Life was, and will always be, one of the biggest enigmas she herself has to offer. She was like handing a 5000 piece jigsaw puzzle to a five year old child, sure they could figure it out, but how many years would that take? Was she even the same to everybody, or did everyone see Life in different bodies, different perspectives?
In the Howell household, life had been held and maintained through young love, and a bustling, happy curly haired toddler. Life was that small toddler giggling happily every morning while his tummy got tickled and his clothes got changed. Life was when two chubby hands reached and grabbed his cup of juice from his mum, with his large chocolate eyes staring gratefully into matching ones.
“Mummm,” That little voice had called out to Karen, high pitched and a bit squeaky for the early morning hours. Karen moved quicker in the bathroom, quickly brushing back her hair and tugging it into a tight ponytail. Her two year old was a bit grabby, and adored playing with her hair, despite being told ‘No, Daniel, that hurts mummy,’ quite a few times after he had tugged too harshly. His tiny little mind hadn’t understood and cried for a bit, despite having Karen rocking him and kissing his cheeks to make him feel better.
Karen looked herself over in the mirror, rather quickly, so she wouldn’t have a fussy baby on her hands. She hurried to exit the bathroom and ran to the nursery. She entered the light blue room, gazing over the plain walls happily, noting the way the sun had lit up the room quite a bit at 07:30, when her crazy boy always woke up. She looked over the room once more and toward the crib where she happened upon a standing Daniel, who held onto the top of his crib bar tightly, smiling a deep smile with cavernous dimples and contagious crinkles near his eyes. He giggled at the sight of his mum as he dropped the bear he had been holding.
“Mummy!” He shouted again, bouncing slightly now that he saw his mother. Karen smiled at the sight of her happy boy, with his hair messed up on the top his head in little curls that Karen wanted to play with so desperately. Who could resist those soft tufts of hair, that only stayed for so long ? The small baby Daniel reached his hands forward towards his thin mother, whining slightly at the lack of contact. Karen leaned in and scooped up her boy, kissing all over his cheeks.
“Hi, Baby,” she said and placed him comfortably on her hip, followed closely by her tickling him with the tips of her fingers. His laughs were so light, yet harsh, she couldn’t help but laugh as well. “How’s mummy’s boy?”
“Mummmmy,” Dan squealed again, nuzzling his face into Karen’s neck. His stomach let out a small growl, “Wan’ foo’,” He lisped quietly, now that he was near his mum’s face. Karen rocked him gently, but not enough to lull him back to sleep, despite wanting a few more minutes of shut-eye. Anything was worth it to make her boy happy.
“Let’s get you changed,” she said, bouncing him a little in her grasp, causing the small thing to whine. “What do you want for breakfast?” She distracted him as she laid him down on the changing table in his nursery. He looked up at her as she changed him neatly, and babbled with content about what he wanted for breakfast, even though a large amount of his words made no sense, other than the occasional word that was coherent.
The two were at peace, a simple pleasure that they become accustomed to over Daniel’s two years of life. She got him moving, feeding him a type of porridge that he loved, before she left him sat on the plush couch with a cartoon up on the telly as she got ready. That was before she heard a small thud from the lounge.
“Mummy!” A loud cry came from the lounge, Karen quickly finished up the last of her makeup, and ran towards the lounge where she found her son holding his head. He stood at his short height, his tears eyes meeting Karen’s. He moved his hand to reveal a trail of blood from his eyebrow.
“Oh, honey,” Karen said, leaning forward grabbing a hold of her injured son, “what happened, Bear?” He wailed sadly, showing her his hand that had some of his blood on it, sobbing even harder at the sight. The sobs that sounding like choking, constant hiccuping and struggling to breathe.
“Ow,” he cried, Karen looked at the wound, realizing that he might need stitches and immediately took him to A&E.
He was not happy as the doctor looked him over and established that, yes, he would need stitches. He cried and clung to his mum as the doctor did what he had to. Luckily, it hadn’t scarred horribly, but he did cry over it incessantly, different from his raspy ‘I’m hurt’ cries, he cried with noises that sounded more like he just wanted his mum to make it stop hurting.
The kind of cries he had let out the morning after he found out, after Adrian and his nana had left, and before his mum had come to collect him. The ones she heard from outside his door. Karen raised a fist and knocked gently on the door.
“Can I come in, Bear?” She asked softly. She stared at the door that had caution tape strapped over it, hearing a few sniffs in and a cough. She heard rustling from outside.
Another cough, “Yeah,” he finally addressed his mother’s words. His mum reached for the metal knob of the door and twisted gently. She pushed open the door to see her son stood in a pair of black jeans, yesterday’s, and an old t-shirt that looked like it had been slept in. The scar tucked in the short brown hair of his eyebrow looked slightly more white against the crimson hue of his skin. His eyes looked puffy, and he didn’t look like he had slept all that well, his hair slightly curly from sleeping. He must have forgotten to straighten it last night , Karen told herself. It was unlike him to have even the slightest bit of curliness, but to be fair he had been a bit distracted last night.
“Are you almost ready,” She began softly, not to disrupt her son’s already upset mood, “Or do you want a few minutes?” His eyes glanced up, and the glassy pair met his mother’s with a single tear gliding down his face. He looked so young in the moment, his cheeks just a little pudgy and his eyes filled with tears. Karen wanted to scoop him up and coddle him forever, which was what she wanted to do nearly every time he was upset. She would step further into the room but her son on a normal day disliked when she did that, so she kept her distance. It was painful to see her son upset.
“Give me a few minutes,” he whispered, he looked down and away from his mum. She nodded and turned at the door, exiting quickly leaving Dan to sit with himself. The door closed with a small click and Dan looked up to view his surroundings.
Where could I fit a crib? Dan thought peering around the small room. Corinne can not send that baby out for adoption. Dan raised his hands and rubbed angrily over his emotional eyes. I don’t want to regret sending that baby away, it is mine after all. Dan looked at his twin-sized bed, the end table right next to it, holding his laptop. He glanced above and saw the window pouring in soft golden light, he turned to see it hit the white doors of his closet, he turned in the small room and saw his dresser, and back to the closet. He stepped over the piles of clothes on his messy floor and opened up the closet. There has to be room in here, He sighed as his thoughts overtook him.
Dan rubbed his eyes again and looked at the empty closet floor, excluding the two pairs of scattered shoes. He grabbed the tattered pair of canvas sneakers and shoved them roughly onto his feet. He turned and grabbed an army green jacket from the end of his bed before pulling it on hastily. He left his room quickly.
“Mum?” He called, he needed to talk to her.
“Yes, Darling?” His mum responded from what sounded like the kitchen. His paces increased as he found his way to the kitchen. She was stood tall at the counter, reading over the mail that must have arrived the previous day, it was Sunday after all, and she carded through them. She looked up and saw her son in his jacket, she smiled at him. A genuine smile, that made his heart shatter a bit.
“I’m ready to go, mum,” he said, and tugged at the sleeves of his jacket.
“Okay,” She grabbed the key from the counter, he hadn’t noticed it before. “Let’s go.”
“Just us two,” The sweet voice of Dan’s life-giver spoke gently to the hostess who stood idly by the door, waiting for people to enter the confines of the small restaurant. The faux blonde hostess nodded, blinking her excessively mascara-ed lashes. She snatched up two of the red plastic menus.
She flashed a ‘customer-service’ smile before speaking with a gravelly voice, “Follow me,” she sounded like she had probably smoked a pack a day. The pair of Howell’s stayed quiet and followed her through the restaurant to the booth they were led to.
“Your server today will be Eliza,” She said, Dan peeked up a bit to see a name tag placed high up on a black t-shirt, her name was Opal.
Dan’s mum nodded, “Thank you,” Opal pressed together her pink lips and turned to head back to the front of the diner where surely another few people were waiting. Dan looked down and studied the beige marble pattern of the table. He held a focus so strong it could have been one of those Redwood trees out in California that his History teacher had raved about after his week-long holiday.
Karen coughed a little, grabbing her son’s attention. “So Corinne is pregnant?” Dan sighed and placed his hands against the table that felt like ice against his warm skin. His head clouded again, it didn’t feel real.
“Yeah,” he said, a voice so timid a mouse could scare it off. “She is, and if I’ve done the maths right, she’s due in September.” He stayed quiet after that, I think I want to keep the baby, his nosy head supplied.
“I know it’s not ideal for you,” She said, Dan laughed a tiny bit, No shit, mum. “But I need to know what you want to do. I want to be with you this whole time.”
“Mum, I don’t even know what Corinne wants to do,” Dan lifted his hands and pressed tightly to his eyes. “It’s her body. I can’t make the decision for her, I mean I have a bit of a say b-but—“ Dan choked in a sob, “I want my baby to be safe.”
Karen’s eyes widened at what he had said, his baby. It felt a hell of a lot more real, seeing her son sat at the table choking in tears that wouldn’t come for no reason. His face growing red as he spoke about a baby that as of now he was pretty sure he wanted to keep.
Karen breathed out from her nose slowly and thought.
“Adrian, please finish washing up in the kitchen, Dan’s coming back from uni for the weekend,” She saw herself saying. “He wants to have,” a blank space where a name should go, “3rd birthday party here. They’re only a few minutes away with Dad.”
“Then he can clean when he gets here,” a grumpy voice grumbled. “I can watch his kid.”
“Adrian.” Karen said sternly.
“Fine, mum,” Adrian stood and walked to the kitchen, he looked quite a bit older, taller and thinner. “I’m washing up.”
A few seconds passed in her vision and a knock sounded on the door before a squeaky sound filling the air.
“Nana!” A voice squealed happily at the door, followed by a clatter of a pair of tiny feet shuffling across the house.
“Baby,” Dan’s voice, now sounding a bit older, more mature, “we’ve gotta take off your jacket,” Dan audibly sighed, “and your shoes, sweets.”
A small face gleamed up at Karen, with rosy cheeks and dimples that lit up her whole world. “Nana,” the toddler squealed again reaching up to grab at Karen, she lifted the small thing and placed them on her hip. The little one hugged her grandmother dearly. She was like a light, making Karen’s world just a bit brighter.
“Sweetheart,” an unknown male voice rung through the house, a northern fellow. “Listen to your daddy, please.”
Karen blinked and brought herself back to the reality of sitting in a small diner, where her son was sat, upset, across from her. She wanted the best for him.
She could see it, the whole ordeal being placed in front of her as if she had been a queen and a servant was pacing down the most delicate of Chinaware carrying a thirteen course meal. She didn’t feel repelled by it.
“Let’s say, that perhaps you do keep the baby,” her words were like molasses, “Obviously, I am supporting you in your decision,” Dan visibly calmed down. “Do you see Corinne still with you, in the baby’s life?”
Dan grabbed at the edge of the table, plucking at the false wood. He sat and thought. If he wanted to be honest with himself, and his mum, he couldn’t. She didn’t fit that motherly type, no matter how much he craved for her to fill that piece of his puzzle. She was comforting, and sweet, and the image of every teenage sweetheart, but she wasn’t a mother. She was good for hugs and kisses, but she didn’t fit a motherly role.
Their waitress, Eliza, a young strawberry blonde girl with basically no breasts walked over and Dan’s mother ordered for them. Dan wasn’t in the mood to speak, he was so deep in thought. Eliza nodded off and set off to get their food.
Dan began, “Mum, I don’t think Corinne wants to keep the baby,” He sniffed in as a new wave of tears came. “She says she hasn’t thought that far, but I think she just said that cause she knew something I didn’t at the time.”
Karen looked up as Eliza came back setting down glasses of water in front of them. She thanked Eliza quietly before turning her attention back to her son, “What do you think she knew, honey?”
Dan’s lip quivered and he cradled his head with his hands. “That I want to keep the baby.” He pawed at his eyes before clearing his throat and speaking once more, “I mean I know I’m young, and I don’t have a lot of room for anything, but I think it would kill me to know that I have a baby out in the world knowing they’re off doing amazing things that I don’t get to be a part of.”
“Okay?” He said, “You’re not upset?”
“Oh, Dan,” She whispered sweetly, looking into her son’s eyes, “It’s not like you planned this with malicious intent, or at all for that matter. The best thing I can do right now, is be here for you.” Dan smiled and choked back some of his emotion. “And I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news, but your father also gets home tonight.”
Dan’s breath hitched in his throat as he remembered his father. “Oh.” His heartbeat sped with the thoughts of telling his dad about the baby.
“I don’t want to tell you how to go about this, but I do think it’d be best if you told him about the situation,” Dan nodded as his mum spoke, still with those honey filled words. “I will stand there with you, if that’ll help.”
Dan thought it over, yes he wanted his mum there. That would alleviate some of his stress. How would dad react? Oh, shit, how would Adrian react? Or his nana? Fuck, he still had a lot to go over.
“Would that help, Dan?” Karen interrupted her son’s thoughts.
“Yeah,” He said trying to remind himself everything was gonna be okay. “Yeah, it would.”
Breakfast had gone well, Dan had to admit. Even though he did have a slight breakdown in a booth at an old-style family restaurant, he had to admit the outcome was better than he expected. His mum still loved him, and now she knew that his intention was to keep the baby no matter what Corinne wanted. He felt a wave of selfishness thinking about it. Not my body. He reminded himself.
He shrugged and moved toward his bedroom after returning home, he really needed to sleep, despite knowing he wouldn’t get any more. He walked into his room and face-planted into the smooth soft comfort of his navy blue bed sheets. His feet slid across each other tugging off his shoes and socks so they fell and hit the ground. He rubbed his cheek against the surface, messing up his hair a bit.
He turned and looked at his old teddy bear that he had kept on his bed since basically the day he was born. Maybe that could be the baby’s. He looked it over again. They would like it, right? He’s been there for me when I needed it.
A yawn interrupted him mid-thought. Sleep.
He tugged down his duvet and covered himself back up under the warm blanket. He shut his eyes hoping for sleep to take over, he steadied his breathing but he couldn’t sleep.
He flopped around for a minute trying to find a more comfortable position, despite already finding his ideal positioning the first time. Everything felt uncomfortable. He turned and faced the silver coloring of his old laptop. He sat up hastily and swiped it so it was in his lap, knowing full well sleep was completely off the table at this point, unless he could calm himself down. He opened the laptop up and typed in his password quickly, the screen quickly opening to the last thing he had opened.
YouTube. He had grown almost addicted to it, he always craved to go back and watch what people had gotten up to, it was distracting in all the best ways. It was nice to know that his life had one of billions, and thankfully for the people online, he could insert himself somewhere else’s for even just a bit of time. Dan’s fingers glided across the trackpad and refreshed the homepage to see the latest videos.
The page turned white momentarily and then quickly filled with loads of colorful thumbnails that were begging to be clicked. He gazed over numerous videos, a few with cats and other animals, a few with titles like “BIGGEST PRANK EVER” and “watch this 100 times and you’ll still laugh”. He saw a few ones with people sat in their bedrooms or tucked away by a blank wall with captions about what they had to talk about. YouTube was magic. A grin spread across his face as he peered over his subscription feed, he sighed at the sight of no new videos, and continued scrolling down the homepage.
His eyes flickered over the light of the screen before seeing three large words:
“Channels you might like:”
He looked over the channels looking at the appearances of them, the first to pop up was a girl with what looked like blue hair, but more a pale-ish—like Cinderella’s ball gown. Her channel name was ToDineFor. He laughed at the attempt of a pun. ‘ SALADS ARE EVIL’ the title read. He breathed out in quiet laughter at the title and opened it up, as an almost exasperated teenage girl filled the screen in what looked like work clothes.
“Hello to all your sweet faces,” she began a sweet American accent filled that once empty void of silence, “as you know, I love cooking,” The camera cut slightly so she was sat at a slightly different angle. “That’s why I am one, working at restaurant, and two, in a trade school,” she laughed a little at herself. Dan grinned, she looked like she was having fun telling a story. She grinned and had these beautiful pink glossed lips that made her stand out even more than it already did. A title screen played before she went even further, which was a link to her blog, under the label ‘ for those interested in a more in depth of my adventure check out my blog, Gianna’s To Dine For .’
The girl, now Gianna, went on to explain this elaborate story of how she was preparing a salad, which she had mentioned wasn’t super common to order late at night—she had also added that pasta was their specialty, but for some odd reason they were known for having an obscure type of pizza—but that night was extra busy, and there was never a time she wasn’t preparing salad, and it had even gotten to a point they were in such high demand, she had to pull one of their newbies to the back to help. Dan felt a bit better after watching her video and hit subscribe almost immediately.
He backed out despite wanting to watch more of her videos, as if something had been telling him there was more to look at. He hadn’t been one to imagine that fate was real but he felt something tugging at his innermost being to just go scour a bit further on the YouTube homepage. He scrolled for a minute before casting his eyes on a guy, who couldn’t have been much older than Dan himself. He had black hair and shocking blue eyes on some of the palest skin Dan had ever cast his eyes on. He looked down at the title and saw the word’s Phil’s video blog . Something about it felt right. He clicked on the video and a lovely northern accent filled his head. He smiled at him as he went on to explain an elaborate story of something that had happened at uni the day previous to him filming.
Dan felt a genuine smile cover his face as he watched him, this tall, quirky emo dude with the most gorgeous pools of blue that if it hadn’t been for Corinne or his unborn child he would undoubtedly wish with every fiber of his being to take a dip in.