Emily has tried everything, but after enduring years of emotional abuse from her ex, she has slowly started to worry that her son Aaron will become the man his father is. She thought she raised him so well, reading books to him nightly, taking him to church, teaching him how to cook and encouraging him to be friends with everyone he meets. Regardless, her son Aaron has shown consistent signs narcissism and callousness. Emily sees the light leave his eyes more and more every day. Big pools of green that used to shine with curiosity and warmth now have a shadow casted over them. They seem more hazel now, or were they always? She’s beginning to feel like she can no longer recognize Aaron in them, but rather she sees the same deep hollowness that overtook the man she once thought was the love of her life.

Jim has been worried about her for some time. Sitting on his porch enjoying his morning coffee, he sees Emily and Aaron get in the car to go to school. Emily is wearing a beautiful blue blouse, her hair is pulled loosely back, and she has simple jewelry to pull together the look. He notes the darkness that’s growing deeper under her eyes, aging the woman smiles and waves each morning. Her son never bothers to look up anymore, always consumed with whatever is angering him. Generally, it’s the fact that they’re running late. That boy can be pretty hard on the woman that’s working overtime to make ends meet. Then again, he’s probably just used to seeing her be treated that way- cold, unforgiving, always needing but never giving. Just when Jim thought Emily finally got rid of that ass hole she was with, now she’s raising one. It’s hard to believe. As they get in the car and drive off, Jim hears Emily apologizing to Aaron for oversleeping and he thinks back to 10 years earlier.

Emily has been living next door since she was a teenager. When her parents moved, she bought the house from them. She was always smiling, dancing, and laughing. Jim and his wife loved her dearly. In fact, she was there when his Iris got sick. Emily would cook extra for dinner and bring it over, claiming she never knew how to cook for only three. Jim knew that wasn’t true, her and that man lived alone since they were just kids. Either way, he appreciated her greatly. Iris always did all of the cooking, and when she got sick he quickly realized he couldn’t whip up a boiling pot of water without burning the hot pads next to the stove.

Aaron used to come over with her to bring the food. Sometimes they’d try their hand at baking, too. Iris always loved their peanut butter cookies, said they tasted like her mother’s. What happened to that boy? How can you have a mother that carries so much love and end up so hateful?

The sound of tires screeching pulls Jim from his trance of memories. The cool morning fog and peaceful birds chirping fade to the background as Emily rushes Aaron out of the car.

“I’m so sorry, I’ll be home as soon as I can!” She yells as she quickly pulls off.

Aaron looks pissed. He scuffles to the front door and slumps his shoulders in a rage. “Fuck!” He yells, “she has the damn keys!”

Jim watches, confused, as Aaron goes around the house to try to find an unlocked window. Eventually, he comes back to the front steps and sits, defeated. The birds have begun to chirp again.

“You alright son?” Jim asks.

“Yeah, yeah, sorry Jim I didn’t notice you there.”

His tone changed, Jim noted. There’s still some respect left in him, just not for his mother. “What happened?”

Aaron gets up and walks over with his hands in his front pockets.

“Oh, my mom got a call about my grandpa and decided not to take me to school. She’s going to pick him up and bring him back, but there’s no room for the wheelchair and me so she thought it’d be quicker to drop me off. Of course, the day I don’t grab my set of keys. How have you been?”

Funny, Jim has sat out here every morning and afternoon but this is the first time Aaron has talked to him in years.

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