Write a story that includes: a gingerbread house, a stolen key, and a surprising phone message…
Edward felt something in his pocket, he patted at it absently as he waited for the bus. The train was late, so he was going to have to wait an extra 25 minutes for his cross town bus. He was tired. He never knew he could be this tired and still be standing. When he was younger, he thought he know what it was to be tired, but now, now he knew.
His fingers itched to pull out his phone, give Steve a call. Steve always had the best stuff. Of course he had quit all that shit last year when Wendy said she was pregnant. He had been so excited about the baby that he had stopped everything cold turkey, the drugs, the booze, and even the cigarettes. God he wanted a cigarette. The old woman at the end of line of bus shelters was smoking and he could smell it in the still air. While it ate at him to not go ask her for one, the craving kept his mind away from the pain.
Six months after Wendy told him about the baby, she dropped the real bombshell. It wasn’t his. He had been devastated, and left that night. His first stop had been Steve’s but fate was looking out for him and the dealer was not at home. He had cruised around town, stopping at all his old favorite haunts, but he wasn’t finding anyone he wanted to share his burden with. None of those bar flies and addicts were his friends. They just wanted him to buy the next round or tell another funny story. He wasn’t in the mood.
The sun had come up the next morning with Edward still sober and his heart still just as heavy, but he knew something important had just happened. Something so monumental he could hardly believe it. Now he just had to keep it up.
His next step had been to get a job, and he had swallowed his pride and taken a delivery boy position at the market. He was almost 30, but having wasted the last 10 years down the rabbit hole of drugs and booze he had no skills and no place to start, so he started at the bottom, schlepping groceries to old shut-ins and paranoid nut jobs. He worked 6 days a week and finally was able to get a shitty room in the worst part of town, but it was all his and he felt a sense of pride he thought was only for those snobs that had their lives together at 24.
He patted his pocket again, his mind had wandered. He was so damn tired. Last week everything had gone to hell. He knew deep down that it was going too well, but he had blindly plodded along until the show fell on him. His mother’s partner, Amber called him. His phone was on the mattress right next to his head so the insistent buzzing woke him out of the sound sleep of the righteous and sober.
He had not heard from his mother in years. When he was a senior in high school she had sat him down and explained how she was not going to be living with him and his dad any more, she was going to go live with Amber. It had been one of those moments in your development when you realize that nothing is quite as simple as it seems. His pretty, well dressed mother was leaving them for a woman. Amber was nice enough, but he could not bring himself to think of her as anything other than the bitch that stole his mom, and had refused all contact with them both for the last 12 years.
“Edward?” It was 2 am and he could not figure out who the voice belonged to.
“Yeah,” he mumbled. “Who’s this?” No sense in trying to be nice at this hour.
“I’m sorry, Edward, this is Amber, it’s your mom-“ She paused. It sounded like she might expect him to hang up on her, and he wanted to but the words came out of his mouth almost against his will.
“Where is she?” That is where it had all begun. Every day for over a week now he had trekked across town after work, taking two busses and a train to go to the hospital where his mother lay like a wax doll in a hospital bed. The machines beeped and whined, and his mother slept. Well, not slept. She was in a coma. She had a stroke and now the doctors said she would probably never wake up. The damage was too extensive.
Every day he sat by her side while Amber took a shower in the cramped room tucked into the corner. Her eyes did not move as if she slept, but the ventilation tube made her chest rise and fall so regularly he could pretend it was just a nap. Amber would come back into the room, hand him her house key, and he would walk the 12 blocks to the apartment she and her mother shared. There he would take the mail upstairs and feed their little tabby cat, Sparky before taking the key back to the hospital to start the ritual again the next day. Tonight had been different. He gave Sparky his customary can of tuna pate and scooped the litter into a bag he would toss in the bin on the way out. It started to rain on his way back and his shoes squeaked on the floor and made squishing sounds with each step by the time he got back.
Amber was talking to a doctor when he came unto the room, or rather listening with her arms wrapped tightly around herself as if trying to keep the pieces from flying apart. This was the last night. Tomorrow they would remove the life support and let her go peacefully. He knew Amber needed support right now, but he was not the person to give it, he turned on his heels and fled, seeing her red rimmed eyes gazing after him half stunned as he ran down the hall.
It was Amber’s key in his pocket. He pulled it out and looked at it. It was a simple key, with a silly little gingerbread house as a keychain. It was worn on the edges and the paint was almost gone in places, leaving it mostly a dull brown color. On the back he could barely make out the writing in sharpie pen. “From Eva” His mother had given this to Amber.
His phone trilled loudly, he had forgotten to turn the ringer off. He felt the other weary people at the stop glaring at him as he hurried to pull the loudly chirping device from his pocket. It was Amber.
“Yes, I have your key,” Edward said tiredly without preamble as soon as he hit the button to answer.
“What?” He made her say it twice more before he took off running back to the train station. “Be right there.” He hung up without looking at it. If he hurried he could make the last train back into the city. His feet slapped on the damp pavement and his lungs screamed as he threw himself at the turnstile. He couldn’t help but smile at the people staring at him. He didn’t care. His mother was awake and wanted to see him.