There is a crash. There is a shout. Xavier pulls the covers closer to his face. His stomach tightens. These are the usual sounds of the night. A bang. Another shout. Xavier closes his eyes, He lets his mind drift. Drift into a world where pain is myth.
The kettle is boiling. The bacon is frying. Xavier's father grunts at his coffee. Xavier's mother sets a bowl of bran in front of Xavier.
Now sweetie we know your birthday is next week but...
Xavier can't even comprehend the words she is saying. Xavier is looking at her face, shocked. His mother looks almost the same as when she kissed him goodnight. Almost. The same ringlets, so golden they seem to glow. The same sparkling blue eyes. The same soft pale skin. Except for the large purpling shadow around her left eye. His mother is still talking to him. Xavier turns to look at his father. His father is staring back at him.
What happened to mummy's face?
Silence descended on the house. Xavier's mothers head snapped to look at her husband. Xavier wasn't sure why he asked. He knew the answer.
I fell, his mother whispered.
No you didn't. I hit you.
Xavier's mothers arms reached protectively for her son. Her husbands eyes had not moved from Xaviers.
Why? Xavier asked.
Because I lost my job.
Why's that mummy's fault?
Sweetie it's... Xavier's mother began.
Shut up honey her husband snapped, She was angry with me.
Please don't hit her again daddy.
The class is abuzz. Abuzz with tales of unicorns and troll hunting. The children have no time for simple sums. No time for spelling lessons. They are lost. Lost in their worlds of ignorant bliss.
All except one.
Xavier is quiet and he is thinking. A thought is building and the wheels are turning. Xavier believes he has struck gold. Better than gold. Xavier believes he has struck genius. Better than genius. Xavier believes he has the answer.
Xavier holds his mothers hand tightly. Another crash echoes from the other side of the door. His mother takes a deep breath.
No mummy, he promised.
Xavier's mother glances down at him. Tears well in her eyes. Her hand strokes his face.
I love you she whispers, Wait here.
Xavier's heart begins to beat faster as he watches his mother disappear into the house. There is silence for a few minutes. Suspense itches at Xaviers skin. A sudden crash makes Xavier jump. The sound of his mothers scream propels him forward. The door bangs shut behind him. His father has his mother pushed up against a wall. Neither of them have noticed Xavier is there.
Xaviers voice is barely a squeak. His fathers head snaps towards his son.
His fathers face softens.
I'm sorry he whispers.
Xaviers mother relaxes and her hands reach up to stroke her husbands face. Xaviers parents eyes lock. Something glows in Xaviers fathers face.
Shh Xaviers mother croons.
Her husbands hands soften on her shoulders. They slide down the length of her arms and find the small of her back.
I'm sorry Xaviers mothers husband whispers as he kisses her forehead, I'm so sorry.
Xaviers mother has not returned from her bedroom. Xaviers father cooks baked beans at the stove. It is a strange sight.
Sleeping. I didn't want to wake her.
Xaviers father slides a plate across the table. Xavier catches it with one hand and plunges a fork into it with the other.
I think I can help.
Xaviers father looks up at him, his eyebrows are raised.
What do you mean son?
You love us.
Xaviers fathers breath catches.
I'm glad you know he whispers.
Because you love us the world will understand.
Xaviers fathers eyes narrow, The world?
If you ask for help they'll help you daddy. I know they will.
What makes you so sure son?
We are family. The world is family. God says so. Why shouldnt we act like it?
Oh son...if only you knew...
Lets just say...
The workers, they walk through the cold yet crowded streets. Snowflakes drift through the air. The rest upon warm fur coats before melting and leaving. A man leads the quiet hopeful crowd. A silver cross hangs at his neck and a wad of paper dances with the wind in his hand. Endless names are scrawled in black ink upon these pages. Names that scream of pain and hunger. The palace rises before them out of the gloom, like giant icicles reaching for the sky, longing to feel the sun. Still on the crowd walks. Children and mothers, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, fathers and grandfathers. Friends. United. Together. For one cause. They sought their father, their almighty King. In sickness and in suffering they cry out to him. They seek his comforting arms. Yet as they near they are greeted by not their father and King but by cavalry. Upon the workers they did fire. Down the workers did fall, children and grown alike. As the workers ran and scattered, faith did shatter. In secret from among the crowd a man did rise. Ninel was his name and strong was his voice. He was a thinker and a tinkerer. He was also a doer and a knower. To him, the workers gathered. To the workers he did promise, peace in war, bread in famine and land in their country. Away their sad old King was sent. Now Ninel held power but not yet balance. For peace he paid the price of not just silver but also lives. To offer bread he had to steal, plunder and pillage. In regards to the land, to give means only to take. Promises he kept yet the people could not forget. One family he promised, all comrades he declared. Yet when his people went hungry he was never unfed. When the rain drowned them out, he was warm in his bed. To be equal is vulnerable. To be trusting is foolish. So many ideals yet so little is real.
There is silence. Xavier looks at his father. His father looks at Xavier.
People are better than that.
Xaviers fathers rough fingers gently push the hair back behind Xaviers ear.
Your faith in the world is a damn mystery to me.
Why wouldn't I have faith daddy?
Because of me.
His mother and father are in the kitchen. They are talking quietly among themselves. Xavier knows it is about him.
He sees good where there is none Xaviers father says.
He is young babe.
And we aren't?
He hasn't seen what we have.
What's that supposed to mean?
There is silence for a moment. A draw opens suddenly and closes just as quick. Something heavy hits the bench top. There is no sound but the quick flicking of pages.
There. Read that.
Xaviers father sounds bored as he recites back the words.
Hope springs eternal in the human breast; man never is but always to be blest: the soul uneasy ad confin'd from home, rests and expatiates in a life to come.
What the bloody hell is that bunch of posh crap meant to mean to me?
Xavier flinches. His father sounds angry.
It speaks of waiting out the pain. For after the pain there can be joy.
What bloody joy?
Various sucking and moaning sounds follow. Xavier sneaks off to his bedroom. At least they wont be fighting tonight.