Tainted Love

As I was knitting my quilt, I heard a shuffling of feet. Looking up, I saw my son looking back at me with a dejected look in his eyes.

"Mom, can I ask you something?" He asked me quietly, after hesitating for a few moments.

"Sure. You know you can ask me anything, right?"

"Yeah. Thanks. I have a bit of a problem, and I don't know what to do with it." he said hesitantly.

"What's wrong?" I asked sympathetically.

"Jason's been bothering me and I keep on telling him to stop, but he doesn't want to."

"Bothering you how?"

"I… He keeps on calling me names, Mom. Mean names. And I don't like it. I've told him to stop, but keeps on doing it."

"Did he apologise?" No reply. "Did he apologise to you?"

"No he didn't, mom. And he's not going to. I can tell."

"Well, what makes you say that?"

"Because this happened last time, and he didn't apologise. He'll only apologise if you tell him to, and after a while, he'll start all over again."

"What kind of names did he call you; what did he say?"

"He said I'm stupid, that I'll never be anything important , and that…" The rest of the sentence was drowned in the sound of silence as I watched his face contort with the pain of emotion

"That?" I prodded.

"That I'm a fuck up."

"Jason would never say that."

"Yes he would, Mom. He isn't like what you think he is. Behind closed doors, he's really mean to me. And I keep on trying to tell you, but you don't listen to me. He's a hypocrite: a real hypocrite and he always acts nice to me when I'm around you, but he's not nice to me at all, and I don't think he ever will be."

"But he is nice. He's your older brother. He's supposed to be nice."

"The world doesn't work like it should, Mom. He lies and does all sorts of things that you'd never believe."

"Like?"

"I'm not going to say anything; you wouldn't believe me."

"Well, have you forgiven him?"

"Why should I forgive him when he hasn't apologised to me? Why should I forgive him? Give me one good reason."

"I'll give you two. The first is that you're family, and you're supposed to be there for each other, no matter what happens between you. Secondly, the Bible says we must forgive."

"Why is it always like this? Why am I always the one who's wrong? Never him? Every single time there's a fight between us, you always make me apologise, and I'm always the wrong one."

"It's because you need to know when you're wrong and when you're right. I do the same to Jason. I treat the two of you equally."

"Oh please, mom. You don't. The last time this happened, it was me who apologised, and he got away with no punishment." I sighed. This wasn't getting anywhere, and I could see it. "When was the last time that happened with me? When was I the one who won the argument?"

"It's not about winning or losing, Rick. It's about loving your family."

"How do you possibly expect me to have any good feelings for him, especially any even remotely close to love, when all he does is put me down, and every single time that happens, you side with him and I end up looking like an idiot How can I have any good feelings towards…"

"He's your brother, Rick." I said, cutting him off. "You can't be so malicious towards him. What if your wife or your friend hurts you or does something to you that you don't like? What will you do then?" I saw he wasn't going to answer me. "What does the Bible say about forgiveness?"

"I don't know, Mom."

"Come on. You can do better than that. What does the Bible say about forgiveness?"

"That we should forgive others." he said sullenly

"Right. Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. What else?"

"I don't know." he replied

"Forget it. So what do you want me to do with him?"

"Punish him properly. Make him feel the same way I feel. Make him stop. Otherwise he'll just keep on doing this."

"I can't just do that; you need to forgive him."

"You know what, forget it. It's fine."

"No. It's not fine. We need to sort this out once and for all. Stay right there." I sighed again, taking a moment to collect my thoughts. "Jason!"

"Mom!" He came down the stairs and looked at me inquisitively.

"Your brother wants to say something to you." We both looked at Rick. "Well, Rick?"

"Why are you looking at me? What did I do now?"

"You're supposed to be apologising to your brother." I didn't notice Jason's inquisitive look turn into a smile.

"But mom, I-"

"Enough of this stalling. Apologise to your brother and go to your room."

"Didn't you hear any of what I said?"

"I heard. Now, apologise to him."

"I'm sorry Jason."

"For?" I interjected.

"It's okay, Rick. Don't worry about it." Jason said, dismissively.

"Now shake hands and make up." I said, watching once they shook hands, Jason with a smile on his face, Rick looking indifferent.

"You see, all sorted. There isn't a problem anymore, is there?"

A pause. "No mom. Thanks." I smiled as he walked up the stairs, before resuming my knitting.

As I walked to the bedroom, my conscience told me to check on Rick. I opened his door slowly and heard him crying quietly, using the pillow to muffle the sound of his sobs.

"Rick, honey, what's wrong?"

"Nothing. Just leave me alone, Mom." he said, with tears in his eyes.