Short Story Contest Submission: ShindaHotaru – Time Will Tell

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Time will tell

It was supposed to be a quiet evening, husband out with the boys and the house empty and silent for once. You wanted to relax for once, just for once, even though you wouldn’t have minded your husband’s company. But the kids wanted to watch a movie you can’t even recall the name of and he suggested to take them out, probably the only way to get your oldest son out of the house.

Things have gotten out of order the past weeks, or months or so, you can’t remember when family life has stopped being only about weekend trips, movie nights and playing hide and seek in the garden. Someday your oldest son stopped coming downstairs for a play of hanafuda, the next he took his lunch upstairs into his bedroom. Logically, a fifteen-year-old boy needs privacy, some time on his own. But you can’t find an excuse nor explanation why your son wouldn’t want to eat with you anymore. What, upstairs in his room, was more interesting than familiar company?

You shake your head, nuzzle your back more into the sofa cushion and sigh your thoughts away. This is your evening, no need to have your family problems on your mind while they are out of the house. So you lie there on the champagne couch, your gaze wandering through the living-room, a mixture of crème and brown-colored furniture, the little nostalgic lamp on, sitting in her beauty on the table on the other side of the sofa.

Now that you are home alone, you have no clue what to do with the time given. Your husband and kids only left half an hour ago and they won’t be back in the next three hours. Maybe even in four hours, when your husband comes up with the idea to treat them all with some fast food. He spoils the kids too much, you figure, he would grant them a wish when you didn’t even allow them to make one. Or perhaps he has a better idea of raising kids than you have, and after all you’re just too strict in most of the cases. And maybe that was why your oldest likes to stay up in his room instead of jamming on the guitar with you.

Maybe not? Well, you could use the time to find out, now that your son is far away, physically, and mentally even farther away. You get up, climb the marble staircase and walk over to your son’s bedroom door, determined to enter and look for any evidence. Somewhere in the depths of your mind, your husband’s voice echoes, that having trust in your children was essential, but you have no trouble to ignore your inner voice and walk into your son’s bedroom.

To your surprise, it appears to be the cleanest teenager room you have ever seen, which fits to the fact that despite your son’s strange behavior, his grades are rather outstanding. When your husband and you talked about having children the first time, you imagined to have two sons (mission accomplished), at least two years of age difference (fifteen and ten) and that both would love what you do as profession and found you were a cool dad. While your surrogate mother was pregnant with your first child, you were seeing children everywhere, those you wanted your kids to be like and those you didn’t. Here you are, in your son’s bedroom to find out why he spent less and less time with his family, breaking the trust that binds you two and disrespecting you and your husband’s idea of raising your children. Things haven’t turned out the way you originally planned them, except for a few minor things that only show how lucky you must be.

A framed photograph on the dresser catches your attention, that you take into your hands to examine it further. What you see plasters a huge smile on your face and removes all doubts from your mind for a moment. It’s a picture of your family trip to the mountains last year in summer. You look all so happy, you with your black hair longer, some strands falling into your eyes, a feeling that you miss but adore your current, shorter hairstyle more than to let it grow back again. Then there’s your youngest son, beaming at the camera, his arms tightly wrapped around your waist, his black hair cut short and spiked up at the front, he’s definitely got your husband’s eyes, the same thin but soft lips. Next to him is your oldest, a smile on his full, curved lips, one arm wrapped around his father’s shoulder, his hair the same black color, the same cut like you and definitely your husband’s eyes again, that seem to have their own shade of brown. Your husband’s soft dark-blonde hair is an eye-catcher, considering the rest of the family’s hair color is pitch-black, thanks to your genes. He wears a wider smile than your oldest, his skinny arm tightly around your son, nudging his shoulder in a friendly manner. A tear burns in the corner of your eye, causing your cheeks to flush a little although no one but you is around. You miss those times, you miss the regular weekend trips, the hiking and camping each summer, the three meals you used to have together each day. You miss your family that you love so much that any moment you spend alone seems to be of loneliness.

You place the photo of that happy moment back on the dresser, next to other photos of your children. The other photographs show your oldest and youngest sons together, hugging and playing with each other, you’ve never known your son has those photos framed and in his room. That fact saddens you, obviously you know a lot less about your son than you wish to.

So you turn around in order to find something out of the ordinary, some evidence. Opposite of the bed is a shelve full of books, comics, CDs, DVDs and quite a collection of video games. You can’t remember buying your son all of this neither allowing him to. No wonder, with all the necessary machines set up that your son spends so much time in his room instead with you outside. Maybe you did buy him all this stuff, without even noticing. And thinking of it, your best friends loved to bring gifts with them on some of their visits, also with the possibility of online shopping, there are ways of getting your favorite stuff without telling your parents.

You sigh and sit down on the chair in front of the desk. Apparently your son has so many different interests and you didn’t know about any of them until now. The distance between you two might not be because of anything that has happened. Not really, couldn’t it be that your son has just changed, developing his own interests and preferences that you haven’t noticed so far, neither done anything that match what he loves. Instead of wondering why he wouldn’t come and play cards with you, he maybe waited for you to show some interest in his life.

As you place your hand next to the computer mouse, bumping it, you release another sigh, more a groan. This is everything but a relaxing evening. While you could lie on the couch and read or watch some TV, you sit in your son’s room to find out why he distances himself from you. You could’ve asked him later, why didn’t you think of that?

You jump slightly when the monitor flashes up, apparently your son didn’t turn the computer off. From your intense use of your computer, which died down a bit after your first son’s birth, you know that one doesn’t turn off the computer when you are sure you’ll be back soon. But your family won’t be back in another two hours, why didn’t your son turn it off?

The screen shows a document, about thirty pages typed already. Homework? Curiosity takes the upper-hand and you scroll up to the beginning, your eyes catching a few words in the process. There are few names that catch your attention in particular, some you remember having heard once in this combination. As you read the first few paragraphs you figure out that it’s a story rather than simple homework and that your son seems quite talented at writing. Is this the reason for his absence from their family gatherings? He spends his time writing?

A chuckle appears on your lips. This is the least you expected, one of the things you’ve never thought about. Your son is a writer? Why has he never told any of you? You would support him in any possible way, the longer you think about it the more eager you grow about this fact. Since you don’t dare to look for more stories on your son’s PC (who knew he wouldn’t find out later?), you start to read the story, fully engulfing in the plot. The smile never leaves your lips, you grow prouder of your son with every word, you would’ve never guessed that your son had such talents. For a moment, you take a break from reading, your gaze wandering around the room and halts on a poster above the bed. It’s a picture of your son’s favorite band, some new poprock band that you once met at one of your company’s festivals. One of these bands that give their female fans what they want to see, which was far from what the girls wanted to see about two decades ago. You remember that one time when you saw their fans holding up posters with a fusion of the band’s guitar players’ names, the way your co-workers and you looked at each other; you know those kinds of fans too well. Shaking your head, you turn back to the screen and continue your reading session. The character who as you finally notice has the same name as the band’s singer is described, the words pulling a string in your head that slowly turns around to the poster above the bed. That boy mentioned in the story bore a resemblance to one of the boys on the poster. Coincidence? Maybe your son isn’t so good at character design after all and got inspired…? It’s just some coincidence.

A few sentences later you aren’t so sure about it anymore. With each word, each name and every person introduced, you find more and more similarities to the band your son is a fan of. Your mind comes to a quick conclusion; this is no normal story, this is what they call a fan fiction. Your son writes fanfictions. Like these girls at that festival. Like so many other fans… and your son is one of that kind.

After a moment of understanding, you turn away from the computer, pushing yourself away from the desk, that possible thanks to the wheels of the chair. You have no clue what to think, what to say nor what to do. Nor what this means in the whole context. Is that why your son never comes down for dinner anymore? Because he’s too engulfed writing his stor-… fan fictions, writing weird love stories about his favorite band. Does this make him… You roll back to the desk to reread a certain paragraph to get some confirmation or rather an evidence that your quick assumption is false but to your misfortune; you were right. Not only that your son writes fan fictions, he also writes about two of the boys in the band being a couple. Well, they aren’t in reality, are they? In case they were, this wasn’t as frightening as it was if… No, instead of thinking about if’s and why’s, you could also wait until your son is back home and have a talk to him about it.

So you spend the next hours with coffee after coffee, placing words into the speech you will hold once your son is back home. You remember your mother’s words but never have you thought that the teenage years could be so difficult to handle. On the one hand, you rather forgot about it all, how embarrassing would it be to have a talk with your son about his sexuality? And the strange way he is dealing with it.

No, no. Maybe you should talk to your husband beforehand, see what he thinks, what he suggests. He is an inventive one, always has a plan b up his sleeve. There is no way you can react and act the correct way, not in this situation, chances are to high you would end up in a fight with your son. Who would blame him? After all, you sneaked into his room and spied on him with the help of his computer, this isn’t only a sign of distrust but also you broke one of the highest rules of this house; respecting one’s privacy.

Sooner than you wish, the front door opens to laughter and your family. Determined to spill the beans, you leave the kitchen, holding your tenth coffee in your hands. There they are; your husband, collecting your kids’ coats, your youngest with a huge plush toy in his arms, your oldest with a surprisingly wide smile on his features, although his eyes tell a different story. You lean against the door frame, remaining distant, observant. The happiness in your family’s faces make you feel strange, as if you were an outsider. You should’ve gone with them, joined them instead of staying home alone but would you have gained the knowledge about your son you have now?

When your husband turns to greet you, passing through your sight, you catch the look in your oldest son’s eyes, the feeling that washes off the smile on his lips. Why is he looking at you like this? What is it that makes him stop smiling? You avert your eyes as your husband’s head fills your sight completely. And the look that’s framed in his eyes strengthens all your thin speculations, without any words spoken. With a simple nod into the room behind yourself, you two enter the kitchen, close the door behind yourself so you can speak in private.

“There is something strange about Takashi-san that I noticed today,” your husband speaks up, starting the conversation that is slowly growing awkward. Both of you lean against the counter, next to each other, shoulders touching. Your hands are clenched around your mug, you don’t know if what you are about to hear is what you wanted to know all along.

“I might be wrong… There was this boy that works at the cinema. He sort of complimented Takashi-san on his hair and he blushed. You know? Even when we were already sitting in our seats, he was still blushing. I know, it’s nothing out of the ordinary but it still seemed strange. So I kept watching him and… noticed that he was gazing after other boys. And you know what I mean by that.”

Luckily, you have the habit of curling your thumb and little finger around the mug’s handle, in any other case you would’ve dropped it. Everything your husband has just said fit into the picture you gained from your son after finding the stories on his computer. It fit so well, can it be true what your husband is hinting?

“I know it’s crazy to think that… he could be gay. But maybe it’s true what people say,” your husband continues, he is obviously taking his sanity into consideration. Now he looks at you, demanding your attention, your thoughts.

A sigh leaves your lips, eyes close slowly while your mind works on the right words. “I thought about his strange behavior lately… so I took the chance and looked around his room. You know, maybe I would find anything but…” You open your eyes again and focus on the picture on the wall opposite of you. “All I found was an opened document on his computer. He apparently spends less time with us to have time for writing which is not wrong at all but… He writes fanfictions, about his favorite band being gay.” A gasp from your right makes you turn to look at the shocked expression of your husband. With what he knew and what you learned about your oldest son, the case seems clear.

After a moment of silence, you both look away again, thinking about the same thing. What should you do now? Order him here so you can have this talk with him that they are suggesting in all these talk shows? “What should we do now? He’s not in an easy age, we can’t just call him down and talk to him about it. What do you suggest?” There is no answer, at least not in your pool of thoughts. You shake your head, sighing again as you think it all through again.

Your lack of an answer seems obvious to your husband, you guess, when you hear him say, “Okay, I figure you have no clue as well. You know, maybe it’s for the better we… let him come up to us. Give him the privacy he needs and try to do more things he likes. If we… give him space, maybe he will tell us.”

Since you know that your husband is right, you nod in agreement, the urge to say anything at all has faded. Even about the strange behavior of your son, you don’t want to confront him anymore with the things you learned about him. Trust is what he needs, some space to live his own life, develop his own personality before he could step back into your sight, matured and grown-up.

© ShindaHotaru

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