The woman on the phone said, “I guess the three o’clock then. I’ll see if my sister can take the kids for an hour.”
“OK, if not, just give us a call, and we’ll set you up for another time.”
Jordy had stopped offering to hang out with people’s children. His Mom’s clients were uncomfortable leaving their kids with a teen boy. It didn’t matter that the shop only had two rooms and a bathroom or that his Mom could crack the door so the clients always had access to everything that went on. It was just how things worked. It wasn’t like he needed babysitting money anyway. Lacey Archer paid her son to work the front desk.
He hung up with the woman and flipped the channel. He flipped it again. It took two more clicks of the remote before he came to something approaching enjoyable, then he kicked back with his feet on the desk and listened with the volume on low.
He could hear his mother talking to the current client, a middle aged man. “Well, keep up with the physical therapist’s exercises, too.”
She came out of the door, and he hurriedly pulled his feet down. He reached into the cooler under the desk and produced a small bottle of water. His mother nodded at him to set it on the counter, then she went into the bathroom for a quick break before her 1:15 appointment.
The man stepped out stretching. “Your Mama’s got magic fingers,” he told Jordy handing over his credit card.
Jordy swiped it through the cell reader, then presented the phone to the man to sign with his finger. “Do you want go ahead and set up for next month?”
“Better make it two weeks. This driving kills my neck.”
Jordy finished the scheduling, and Lacey emerged from the bathroom to wish her client well. Jordy had time to tell his mother, “The four o’clock cancelled. Her husband got called into work.”
“You want her slot?”
“That would be awesome.” He never asked. But about once a month, she offered, and he never refused. There was a certain amount of guilt in acceptance. After all, he saw how carefully she treated her hands and arms, and he knew what happened if she hurt one. He thought often of the lean month when she over-extended her elbow.
“Did you get your Geometry done?”
“Yeah. I’m going to have to get Neal’s Mom to walk me through the last couple of problems, though.”
“Do you want to try a correspondence course?”
“Nah. I’ve got it.”
“OK. It’s so hard for me to judge from the outside.” She meant that even three years in, she still considered their home school group experimental.
“I’ll let you know if there’s a problem.” He meant that even if he never got beyond an average understanding of Geometry, he wouldn’t return to the place where his father’s wife’s son bloodied his nose and blackened his eye. And also that Neal’s Mom was a good math teacher.
Later, he stripped to his skivvies and laid under the cool sheet. Naked would have felt too strange. He pressed his face into the pillow as his mother started on his neck. The guilt was still there, but it faded completely as she worked her hands into his back. The math and the television, too vanished into the table somewhere.
They didn’t talk at these times, and Jordy drifted while Lacey worked. Ever since he could remember, his mother had been rubbing his back. Before the divorce, it had been through his pajamas at night. And after, when it was just the two of them, he had been her practice patient, the guinea pig for everything she learned at school. He knew the feel of her fingertips between his shoulder blades, and her touch drove away everything else. It was as if she rebuilt his fortress with her massage.
This was my July 2 submission for flash fiction month, but I’m only just now getting it up here. I’m posting the flash fiction month all on deviant art, and I’ll submit them to my blog as I have holes in the editorial calendar. If you want to follow the deviant art in order, here’s a link to my profile. Look for “newest deviations”, and you’ll find the stories in reverse order.
Jessie Powell is the Jester Queen. She likes to tell you about her dog, her kids, her fiction, and her blog, but not necessarily in that order.