The creaking iron school gate always signalled the change.
She saw it in the slump of his shoulders; the heartbreaking resignation in his troubled, young face. So suddenly it seemed he was much older. Haunted, pale blue eyes turned back and stared back at her – reproachful almost and her knees weakened at the sight. She resisted the temptation to run to him, to pull him into her arms – her own child. She wanted to run to him and take him far away from this seemingly pleasant place of learning but that for him held such terrifying secrets. Things which called him from his sleep and kept him awake so many nights, that frightened him so much she would often find him sleeping fitfully, huddled pitifully on the cold floor next to her bed calling out feebly from his place in far away dreams and memories where his demons ever plagued him. Where even she could not reach to save him.
Three noisy gulls flew over her head, their cry mournful and harsh which ended her rumination and she watched powerlessly as he lifted his clear, tanned face towards her—such a beautiful child, such a terrible shame. The struggle to lift the corners of his mouth was evident only to her, saw it ever so slightly turn into the fragment of a smile – just for her, which sadly vanished even before it had truly been given any healing life.
Her gaze faltered for just a moment, for she did not want to see the complete transformation of hopeless anguish in her young son. A fleeting moment of bleakness washed over her for the things she could not protect him from; a despair that coloured something that so many others found light and joy in. Sometimes the moment gave her a flashing, pure anger. Fiercely strong was the compulsion to confront those menacing creatures hiding in the bodies of school children to show mercy and leave her son alone. Did their mothers or fathers see wickedness in their own? She thought not.
The courage her boy had shown despite his struggles to be like the others, to catch up, and prove he was worthy brought her raw pride in the face of his wretchedness. Worthy of what? Them? Of Life? Did those children see his gifted mind – the remarkable way that he saw the world? How he wanted to go to university and to learn about his world so that he could fix some of the wrongs he saw there? If only he could see into the future, she thought raggedly as she watched his hand slide loosely down the iron gate, and heard the hollow click of the latch echoing to her place near the tree across the road.
Steeling herself as if to fortify and thus protect him, she smiled brightly as his fair hair caught the gilded rays of morning sun, and drew a long breath. Lifting her arm, she opened her palm; a spring of delight to see his slender arm lift in recognition of that shared instant – that powerful bond shared, grateful though that he was too far away to see the tears rolling down her cheek, and the sadness for him weigh so heavily upon a mother’s own heart for her boy.
This is a true story.