Jeremy sat with his knees drawn up to his chest, staring at his grandmother’s garden. He heard the screen door creak open and then a sigh from her. “What’s wrong, muffin?”
He shrugged. He didn’t want to say it, but he knew he couldn’t lie. Something always kept him from uttering even the tiniest lie.
His grandmother settled next to him. Her hair only had a few grays in it, the only sign that she was fifty-five. Otherwise, she looked almost young enough to have just been his mother.
For a moment, they were quiet before she inhaled. “You know, I never could get those daffodils to survive long enough to bloom.”
“They need dryer soil and more sunlight,” he said. He knew that from talking to them.
“Do you want to help me move them then?”
Maybe. It would give him something to do, something to keep his hands busy so he wasn’t brooding.
But he wasn’t sure he wanted to either and shrugged.
“Is this about your parents?”
Annoyance and anger sparked up. “They don’t want me,” he said.
“They gave you papers saying that you could make any choice you wanted or needed to. They don’t even know what school I go to. They didn’t know I’d joined the debate club. Most of the time they just send me to go get dinner on my own when they have a date night or some stupid trip and I have more of my things here than I do at home. I didn’t even pack anything this time. They’ve been home less than a week and they already decided they had to go somewhere else. They don’t want me.”
His grandmother paused a moment and inhaled as she looked at the garden before she looked back at him.
“It’s a little harder to explain,” she said.
“I don’t need it explained,” he answered and poked at a knot in the wooden railing next to him. “I figured it out. Why do they even bother taking me home if they’re just going to turn around and drop me off again anyways?”
“Because they do love you,” his grandmother replied and Jeremy snorted. “That’s something you do need to understand. They do love you. They’re just…”
“They like the idea of having a kid but not the work.”
His grandmother sighed and looked down at her hands, where they were callused and scarred from years of work.
“You know, I had your mom when I was barely eighteen,” she said. “And I tried so hard to make sure she had every opportunity.”
“I know,” Jeremy said.
“But, for whatever reason, she had you when she was barely eighteen herself. Some kids aren’t ready to have children, and as much as I don’t want to admit it, your mom is one of those kids.”
“She’s not even here.” Jeremy put his head down. “And she hates the weird stuff I do.”
“That weird stuff is magic,” his grandmother said. “You and I both know that.”
“Yeah, but try telling either of them that. I get told I can’t have magic because that would make me a Caster and I’m not supposed to be a Caster.”
“People are supposed to be a lot of things.”
“Like supportive parents,” he muttered it to himself mostly, but his grandmother chuckled.
“Yes,” she agreed. “But they aren’t always what they’re supposed to be. And that means that even when they’re not expected to be something, sometimes they are.”
Logically, it checked out and Jeremy knew it.
And yet, it still burned him. He knew what the plants were in need of, could feel the power in streams and the occasional windstorm.
Rather than answer, he grunted and put his head down.
His grandmother chuckled. “I’ve got to get those daffodils moved,” she said. “Do you want to help?”
“I don’t know,” he said.
“That’s fine. I have cookies cooling inside if you decide you don’t want to help, and I’ll be down in the garden if you do want to.”
He had to smile as she stood, going down the steps. “Thanks,” he said.
“Only for you,” she said and kissed his head. “Don’t eat too many cookies. I’m making chicken casserole tonight.”
“Spicy chicken casserole?”
“I could be talked into it, but it does take a little bit of work and I really do want daffodils this year.”
He laughed and jogged down the steps. “They just need a little more sunlight,” he said. “I know the perfect spot for them.”
by A.J. Helms