“Remember how we act when we see a cross?” She was glancing at him, or at the reflection of him in her mirror as she applied her makeup.
He nodded nervously. He looked so tiny and frail and she hoped he never got big. If he appeared strong, it would defeat her purpose.
“And if they sprinkle the water on you?”
He nodded again and mimicked convulsions.
“Good. Now come over here so I can look you over.”
She was lucky that he was so clumsy and bruised easily. He definitely appeared to be on the receiving end of something bad. She had lavished in the attention from doctors and medical staff, but she was now after bigger game.
She shooed the boy away and returned to her makeup. “I am having a hard time seeing…eyes all blurry.” She had been feeling strangely lately but was not going to let anything come between her and her big opportunity.
Even though the boy would be the star of the episode, she had to get her look just right. She felt that single-mother faced with a parent’s worse-case-scenario would endear her to Brent Carson. She had stalked his social media for nearly two years; he was very supportive of women’s causes and children’s charities. He was crazy about his dog, too, and she wished she had thought to adopt one to appear sympatico. Applying to be on the show had taken most of her energy and fabricating the back story with the garage sale music box had drained her of any creative impulses.
She wore a dress that was casual enough for an “everyday mom” but that showed off her assets. The boy was in his bed, thermostat turned down in his room, water strategically applied to his hairline and clothing to create the appearance of sweat. She was fighting her jitters when the doorbell rang.
Brent Carson blew past her, instructing the camera operators of how they should set up once they were in the boy’s room. She began to interrupt when Carson told her to wait where she was and that he would be back to debrief her.
She waited, as told, and listened to the sound of equipment being set up in her son’s room. She wondered if she appeared less attentive waiting downstairs while her son, her “whole world” as she had told producers, was upstairs with strange television people in his room. Then again, Carson had told her to wait in place and she wanted to convey to him that she was ready to do anything he asked.
Her uncertainty was put to rest by the sight of Carson descending the stairs. He was tall and broad shouldered with spiky hair that gave the appearance of tousled bed-head, but that she knew took time and consideration to craft.
“You have traveled such a long way…can I offer you something?” She gestured to the table she had set up with fruit, crackers, tartare, and sushi.
Carson appeared baffled. “Do you normally eat…a lot of raw foods?”
She giggled in a way that she felt was charming. “Animal urges, you know.” She shrugged and batted her eyes, not to clear their blurriness, but in a flirtatious manner. “I was once told I was too pretty to cook.”
“Maybe later,” he mumbled and made his way back to the stairs. “You can stay here, or you can come to the bedroom, but you will have to promise not to intervene, no matter how bad it gets.”
“I will do anything you say,” she replied in what she thought was a seductive, throaty voice.
He stopped mid-climb. “Say that again…”
He paused. “Nothing. Might just be my imagination but you sounded…” He climbed the rest of the steps in silence without finishing his thought. She followed into the bedroom where her son was lying perfectly still on top of the sheets. A priest, or an actor dressed like a priest, was talking to the boy. She felt herself becoming irrationally angry at the sight of this exchange. A low growl escaped her throat.
Carson approached her. “You will have to be silent when we are filming.”
She mimed zipping her lips and slid back into the shadows of the room. The priest read some scripture and the boy laughed demonically, or maybe theatrically. She wished they had practiced that a bit more. The priest then took a small bottle from his vest and began sprinkling the boy. On cue, the boy cringed and convulsed; he writhed and hissed. Carson rolled his eyes at the camera man.
“Good boy,” she whispered and gave her child the thumbs up. He was so good at following directions, it was his most endearing quality. That, and his willingness to please her. When he had been a baby, he had been quiet and compliant—the perfect wingman for a single-mom on the prowl for some male sympathy. When he had first begun school, he had followed her scripts to a “T.” He perfectly mimicked the excuses she had given him for the bumps and bruises that sometimes appeared on him. She couldn’t always control her temper, or that of the men she brought home, but her son was continuously willing to do whatever it took to defend her.
Carson took the bottle from the priest and showed it to her. “It is fake…tap water…has he been to a therapist or received any other type of help?”
She tilted her head coyly. “I have moved heaven and earth to help him. I have left absolutely no stone unturned. There is not a moment that goes by that I am not researching how to help him, or making calls, or taking him to appointments.” She stepped closer to Carson, invading his personal space. “Please, you are our last hope.”
Carson recoiled and pointed at her. “You…your nose is bleeding and there is…it looks like blood coming from your eyes.”
The priest, or actor/priest, heard what Carson said and he turned toward her with a crucifix in his hand. The boy was watching intently, forgetting that he should react to the relic. His mother had a large enough reaction for them both.
Words came from her mouth that she could not recognize. Then clearly, in English, she said, “I know how and when you will die, but you are better off not knowing.”
Carson looked to the camera man and said excitedly, “I think we have a real one…after all this time, we finally have a real possession.”
They pushed the boy aside and strapped his mom to the bed. As the “holy water” was useless, they used prayers and other relics on her. The actor/priest had been able to obtain communion wafers, and those paper-thin discs provided photogenic evidence as they seared on her skin.
Brent Carson was salivating at the thought of the ratings for this episode.
The boy knew he should try to help his mother but watching her struggle beneath the ties that lashed her to the bed was pleasing to him. Welts and bruises appeared on her flesh, and he knew how that felt. He also knew that his mother wanted the attention of Brent Carson. He had been ordered to not interrupt the two if they were interacting, and he had been trained to follow orders.
∼ Elaine Pascale
© Copyright Elaine Pascale. All Rights Reserved.