Written in response to the Inktober prompt #9: Pressure.
~The Open Window~
The violent slashes of the angry words stand out among the neat dot points of her son’s physics notes.
I CAN’T TAKE THIS ANY MORE!!!
She knows he’s stressed. Everyone in his year is under immense pressure to perform well at the national exams so that they can pursue the career they want. But just this afternoon he was laughing and sharing jokes over lunch. He had everything under control.
She thought he had everything under control.
The windows on the second floor of their house have safety features so that they can’t be open wide enough for a person to squeeze through. Someone has tinkered with the frame so that it swings wide like a gaping jaw.
Her heavy heartbeats and gasping breaths drown everything out as she crosses the empty room. Shaky hands brace her body against the pale green wall as she braces her mind for the horrifying sight she’s about to see. Her head pokes out and she looks down at the ground.
It’s clear. She doesn’t find her son’s broken body.
She sobs in relief as her knees buckle, but she’s not done yet. Where is her son? She can’t leave until she knows her son is safe.
She follows the voice to the rooftop, where her son sits, with nothing but his own sense of balance to keep him in place instead of a splat on the ground. Terror sharpens her voice.
“Get in now!”
Her son climbs towards her. If he slips, there’s nothing she can do to stop his fall, but she also can’t not watch his every move, as if she can make his limbs stick to the tiles by sheer will.
Finally, he clambers over the windowsill. The moment his feet touch the floor, she wraps him tightly in her limbs until all the air rushes out of his lungs.
“I just needed some air,” he gasps.
She thinks there’s plenty of air inside, or even downstairs in the yard if he wants ‘fresh air’. Clearly, her son has inherited his father’s love for heights.
“If you really want to sit on the roof, get safety rigging first. No harness, no roof.”
Her son is silent at first, then he rests his arms carefully around her.
Related story: Roof Access
Genre: slice of life, family