your mother kisses Nathan. You see their tongues. It grosses you out but you can't look away. His hand is on her thigh and she smiles and smiles.


You sigh. You finish your drink. You try to look out the window but only see reflections from inside the restaurant. The city is asleep. You feel like you should sleep, too.


at one point, you have to pee, so you shuffle away from the table, looking around for any signage denoting a bathroom. You walk what seems like three laps through the restaurant until a waitress wordlessly points at a hallway. Down the hall you find the bathroom.


You take care of your business, wash your hands, and go back out. In the hallway you almost walk into Nathan. He's way taller than he seemed with your mother by his side. He looks at you in a way you can only describe as smug. You stare at him, feeling very cold and very out of breath suddenly.


"Charles, isn't it?" Nathan says, his smile hitting the sides of his face like a crack in a wall. You want to run past him, to run into your mother's arms. But Nathan's standing right in the middle of the hall, not leaving enough place on either side to slip by. You don't answer, because the answer seems obvious. Surely your mother has spoken about you on multiple occasions.

Nathan huffs, and it sounds at a vague attempt at laughter. He doesn't move, and neither do you. "You're just going to have to get used to this, son" he says. Son, son. "Your mother and I love each other. Sometimes a single mother uses her son as a replacement for a husband. But. Women don't ever truly want to be alone. So now that she has me, you're relieved of your duty."


"If you think about it, I'm doing you a favour," he says, and you push him, running back to the table. Your mother is sipping wine. You run at her, slide onto your knees next to the table and clutch at her legs, burying your face against her leg. You hear her ask something, but it's muffled by her skin, and the fact that you are crying. You feel like you're about to suffocate even as you take deep breaths. For a second, her hand is on the back of your head, comforting you--


There's swearing, and there's a second pair of hands grabbing at your hair, pulling you away from your mother. White hot pain shoots through your scalp, through your head like thousands of fireworks erupting simultaneously. You scream. You cry so loud you don't recognize it as your own fault. You clutch at your mother's clothing and rip something. A skirt, a vest. You're picked up, vice grip on the fabric. You feel something wet run down your forehead.

[A loud noise rings out, and everything goes white.]