Flash: B is for Billy (Mom Eyes 2)

Photo by Kat J on Unsplash

Robyn shifted her body, rocking her weight from one foot to the another, waiting in the long line outside of the city’s Civic Registration Center. At fourteen, she wasn’t the youngest in line, though she was the youngest without a parent in tow. The three other minors were Freaks, with clearly newly emerging physical powered traits. The six-year old girl, shirtless for the itsy bitsy wings growing out her back, danced around in her tutu and tights and fairy wand having the time of her life with a very scared young mother looking hopeful at the same time. The mother’s stained coat showed wear at the pockets and sleeves, her hair needed a trim, and lines of worry already edged between her eyes and the corners of her mouth. Getting a registered powered stipend might make their lives better, rather than worse. Winged angel types got some good Hollywood jobs, especially cute golden-haired girls.

The Freak teen turning green – the skin a dismal, about-to-puke tinge; the hair just starting to have a brilliant green at the part and his badly shaved scruff – he likely wouldn’t do as well. People didn’t respond well to people outside the normal color range. Heck, they didn’t respond well to people inside the normal color range. Hispanic on her father’s side gave Robyn dark hair, eyes, and skin – just enough people questioned her “whiteness.” It’s why she chose German instead of Spanish as her high school language, instead of the easy A from her fluency visiting her family in Honduras every summer.

The other child registering was the sad one. Bumps, swellings, and twists along the visible arms and legs poking out of the blanket indicated changing into something … else. The change looked painful. The father and mother traded off holding the crying child. Everyone else gave them a wide berth, even the happy angel kid.

Having enough of it, Robyn gave up her place in line toward the front and walked down the line to the potential Monster. Most of the line were eighteen-year-old males, or males about to be eighteen, doing their civic duty to register for a possible draft. Like herself, they were taking advantage school being closed for the winter break. The balance were people hoping, or fearing, the Strange Thing that just happened in their life required Registration.

“Hello,” Robyn said to the parents once she arrived, standing straight and tall, glad her recent growth spurt gave her some real height, although she would never be considered tall.

The father startled, looking down at her. No one in line had made eye contact with the family, let alone talked to them. “Um, hi.”

“The office should open soon, but it will be a while until they get to you.” She smiled, first at the dad and then the mom, making eye contact. “If one or both of you would like to run across the street to get a coffee, I could stay here and keep your spot.” Robyn moved her eyes to the kid, smiling wider and gently touching one of the bumps. “I know it can be scary.”

The child looked up at her gentle touch, solid black eyes below a hard ridge unibrow stared. Robyn poured reassurance into her eyes, and the child stopped crying.

“How?” the mother breathed, barely audible.

“It’s going to be okay.” Robyn smile twisted a little, offering her finger to the child who reached for it with club-like claws. “Well, as okay as it can be.” She diverted her attention to the mother for a moment. “Would you like me to hold the kid? You’ve been carrying the load for a long time.”

The mother sank into Robyn’s eyes. They held something she hadn’t seen since her own parents died. It wasn’t hope so much as confidence that the world could be made better. That she could be better. “Yes, sure.”

“What’s your name little one?” Robyn took the heavy bundle, wincing only a little as the sharp claws gripped tightly.

“His name is Billy.” The father said.

“Billy,” Robyn hopped the body up to her hip like when she babysat her cousins, “I’m Robyn, nice to meet you.” A quick look at the parents, before returning to staring into the child’s eyes. “If one of you stay here, the other can run and get food. You got to be hungry.”

“Yes, it took us three hours just to get here.” The mother said. “We live in Washington.”

The Registration Center was one of two in the state that did Voluntary Powered Intake, the other at the Capital.

“Would you like something?” the father asked quietly.

Robyn shook her head. “I grabbed breakfast before leaving. I’m used to eating early before catching the bus for school.”

“A soda? Donut?” the mother offered.

“We don’t need anything, do we Billy?” Robyn said, switching to child sing-song. Focusing on the kid, seeing if she could get a smile. “All set to get registered.”

“Oh,” the mother muttered, before repeating with deeper understanding. “Oh. Should … should your parents be here?”

“Dad had to work today.”

The adults immediately understood that meant no one at home, and the fact Robyn didn’t mention a mother implied a whole host of things, since even now women usually ended up with the child if there was a separation.

“I’ll get the food.” The couple quickly exchanged their standard order preferences, and the father headed across the street.

“So Robyn,” the mother smoothed her child’s hair, several strands falling with the caress. “looking forward to the registration?”

Robyn pressed her lips together, holding back her first several responses. Even at fourteen, she had experienced prejudice, known death, faced off against the authorities, and lacked trust in the world. But still, in her core, she knew people could do better. They just needed help sometimes. Her father worked so hard. No one was meant to do this all alone. And those that just made life more difficult, she had no patience for. None of this needed to be shared with the random adult, or the others in line.

“As much as you.” Robyn wiggled the toddler’s finger. Just under two was her guess. “So Billy, how many words do you know?”

“He, um, he’s having trouble since his teeth changed.”

“Oh, I remember when a girl in my class got braces, couldn’t talk for a while because the mouth was all strange.” Robyn bounced the kid in her arms, settling the blanket better. “Don’t worry Billy, you’ll be talking up a storm once things are settled.”

The line moved. The first third entered the building to be processed.

“Thank you.” The mother whispered once they settled in their new spot, people first ebbed closer, then back once the new positions settled.

Robyn glanced up. She guessed some confusion passed over her face because the mother answered as if she asked a question.

“For treating him like a kid.” The mother’s hand fluttered. “Everything was great. Grandparents, family all visiting for Thanksgiving, then … the next day he started …” A sob escaped. “The ER said to register him ASAP. We couldn’t, well … it … we had to talk about it but there really isn’t a choice, is there? I just…”

Robyn freed up one hand and gripped the mother’s hand. “He is still a kid and will still need you.” Her dark eyes met the mom’s brown ones. “You can do this.”

“I can do this,” the mother breathed.

“You and your husband. Talk about things. Talk to Billy. Be the family he needs, whether they institutionalize him or leave him with you. Do your best. That is all anyone can ask.” Robyn poured her power out, feeling it reaching it’s limits. This is the longest she ever actively used it and she needed to save the rest to give Billy a cushion from the pain a little longer. She could feel the edge of one of his gifts giving him the ability to reduce pain; she didn’t want too much, because he was still a kid and needed the limits pain gave, like when learning not to touch a stove, a little pain really helps, but he needed some reduction until the changes tearing him apart were complete. They were learning together how to get to that gift. “Just make sure he knows he is loved. My dad has been through a lot, but that is the one thing he makes sure I know. Every day he tells me and shows me. Hugs me.”

The mother nodded, and Robyn returned her attention and the last of her energy to the kid. When the father returned, they were much closer to the door. Once the parents had eaten, Robyn offered the child back to the dad when he reached for Billy. She had done all she could for now.

“Your father, does he know you are here?” the mother asked.

“No, he would worry.” Robyn smiled sadly, unable drag the energy to put on a happy front. “It’s not like him knowing will change anything.”

“No, probably not.” The woman grasped the teen’s hand. “But he will want to know.”

“I’ll tell him. When I get home. I promise.”

(words 1542, first published 1/11/2023)

Series: Mom Eyes

  1. R is for Robyn (12/28/21)
  2. B is for Billy (4/3/22)
  3. H is for Hoot (4/10/22)
  4. N is for Natalie (4/17/22)