Jessica knew she couldn’t stop him. Her son, Dorian, had been given a place at the prestigious Filton University and it was a dream come true for him. It would be selfish of her to pull him back because she was afraid to be alone. It wasn’t his fault his father left, no more than it was hers. She knew Dorian felt guilty anyway. He was a sensitive boy and felt some kind of responsibility to become head of their little household. She felt guilty too because she let it happen. She allowed Dorian to look after her when, as a boy, he should have been learning to live his own life. She was a grown woman. She should have been able to look after herself. The mother – son dynamic changed when Walter left. Now she didn’t know how to live any other way.
His eyes darted over the acceptance when he first opened the letter. A smile caused to greyness of his eyes to glint. His lips traced a smile. Jessica watched him. She knew what it meant. The full realisation of what it meant must have clouded over him too because the warmth of excitement cooled like a dying ember.
“I got in,” was all he said.
Jessica managed a smile to match his own. She took her son’s shoulders and pulled him close in an embrace. She felt him shudder slightly. He pulled back and pushed the mop of bottled black hair from his eyes. He nibbled on his lip piercing.
“I’ll come back all the time,” he said knowing the cause of the tension over what should have been good news.
Jessica shook her head. “Don’t worry about me,”she said.
She tried her brave face. She wished she could be more convincing because Dorian looked tired – not a teen boy at all but a weary man who had seen too much.
The celebrated that night by going out to dinner. They picked one of Jessica’s favourite restaurants. Dorian paid. As the son discussed how excited he was for the new chapter in his life, Jessica listened attentively with a beam of pride, hoping Dorian couldn’t hear the thud of her heart at the prospect of him leaving her. Filton wasn’t millions of miles away from the little suburb they lived in but it would mean she wouldn’t see him every day as she was used to.
The day of departure came. Dorian decided to travel alone. He pulled a large rucksack containing everything he deemed important enough to take with him onto his back and he hesitated by the door.
“Are you sure you don’t want me to come with you?” she asked.
Dorian shook his head. “Why don’t you come visit me next week after I’ve had the chance to settle in,” he offered.
Jessica kissed him and held him tightly. “Be safe,” she said.
They both drew back tears and swallowed the separation anxiety.
Jessica knew she would have been selfish to make him stay. Looking back now it would have been better. He would still be with her. He would still be alive.
He was such a sensitive boy after all. As he looked back at her with a wave from the end of the pathway she never would have thought it would be the last time she would see him.
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