Letting Go

Image of Set Stories Free - 2018
Image of Short Story
Vrrrrrtttt...Katie jumped as her phone vibrated her out of her daydream. “Hello.” she said with a slow hesitation, hoping this was the call she had been waiting for all day.

“May I speak with Katie Maxwell,” the voice on the other end said in a polished and professional tone.

“This is Katie,” she replied, her heart picking up pace as the seconds ticked by.
“Mrs. Maxwell, I’m calling regarding Chris,” the voice then going quiet waiting for Katie to speak, but Katie was silent.

“Mrs. Maxell, Chris....” muffled in Katie’s ears, each word coming from the other end of the line got more difficult to decipher, and by the time the caller finished Katie could no longer understand what was being said.

“Mrs. Maxwell, did you hear me?”

“Yes, yes I heard you, thank you for calling.” Katie’s voice was steady and cold, all she could hear was her own heartbeat pounding in her chest as she slowly put the phone faceup on the table and stared at the caller ID, she had not paid attention to when she first answered, "Elkhart County".

The woman was still talking, her voice soft and calming, but honestly in that moment Katie could not separate reality from daydream. This was not the call she was expecting. Unable to sort her thoughts, instead of picking up the phone again, she tapped on the End button and the voice was gone.

Katie was paralyzed, she tried to lift her arms to get up, but they just laid limp, and each small step toward motion took every ounce of strength. Once she managed to slowly lift herself from the chair, she wasn’t sure where she would go, her mind was filled with such confusion, the room began to spin and by the time she had taken about four steps towards the hallway she had fallen to her knees.

Katie was kneeling on the floor in the middle of the living room, slouched over with her face in her hands and tears slowly staining her cheeks as they ran down to her chin. George, her sweet, but nervous Boston Terrier was nudging her thigh and whining in the high pitch way he did when he knew she was sad, which was often. The heaviness of her emotions kept her from moving and her heart felt as if it was a brick in her chest weighing her down from the center of her being.

“George, what am I supposed to do?” Katie softly whispered to the two black eyes of pure love that stared back at her.

She was reliving the conversations of the past several years as they played back in her mind. It was like she was looking through a red viewfinder, like the one from when she was a child, as the scenes clicked by one by one.

...“You don’t know what you’re talking about, I’m fine”, Chris would scream so intensely the vein in his neck would pulse. He looked so angry, click...

...“Chris, you’re scaring me, this is not who you are, this is not the Chris I know...” Katie would plead, but he would respond with even more intensity, click...

...“You’re crazy and you’re just trying to make something out of nothing, I’M FINE”, the sound of shattering glass was overwhelming, Chris cursing under his breath made her believe whatever was broken, was done on purpose, and then a solid slam of the door simultaneous to the garage opening, click...

...Katie stood there in the dark, alone, broken and desperate as her insides tightened while she watched the taillights of the Dodge Ram fade away into the night, click...

Every conversation had ended the same since that day – anger, sadness and then complete stillness, but like clockwork, when the sun rose, he would be back as if nothing had happened. It took her two years to finally kick him out of the house. As she knelt there helpless to the ache from within, the viewfinder continued to flash in her head, but it was the happy times that tore at her insides. Chris’ smile was like no other, he could light up a room, and make you laugh until you could not laugh anymore. He had his troubled days, but Katie never thought they would last long.

There were signs yes, but nothing that made Katie believe there was a problem, let alone an addiction. Alcohol was a staple in their home, Katie never knew a party, even a kid’s birthday party, when it wasn’t served. She was raised with it, it was normal, she had the ability to stop whenever she wanted. How is it that Chris had fallen so far, when did it get so bad and how did she not notice before it was too late.

George had laid down next to her, his chin on the floor, but his eyes peering up as if to say, I’m sorry. Katie’s heart was breaking, her mind a mess, and then she heard fast-moving footsteps, “mooooomm”. It was Jacob, her three-year-old, running into the living room as quickly as his little legs could carry him, he was followed by a grown laugh, “Mom”? It was Matt, her oldest. She instantly snapped out of it, jumped up and wiped her tears. As Matt walked into the room, his face shifted from laughter to worry, he immediately knew something was wrong.

“Mooooom, moooom, look what I made” Jacob was relentless, as this was their daily routine. He had to show Katie everything he made in preschool that day, he was so proud.

“My goodness buddy that is so awesome, you did that by yourself?”
“Noooo”, Jacob replied with a half-smile, in a slow, sweet tone, cocking his head as he spoke as if she should know better. Katie forced a grin, “Why don’t you go hang that on the art wall, it’ll be perfect next to your dinosaur from last week.”

Jacob’s eyes lit up and before she could say another word, he was off and running. As soon as he was out of the room, Matt looked at her in a way she could not avoid.

“Is it Chris?” he said worried but also disgusted. “Did he make it to rehab this time?”

This would have been Chris’ third time at rehab, and as exhausting as the battle has been, they always hoped.

“Matthew...” before she could finish her sentence, Matt cut her off.
“You have got to be kidding me, are you serious? Mom are you serious?” he knew.

“Matt, I just got a phone call from...” vrrrtt.. her phone vibrated on the table. They both looked over in the same direction.

“Mom, you got a call from who?” Before she could answer she was standing over her phone staring down at the familiar name...Elkhart County. Katie shot Matt a look and put her finger up indicating just one minute. “Hello,” Katie again said hesitantly.

“You have a collect call from the Elkhart County Jail, will you accept the charges?” silence. “You have a collect call from the Elkhart County Jail, will you accept the charges?”

“Yes.” Katie accepted the call, even though her heart was torn, and just as the caller began to speak, the front door opened, and Patrick walked in. Her voice shuttered, and she looked at him with a pleading gaze and, mouthed, “I’m sorry” and made her way to the back bedroom.

Patrick looked over at Matt, puzzled, but also aware of what was happening. Matt’s only response was to bound up the stairs to his room taking two steps at a time. “Daaaddddyyyy”, Jacob came running up to Patrick at full speed, jumping up into his arms and distracting him from the situation for just a moment.

Back in the bedroom Katie was listening to Chris explain his side of the story. It was like déjà vu. This was not the first, or even the second time she had heard this web of stories filled with lack of responsibility. In the past, she would listen, she would plead, she would try to convince him that this time was the last time she would try to help him, but today was different. Matthew’s face was ingrained in her mind, and something she had heard earlier struck her in that moment..."Sometimes courage is not holding on, but instead, letting go".

“Chris,” she interrupted him. “Chris” her tone stern. Chris stopped, and before he began protesting or yelling, she made her next statement short and sweet, “I’m done. Do not call here, do not come here, and do not, in any way, contact Matthew...”

“But Katie, he’s my son.” Click... and the screen went dark.