Milo

Wednesdays were the worst.

At least on Thursdays the bullies were tired and on Fridays distracted. But on Wednesdays they were at the top of their game. They had had two days to recover from the weekend’s grogginess and perfect their dark arts. And now, like a gang of street cats, they would wait for him. Tease, torment, and torture. The mornings weren’t complete until they had produced at least one tear or received a minimum of one packet of crisps as payment for “protection.”

Wednesdays were the worst.

Milo hated getting out of bed on these days. Want not Wednesdays. Waste away Wednesdays. Why oh why must he have to go through this miserable routine every Wednesday. But go through it he must. His dad had told him that he was a big boy now and because he was a big boy he sometimes had to do things he didn’t like. “That’s a part of growing up,” his dad said.

Milo didn’t feel ready to grow up. He felt that it was all happening too quickly. None of the other boys in his class had to do the things he did. Joshua’s mum still made his lunch, Peter’s still walked with him to school. Abdul told him that every morning his mum would wake him up with a huge kiss on the cheek and in the winter would put his clothes on the radiator so that they were as warm as an oven when he got dressed. The best Milo could hope for was that it wasn’t raining when he walked to school alone.

Milo missed his old life. He wished he had a “normal” family again. In golden moments, daydreaming in class, he would picture the three of them around the breakfast table laughing. The sun streaming through the open window behind them, eggs frying on the hob, toast sitting warm and butter-soaked, just how dad liked it. When was the last time they had done that? Milo couldn’t remember. Life was different now. Things had changed.

The ominous grey clouds made that Wednesday morning particularly depressing. They were pregnant with the possibility of rain. They held a silent promise which Milo had no desire to hear. The quiet of the house offered him little comfort. As Milo went about his morning routine, he was a ghost in his own home. Smiling faces watched from photo frames on the mantlepiece and the ticking of the kitchen clock was his only company.

For most of the time, Milo’s parents were restricted to their bedroom. They seemed to sleep endlessly, shut off from the world and oblivious to everything that was happening. They would get regular visits from doctors and each time the conclusion would be the same; “they are stable. They just need their rest. If you ever need anything, you can call me.”

Milo never did call. There was nothing the doctors could do for him. They couldn’t help with his homework, they couldn’t cuddle on the sofa watching action films, they couldn’t get a Chinese take away from The Golden Temple on a Friday night and play board games until long past bedtime. They were useless to him. Acting only as a constant reminder that things were not returning to how they used to be.

“Stable.” Milo hated that word. He used to ask when his parents would be improving, but after dozens of disappointments he gave up.

With his bed made, lunch packed, and his bag and shoes sitting expectantly by the door, Milo made one final visit to his parents’ bedroom. As he gently pushed the door open, he was greeted by the familiar stale air inside. All was quiet. It was peaceful. Edging to slip out into the hall, Milo stopped as he caught the gaze of his mum from the bed. She raised her arm slightly as a flicker of a smile crossed her face, “good morning my son,” she said weakly. Milo walked softly over to her bedside and took her hand in his. “I am so proud of you,” said his mum. “You’re such a strong boy.” Milo smiled warmly. He stroked his mum’s arm as he saw tears begin to form in her deep brown eyes. “I am sorry…” she started, before her voice broke. She gazed at him lovingly, unable to finish the sentence. Milo kissed her on the forehead “Mum, it is okay. Even grown-ups need looking after sometimes.”

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