The bowl lay overturned on the floor, a rough crack running down one side. Michael turned away because it reminded him too much of himself: broken and useless, but held together by some unknown force.
Before Nina left, she’d given him a cell phone. She said, “Michael, call me if you need anything.” He took the phone but didn’t believe she’d actually come. Past experience told him people looked but didn’t see. After his fourth mom punched his face during a drunken tirade, he’d written down the new words he hadn’t already heard so he could look them up later. Then, not trusting his voice, he sent a text message to Nina: I don’t like it here.
While his “mom” snored on the couch, wine bottle tipped on the side table, he rolled the frosty pink lip gloss between his thumb and index finger. Maybe she was right; he’d be a prettier girl. He unscrewed the cap and swabbed the shimmering pink across his lips. It felt weird, but not all that unpleasant. Next, he smeared the plum eye shadow on his lids, just like what he’d seen his moms before do. He sucked his cheeks in and dusted pink powder on them. He turned his head from side to side, studying his reflection. I’m not a pretty girl, either. Michael dropped to the floor and cried.
At eight years old, he didn’t have the best concept of time, but some time later, the doorbell rang. His height prevented him from looking through the peep hole, so he unlatched the three locks and flung the door open.
“Nina!” On impulse, he hurled himself into her arms.
“Oh, Michael, what happened?” She stooped down and caressed his swollen cheek with her fingers.
He shrugged. “Same as the others, I guess.”
She took his hand and led him into the house. She paused in front of sleeping mom and snapped a few pictures. She also took pictures of the empty pizza boxes and soda cans on the floor. She dropped the phone in her purse and pulled him into the bathroom. She soaked a washcloth in warm water, and then gently scrubbed his face. Her touch was the kindest he’d ever known.
“There. Now you’re a handsome boy.” She smiled at him.
“Nina, don’t leave me!” He threw his arms around her and soaked her shoulder with more tears.
“Come on,” she whispered.
In the car, she made a phone call. Michael couldn’t help but overhear. “Tracy, it’s Nina. Yeah. Well, I’m taking him with me. When I get home, I’ll email the pictures.” There was a pause. “I know, but maybe I can change one person’s world.”
***** ***** *****
Michael sat in the front row, squeezing a wad of damp tissues. Many twenty-one-year-old men would stoically bury their tears, but he cried without shame. He hurt and didn’t care if the world knew it. His girlfriend slid her arm into the crook of his elbow and squeezed. He appreciated her support, but couldn’t meet her gaze.
Numbed, Michael couldn’t focus his attention on what others said. He might lose the little composure he had. His head jerked when he heard his name. It was his turn to speak. He trudged to the front of the church. He guessed there were at least three hundred people there.
“Nina Wharton was a truly beautiful person. She saved my life. When I was eight, I had already drifted through three foster homes after my birth mother died of a drug overdose.”
Michael paused so the lump in his throat could dislodge. “She was more than a social worker to me- she was the mom I wished God had given me in the first place.”
He turned away from the mic and blew his nose. “I remember when she rescued me from the last home. Her boss warned her that she couldn’t change the world. Nina responded that maybe she could change one person’s world.”
New tears streamed down his cheeks. “She did just that. Today, I say goodbye to my guardian angel- my mom. I will never forget her.” He leaned over the casket and stroked her cheek with his fingers. “I love you.”
He hoped he’d one day feel whole again. In the meantime, Michael found comfort in the chorus of tears that fell in time with his own pain.
This is my response to the Speakeasy weekly prompt, which is to write a response in 750 words or less, and: 1) Use the following as the first sentence: “The bowl lay overturned on the floor, a rough crack running down one side.”; and 2) make some reference to the photo prompt, which pictured some cosmetics. If you want to give it a shot, click the badge below to view the guidelines, then come back Tuesday to add a link to your posted response!