It’s Stream of Conscious Saturday and also Day 6 of the Story a Day challenge, so I’m combining the two(will probably do that each Saturday this month). The prompt for SoCS is to use the prefix “inter” in some way. For Story a Day it is to explore a character’s emotional wound. As I have been using SOCS to explore the characters of the novel I’m currently plotting, so today we have a bit with Austin, though this will be from way before the story starts.
Austin looked down the length of the table. There were almost a dozen other boys sitting there with him. Not that any of them were interacting with him. Why would they be, though, when they all had their fathers sitting across from them? He picked up one of the pre-cut pieces of wood and ran his thumb along it. The roughness of it against his skin distracted him from the burn behind his eyes.
He looked across the table at the empty chair sitting there. Uncle Scott had said he’d be here. He’d known his father wouldn’t be. He wouldn’t recognize him if he did show up. But, Uncle Scott always kept his promises. So why wasn’t he here now?
He held the piece of wood in his hand again. It was only a little darker than his own skin, closer to his mom’s. With a sigh, he set it down and reached for another piece so he could glue them together like the instructions said.
“Austin,” the group leader said from beside him, “do you want to try to call your father again. Maybe he’s just running late.”
“I can’t,” Austin said, not looking up at the man. He’d always been nice to Austin, but he didn’t want to start crying now. The other boys wouldn’t let him forget it. “He’s gone.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t know you’d lost him.”
Austin didn’t know what the sound was that came out of his mouth. It wasn’t really a laugh. “I didn’t lose him. He never wanted me.”
The doors at the front of the social hall opened, and he looked over at the sound of rushing feet. “I’m sorry, Austin,” the man said. His mom’s friend, Jai. Except Austin had seen them kissing the last time he’d been over at the house. He might only be seven, almost eight thank you very much, but he wasn’t stupid. “Your uncle called from the hospital to let your mom know he wouldn’t be able to make it. So, I came over.”
That had the pieces drop from his hands. “Is he hurt?” Austin asked. “Did he get hurt in a fire?”
Jai shook his head as he pulled out the chair across from Austin and sat down. “No, but one of the other firefighters was. You know he wanted to be here.”
Austin didn’t though. He’d been whiny the last time Uncle Scott had been at the house. Maybe that was why he hadn’t come. But, Jai said it was because one of the guys Uncle Scott worked with was hurt. But, he needed to be better or Jai might leave him and his mom, too.
“Where do we start with this?” Jai asked.
Austin pulled the instructions over and pointed to the first step. “We have to glue those two pieces together.”
Jai smiled at him, and it had a funny feeling spread through his chest. He didn’t know what it was, so he focused on what they were making instead. If he didn’t screw this up maybe Jai would stick around.
I just want to give that little boy a hug. And 18 years later, he’s still dealing with those abandonment issues, although Jai does stick around.