Looking at the Sky
2 and a half years ago, or thereabouts.
With a hefty-souding thunk, Flint Perez dropped his bag onto the kitchen table.
“Flint,” his mother chided from behind the open fridge door, “Don’t do that, you’ll ruin the countertop.”
He groaned, and grabbed the strap as he slumped onto one of the stools, dragging it off the counter and onto the floor.
“And that’s better?”
The boy grunted noncommittally, and she shut the fridge and turned to face him. Short and stocky, with frizzy hair bound back in a simple bun, Jenna Perez was darker in complexion than her son, and considerably more solidly built. She wore an expensive business suit, as always, but it was significantly more rumpled than usual, and the tie hung loose and half-done around her neck. Flint had learned to use the suit as a measure of mood; the state that it was in was usually proportional to how much shit she’d had to deal with that day, and therefore how much he could get away with. Today was a bit of a mid-point; he’d seen it better, but he’d also seen it a lot worse, and her behavior seemed fairly jovial.
“Soo,” she said as she ducked under the counter, “how was school?”
Flint slumped his head onto the counter, short dreadlocks jumping a little on the impact. “Dull, as always.” She gave him a disappointed look. “Well, what were you expecting?”
“I was hoping you’d had a sudden change of heart, and school was now the most important thing in your life.” She sighed. “But I was expecting you to at least try.”
“I try,” he protested. “Or, I’ve tried, at least. Mom, do you even remember your school years?”
“Nooo,” she said sarcastically, spreading her arms to indicate the housepartment, “I’ve forgotten every single thing I ever learned there.”
He snorted, unamused. “You know what I mean, though. Do you actually remember the school parts?”
“Yes, Flint, as surprising as it may be to you, I do. It involved studying a lot, paying attention in class, and not cavorting with boys like my classmates.”
He groaned, dropping his head. “Just when I think you can’t get any more boring.”
“I’m sorry to be such a disappointment.” She tapped her chin thoughtfully. “Speaking of cavorting, what’s this I hear about you and some girl?”
Flint shot up straight, a look of alarm crossing his face. “Aww no, Mom, please don’t tell me you’ve been listening to the rumor mill again.”
She shrugged again, noncommittally. “A lot of parents are my clients. I hear things.”
He rubbed at his forehead. “Today,” he said under his breath, “can, officially, go in the ‘shit’ pile.”
“So what’s her name?”
“Flint.” She grinned.
“Gahhh!” He threw his arms up in the air, spinning away from her on the chair. “Fine! Geez. Her name’s Edith Ellis, and there’s nothing going on between us. We met by accident, she likes art and movies and stuff, like me, so we’ve started eating lunch together. Happy?”
She patted him on the shoulder. “Yes, actually. Was that so hard?”
“You have no idea,” he muttered.
“Well, I think it’s good that you’ve made a friend, at least.”
Flint shrugged noncommittally. “I dunno, maybe friend isn’t the best word. We just hang out sometimes.”
“Mm-hmm,” she trilled as she grabbed a beer from the fridge and took a swig. “Su-ure.”
“You do realize how immature you sound, right?”
“You do realize that I’m just doing it to annoy you?” she imitated.
“You do realize that it’s succeeding?”
“Of course,” she said. Beer in hand, she walked around the counter and sat on the chair next to him. “If I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it properly. So when can I meet her?”
“If I ask about your day, will you please stop?”
“Yes, yes I will.”
He waited for her to continue, but she just took another sip of her drink. “Fine. How was your day?”
“Awful,” she replied immediately. “You remember the Hoskins?”
“No, Mom, I don’t remember the client that you mention every day.”
“Your mouth’s going to get you in trouble someday, you know. Anyway, papa Hoskins kicked the bucket, and now the kids have hired me because every single one of them has their lawyers disputing the will, and they want me to handle the money and property”
“That… really doesn’t sound so bad,” he said, confused. “I mean, no worse than a lot of your other ones-”
“Oh, it wouldn’t be,” she interrupted him, “except for the fact that there’s ten of them.”
“Ah. Wow. I see where you’re coming from.”
“Mmm. But, on the plus side, I am getting paid an absolutely ridiculous amount of money, so that’s nice. I was thinking we could head down south over the summer break, visit Dad’s family?”
He turned and gave her a shocked look. “Really?! I mean… are you serious?”
She gave a little half-shrug, and took another sip of her drink. “I haven’t asked him yet, but frankly, we’ve been married for fifteen years at this point. I think I deserve to meet his family, and I think you deserve to meet your grandparents.”
“I, uh, don’t think Dad’s going to be very happy with that idea.”
“Well, I’ll make him happy about it.”
He made a face and a gagging noise. “Eww, mom.”
She laughed, punching him in the shoulder. “You have a dirty mind, Flint. Dirty, dirty mind. No, I’m gonna talk to him about it when he gets back.”
“When’s that gonna be?”
“End of the week at the latest.” She downed the rest of her drink. “I hope,” she added under her breath.
They sat in silence for a few minutes, staring out the windows at the setting sun. At last, she stood up and stretched. “Alright, I think I’ll go collapse. You okay for food and stuff?”
“Yeah, I think I’ll be good. Sleep tight.”
She leaned over and gave him a hug. “Love you.”
He leaned into the hug, and sighed. “Love you too.”
Sitting alone, he watched the last light of the sun slip over the horizon, the room’s illumination slowly shifting on to compensate. After it was gone completely, he reached down to his bag and pulled out a set of pencils and a book. He opened it, revealing pages full of sketches and drawings. Flipping through to the latest page, he settled it on his lap and stared at the two images. The first one was a girl, a round face and dark hair with a skunk stripe of blonde, halfway through some wild gesture, her mouth open and eyes sparkling. Some of the details were rough, and it looked like it had been drawn from memory, sometime after. Still, there was obvious care in the linework and shading, despite its rough nature.
The second image was the same girl, standing in a dark alleyway, facing away with fists clenched. Unlike the first, it was crisp and clean, which made the figure stand out even more. On one side her body was dissolving away, solid flesh turning into disparate particles that hovered in the air.
He stared at the drawings for what felt like far too long. Finally, he stood, tore the page out of his book and threw it in the trash, and went to get some sleep.