The Man Within, Chapter 4 – a novella excerpt



Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 5

After taking my morning shower, I go downstairs. I stop midway when I hear mother in the kitchen.

“Leave me alone.”

“I don’t want this.”

“Just stop, goddamn it.”

Then nothing. She must have gotten off the phone. But who would be harassing her like that? What began as worry morphs into anger. I get into the kitchen and see her hunched, with her hands on the counter. I decide to act casual.

“Were you on the phone?”

She turns sharply to look at me. I must have startled her.

“No,” she says shaking her head.

“I thought I heard voices.”

“Really,” she says looking relieved.

“What were they saying?”

I hesitate. I’m not sure what’s going on. Everything now feels odd.

“I thought I heard you telling someone to stop.”

“Oh,” she says with disappointment in her voice.

“It was nothing. You don’t have to bother yourself with it.”

“What do you mean? Is someone bothering you?”

“Don’t worry, it’s fine,” she dismisses.

“I made breakfast,” she says with a smile.

I look on top of the kitchen counter and see a box of cereal, a carton of milk and a bowl.

“Come, sit down and eat before you are late for school.”

“Ok,” I say carefully.

Something isn’t right but I don’t know what yet. I eat my cereal and leave for school.

When I get back home, I find mother sitting on the living room couch. She is holding a glass of red wine. I know that she wouldn’t be drinking this early unless if something was bothering her. I have a tonne of homework and a part of me would prefer to avoid a lengthy conversation. Lately she hasn’t been making much sense. I wish she could just see a counsellor.

“Hello. How has been your day, here at home, alone?”

“I called him,” she answers.

“You called . . .”

“I called Craig. I told him that I wanted to get back to work. I told him that his issues with me should not cloud his judgement.”

Oh no.

I put down my backpack and I sit on the adjacent couch.

“I don’t think that was a good idea. Two weeks is not that long. Plus it will give you an opportunity to see someone.”

She looks at me with a puzzled face.

“What are you talking about?”

“You can maybe see a counsellor.”

“No, I told you that wasn’t necessary. I told you the real reason I was told to go home.”

She falls silent.

“And there’s something else. He thinks I don’t know about his secret project. But I know. I know all too well.”

She twists her lips in disgust.

“He’s developing nanomolecular technology that can be inserted in someone’s brain to control them. No one will be safe if he’s allowed to continue. I doubt that even we are safe from him. Now that I know, I don’t think that I’m safe.”

Her breathing becomes heavy. She looks frantic. I have no idea what to do. She sounds crazy and paranoid. I don’t know if this is a side effect of her grief or something else. I must calm her somehow.

“Of course you are safe,” I tell her.

“Did you tell Craig that you knew of his plans?”

I don’t believe a word she said, but I have to bring some sense to her delusions. I figure it’s better than telling her outright that she sounds crazy.

“No,” she replies.

“Then there’s no reason for him to suspect that you know about his . . . project.”

“Yes,” she says with relief.

“You’re right. There is no need to worry. I’m just being stupid.”

“I think you need to rest.”

I hesitate.

“I also think you need to make an appointment with the hospital tomorrow.”

She looks at me sharply but then softens a bit.

“Maybe you’re right. I have been feeling tired lately.”

“Great. I’ll order pizza. You won’t have to cook. You can sleep early and see about that appointment tomorrow.”

She sighs.

“Thank you. Lately I haven’t told you how much I love you. Your father’s death . . . I wasn’t prepared for any of it. But you’re a good boy, and you are strong. I hope I haven’t underappreciated you.”

I go over to the couch and hug her.

“Of course not. I know it has been difficult.”

“I didn’t sell your father’s part of the company,” she says in my ear.

“I knew it was important to you. I was selfish to think of selling it.”

She looks at me and strokes the hair on my forehead.

“One day you will take over his company like he wanted.”

Tears roll down her cheeks. She wipes them off.

“I am only sad that he won’t be there to be proud of you as I am now.”

She wipes the tears on my cheeks.

“I know you have a lot of homework to do. You can go upstairs. I’ll order the pizza.”

I don’t argue. I take my backpack and go to my room. I lie on my bed, too angry to touch my homework.

I don’t know who to be angry at. Whoever took my father? Everything would still be perfect if he was here. Why did this have to happen to him? Why did this have to happen to us?

Goto Chapter 5

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