Image of Set Stories Free - 2018
Image of Short Story
Wesley paced back and forth in his kitchen while his wife, Diane, stood leaning against the counter. She stood, arms crossed, following him with her eyes. He scratched at his hair until he almost pulled it out. Diane pushed off the counter to take his hand and stop him.

“Wes if you want to tell him, do it. We can’t keep it from him forever.” She said, ever the realist.

“It’s just so much, and he’s under so much pressure. I know it could help him, but it could also make things harder,” he said. Before they could continue their conversation, the front door opened and closed hurriedly. Their son, Milo, rushed into the kitchen with the mail.

“Duke sent the letter.” He said putting it on the counter. They looked at the envelope for a moment before Milo took a breath and opened it. He looked up to his parents before taking the letter out to read. Wes and Diane waited as they watched his eyes skim the paper, the hope etched on his face turn to defeat. Milo put the letter in the trash.

“It’s a no.” He mumbled. Diane stepped forward to wrap him in a hug. He half heartedly returned it and nodded to his dad who pat his shoulder.

“Mi, maybe tonight we watch Saturday Night Live and order pizza?” Diane asked, though Milo was already walking down the hallway.

“That’s ok,” he said, “I just want to lay low tonight.” Diane nodded and they heard his bedroom door shut. Wes and Diane stood in silence for a minute.

“That’s the fourth rejection letter he’s gotten.” Diane said.

“I have to tell him.” Wes said. Diane nodded and walked over to him.

“Do you want me to be there?” She asked.

“Do you?”

“I think I’ll come in after.” She said. She leaned in to kiss him before Wes made his way to Milo’s room. He knocked and waited to hear a voice inviting him in. Milo lay sprawled out on his bed staring at the ceiling. Wes took a seat before speaking.

“Mi, you know what a couple schools say isn’t everything.” he said.

“I know. But I really wanted to go there.” Milo said, not breaking his gaze.

“But ut there will be other schools,” Wes reminded him.

“We can hope,” Milo grumbled.
“You’ve got to pull yourself up and-” Milo cut him off before he could finish.

“Am I not allowed to be sad? Even for just the rest of the day?”

“Of course you are, I just hate seeing you this way,” Wes tried.

“Well I’m sorry for feeling upset,” Milo said sarcastically.

“It’s not that, Milo. I just think you need to pull yourself up. Keep going and work hard,” he said.

“And what if I don’t want to? I’m done working hard, it hasn’t done much to help. And I’m so tired. I’m not sure I can take another rejection,” Milo said. Wes took a breath and looked at Milo until he looked back.

“Do you know why we named you Milo?” he asked, resorting to his last effort to get his son to cheer up. Milo shook his head. Wes smiled and put a hand on Milo’s ankle.

“It really is a great story, it started a couple days before you were born. Your mom and I spent nine months picking a name because we couldn’t agree on any. Days before you were born, we finally did.” Wes started, before Milo jumped in.

“Wow that’s a great story, but that doesn’t help me at all,” he said , turning over to lay on his stomach.

“It’s not done,” Wes said, trying stay patient.

“Then go on,” Milo said, voice muffled by his pillow. Wes sighed. Knowing his son wasn’t completely listening, but hoped he’d tune in soon.

“We were on the couch in the living room, just watching TV. And, in the words of your mother, a sense of calm came over her, and she turned to me and said it was time. She was collected and level headed, I, however, was nearing a panic attack. I grabbed our stuff and met her in the car. The doctor himself said she was the most easygoing mother-to-be he’d met. Later, she was ready to give birth, so the doctors huddled around her and I stood by, holding her hand. She was amazing, a warrior. She gave you her everything and she didn’t even know you yet. When you were born the doctor handed you back to a nurse to be taken care of. I went to kiss your mom’s forehead, but her head was limp against the pillow, and her eyes rolled back. I tried shaking her and talking to her, before yelling to the doctor to help. It’s still a bit hazy, but I remember being pushed out of the room and told they’d find me if they needed me. So I ran around the hospital, yelling to any nurse that would listen, to see if they could give me any information. Either they didn’t know or they weren’t telling me anything. Later, the doctor found me in the cafe going for a fourth cup of coffee. He sat me down to talk, with this pitiful look about him. I begged him to just tell me what was happening. He put a hand over mine, and took a breath,” Wes mimicked this action with Milo, who was listening intently.

“The doctor said, ‘Mr. Porter, I’m very sorry, but we lost the second baby. It was a little girl.’
Mi, we never told you because we didn’t want to make you feel bad, but your mother had a cancerous tumor that was pressing down on her umbilical cords. It affected both of you, but the doctor said you made it out, because you fought through the pain. I want you to know, it’s not your fault, you didn’t do anything wrong. You survived.” Milo now looked flustered and worried, as if he had been caught.

“Son its not your fault. I swear to you, this is not your fault,” Wes said as he leaned forward to take hold of Milo’s arms to steady him.

“Anyway, I met your mother in the room with you a bit later, we cried for a while. But then we realized we still had this beautiful little boy. This boy who was something the world was not ready for, you were one of a kind and we thought that shouldn’t be taken lightly. And we were going to name you Chris.” At this, Milo and Wes began to chuckle.

“But after all this, we knew Chris just wouldn’t do. So we took you home and mulled over new names for days. Until one day, your mom was in the living room again, sitting with you on her lap and I came and sat next to her. She looked at me, probably to ask if I was ok, but before she could get it out, I just said ‘Milo’.” Milo gave Wes his full attention now, hanging on to every word.

“See, your name means warrior, soldier. And we gave you that name because you are the strongest person I know. Your persistence, poise, and courage blow me away. You have been fighting your way out since before you were born. And you should never stop fighting, Mi, because it got you where you are,” Wesley finished, taking Milo’s hand in his reassuringly. Wes turned to completely face Milo.

“You are a lightning bolt son, but you will burn out if you don’t exploit your potential.”
Before Wesley could go on, the door to Milo’s room cracked open to reveal Diane. She opened it slowly, as if asking permission to come in. When both nodded, she entered and sat down next to Wes.

“Milo, is there anything you want to ask us, or talk about?” she asked. Milo sat there, shocked at the new information about his family.

“I just, I’m so sorry mom,” he said weakly, leaning over into her arms.

“Honey you have nothing to be sorry for,” she said, holding his head in her hands, “You, are everything I’ve ever wanted. Nothing more, nothing less. I’m sorry you had to find out this way, but you needed to know how extraordinary you are,” she said, still trying to convince him. He nodded and wiped the tears starting to form by his eyes.

“Thank you. . ., for telling me,” he said.

“Thank you for listening,” Wes said, putting an arm around him, just as his mother had done. The three sat on Milo’s bed for a while, asking and answering questions into the night, before sleep began to take over Milo’s body. His parents said goodnight with kisses before migrating to the kitchen again.

“Do you feel like we did the right thing?” Diane asked, her turn to be the unsure one.

“I do. This life altering thing happened to him as he was born, he deserves to know where he came from.” Diane nodded and leaned into Wes as he put his arm around her.

“Trust me, he’ll get through it.” He said.

“And he’ll come out stronger.”