. He hated himself for shedding those tears. His mother will not let it go; her eyes were also tearing up.
“Baby, please, tell mommy what’s wrong! Do want me to get you anything?”
Jake shook his head, wishing that she would just let it go, and allow him to spend the rest of the night listening to her heartbeats.
But she kept pressing him, “Honey! Are you in pain? I’ll go wake up your father.” And she moved the blanket away from her to get up from the bed.
“No!” screamed Jake, as he grabbed her arm firmly with both hands.
Emily was confused by the pleading look in her son’s eyes. She pulled him gently, resting his head onto her chest, and circled her arms around him. “Don’t worry, sweetie. Mommy is not going anywhere.”
That was too much for the young boy to handle. He broke into a heart-wrenching sob. He cried like a little baby. And it broke his mother’s heart. She couldn’t help but cry with him. Her arms shook as she tried to calm him down by rubbing his back. But whatever she did, Jake’s grief seemed to increase more and more.
She was alarmed by her son’s next words. “Please, mom, please! Let’s not fall asleep tonight!” he begged her. “Just for tonight let’s stay awake until sunrise. Please, mommy, I’m so scared of sleeping tonight!”
“Okay, baby. Shush now. We don’t have to sleep if you don’t want to,” said Emily, soothingly.
Jake calmed down a little after hearing her approval, though he was still holding firmly on to her. She grabbed his arms gently, and moved them away from her.
“We better turn on the lights then,” she said, cheerfully. “How about we go downstairs and make ourselves a little snack?”
Jake’s face brightened at the idea. He jumped immediately from bed and accompanied his mother to the kitchen. They grabbed some cookies, and Emily made two cups of hot chocolate. It was 09:30 p.m.
They sat together back in Jake’s room. And whenever his mother showed signs of sleepiness, Jake changed the game they were playing.
Without realizing it, Jake’s hopes were high again. Maybe if his mother didn’t sleep tonight, she would not forget all about him tomorrow. This seemed quite possible with each passing hour, as she was still playing with him.
It was 11:30 p.m. now. And Jake was struggling to keep himself from yawning in front of his mother, lest she would suggest it was finally time to sleep. He stood up, and thought about what they should do next. His mother noticed that he was still nervous about sleeping, and proposed video games as the next activity, as long as they kept the volume down, since the rest of the family were sleeping. Jake agreed happily.
He tried his best to teach his mother how to use the controller. After a couple of laughs, Emily settled for watching her son as he bravely defeated the horrible monsters, in his quest to save the world. It was 11:55 p.m. on the clock.
“This boss is very difficult,” explained Jake to his mom. “He is immune to most of my weapons.”
“How can you defeat him then?” asked Emily, showing great interest in the game.
“He has one weakness,” said Jake, proudly. “If I lure him into the water, he will sink real fast. I’ll show you.”
“Be careful, sweetie,” said Emily. Jake immediately paused the game and gave her a confused look; they both laughed real hard.
Jake was so proud showing off his skills in front of his mother. He dodged all the attacks of the huge monster, all while luring him toward the deep lake. He was finally able to trick the monster into dashing at him, only to roll out of its way in the last second, sending the poor monster to the lake at full speed. The wicked boss thrashed and struggled to get out of the water. But in the end it sunk deep into the lake, never to rise again.
“Yes!” cried Jake, raising his fist in front of his face. He turned to look at his mother, and suddenly all the blood fled from his face.
His mother, Emily, was setting with her back leaning to the side of his bed. And she was sleeping soundly.
Little Jake felt his heart turning in his chest. He jumped immediately to her, and shook her violently.
“Mom? Mom! Wake up! Mom!”
She slowly opened her eyes and looked at him. His heart was pounding so hard, he thought it was going to pop out of his chest.
“Mom, look!” he said with a quivering voice. “I have beaten the monster!”
Emily did not look at the screen. Instead she looked around her, and frowned at the realization that she was at Jake’s room.
“No! Mom! Look at me, please!”
She stood up, and headed toward the door.
“Mom! Please! You were laughing with me a minute ago!”
She opened the door, and headed to her room.
“Why!” cried Jake. “You were laughing…” His voice trailed off.
The fifteen-year-old boy wept silently, alone in his room, until he fell asleep on the floor.
On the next morning, John passed in front of Jake’s room, and noticed his young brother on the floor. He rushed to his brother and woke him up.
“Jake! What’s wrong? Why are you sleeping on the floor?”
Jake struggled to move his heavy eyelids. But as soon as he saw his brother’s face, he sat up, and looked around him anxiously.
When he turned back again to face his big brother, tears were accumulating in his eyes. But he didn’t cry. He stood up, walked out of the door, and headed for the bathroom. He stood in front of the sink, turned on the faucet, and watched the cold water pouring down the drain.
He found himself falling to his knees, and crying silently.
On the food table, no one but John wondered why he was late for breakfast.
To be continued…