“Mommy, I’m scared.”
“Mommy?” Gordon steps tentatively into his mother’s study, a combination of walk-in closet and workspace. Destiny refuses to live above the average Hadrian citizen, most of whom enter Hadrian broke or in debt, having spent their entire savings, and sold off most of their belongings just to make it to this new world. Though the other founding families live according to their wealth and status, Destiny and her son live in a modest two-bedroom bungalow. The one area of compensation to wealth and status she allows herself is her quarter-acre backyard garden. But the house itself need not be significant, and even though she doesn’t have an official study, the overly large walk-in closet (the length of two small bathrooms) was quickly converted into a home study. It is into this closet Gordon quietly enters. “Mommy.” His voice a half-whisper.
“Yes, sweetie.” Destiny answers, but with her voice only. Her eyes remain riveted to the screen of her MacBook 200 air. Her right-hand reaches out to her side, searching the air for her boy.
“Mommy, I’m scared.” The boy steps forward and grips the palm of his mother’s hand.
Destiny’s eyes remain fixed on her screen, scanning Hadrian’s constitution yet again. “Why is that, sweetie?”
“What if whoever killed GramPere wants to kill you, too?”
Destiny shakes her head, “That’s not going to happen, sweetie.”
“What if they want to kill me, too.”
The fear in her boy’s voice finally draws Destiny’s attention off her screen towards his face. His eyes are red and swollen from the tears. His face, pale. “Oh, baby,” she says as she draws him closer. “No, baby, no. We’re in Hadrian now. We’re safe here.”
“But GramPere said they’d be safe in Switzerland.”
“MaPere was in the outside world. We’re in Hadrian.”
“But they promised to come home to me. To bring me, special sweets. Swiss chocolate. They said they make the finest in all the world. Now they’re dead.”
“I know, sweetheart, and they would have if they could have. But their killer isn’t here in Hadrian.”
“Will they ever catch them?”
“I don’t know, sweetie. They’ve got no leads.”
“I’m scared, mommy. They’re out there.”
“Not here, not in Hadrian. We’ve got a police force, an army, even a border patrol. No one gets into Hadrian’s without their permission.” Wiping tears from the boy’s eyes, Destiny attempts to reassure him, “Your GramPere’s killer isn’t here, I promise you. You’re safe. Really. Go back to bed now.” Turning back to her screen, Destiny assumes her son does as he is told. Instead, Gordon stands there, shivering in his pyjamas, waiting for his mother to finish working. Her focus remains stolid until her bladder starts screaming. It is only when she stands and turns to leave the closet workspace that she notices Gordon is still with her. Dropping to her knees in front of the child, she asks, “Hey, kiddo, why are you still here? Why didn’t you go to bed?”
Gordon answers between sniffles, “I can’t sleep. I’m scared.”
“Oh, sweetie, come here.” She embraces the boy, enfolding him deep in her arms. He cries against her breasts, hungrily hugging her back. Although at ten, Gordon can’t quite articulate what he is thinking, hidden inside his brain is the knowledge that her loving arms don’t surround him like this much anymore. All he can say is, “I hate your computer.”
Destiny laughs, “I hate my computer, too. Here,” she says as she shuts its top, “it’s off now. Let’s get you to bed.”
“Can I sleep in your bed tonight?”
“You are getting too big to sleep with your mother.”
“Please, mommy, I’m scared.”
“Gordon,” she replies a little too sternly, “you’re a big boy now. You need to sleep in your own bed.”
“Will you sleep in my bed?”
“No. You are too big for that.” Before Gordon starts to cry again, Destiny’s voice softens, “but I tell you what, I stay with you until you fall asleep. Come,” she says as she stands, taking Gordon by the hand, “you run to your room now, crawl into bed, and I’ll join you right after I pee.”
“Will you sing to me?”
“Of course, I will.”
“You run along, now. Mommy really has to go to the bathroom.” In her mind, Destiny is already skipping past thinking of ways to get Gordon to fall asleep quickly so she can get back to revising Hadrian’s Constitution. Her mind is so wrapped around details none of the five can agree on that after she pees, she goes right back into her closet workspace, having completely forgotten her promise to Gordon.
The boy does fall asleep. Crying is after all exhausting business.