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Sour Cherry

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“Kurt is meeting with his friend from Harvard today.”

Charles looks up from his plate of eggs and toast and stares at his mother, who is sitting at the other end of the table reading the morning news on her tablet. He picks up the piece of now-cold toast and takes a bite, wishing he’d smoked a bowl before he came down for breakfast. Mother is always easier to take stoned.

“I don’t want to go to Harvard,” Charles mumbles around his bite of toast, knowing full-well his mother won’t hear what he is saying. She never does. He could jump on the table and yell ‘Fuck Harvard!’ and she wouldn’t blink.

“He has some sway with admissions.”

Charles stares at his mother who doesn’t look up at him. He thinks about the park and wonders if it will rain today. If the weather is good, he can smoke a bowl there during lunch which will make the rest of his day mellow. His genetics paper is done. His essay on MacBeth is finished. Charles Xavier is probably not the first or the last future valedictorian of St. Jude’s who maintains a 4.0 average and still manages to smoke a hell of a lot of pot. His mind wanders to the dwindling stash in his messenger bag and he wonders if that fucking emo kid who deals to all the other kids will have anything today.

“Harvard is where your father went.”

Fuck his father, wherever he is. Some business deal in Dubai with his new wife and family by his side, leaving Charles in the grips of Sharon the She-Dragon and her asshole husband.

“I’m going to fucking community college.”

Charles sets his fork down with a clatter. Sharon’s gaze doesn’t budge from her tablet.

“With all the fucking commoners, Mother. The nobodies.”

Sharon is silent. She puts down her tablet and reaches for her coffee, taking a long drink. She looks at him, her eyes narrowed.

“How is Moira?”

Fuck Moira, Charles wants to yell. Fuck her and everything she stands for. She’s no different than Harvard, than his 4.0, than everything else in his world that he’s expected to do without question, the good little rich boy. Charles brushes his hair from his eyes.

“She’s fine.”

“Does she have a dress for the dance?”

Charles wonders why his mother cares. Moira is just a placeholder, the perfect highschool romance for his perfect life. He’s sure Moira has a dress. Most likely the latest haute couture right off the runway, a fashion week exclusive. She and her friends had attended the whole week, attending VIP parties, perpetually drunk on champagne. Charles had spent the week stoned in his room watching seventies films noirs.

“I’m getting her a matching wrist corsage,” Charles sneers. “She’s wearing my promise ring. I’m going to ask her to go steady.”

Sharon stills.

“Watch your tone, Charles.”

Sharon’s voice is low and full of warning, and Charles knows he’s gone too far. He clamps his mouth shut and stares down at his plate, his cheeks hot. He feels the hot sting of tears in his eyes but he will not cry. Not in front her.

 


 

 

“Only cereal? Don’t you need more?”

“I’m good, Ma.” Erik’s words are muffled because his mouth is full of the sugary cereal his mother buys him then nags him about the nutritional content.

“I can make eggs.”

“You have to go to work, Ma. I can grab more at school.”

“Erik,” Edie Lehnsherr tsks as she busies herself in the kitchen of their small walkup. “Ketsele, you know I worry.”

“Yeah, yeah. Could you be more of a Jewish mother, Ma?”

Edie turns and tosses a warm smile towards Erik, then goes back to rinsing dishes in the yellow cracked porcelain sink. Erik watches her. He glances around their dingy apartment and thinks that his classmates would be horrified to see where he lives. Luckily no one really wants to be friends with one of the scholarship kids, let alone the Jewish unapologetically queer one. At least they still want to buy their weed from him. He thinks about the bags he has stashed in his backpack that he’d picked up from their downstairs neighbor, Dante last night. It’s the night of yet another big dance. Kids are going to want the goods, and Erik can’t blame them. After all, any dance at Dalton is made infinitely better by being fucking high as a kite.

Not that Erik will be high. He has big plans for after the dance and none of his asshole classmates are invited.

“You’re staying with Armando,” Edie says, turning to hand a paper bag to Erik. His lunch. He grimaces at it. He hates pulling out his wrinkled paper bag in the cafeteria and will probably try to go eat alone on the steps where no one will bother him. He takes the paper bag in his hand.

“Yeah. His place is closer to school.”

Edie frowns. Erik knows she worries. She should. Tonight won’t be just a school dance. The people he goes to school with are rich, spoiled and no one cares what they do. There will be more than enough cocaine, pills and booze to go around.

“No worries, Ma.” Erik says. He’s only going because he can make a nice profit tonight. He’s been the favored source of weed for about half his class for the last two years, but he doesn’t give a shit about the dance. It’s where he’s heading afterwards. He thinks about the tight leather pants he’s tucked into his backpack, the sheer, tight t-shirt, condoms and lube. It’s one thing to tell your ma you’re going to the school dance, it’s another telling her that you plan to go get fucked.

“Just be careful,” Edie murmurs, coming over to pinch Erik’s cheek. “I love you and I don’t want to bury my son. I’ve already had to bury your father.”

Erik sees the pain in his mother’s eyes. The pain he always wants to make better. His father had gotten the cancer diagnosis ten years ago, when Erik was just seven. It had been fast, and Erik can’t remember many of the details. He remembers that his mother cried a lot. He remembers feeling alone. They had sat Shiva for his father and an endless parade of well-meaning elderly women from the synagogue paraded through their small apartment and told Erik he was the man of the house now. Erik had no idea what that meant. He was a boy and he had just lost his father, so how could he somehow be a man? All he knew was that his father was gone.

This is why Erik takes his sack lunch and doesn’t complain, goes to that awful school that his mother had to take a second job to afford and puts up with being the poor Jewish kid. Because all of it means something to Edie, and she’s lost enough as it is.

“I’m always careful,” Erik says, thinking again about those condoms. He doesn’t want his ma to face him being sick, so yeah, he’s careful about staying safe as well.

“Take a snack,” Edie says as Erik stands up from the faded dining room table he and his mother had found at a thrift store a couple years ago. Money has been tight as long as Erik can remember. Still, it’s their table and even if it is run down, it holds the memories of meals and homework and weekend games of cards.

“Yeah, Ma,” Erik says, thinking that he can just grab something from the bodega, but before he can tell his mother this, she’s putting an apple in his hand.

“If you don’t eat it, give it to your teacher.”

“I’m seventeen!” Erik says, rolling his eyes. Anyway, the teachers at Dalton take large charitable donations and extravagant fruit baskets, not apples from the scholarship kid. Erik frowns at his mother then it melts away as he sees her smile, her eyes sparkling with amusement. She’s teasing him.

“I’m proud of you,” Edie says warmly. Erik smiles. He steps closer to his ma and gives her a kiss on the cheek.

“Love you, Ma.”

Erik picks up his backpack and heads towards the front door where his skateboard rests against the wall.

“Be careful, boychick.”

“Love you, Ma!” Erik repeats, shrugging on his backpack and grabbing his skateboard then slipping out the door and into the hallway. He tucks the skateboard under his arm then heads down the stairs. Once outside, Erik throws his skateboard down and pushes towards the subway.