Forgotten Gods: Picture of Ruin

A sharp pain hits me between the eyes, my headache returning tenfold. I squint as I place a hand between my eyes, my nose scrunching. I stand, opening them again as every child stops what they were doing and looks toward me.

“It’s what you like, right? What you are.” Alex stands, holding up the picture. “Ruin.”

“Mom!” Ezra yells from downstairs, his voice echoing off the walls and causing me to drop my toothbrush into the sink. “Eric won’t share the milk!” 

I hear a yelp followed by something crashing to the floor. 

“Boys!” I snap back, leaning out of the bathroom door. “If you break another bowl, you are both grounded.” 

I hear more commotion as they try to clean up their mess. I turn back, collecting my toothbrush from the sink. The shower behind me cuts off and Emmet, my husband, sticks his head out. Dark wet hair sticks to his head as he looks at me, then toward the open door. A small smile quirks his lips as he steps out, grabbing a towel with our initials on it from the nearby rack. He dries himself off before wrapping it low around his hips. 

“I’ll take care of it.” He places a kiss on my head, and reaches around, placing a hand on my growing stomach. “Besides, we can’t have you too stressed now, can we?”

I lean into his embrace, resting my hand above his, my smile matching his now. 

He kisses me one more time before slipping out of the bathroom and into our bedroom to change. I lean down over the sink to finish brushing my teeth before running a brush through my blonde locks.

Six months pregnant. We found out the gender the other day but wanted to surprise his family and ours. I still haven’t thought of a name. I figured it would come to me, but nothing yet. Sighing, I turn off the sink and head into the bedroom to get dressed. The commotion downstairs is filled with more laughter than yelling now, and I giggle to myself. I open the closet and take off my husband’s shirt, picking out a white and black striped top and a pair of black flare maternity pants. One plus side of being pregnant is that at least the clothes are comfortable. 

I make my way downstairs to find the boys sitting in front of the TV watching cartoons. Both happy and content to finish their breakfast. 

I raise my eyebrow at my husband, who is currently watching me from behind his coffee mug in the kitchen. “What?” He smirks. “They’re quiet.” 

Shaking my head, I reach over, grabbing a bagel and apple. “You know the rules. No TV until after they eat.” 

He clicks his teeth at me. “So strict. Where is your sense of fun?” 

“I think my fun got us in this predicament in the first place.” 

We laugh together, my heart swelling for this man. I turn, grabbing my purse and fishing my keys out. “Come on, boys. We’re gonna be late for school.” 

#####

“And Cindy at the faculty meeting was not happy. How can they cut even more funding, you know? We don’t have the supplies as is.” I nod along with April’s words. Kids with their backpacks dart down the halls, going to their classrooms as we avoid running into them. She is right. We are getting cut again while the high school down the road got more funding. They have a football team who just made nationals. We, a kindergarten school, don’t have those things. 

We stop in front of my classroom as my students walk inside, waving at me as they pass. The wood sign reads Mrs. Hope’s room. I place my hand on her shoulder, and offer her a warm smile. “Look, I am sure it will be fine, okay.”

She smiles brightly at me. “You are always so kind and positive. How do you do it?” 

I shrug as the bell rings. “It’s a gift.” 

She says nothing else as she smiles and walks along with some students toward her class. 

Once inside, I get everyone settled and begin the day. The morning is spent going over our shapes and a few fun games to keep them engaged. We stop for lunch and recess, and by one that afternoon, we are back to work. I want something fun to close the day, so I decide on an activity. 

“Okay.” I clap my hands in front of myself, drawing their attention. “Today, I want you to paint your favorite place. It can be anywhere. A place you and your parents go, a place you like to eat, anything you can think of.” I move around the room, handing out blank pieces of paper and then into the cupboard at the back, getting out the child-safe paint I had bought with my own money. 

“Mrs. Hope,” Rebecca, one of my more quiet students, asks, “what if we don’t have a favorite place?” 

A few other kids join in as well in agreement. 

I move around the room, handing out paint and supplies as I answer. “Well, draw what makes you happy. The only rule is you have to use the shapes we learned this morning.” I stop by Rebecca’s desk as she just stares at her blank page. I place a hand on my belly as I lean down next to her. “You know, I don’t have a favorite place either.” 

Her bright eyes glance toward me. “You don’t? But you’re a grown-up.” 

“Doesn’t mean I have a favorite place. I always wanted to travel the world, but I have lived here my whole life. Just draw what makes you happy. It can be a sunny day. Anything.” 

She nods once more and I smile at her before standing. I see her reach for the brushes and start drawing when the sound of scribbling draws my attention to the front of the class. 

Alex, one of my more rowdy students, is coloring at an erratic pace. My brow furrows as I walk to the front of the class. The students around him are lost in their colors, their pictures all the same colors of red, yellows, blues, and pinks, but not Alex. His are more browns and greys. 

I look more closely and see that he has drawn a large yard with several houses. The only difference is they are not completely finished. He keeps coloring away, adding black to the outer edges like smoke. 

I gently put my hand on his arm and squat next to him. It seems to take him out of a daze as he looks up at me. “Alex sweetie, what are you drawing there?” I tilt my head. “It looks nice. You just seem to be so lost.” 

“Aren’t you?” 

“What?” 

A sharp pain hits me between the eyes, my headache returning tenfold. I squint as I place a hand between my eyes, my nose scrunching. I stand, opening them again as every child stops what they were doing and looks toward me. 

“It’s what you like, right? What you are.” Alex stands, holding up the picture. “Ruin.” 

The headache hits me again, making me lean forward as a wave of nausea hits. I feel sweat dance across my forehead right as the bell rings. I stand upright, opening my eyes. Every student is lost in their paintings, no longer looking at me. I turn to check on Alex, who is in his seat coloring away at a picture of two stick figures and a dog. No longer the grey and black destroyed buildings. I hear footsteps down the hall as kids start to leave their homerooms. Class is over? I check the clock, and it is a minute past three. Wait, wasn’t it just one? Placing a hand on my stomach, I take a deep breath before instructing my kids to pack up and leave. They waste no time getting ready as they one by one file out of the room. I stand by the open door, watching as they leave to meet the teachers near the front door who will help them to their cars or the bus. 

“You alright? You look a little flushed.” April asks, coming up to my side. 

I don’t look at her, only nodding. “Yeah, I’m fine. Just pregnancy symptoms.” 

#####

My head still hurts, and I don’t eat that much when I get home. Emmet gets the boys ready for bed while I lie down, but even that doesn’t seem to help. It is like a dull ringing, something pulling along the back of my skull that I can’t stop. I close my eyes, taking in a few deep breaths, calming my nerves and myself. I can still see Alex holding up that paper, see the buildings, and the destruction. I swear I saw it, and that he spoke to me, not like a child, but something else. I feel the bed shift as Emmet joins me, and he brushes his lips against my forehead as I open my eyes. He moves so that he’s lying beside me, propped up on one arm. 

“Feeling any better?” 

I shake my head. “Not really. It’s my headaches. They are getting worse.” 

His brows furrow. “The doctor said that was normal.” 

“Yeah.” 

He looks concerned as he reaches out, placing his palm against my head. “Well, you don’t have a fever. What happened at work today?” 

I shrug, the memory already slipping from my mind and wanting to change the subject. “Nothing, just nausea, and the headaches. I’ll be fine.” 

He looks at me a moment longer, clearly not believing me, but nods regardless. “Okay, well, I am going to run you a bath.” He doesn’t say anything else as he hops up and heads towards the bathroom. He flicks the lights on as I call out to him.

“Why does that sound more like a we thing?” 

He laughs. “Ah, you’re on to my evil plan.” 

I giggle to myself as I run a hand slowly over my belly, forward and backward, humming to myself. I feel a small kick that makes me smile and forget about the weird stuff from today. Maybe it was just weird pregnancy symptoms. 

“Oh, I thought of a name,” I call out once more, over the running water. 

He sticks his head out as he undoes the buttons on the wrists of his shirt. The movement is so familiar and so foreign to me. 

Nodding and tossing the thought away, I responded, “Yup. It came to me today when we were outside for recess. It was a beautiful day, and the sun was shining. I felt peace. Happiness. And it just came to me.” 

He smiles, walking over towards me, and sits by me. He reaches out, placing a hand over mine. “Okay, spill. What will be the name of our daughter?”

“Clio.” 

Atë (Amber Albright)
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