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Every Morning You Greet Me

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Max once again found himself dodging another one of Preston’s performances. Even tucked away on a tall window sill in the tallest tower of the Academy, he could hear the strains of one of the dumbest most generic songs from the most overrated musicals ever. But when he was up on the windowsill no one could see him crying about hearing that song. “When we read we begin with A,B,C…”


“When we sing we begin with Do, Re, Mi,” sang Max’s mother, strumming her guitar and beaming at Max. “The first three notes just happen to be?”

“Do, re, mi!” Max sang back, feeling giddy, just like he always did when she taught him songs.

“Very good, Maxy! I’m so proud of you! We’ll make a regular musician out of you yet!” Max’s mom ruffled his hair. He had so much of it already, lovely curls that she easily ran her fingers through. Her heart swelled at the way he leaned into the touch. “Do you want to learn the rest?”

“Yeah!” He squealed, clapping his hands together.

“Okay. Let’s start at the very beginning. It’s...?” She trailed off, fingers gliding gently over the silver strings. Max rocked to the tune instinctively.

“A very good place to start?” He sang, voice squeaking with childhood.

“Yup! When we read we begin with...?”

“ABC!”

“Yeah! When we sing we begin with...?”

Max hesitated. He couldn’t remember the words! A frown curved down his mouth, lower lip jutting out to accommodate it. His mom quickly reacted to his distress, tickling his tummy teasingly. Max laughed and shoved her fingers away from his sides.

“Stop poking me!” She smiled down at him, eyes crinkling in correspondence to her son’s mirth. She was the most beautiful person Max had ever seen.

“Hmm. I don’t think those are the first notes. Wanna try again?” Max giggled. His mommy was so silly sometimes. But it was okay, ‘cuz he remembered now.

“Do re mi!”


Max angrily swiped at the tears which just wouldn’t stop. He hated remembering. He hated thinking about what might’ve been. He hated the way as he got older he slowly forgot his mother’s beautiful voice. He hated how the voice in his head that had always been hers was slowly morphing into- No. He wouldn’t think about that. In the distance he heard the strains of yet another terrible clichéd song from that shitty musical that his mother had loved so much.

“Edelweiss, Edelweiss…”


Every morning you greet me .” Max was listening intently to his mom finish the soft melody. Every night she would come and sing to him, any song she deemed warm and soft enough to be a lullaby, melodies dancing one after another until he fell asleep in a blurred cocoon of music. Tonight, however, even his favorites couldn’t settle him. His mother’s velvet voice only fed his anxieties. He had a question, hot, melting his tonsils into his heart but he was so scared to ask. He didn’t want to know if the answer was bad. Unfortunately (or fortunately, for his budding anxieties) his mother could tell. She ran her hand through her hair, before resting her hand against his cheek.

“Max, honey, is everything okay?”

“Areyougonnagoaway?” He blurted, getting the worry out of his body as quickly as he could. He could tell that she was surprised. His mom jolted back, ebony hair startling over her face.

“Why would you think that, Max? I’m not going anywhere!”

“But the mom in Sound of Music... She went away and Maria had to be their new mother and I don’t want a new mother I want you!” He leapt at her, wrapping his arms tightly around her torso, burrowing teary eyes and a snotty nose into worn flannel. He could tell he hurt her (she let out a little “oof” like she always did when he jumped like this) but he didn’t feel sorry, and that makes him cry even more until-  “Shhh,” she hummed, twirling his fingertips across his back as though she could soothe galaxies into his skin. He took deep hiccupping gasps, breathing into her stomach until the tears finally stopped. “You’re okay honey, you’re okay. It’s alright.” She chanted these things over and over, tugging him back to her. “I’m going to be right here, and I promise, you and I will have the best summer together! Just you and me, Maxy!” She beamed, booping his nose.

“And Daddy?” His mother glanced out his bedroom door and into the hall. She could see the closed office door in her mind, the image dimming from her cheeks.

“If he’s not too busy. But I’ll always be here for you.”

“Pinky promise?” He shoved his hand in her face and glared, not yet satisfied. She held a laugh delicately in her mouth, knowing the action would rile him up, and took his pinky in her own.

“I promise.”


I guess parents always lie to their kids, Max thought, curling his knees closer to his body, barely noticing as his knees scraped along the rough bricking of the wall. She hadn’t even been there for the whole summer.


Max knew something was up when it reached ten o’clock at night and his mom still hadn’t come in to sing him to sleep. Maybe she had fallen asleep watching a movie again. But that wouldn’t explain the police car outside. It wouldn’t explain why his father was talking to people in the living room instead of working in his office like normal. It definitely wouldn’t explain why his stupid uncle’s stupid truck was parking in his driveway. If his mom were home she wouldn’t let him block her car in.

Halfway through all of his visits Max’s mom would get so fed up that she’d grab Max and his car keys and they would drive around listening to her CDs until he left or she was calm enough to deal with “That rude, disrespectful-”

“Dick!”

“Maxwell! Language!”

“What? That’s what Uncle Tim called daddy. And a dumbass. And a cu-”

“Maxwell! Language! I don’t want you using… any of the words that your uncle litters his vocabulary with.”

But his mom wasn’t here right now, and Uncle Tim was littering up a storm in the living room.


Max wondered what his mother would think of the things he was thinking about Uncle Tim and his father right now. He wondered if she would forgive him if she knew what he had been through to get here. He wondered if she could’ve imagine what would happen to them both. He doubted it. He got his pessimism from his sperm donor.


“Don’t worry, sweetie. We know that the past four years or so have been hard with you and your dad, but now you’re going to go to boarding school! Isn’t that exciting?” His aunt seemed to think that this would be a perk for Max. To be fair to his aunt, she only knew that he and his father had barely survived the last almost year since his mom had… gone. She didn’t know how hurtful it was that Max’s dad couldn’t even be the one to tell him that he was shipping him off for nine months out of the year. She didn’t know how much Max’s mother had hated the idea of sending him away. She had argued ad nauseum, very loudly, that if her depressed couch potato baby brother wasn’t going to take care of  his little brat, he’d better ship him off before he fucked him up any more. Her words.

Max didn’t know what was in his future either, but he was a little more in tune with it than his aunt. He didn’t know his dad wouldn’t ever really make it out of bed again. He didn’t know how quiet his childhood home would be in summer when he was home. He didn’t know that when all the other children went home for winter and spring break he would spend his first year hiding out at school because his dad didn’t tell the school they could keep him for the breaks, but also didn’t arrange for him to come home. He didn’t know how much his dad would drink and sulk when he was home. He didn’t know every fourth of July his uncle Tim would be volunteered by the rest of his relatives to come over and have a “cookout” which mostly consisted of making sure Max’s father was still alive, drinking the beer in the fridge and cussing out Max. He didn’t know that he would have to make sure his dad ate when he was home and worry that the bastard had starved to death when he was at school. He did, however, know enough to argue with the stupid guidance counselor who tried to make him write home that first week.


“At least she can’t see me now,” he laughed bitterly to himself.

“Max?” He swiveled around so quickly he’s pretty sure he slammed his brain against his skull. David, his stupid, dumb guidance counselor, was standing behind him, and from the look on his face, had heard his depressed mutterings. “Are you okay? I noticed that you left Preston’s performance and wanted to make sure you were alright.”

Max stared dumbfounded at David for far too long before the situation dawned on him and he scrambled off of the windowsill, not saying anything.

“Max? Are you okay? You know I’m always here for you if you need anything, right kiddo?”

Max said nothing.

“Alright. C’mon Max, we gotta go have fun. I was thinking about busting out my guitar for a sing-a-long after the show. What d’you think? I’ll let you pick the song?” David ruffled Max’s hair.

Max felt his eyes well up but instead of bolting, or saying something dumb and sappy, he rolled his eyes, hoping the tears wouldn’t spill.

“Whatever, David.”