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“I don’t have a lot of time right now. I have to go to work in a few hours. I’m just going to have to take you home.”
This was the day I was finally released. After a small checkup, the doctor gave the okay, and Mom had come alone to take me out of the hospital. Since I had woken up, it had mostly been just mom. I supposed I had scared Mackenzie away when I suddenly attacked her, and when it came to my other sisters, we simply weren’t that close. I felt an aching in my heart as I thought of that. I missed the relationship I had with my sisters, and to see it all disappear just like that, was a lot to handle. Mom hadn’t said much. She looked tired and overworked. When we entered the car, she made such an announcement.
“Can I get something to eat on the way?” I asked.
“They didn’t feed you in the hospital?” Mom asked, a look of irritation on her face before she quickly smoothed it out. “I’m sorry, honey. There might be something in the fridge at home.”
“Now, honey, I know you were just sick, but maybe fast food isn’t the right thing to have when you’re still sick- wait, what?”
“I said it’s fine.” I smiled at her. “Let’s go home.”
Mom stared at me for a second, and then snapped out of it. “Ah, okay.”
Things were different now. I couldn’t help but think that had this been the other world, mom would have done whatever she could for me. She was such a son-con. This mom wasn’t the same as that mom, but she wasn’t bad either. The old me definitely would have acted childish and angry that she wouldn’t even take me out after such a tragic event. However, I was different now too. I could see her exhaustion.
As we left the hospital and headed down the road, I couldn’t help but watch her out of the corner of my eye. I still hadn’t confirmed how similar things were between this world and my coma world. My earlier conversation with Anna had given me some hope, but I could have been seeing connections that weren’t there or were even explainable given the context. However, there was one thing that I knew in that world that I didn’t know in this world. It was a big thing too, and if it was true, then I might as well assume it was all true.
“Yes, honey?” Mom responded instinctively, her eyes still focused on driving.
I bit my lip. At one point, I felt angry that mom hadn’t told me all of this earlier. Now, I understood it completely. It wasn’t something easy to talk about. How could I just tell her?
“You’ve been working hard, all the time, to take care of us,” I spoke slowly.
“Not enough…” Mom sighed, and when I looked at her, she blushed. “It’s not your fault, honey. I’ll cover the hospital bills somehow.”
“I’ll work it off,” I responded.
“I’ll get a job and work it off. I was the one in a coma, I should pay for it.” I responded, my hands tightening in my lap. “It’s the least I could do.”
“Honey, you just need to worry about graduating from school next year. It’s my responsibility to take care of my children.” Mom responded.
“You shouldn’t have to do it all by yourself,” I responded. “You don’t have to…”
“It’s fine, Noah. What’s bringing this on? We all have to live with the choices we make. That’s why you kids should make the best choices for you.”
“Like London marrying that looser?”
“Honey… don’t call him that. He’s going to be your brother-in-law soon.” Mom responded, but she didn’t seem upset by my words.
“I wouldn’t consider him a brother even if he was my brother.” I snorted. “Family take care of each other. He’s spent his entire life mooching off of London. He hasn’t done a thing for anyone but himself.”
“Noah!” She gave me an admonishing look before turning back to the street. “I don’t necessarily disagree that he’s not the best choice, but neither of us has the right to get involved.”
“You could not help them with the marriage.”
“Is that what this is about?” Mom asked incredulously. “Are you worried I’m going to spend what little money we have on London?”
“No, mom.” I closed my eyes. “That’s not what I mean.”
“Then, what? Explain yourself.” She responded, sounding a bit upset.
“I’m going to take care of you!” I responded, nearly shouting. “I’m going to take care of you and my sisters. I haven’t stepped up all this time, and it’s about time I do.”
Mom’s eyes darted to me, and she let out a laugh. “Are you okay? Should we go back to the doctor? What is this about?”
Feeling like my words weren’t getting through this time, I gave up on beating around the bush.
“I know, mom.”
“I know about the affairs!” I declared. “I know about Mackenzie.”
Mom’s expression turned cold, my hands tightened on the wheel and she slowly parked on the side of the street before turning to me. “Did London say something?”
I shook my head. “No, mom… it’s not important.”
“Who told you… your father?”
“What? I have no father…”
“That bastard!” She slammed her hands on the wheel. “What did he do this time? Look, whatever he told you…”
“I know the whole story!” I cried out. “I know about the party. I know you were raped.”
“Raped…” Mom seemed shocked. “I was… drunk.”
“You were passed out.” I shot back. “Ms. Dean sent the copyboy in because she was jealous of your relationship. She got you drunk and then had you raped.”
A wave of expressions crossed mom’s face. I saw confusion, frustration, realization, anger, and rage. Her body shook, and for a moment she reminded me of my mom from that world. Then, she let out a sigh, sadness filling her eyes.
“How do you know all of this?”
“I found out,” I responded coyly. “You can’t work for that woman anymore.”
Mom let out a snort. “I can’t afford to leave either. If I push a little more with that over time, I’ll finally get that promotion she promised me. Ms. Dean is leaving, and if I get her old job, it’d mean more money for all of us.”
“She’ll…” I was going to say she’d never give that promotion, but I realized that would only crush mom further. “I also know what dad did after.”
Mother shook. “Oh.”
Her word was simple, but the defeated look on her face said everything.
I reached out and grabbed mom’s face. “You’re my mother. You’re the woman who raised me. Do you understand? I love you, and nothing else matters.”
Mom looked at me, and I could see countless unshed tears welling in her eyes. “Honey… I…”
I reached out and kissed her lips gently. “I’m going to take care of you. I’m going to take care of them all. You’re the family I’ve chosen, and where I came from doesn’t matter to me. You understand?”
“N-noah!” She broke into a bawling cry, wrapping her arms around me.
My mother started sobbing at the side of the road, and I held onto her. We remained like that for nearly an hour. I couldn’t help but think that mom had become quite the crybaby since before. She was acting like a man. No, I was getting my world mixed up again. She was acting exactly like a woman in her world would act. She was vulnerable, emotional, and also full of the strength to bear what no guy could even tolerate.
When she finally recovered, she pulled away, wiping at her red puffy eyes. “Oh, dear. I’m sorry. It seems that I lost myself for a moment.”
“It’s fine.” I stroked mom’s hair, smiling at her.
She shook slightly, pulling away from me. “You should watch that. If you treat another girl like that, she might fall in love with you.”
“Is that so?” I smirked.
She looked away shyly. “Well, not me. I used to change your diapers. However, other women might think you’re flirting with them.”
“Well, it’s a good thing you’re my mom,” I smirked, wrapping my arm around her. “I’ve already stolen your heart.”
She let out a genuine laugh, a smile showing on her face like the woman from my coma, but somehow more innocent and cute. I couldn’t help but recall all of the other naughty expressions my mother had given me in that other world.
“Honey?” Mom looked at me innocently.
I pulled my hands away and coughed awkwardly. I love my mother, and we had developed such a strange relationship in that world. I wasn’t sure I wanted to make my relationship in this world just as impure. I decided it’d be best to hold back, at least for now. For the moment, I just wanted a mom.
“Let’s get going. You have work.”
“Ah!” Mom seemed to jump out of her daze, but then her expression turned sour. “What am I going to do about my work?”
“You mean, what should you do about Ms. Dean?”
Mom bit her lip. “I’m not sure I can look at her in the face, knowing what she’s done.”
“Take me to work with you.”
“Just bring me to work.” I smiled. “I have a plan.”
“Just… trust me.”
Mom looked at me for a second and then nodded. She started the car back up and drove off, and it was soon that we were home. At the moment, my sisters were all gone to school. Mom went to take a nap exactly as she had said. That left me with a rare period in which I was home. Instinctively, I went to start picking up, only to realize the house wasn’t nearly as much of a pigsty as it had been from the other world. The girls all picked up after each other, and it turned out all of the messes were started by me. It was no wonder I annoyed them so much.
I picked up the messes I had made and cleaned my room. As I pulled out the tons of porn I had stored away, I shook my head. It just didn’t appeal to me like it once had. I still kept it, but I didn’t see myself needing it as much. Perhaps, I would toss it away eventually. Keeping track of the time, I realized it was near the time my sisters got home. I went to the kitchen and started cooking.
With six girls who worried about their weight instead of six vacuum cleaners, we had more selection than I was used to. I cooked a small meal using noodles, meatballs, and cheese to create a casserole. As I was cooking, I heard a knock on the back door. I opened it, and couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow.
“H-h-h-hi!” Abigail squeaked, looking at me before blushing. “You know my name.”
“Of course, I know your name.” I reached out. “Come in.”
She squeaked, taking a step back. “The school was informed that you’re awake again. I- uh… was sent to… um… give you your missing school work.”
“Is that so?” I asked. “I thought you were just worried about me.”
“W-w-w-worried?” her eyes widened fearfully. “Why would I be worried?”
“Haven’t you been watching me all this time?” I asked. “I was waiting for you to approach me, but you were always so scared.”
“Th-th-that’s… not true! I don’t… it’s not like I w-w-w-watch you…” Her face turned red.
“Really?” I leaned forward out my door. “That’s a shame because I have been watching you.”
“W-w-w-watching me?” She looked at me in shock.
“Mmm…” I nodded. “You see… I’ve been fantasizing about seeing you in all these naughty cosplays. I want to take pictures of you posing for me. I’m a bit of a photographer.”
“Ah! Th-th-that… indecency…” She stumbled back.
“If you’re ever interested, let me know,” I smirked, reaching out with my hand.
She seemed frozen, her eyes on my hand as it approached her body. Her eyes closed and her breathing became staggard as she waited for me to touch her. Then, I grabbed the homework folder and yanked it from her hands. Her eyes opened again, she turned red, and then she turned and fled.
I let out a little chuckle as I turned back in, freezing when I saw someone else having entered from the other side, Dawn.
“Noah, you never told me you liked photography.”
Ahhh… I guess we could do this too.