34: Tyler

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34. Tyler

 When I walk into the kitchen, I immediately know something is wrong. Mom is sitting alone, a mug of coffee on the table and her hands clasped tightly together. I walk over to the fridge and grab myself a glass of water.

I walk awkwardly to the table and sit down across from my mom.

"You okay?" I ask. "Shouldn't you be at work?"

She nods her head and pushes her coffee to the side. "Look, I know the last year or so has been hard on you."

I frown. "How so—?"

"You found out about your dad and me. You found out about your biological parents. I know it wasn't easy and I know that you went through a rough patch. A very rough patch," Mom continues and I look up at her, my throat constricting. "And I know I didn't make things better. I don't even know if this will make up for some of it but . . . I was at your grandparents' house the other day and I managed to find some pictures. Pictures from your biological mom, my sister."

My frown deepens and I then notice the small pictures face-down on the table.

"They're yours," she says. "If you want them."

I push my glass of water to the side and nod slowly. "Can I look at them?"

"Of course," she flips one over and slides it across the table towards me, "this is her, when she was eighteen."

I stare down at the small picture. It's of a young woman with long hair that has been tied away in one thick braid. Her eyes twinkle lazily and her smile is wide and happy. I lift a hand and run a finger over the white border surrounding the picture.

"Before me?" I ask.

Mom nods. "Before you and your father."

"Emmy," I say quietly, remembering the name that my mom had given her when she broke the news to me.

Mom smiles softly. "Emmy," she whispers.

"You miss her," I comment.

"I miss who she was," she says. "She changed rapidly, Ty. One week I knew her and the next I didn't."

"That couldn't have been easy," I say.

She shakes her head and looks down at the picture in my hand. "No, it wasn't. I guess in a way it was almost easier knowing that she would never go back to the way she was. The drugs didn't help, made things worse for her which made everything worse for your grandparents and me."

I press the picture back down against the table and tear my eyes away from those of my mother to look into the ones of my real mom. "What was wrong with her?"

"Schizophrenia," she answers. "Grandma thinks the drugs triggered it. I think it's always been there, just got louder."

"Why do you think it was always there?"

"With schizophrenia, the person always has it. Just takes a certain amount of strain for it to be visible. My sister though, she was different. I would catch her giving looks to people, the second it was there, it was gone. She talked to herself a lot—we shared a room for a while. Most nights she would talk herself to sleep. First I thought she was reading but she was talking like someone else was in the room with her."

A shiver runs down my spine and I slide the picture to the side. "What's that one?"

My mom's eyes follow mine to the second picture lying face-down on the table. She slides it up and sighs.

"I found this in her diary," she says. "It was open on her desk, no one moved it. This picture was sticking out the corner so . . . I took it." She pushes the picture towards me. "This, Tyler, is your father. Guthrie Black."

I look at the picture and a stab of surprise goes through me. The man in the picture looks like he's in his mid-twenties, with a clean-shaven face and reasonable clothes. His dark hair stands out in the picture and the image I'd had of him being a slobbering, disgusting mess clears from my mind instantly.

He's handsome.

"Guthrie's in jail now," Mom continues. "He got done for drug dealing."

"Didn't get done for being a pimp?" I ask harshly.

She shakes her head. "He was a difficult guy to pin down. His sentence was shortened to five years, but he keeps adding time to it."

I frown. "Why does he add to it?"

"Guthrie always had a short temper," Mom says. "Apparently he gets into fights a lot. With inmates and guards."

"I thought you didn't know him that well," I comment and my mom snaps her eyes up to mine before looking away.

"He was my sister's lover," she says indifferently. "I'd seen him around."

I nod my head slowly. I want to press further but instead just look down at the two pictures and place them side by side. Emmy and Guthrie. My parents. One in jail and one mentally unstable.

"But Emmy isn't sectioned anymore," I say.

"She was released, yes, as you know," mom says. "But I don't know where she is now, Tyler. Your grandparents might, but I don't."

"I still don't know if I want to talk to her," I say. "If I'm ready for that."

"Whatever you want," Mom says. "And only at your pace. I doubt Emmy would ever want to see me again though."

"Why not?" I ask.

"She still holds a grudge over how I ended up getting custody of you," she explains.

"Why?" I ask, not understanding.

"Things happened back then, Tyler, a lot of things. Emmy made mistakes as did your dad and I. Guthrie made mistakes too and I'm sorry but he was one piece of shit. He ruined my sister."

"I don't get why you and Emmy ended badly though. If it was Guthrie's fault . . . "

"When you were born, no one had the guts to help Emmy. She was unstable, Tyler. Completely unstable. I went to visit a week after you were born to find you lying on the floor naked and unfed for hours while she sat in a corner and rocked back and forth. I couldn't sit and watch you slowly die by your own mother's hand. So I did what no one else could."

"You called them in to section her," I finish.

"It was either that or the next time I visited, you would be dead. Emmy wouldn't live with any of us. She refused. And then she was going on and on about living with Guthrie and living happily ever after. I wouldn't allow him to get near you. I had no other choice. And when they came in to get her, she looked back and saw you, in my arms. She lashed out and screamed at me as they took her away. Emmy could be anywhere. But she won't be near me."

I gulp, staring down at the wooden table. My throat feels dry and no matter what I do, that dryness stays there and consumes me. The pictures feel hot under my fingertips and I move my hands away from them.

"You did all that . . . for me?" I ask tentatively.

My mom's face softens into a soft smile and she nods. "Of course I did. I might not have given birth to you, Tyler, but I've loved you since the second you were born. And I'll continue to love you well past the day I die."

My eyes get hot and sting and I stand up, walking round the table as my mom stands too. I immediately wrap my arms around her and she takes a step back in surprise before catching herself and hugging me. Her hand gently rubs my back and I tighten my arms around her. I clench my eyes shut and immediately think that I could just sleep right there on her shoulder with no worries and feel completely safe.

"I love you, too," I choke out and her hand presses against the back of my head, holding me gently.

- Ellie x

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