the heart of cinder

On a sultry, humid, July afternoon, Cinder carried eggs, milk, bread, and cheese to his home. Cinder had a small, cozy home, inhabited by his lovely mother, his charming father, and his good-natured older brother, all whom were watching television when Cinder entered. Cinder, an attractive boy with high cheekbones and dark almond eyes, did not acknowledge his family members as he walked past them to the kitchen to put away his newly purchased groceries. Cinder’s family members did not greet him, either. As his family members laughed and conversed on their comfy couches and felt the soft breeze of their little black fan on their cheeks, Cinder put away the eggs, milk, bread, and cheese, annoyed.

Cinder was not always annoyed while putting away groceries or did not always purposefully ignore his family members until his lovely mother broke her ankle. He was in the white 2003 Toyota Corolla, waiting for his mother to emerge from the pale-yellow liquor store when it happened. She came out quickly, carrying a 30 pack of eggs and a low-fat milk, as usual, when she suddenly fell on her knees and all the eggs cracked, which was unusual. Cinder rushed to her side as she unsteadily got back up on her feet.

A few days later, when Cinder’s mother had gone to the hospital because she had trouble walking, they discovered that one of her ankles was indeed broken. She wore a shiny-white cast that covered her entire leg, ankle, and heel. She restricted her movements as much as possible, so she no longer went to work, nor carried any groceries. She rested at home in hopes of a speedy recovery, as her doctor advised. Since then, Cinder had been in charge of all his mother’s errands, such as: cleaning the rugs, curtains, beds; cooking beans, soups, and meats; shopping for groceries, calling cards, and random household goods. Cinder was also a full-time student, who studied social change and social institutions that influence human behavior and thought.

Cinder was now annoyed that despite his studies, his lovely mother, charming father, and good-natured brother believed that he should resume his mother’s errands because he does not have an income. When Cinder questioned his able father and brother, his father reasoned that he generates the most income and that is enough, and Cinder’s brother agreed, reiterating that he also has an income and thus that is also enough. His mother approved her husband and eldest son’s responses, reminding them all that she did all these chores while she had a job. She had done it without assistance from any of them before, and Cinder should be able to do the same. Cinder wondered why they couldn’t divide the work between himself, his father, and his brother, so that six hands would help his lovely mother instead of only two.

A month had gone by and Cinder still cooked, cleaned, and served his family on their beautiful white ceramic plates. A month had gone by and Cinder was as annoyed as ever, speaking to his family in vexed tones when they asked him to make more tortillas because they were running out. While Cinder warmed more corn tortillas for his family, he thought about how his grades had fallen and his hobbies were left unattended, all because his no longer lovely mother broke her ankle.

As Cinder placed the warmed corn tortillas on his family members’ respective plates, his no longer lovely mother told him to serve her more cold water because her glass was nearly empty. As Cinder poured the icy water into her glass, his brother told him to pour the water in his glass too, and quickly, because he was thirsty. Just before Cinder was going to make a snappy comment, his mother shrieked, and Cinder realized that he had over-poured his mother’s glass, and a few drops of water had spilled on her lovely purple dress. His mother shouted at him, and called him useless, stupid, good-for-nothing, and an imbecile. Cinder’s father and brother tried to console her by telling her that it was only water and that he didn’t spill that much. She did not listen to them and ordered Cinder to leave her sight because he was an idiot and she did not feel like speaking to one.

The next day, Cinder and his family members did not acknowledge the fight the day before. They still commanded Cinder to do this and to go do that, and his mother still referred to him as incompetent. Just as his mother did not understand him, Cinder did not understand his mother. He felt embers build in his stomach when he thought of his mother as cruel, ungrateful, and irritating.

Another month had gone by and Cinder could no longer take his mother’s insults or the demands of his father and brother. Cinder left while his mother slept on the sofa with the television on, her mouth open and her hand on her belly, moving up and down with her slow, steady breaths. Cinder stared at her for a minute, wondering whether his decision was the right one. He then moved his gaze to the cast on her leg, still shiny white because she made him polish it that morning, and each morning before that. It didn’t take him long to make a decision when he remembered the way she shouted and complained as he polished her cast.

He ran away and took his video game consoles, his favorite snacks, his headphones, his music player, his favorite blanket, and his stuffed rabbit he named Conejita when he was three.

The day that Cinder had left, his family reasoned that he probably went to go purchase the cheese they were missing, the special soaps he needed to wipe the windows, or the vegetables they craved for tonight’s dinner. When Cinder did not return that night, or the night after, or the night after that, his family members did not cry in each other’s arms, they did not hold each other and wonder what they had done to Cinder to make him leave them. Instead, they whimpered to themselves before they fell asleep, hugging themselves tightly. Cinder’s no longer lovely mother, his no longer charming father and his no longer good-natured brother knew the reason why Cinder had left, although they did not dare say it aloud.

Cinder did not return home until he graduated college and generated income. He now owned a small but growing business, one that he was very proud of but did not describe to his family members when he visited them. When Cinder’s family hugged him and cried tears of joy, expressing how much they have missed him, Cinder only noticed that his lovely mother’s shiny white cast was gone.

This visit was like a business trip to Cinder—he returned to forgive. For these past few years, Cinder had been gnawed at by the images of his mother whipping him with her tongue, his father often looking the other way, and his brother doing the same. What Cinder did not know, however, was that this business trip would not be as he planned, because moments later Cinder asked his now lovely mother for forgiveness. He did not mean to abandon them, he did not mean to let his mother live the life she lived before she had broken her ankle, where she went to her full time job that generated income and came home to cook, clean, and run errands. He did not mean to let her do everything and let his father and brother do nothing. Cinder forgot about his mother’s past complaints and insults and only remembered the moment when she gave him Conejita when he was three so that he would never be alone wherever he was. He remembered love.

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4 thoughts on “the heart of cinder

  1. This was a great story, but I felt so torn. I have had 3 hip surgeries in the last five years, so I felt bad for the mom at first. Until it became clear she was emotionally abusing her son. I’ve had rocky relations with my parents my whole life, but especially in the last five years when my health declined. Long story short, I swore I would never talk to my mother again. I’m tired of her emotional abuse and trying to convince me I’m a horrible person. So when Cinder forgets the bad things and forgives his family, I didn’t know how to feel. It is so hard to emancipate yourself from your family. It’s not the same as a friend. *sigh* It wasn’t really a happy or sad ending. It just was, which is very similar to life.

    You’re a talented writer 🙂 Looking forward to reading some of your other stories. It might take me a while though because I’m reading so many things right now :$

    • Thank you for your honesty and for sharing your experience. I sincerely appreciate it. And I think that you bring up a great point, that it is difficult to break away from your family because they aren’t just friends. Friends come and go, like seasons, but your family is always yours. There are a lot of things I didn’t explore in this short story that I should have, but I will definitely try to incorporate a more realistic/not as easy approach in my next stories. Once again, thank you for your critique and kind words 🙂 Also, don’t worry about it–I’m just so glad you stopped by to read my post in the first place. xx

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