Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Short Story: To Be Needed (Fiction)

Author's Note: Quite a while ago Chuck Wendig posted a Flash Fiction Challenge called "The Fix." The prompt was  “To fix something, you first must break it.” I was immediately inspired with an idea. But almost as immediately I cut my finger and was unable to write. Eventually my finger healed and I got busy with life. However, this morning I remember that idea and decided to write the story and hand it in late. I don't expect to get a good grade but I am excited to read all the stories that were posted in a timely manner. Feel free to join me! In the meantime, I hope you enjoy my short story. Although, it's quite sad. Sorry about that. ~Tsara

To Be Needed

It started innocently enough. A small pinch to make her cry. The odd shove as she got older, carefully timed and expertly hidden.

And then the pure joy of being the one to help. To hold and hug and fix the broken feeling for her daughter. Oh, how simply pure that feeling was! To be the reason, the only one who could make her sweet baby smile again!

In the beginning she needed no audience. The need to be the one who helps and heals was private enough, fulfilled by merely proving it to herself. But, soon, Essence needed to be known. Needed to be seen and applauded for her ability to sooth and settle her daughter.

However, as time went on the simple relationship between Essence and her daughter, Flow, refused to remain easy and clear. Flow was growing an unexpected personality. At only three years old she seemed to think that her mom was both her safe space and a danger zone. Essence had seen her try to get love and help from others; her grandma, her aunt, even the storyteller at the local library stepped in now and then when Essence wasn’t quick enough.

As Essence felt the necessity of herself slip away she amped up her game. This was for their own good, and she knew Flow would eventually understand even if it seemed to confuse and hurt her now. This was what it was to be a good mom. Putting yourself in the role of “bad guy” so that your child would learn important valuable lessons to keep herself safe and healthy in the future.

So pinches became hard core crushing squeezes while shoves became doors slammed on and into her, still carefully timed and expertly hidden. Essence at first tried not to enjoy the feel of her nails biting into Flow’s soft skin or the sudden rush of slamming a door into her daughter, but it didn’t make sense to not feel the joy of good parenting. So she allowed herself the adrenalin rush, knowing that soon she and Flow would be snuggled together, arms wrapped around each other, and the let down and release would be even that much better having been through the rush of adrenaline together.

It was a different version of the same feeling when there were people around to see her give such love and help to her daughter. Most of the time Essence would just wait for Flow to hurt herself naturally, a scraped knee on the playground or a push from that neighbor boy with the hippie parents who always seemed to be around but never appeared to offer rules or guidance. Essence doubted those parents ever hugged their son into feeling better.

Sometimes, though, Flow would play for hours without crying or getting hurt, without even seeming to want to be around her mom at all. Essence would feel her need to be the one who helps grow, gathering a hunger as it paradoxically filled her up. Looking around she’d see other parents helping their children and feel the prickly presence of judgement, knowing that she clearly wasn’t parenting or helping her daughter when her daughter was busy playing and not needing her. And without fail, if her daughter found another adult to talk to or smile at, Essence would move into action. The danger of allowing her daughter to seek friendship or nourishment from other adults or strangers was clear. Just one minute on a national news station would prove that point.

With practiced precision Essence would find a way to usher Flow into an accident and then she would swoop in lovingly, cooing and hugging and singing and positioning it all to be on display. The display wasn’t only for the high of feeling other eyes of approval on her, there was a strategic reason for it, too. When others saw her being wonderful to Flow, they would be sure to pass that on to Flow herself, if she ever tried to complain.

Yet, caught up as she was in her own game of fixing her daughter, she could also feel Flow’s reticence and confusion. It made Essence angry to think that others were seeing this and she would sometimes pinch flow in the midst of loving her. Then Flow would cry louder and Essence could coo and exclaim love with more passion and animation.

Some days Essence hated herself for this obvious manipulation. Some days she hated Flow for giving her the idea.

The day they had come home from the hospital, just Essence and Flow, alone in their tiny one bedroom apartment, Flow had cried every time Essence put her down. But the moment she picked her up and held her, the moment she sang or put Flow to her breast, Flow would relax into the comfort of safety and love. When Essence’s mom visited and held the baby, the baby would cry until given back to her. Essence had basked in that feeling. Had grown stronger and more confident as a woman. She was loved and she was needed.

As Flow got bigger and cried less, as she allowed others to hold and sing to her, Essence felt that confidence slip. The story she had built around their little family, that Essence and Flow were for and necessary to each other, began to crack. But when Flow would cry for real, when issues of pain or hunger hit, it was still only mom that gave her comfort.

So, with the knowledge that her job was to take care of and protect her daughter, Essence found ways to remind Flow that she was needed. Most often Flow didn’t know who was doling out the pinches and the doors were easily made to look like an accident.

But Flow was a clever three year old girl, and Essence was beginning to see that she had her work cut out for her. The clever girls were often the ones to try too soon for independence and put themselves in the most danger.

She might have to step up her game.
# # #