Light trickled through the window, spreading out in a display of vibrant colors on the kitchen floor. He stood stolidly behind the counter, quietly watching his mother make breakfast like she always did.
A savory aroma drifted through the air a homey feel. His mother hummed a soft tune underneath her breath, tucking a strand of her chestnut hair behind her ear as she worked. She smiled as she noticed the rainbow spread out across the floor although it vanished when her gaze fell on him. In fact her next words were clipped and worn.
“Tommy, get that thumb out of your mouth and get rid of that blanket. You’re too old for it anyway.”
Tommy shook his head , thumb still in mouth and clutching his blanket tighter. His mother sighed, placing the frying pan off the heat. She knelt beside Tommy, slowly pulling his thumb from his mouth and slipping the blanket from his hands.
She stopped for a second, hesitating when her gaze landed on white laces tightly twisted around Tommy’s slender fingers. She glanced down at his bare feet and realized that he was clutching his worn tennis shoes in his hands.
Tommy just watched wide-eyed as his mother stared at the laces around his fingers, jerking quickly away when she reached to untangle them.
“No.” He mumbled, moving hesitantly away from his mother.
“You need to put your shoes on.”
“No.” He repeated quietly,
Her voice turned hard, her almond eyes flickering with annoyance. “Tommy. Put your shoes on now.”
He did not put his shoes on at her command although he didn’t fight when she helped him into them, merely staring unblinkingly as she laced them up. She was quiet as she dropped him off at school.
“Mrs. Anderson I should have you know that it is against school policy for a child to go without their shoes while at school.” The words came from a lanky woman well into her fifties, strands of her wiry blonde hair turning silvery gray. She had a pointed stare that matched the character of her office. Everything was neat and organized without a trace of her in it. Its only purpose merely for business.
“I know, but you see, it’s just one of his habits. All children have them.” Tommy’s mother replied gripping the arms of the leather chair tightly, her knuckles turning an unearthly color.
“Yes, Mrs. Anderson. I am perfectly aware that children often exhibit certain odd behaviors, but this is not normal. Your son refuses to wear his shoes, but does not wear them. Instead he drags them behind himself. If the children are playing outside, there he is, dragging his shoes behind him, even comes in with slivers sometimes.” The woman sighed, “All I’m saying is that you should teach Thomas the importance of wearing his shoes.”
“Thank you for your concern Mrs. Ingram, I’ll see that it doesn’t happen again.” She abruptly stood up, taking Tommy’s hand, “C’mon Tommy, let’s go home.”
Tommy’s mother tucked the edges of his blankets beneath him.
“You know that it’s important to wear your shoes don’t you Tommy?” He nodded slowly, “Then why don’t you?” He hesitated a moment before shrugging,
Tommy’s mother sighed, “I suppose I don’t know either.” Leaning in she placed a gentle kiss on his forehead. Tommy closed his eyes as she turned out the light, but mumbled under his breath when she turned to leave,
“I love you Mommy.”
There was a moment of silence in the darkness, “I love you too.”
Something broke. The glass shattering ruthlessly on the kitchen floor. An angry, hoarse voice sliced through the silence that followed.
“Dang you Helen!”
Something hard slammed against the kitchen counter. Something snapped. Sobs erupted through the tension in the air. A cry of terror and helplessness. A cry of pain and of fear. But the pounding that followed never relented. Sounds that filled the air and fit the way the atmosphere felt on the woman. Heavy and dense.
A woman with long disheveled hair huddled against the cabinets, tears streaked a tired face, she mumbled for someone to stop, but they didn’t. The sound of glass shattering filled the air once again, the angry words slurring together. The woman grimaced as someone approached her. He was speaking in low, threatening tones now, but the woman shook her head in defiance.
Something changed in the atmosphere, shifting swiftly. Quicker than lightning she was being dragged by her feet. She screamed out through the fog of something incomprehensible. Drawing him deeper, uprooting a fear that hid itself well.
Tommy awoke screaming. His throat ripping in absolute terror, salty tears streamed violently down his cheeks. Tommy clutched his tennis shoes tightly to his chest as he rocked back and forth slowly.
His mother abruptly burst through the door, her face blanched in panic. Her gaze frantically scanning the room for any sign of danger, finally landing on her distraught son.
Her expression softened into one of concern, “Tommy? What’s the matter?”
He continued rocking evn as she placed an arm around him, simply staring down the length of her legs.
“Tommy.” She gently stroked his blonde hair, “What’s wrong?”
He hesitated, still staring, “The monster took your feet.”
There was a silence before his mother let out a nervous laugh, “What do you mean, Tommy?”
He was still staring, “That’s why I don’t wear my shoes Mommy. The monster takes your feet when he’s mad. I’m scared. The monster took your feet.”
His mother tensed, stiffly rubbing his back, she followed his gaze sadly to her bare feet that hung off the edge of his bed. Bruises and scratches covered the pale skin of her feet. Pale white scars standing out plainly among the painting of blue, red and purple.
“Yes, Tommy. The monster took my feet.” His blue eyes widened in terror as his mother said this, she hesitated, holding him closer. “But the monster is never going to hurt you as long as I’m here. I promise you that Tommy.”