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Edward heard it. He looked at the glowing numbers on his clock. Could it have started already? They seemed early tonight. His father’s loud swearing and his mother’s harsh whispers echoed up the flight of stairs and down the hallway to his room. He heard them as clear as if they were right outside his closed bedroom door.
He couldn’t take it. Edward sat down, grabbed a clean sheet of paper, and attempted to start his neglected Algebra. Now was as good a time as any. He endeavored to finish at least one problem. If x equals 5, then y equals… his father’s explosion of words, the crack of a head hitting the wall, and glass shattering.
This had been happening more and more often. Not the yelling, no, that had been going on for awhile, it was the physical aspect of the fights that had just started a month or so ago. He didn’t know how much more he could take before he would have to give his father a piece of his mind. Edward’s glare could make anyone shiver, and his father knew it. Not that Edward could do much; he was a scrawny boy for his fifteen years. Besides, who knew what his father would do if he found that Edward had even been thinking of defending his mother?
He heard the front door slam. His father was most likely driving away to the closest bar. All the local drunks hung out there, and his father was no exception. The house was silent for enough time to have Edward wonder if his mother was okay. He held his breath, and then let it out as he heard her dress shoes, still on from work, clicking on the linoleum, the sliding of a chair against the floor and her defeated sigh.
He heard the worst part next. Though he knew it was coming, it never got any easier. Every time Edward was pretty sure he could feel his heart breaking. His mother’s sobs carried from the kitchen to his room, making his homework all the more difficult to complete. Edward knew what he should do, but he didn’t know if he could handle being down there with his mother without doing something stupid. He sat there for a few more minutes contemplating what should be done, with the never ebbing sobs carrying to his room. Sighing, Edward stood up and made his way downstairs, avoiding shards of glass from the fallen framed photo of his family taken a few happy years ago.
Edward reached the kitchen and sat down next to his mother. She turned to look up at him with red rimmed eyes and black mascara marks down her face, and reached for her only son’s hand. He pulled his hand back as if he’d been burned by the compassion, then seeing the flash of hurt on her face put his hand over hers. She gave him a shaky smile and fresh tears welled up in her eyes. Edward took in a deep breath and exhaled it loudly, wishing he could do something for his mother other than just sit there and hold her hand like he was five.
She gave him a small smile, and he answered with a weary one of his own. He sat there, motionless, not knowing what exactly he could say. If his mother sensed his discomfort, she didn’t mention it. She suddenly stood up and put her arms around his shoulders. He flinched, but that only made her hold him tighter.
“Thank you.” she whispered.
Suddenly Edward had to say something to her, just so she could understand.
“Why do you put up with him? You don’t need him. You have your own job; you make your own money. We could leave and start over. Please, Mom, just-”
“Edward, stop. Don’t worry. It’s all going to be just fine. We’ll make it.”
He could only guess at who she was trying to reassure, herself or him. He stopped talking and tried not to worry, if only for her. He let her hold him and wondered when exactly it was decided that he was the one needing comfort. After a few moments, Edward stood up from his chair, broke the embrace, and patted his mother awkwardly on her head. He didn’t know how much more emotional bonding he could stand that day. With a shadow of a smile, he turned and trudged up to his room.
Edward passed the broken pieces of the frame with the family picture and saw that the picture was torn. Edward’s father was on one side and Edward and his mother were on the other, still smiling their obnoxiously carefree smiles. He kicked his father’s half off to the side, wishing that could somehow make him feel better. Picking up the half with him and his mother and brushing off the tiny glass bits that clung to it, Edward knew that things might not be perfect now, but these two broken pieces would make it.