Cynthia’s patience grew thin as time ticked away. Checking her watch, she exhaled sharply before looking around the busy platform of the bus station where she waited. She’d taken off work early, a cut in her hours that she couldn’t afford, and ask she expected the majority of her time was being wasted.

“Why did I expect anything else? And why am I taking this on when I can hardly keep my own shit together?”

Another ten minutes passed. Looking towards the very last bus that pulled in, watching as passengers filed of in a hurried fashion, she came face to face with the very last person she wanted to be bothered with.

Her elder brother, Carvin.

 

There had been a thirty plus year strain between the two, mainly at the insistence of Carvin treating her like the red-haired stepchild of their large family. Half-siblings, he upheld the title by treating her grossly different than he treated the remainder of their siblings.

Try as she might to gain his affections as a child, it was of no use. While she gladly did for her family, even when she had nothing of her own, she could have never gone to Carvin for anything. Not a place to stay, not a dime, not a single handout.

Still, when he found himself in some sort of trouble, no matter how great or small, Cynthia was always the first person he called. His late night phone-in was no different.

Behind the older, gruff and hard faced man, a young boy trailed along. Instantly, a smile spread across Cynthia’s face, her reason for saying ‘yes’ coming into focus. His curly afro bounced with each nervous step the child took, an insecure smile dancing across his gentle face. He was tall and lanky like Tyler had been just a few short years before, but she felt he couldn’t have been that much older than Kyle. 

Thankfully, he’d taken after his mother, baby faced with nothing more than the typical blemishes most growing teenagers were prone to. Soft and feminine facial features, with semi-large eyes that led to what she was certain would be a bright and beautiful soul.

They stood before her, a dramatic difference in their demeanor and actions. Carvin simply grunted, while his son waved and spoke. His voice was small and soothing, almost a whisper. “Austin, this is your aunt Cynthia. This is who you’ll be staying with while going to that new school. All the fussing them folk did to move you so that you can ‘flourish’ with other smart kids, it better be worth it.”

“Nice to meet you, Ma’am.”

“No need to be so formal, Sweetheart. Come on and give auntie a big old hug.” He obliged happily, his worries of her being as cold and rough as his father tossed aside. Her hug was like his mother’s; firm, full of warmth and love. He felt so much better about being so far from home. “Look at you, all tall and handsome. Haven’t seen you since you were a newborn. How old are you now, Austin?”

“I just turned fourteen.”

“Goodness, I’ll have another teenager on my hands. I’m very glad to have you here with me and the boys, and I hope that you’ll love it with us.”

“I’m sure that I will.” He turned to his father. “If this station is like the one back home, can I go and look for a food cart or something. I’m hungry.”

Cynthia smiled, quick to inform him of where to go. “There’s a snack stand inside. Grab something, but not too heavy, I’ve got a nice dinner planned.”

“Okay, thank you.”

She waited patiently for the young boy to walk away, turning to her brother when she was certain Austin was out of ear shot.

 

Her smile faded, a soured grimace replacing it as a bit of contempt for the man before her surfaced. He’d given Austin a more acceptable explanation for the shift occurring in his life, but Cynthia knew better. She knew there was something else happening, a harsher reason. “Before you run off and disappear; I got a few questions.”

Carvin sighed, shaking his head. “If you didn’t want to do it, all you had to do was say no. I didn’t come here to be hounded or questioned.”

“Where are you going?”

“It’s none of his concern, or yours, where I’ll be. All I need him to do is focus on this school these people wanted him in.” Carvin wouldn’t admit, he was glad the school board’s insistence on moving Austin had worked out perfectly for his own selfish plans.

“Where’s Lorie?”

Though he felt he owed no explanations to Cynthia, he knew he had no full right to drop his child off and vanish without giving some reason. “She’s somewhere in California neglecting the life she had with me. She don’t care about that boy no more than I do, just worried about that damn movie career. She knows he’ll be with you. She’ll be sending you money to help out.”

“She doesn’t care about him? Did she say that herself, or is that something cruel you’ve told your son in one of your many moments of anger?”

“That boy couldn’t believe a bad thing about his mother, even if Jesus told it to him. He’s just as naive as she is, trusting and loving. If it were his choice, he’d wait for her forever because he’s so sure she’ll return for him. I don’t have that kind of time. You want the truth, here it is; I need to move on with my life, and I can’t do that with the boy weighing me down. I need to focus on me now, worry about myself for a change.”

Cynthia could only chuckle, in annoyance. “Must be something in this water around Louisiana. All of you sorry ass men coming up for breaths of air with your responsibility and common sense tossed out the window.”

“Don’t judge me, Cynthia! Okay, we can’t all have our shit together like you do. I never wanted a child, but I made that one and I tried my best for years, many of them on my own just like you’re doing now with your own boys. I tried.”

Austin returned, biting away at a simple sandwich that had been packaged for quick purchase. Cynthia recollected her emotions, tired of having to fuss at grown men for their choices and actions. It would be harder, but if no one wanted to love growing boys that needed lots of it, she would.

“Things are a little more expensive up here. For four dollars, this sandwich should have been made by the hands of an angel.”

Cynthia smirked, turning her attention to the boy. “Bus station food is a lot like airport food, there for convenience and not very good. Don’t worry, I’d like to think I’m a pretty decent cook. Are you ready to go?”

Austin nodded, looking towards his father. He wanted to hug the man, but refrained from doing so. Afraid of being chastised for his ‘soft’ ways. “I’ll see you around Dad. And thanks for letting me do this. If I keep my grades up here, I can get off to college like you and Mama wanted.”

Carvin nodded, saying a low goodbye. After grabbing the two suitcases he’d brought along, Cynthia rushed Austin along so that they could beat the mid-afternoon traffic.

One thought on “Family Reunion by Cortney Joseph #ShortStoryAugust

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