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Short Story Winner – Understanding Love

April 24, 2012

Understanding Love

By Alisha Cunzio

1…2…3…4… boom.

The storm is four miles away. It’s a big one, you can tell, because the wind is blowing fiercely and the clouds are swirling, black patches in the sky. You know a lot about storms, more than most eight year olds do, but you know even more about the ocean.

“Daniel? Sweetheart, please get away from the window.”

You don’t turn to your Mom when she calls you. You know why she’s worried, but you know you’ll be fine. The glass in the window is reinforced, and the wind speed can’t be higher than 40 miles per hour, so you just keep staring at the approaching storm and pretend you’re an eel tucked safely away in some undersea crevasse.

“Daniel… please,” she begs, and you hear something funny in her voice. “Sweetie, please do it for Mommy.” Dr. Moriss told you about fear. Your mother sounds afraid.

She’s a good mother. She gives you books about the ocean, and when Dad is home she takes you to the aquarium. She reminds you of a blue whale nurturing her calf.

“Daniel, are you listening to Mommy?”

She’s sitting beside you now, and you look away from the window as she reaches over to tie your shoe. You don’t move because these touches are okay. She’s not touching you, it’s just your shoelace. That’s okay.

“You know,” she says gently, “we could go downstairs and watch that video about sharks you like.”

You don’t want to go downstairs, and you would say as much, but for some reason something stops you. Something always stops you. When that happens you feel like a giant clam that has closed up to keep from letting its insides out. You want to let your insides out, but you can’t.

“Daniel, please look at me.”

And then you feel her hand on your ear, and you make a loud sound of protest before fleeing from her touch. You don’t like to be touched. It doesn’t feel right.

Sometimes, your Mom cries when you run away. Your Mom cries a lot, and the therapist said that it meant she is sad. That’s what you’re expecting now. Big tears the size of the droplets that are rolling down the window.

But she doesn’t cry.

The storm rattles over the house like a cruise ship disrupting calm ocean waters, and your Mom just looks out at the storm. She has never done this before, but it makes you feel… happy.

You want your Mom to be happy, too. You slowly inch back toward her on the bench, not close enough to touch, but close enough to feel her warmth. It’s like a pleasant, deep ocean vent, and you smile a little bit because it’s nice. You see your Mom smiling, too.

The house is silent as the eye of the storm passes over. It reminds you of the calm oceans in Hawaii, where mother blue whales and their young swim together in perfect harmony.