Danni was spreading an even layer of peanut butter on the first slice of bread. He was completely engrossed in this task. Rachel looked impatiently at him.
"Danni, hurry up or you will miss the bus," Rachel said.
"Ok, mommy," the boy answered, then looked up at his mother and said "You are so beautiful today, mom."
"The women must be careful when you grow up dear," Rachel said and smiled widely.
"What do you mean?"
"You are a great flatterer. Now, tell me what you want!"
"You are really beautiful. Everyone knows that."
"Ok Danni, tell me what you want from me!"
Danni put the slice of bread in the dish and stared at his mother.
"I just wondered if it is possible... daddy to be with us again."
Rachel's face darkened. She crumpled the napkin nervously.
"Danni, we have talked about that a lot. I explained what the word divorce means. Daddy doesn't live with us but he loves you very much. He will come to see you next Saturday. You know that."
"Why do you hate him?" Danni asked angrily.
"I don't hate him. We just can't live together anymore. You have to understand that."
"But mom, we need him. What if you got sick? Who's going to take care for me then? "
"Your pretty mother will always be taking care of you. Now, get ready for school."
Danni stood up abruptly and ran up the stairs to his room. He didn't want Rachel to see the tears in his eyes.
"Are you ready?" Rachel cried out impatiently from the kitchen.
"I am coming mom"
The school bus brought Danni home at 2 p.m. He got in, locked the front door, went in his room and lied on his bed. He lied motionlessly for more than an hour, just staring at the ceiling. Then he paced to the bathroom. He kneeled down and ran the palms of his hands on the cold tiles. After that he went down to the garage. Some of his father's belongings were still there. Danni read the labels of some of the plastic bottles dumped into the corner and found what he was looking for.
Rachel got back from work at 6 p.m. She kicked off her pumps and threw her purse on the couch.
"Danni, where are you dear?" she asked loudly.
"In my room, mom?"
"Did you eat your lunch today?"
"What are you doing now? Playing computer games, aren't you?"
"No. I am doing my homework."
"You are not lying to me, are you?"
Rachel didn't wait for his answer. She took off her skirt and hastily unbuttoned her white blouse. It was a tiring day so she badly wanted a refreshing shower. Pacing towards the bathroom, Rachel felt the pleasant coolness of the hardwood floor under her stockinged feet. The tiles near the door were as slippery as ice. Her right foot slipped forward. She flailed her arms trying to regain balance. In this moment her left foot slipped too. Her ankle twisted inwards and she fell down heavily.
Danni heard his mother's painful cry, turned off the computer and ran out the room and down the stairs. Rachel was sitting in the middle of the bathroom, clasping her left ankle with both hands. She whimpered then tightened her lips as she saw her son coming. She didn't want to scare him.
"Mommy, what happened?" Danni asked with a trembling voice.
"I slipped, Danni. The tiles are so slippery. I had to be more cautious."
"Did you hurt yourself, mom? Why are you crying?"
Rachel rubbed her tears away with the end of her sleeve and tried to smile. Her smile looked more like a grimace though.
"I am fine, dear. Just... my ankle is a bit sore. Don't worry about me. Could you please bring my purse? "
Danni turned and headed to the living room. Rachel dragged herself to the toiled pan. Holding on the sink for support, she managed to lift herself up and sit on the pan. She lifted her left leg, flexed her knee and rested her calf on her right knee. The pain made her feel dizzy. She closed her eyes for a moment, took a deep breath and tried to calm down. Then she leant forward to examine her injured ankle. A swelling had stared to grow under the black stocking. Even the slightest movement was causing a nasty, shooting pain.
Danni reached out to give her the purse. Rachel stared uncomprehendingly at him.
"Oh... the purse... thanks Danni," she mumbled and took it.
The boy cocked his head and looked intently at Rachel's swollen ankle while she blew her nose. He wanted desperately to know what she was thinking. Then he took a towel and started wiping the tiles.
"The tiles must have been wet," Danni said.
"Sure. You have to be more careful than me. Promise!"
As Danni whipped the tiles clean, Rachel propped herself on the wall and stood up, awkwardly balancing on her good leg. She kept her left foot safely off the floor.
"Can you put weight on it," Danni asked worriedly.
"I think... I should not do that"
"Lean on me mom!"
As they made their way to the living room, Rachel barely managed to stifle her gasps. Every hop was shaking her injured ankle. The pain was gradually becoming intolerable. Finally they got to the couch and Rachel slumped on it. She pulled the stocking down her leg to her ankle. Then wincing, she gingerly removed it. Danni's eyes popped out at the sight.
"We must call daddy!" He said calmly.
Rachel tensed and glared at her son.
"We don't need him, Danni! I don't want to hear you talking about him anymore," she said angrily.
"But mommy... he always knows what must be done."
"Give me the phone!" Rachel ordered.
Danni's face brightened and he hurried to bring it to his mother.
Rachel took it impatiently and dialed 911.
Rachel threw the phone on the couch and buttoned up her blouse. As her hands were trembling violently this task took more than a minute. After that, she struggled into her skirt, moaning from time to time. His lips pursed, Danni was staring impassively at his mother. He felt distraught and was barely able to stifle his emotions. Rachel looked at him, reached out and tenderly took his hand. Danni winced.
"Everything will be all right, Danni. I feel better now," Rachel explained softly.
"Bring me the shoes, dear!"
Danni looked around and saw that her mother's pumps were left off near the table. He brought them, then rested them beside her feet. Rachel slipped the right shoe on, looked at her swollen ankle and sighed.
The doorbell started to ring. Danni didn't react at first.
"Danni, the door," Rachel rasped.
Danni got out to open the front door.
The paramedic took a cursory glance at Rachel's injured ankle, kneeled before her and deftly put her leg in a splint. Leaning on the wall, Danni was observing curiously.
"I will be back in a couple of hours. There is a fried chicken in the fridge. If you prefer, you can make sandwiches. And don't watch too much TV," Rachel said.
"OK, mum. Don't you want me to come with you?"
"No need, dear. Now give me a hug!"
It was already dark outside when Danni heard a car coming to a stop. He looked out the window, but could not see anything. A minute later the doorbell started to ring impatiently. He ran to open the door.
Rachel was standing outside, smiling sheepishly at her son. She was leaning on a pair of aluminum crutches. Her casted left leg was hanging down, useless as never before. The white plaster cast started at the base of her toes, kept her knee bent at an angle and disappeared somewhere under her skirt.
"Wow," Danni exclaimed and blushed.
"Don't worry, Danni. I am fine."
The boy moved aside to make room for his mother. Rachel got in, carefully picking her way. Her graceful gait was now replaced by an awkward crutching. Danni felt a wave of guilt washing over him. He wondered if his mother could notice his uneasiness.
"Is it broken mommy?"
"Yes. My ankle turned out to be broken," Rachel replied as she headed toward the couch.
"What we gonna do now?"
"Just what we normally do, dear. Watch TV, and then go to bed. Nothing has changed really."
"But your leg... I don't know what to do."
"Nothing can be done. Don't pay so much attention to the cast! It just keeps my leg immobilized. I know it looks scary but I will definitely live," Rachel said and giggled.
"That's good. Do you want a sandwich?"
"I am not hungry but you can bring me a beer," she said and slumped into the couch.
Happy to be of any use, Danni returned as faster as he could. Rachel has managed to pull the table closer and was about to lift her casted leg on it.
"Let me help you mom."
Danni bent down and took the cast cautiously. Its heaviness surprised him. The smooth plaster made him feel strangely agitated. A second later, the cast was on the table.
"I will get a pillow," Danni said, thinking about the opportunity to touch the cast again.
"What a good boy you are, Danni! I love you so much!"
"I love you too, mom."
The first thing Rachel saw as she woke up the next morning was her son standing beside her bed. She glanced up at the clock. It was early.
"What are you doing here, Danni?" she asked and rubbed her eyes.
"I wanted to make sure that you are all right," Danni replied.
Rachel yawned and looked at her casted leg. It was propped up on a pile of pillows. The memories of the previous day rushed into her mind. She tried to chase them away.
"I am fine," she said despite the pain that stared to gnaw at her broken ankle.
.... There is more of this story ...