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State of Belonging

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There was something about sitting in the living room with the family, not doing anything in particular, that was oddly comforting. Luda Mae had recently taken up the hobby of taking victims torn clothes and sewing them together to create interesting outfits. It kept her calm at the late hours of the night when she tended to distress over minor happenings. You wouldn’t guess she was almost constantly paranoid, but she was. It had taken some time for her to accept that you didn’t want to tear the family apart, that you didn’t find Bubba as some hideous creature undeserving of love, that you didn’t have any plans to burn the family home down. But now she had grown to accept you in the home, even going as far as to call you her son at times, and you hoped you were one less worry on her mind.

You held the hot cup of tea in your hands. It was rare for you to be allowed anything to drink other than water, but being integrated into the family had its perks. Yoo took a sip; chai. Not your favourite, but you took what you could get. Aunt Kathy, the designated tea lady of the family, had brought some over earlier in the day. You always thought of her and Henrietta as the two nicest people in the family. With what very little you’ve seen them, they’ve been nothing but welcoming to you, even complimenting how well you cleaned and asking if you could come by to clean their trailer. You really hoped you could, one day. No matter how much everyone treated you like family, you still had your outsider restrictions. At least Luda Mae and Charlie had begun to be more lenient on where you slept; when you first arrived you had to sleep on whatever dirty floor you ended up on, but now it was practically normal that you slept on Bubba’s bed. Thank god for that, too. The first time you were caught in the bed was almost a nightmare, with Charlie threatening to take you out himself. It was Luda Mae who stopped him and told him that as long as you weren’t up and leaving then, even if you you slept in a bed every once in a while, it would be fine. Charlie, ever the mama’s boy, had to comply and leave you be. You were just glad you didn’t get hurt in that ordeal.

Monty sat nearby, sound asleep in his chair with the dog in his lap. His soft snoring was complimented by Luda Mae’s low humming. With that alongside the chirping cicadas outside, you would’ve fallen asleep if not for the tea. You took another sip as you glanced over to Luda Mae. Her sewing endeavor for the night was hand stitching together a nightgown for herself. You enjoyed watching her work. Though she looked quite old, she worked quickly and expertly, hands moving at such a pace that made it hard to keep up. You looked away after a moment to one of the windows. The sky was clear but dark, moon a sliver of light against a dark ocean, stars barely twinkling on the backdrop of black. Out here, without city lights to obstruct, the sky was usually so clear and bright, but not tonight it seemed. Shame, you don’t often get to enjoy a calm like this.

Bubba walked in, yawning. He was wearing his usual sleepwear consisting of loose striped pajamas, thankfully not the usual bloody yellow apron or any of his bloodstained clothing. You gave yourself a mental reminder to wash that stuff when you could; god knows how long he’s gone without clean laundry. You curled your knees up towards you to give him room on the couch.

“Oh, Bubba, some kids have been wreaking havoc at the station and putting their damn graffiti everywhere. Tomorrow I want you to do ‘em in good, you hear?”

Bubba gave an affirmative grunt before moving your legs down so he could put his head in your lap. This was a usual sight in the late night, Bubba laying on or against you so you could brush your fingers through his hair. It was a shame he still wasn’t comfortable enough around you to show his face, but goddamnit you were going to milk his cuddly side for all it was worth. You moved some of his hair out of the way so you could kiss his forehead- at least, the very little section of his real forehead, the small amount of warm skin exposed between hairline and maskline. He gave a low whine in response, bringing your free hand down to caress his face. He craved physical affection, always seeking hugs and kisses whenever he could. You suspected his family was not the touchy type, but that was fine with you; it just meant that you were the lucky ‘victim’ of all his cuddles. You watched his eyes close as he leaned into your touch, letting out a very calm and pleased sigh. God, you loved him.

“You’ll be sleeping in his room again, I’m guessing.”

You looked up, meeting Luda Mae’s eyes with your own. “Yeah.”

She nodded, breathing in through her nose. “That’s fine. You know,” she continued her sewing, “with how often y’all share his room, it’s practically you room as well. If it’s alright with Bubba, then it’s alright by me. Lord knows the floor ain’t too comfortable, and even the damn dog gets his own bed.”

You blinked in surprise. “Really? You mean, it’s my room, too?”

“Only if Bubba says so. Bubba?”

With a grunt, he gave a little nod and looked up at you tiredly, managing a smile. You smiled back.

“Then it’s settled.” Out of the blue, Luda Mae gave a chuckle. “A growing family, this one.”

“It’s a good family to grow into, I think.” A dysfunctional family, but a family nonetheless.

“If you say so.” Seeing a smile on Luda Mae’s face was a nice replacement to her scowl nowadays. The woman deserved happiness, you thought. She spent most of her life trying her damndest to be a mom her kids could be proud of, protecting her family as best she could. Even if she condoned the killings her sons took part in, you knew she was a good mom, deep inside.

Bubba tugged at your shirt to get your attention. “Yeah, Bubba? What’s up?”

He sat up and tugged at you again, pointing towards the stairs on the other side of the wall. To punctuate his point he yawned quite audibly, making Luda Mae chuckle yet again to herself.

You smiled. “Bedtime?” He nodded. “Alright, lemme finish my tea, okay?” You chugged it down as fast as you could, pushing through the scalding pain as Bubba waited patiently beside you. When you were done you set the cup down and stood. Bubba then picked you up in his arms and started to carry you to his room. It always made you embarrassed to be picked up like this, especially in front of the family; you were a grown man, you could walk by yourself. But you always appreciated Bubba’s strength and his ability to not break a sweat doing just about anything.

Just like always, when he entered the room, he shut the door and layed you on the bed, moving in after you and pulling the covers up. You had found out fairly quickly that Bubba liked feeling wrapped up, so you made it a habit to make extra sure that the blanket was cocooning the both of you. He sighed happily when you kissed his cheek as you did so, wrapping his arms around you to pull you close. As he drifted off to sleep, breathing slow and deep, you gave him one final kiss to the corner of his mouth.

“Love you, Bubba,” you murmured.

Maybe being part of the family wasn’t so bad after all.