the car rolls to a stop. molly glances upward, and catches the look on gabriel's face from the mirror: sullen, distrustful. his hair has grown out to his nose almost, which, of course, covers what he's really hiding: the eye patch.

looking at it still makes her feel a measure of uneasiness, and anger. one stupid driver had caused all of this, and while the bills were paid, gabriel having to deal with losing an eye during what was supposed to be a nice summer and going back to school to a world full of shitty kids just wasn't fair to him. especially not at his age.

there's an urge to simply turn the car around, take him back home and let him get back into the funk he'd settled into some days. the rest of her, however, who knows better as both his mother and as a person, understands that isn't the right thing to do. he's a teenager, and he has to live with this for the rest of his life. her hand hovers over the wheel, and she lets out a deep breath. "you know, you can't sit in here all day. not unless you want to watch caillou with jenny and laura."

he gives a grunt, and his shoulders work upwards towards his ear. "they won't call me names, though."

"who says they're going to call you names?" molly swivels to look at him better. "people know you were in an accident. they know you lost your eye, and you know how i feel about people calling you names, even if it gets you suspended. you will be fine — and they'll accommodate you."

it feels so fucking suburban. it feels so stupid, even though it's the truth. people will be shocked, and they will get over it. and still…

it's not working. gabriel looks less enthused than ever, and molly finally has to reach over and brush his hair out of his face. the scar looks a little odd — like a star almost in his face. something about it makes it supernatural. he doesn't flinch from her, but doesn't offer anything else except what she figures is teenage pride to not cry in front of his own mother, as if she hadn't wiped his bottom from the day he was born or pulled him from her himself.


"can you just stay until first period is over?" it's about all he's willing to give her at this point, the only admittance of being scared. she thinks about him in kindergarten, the first time they'd really separated. how he'd held onto her hand at the door, had gone through, and then run back for a quick hug. how he seemed strong and smart and so entirely of his own then. and how she had felt like she was delicate then.

molly smiles and presses a kiss to his forehead. "sure, kiddo. but if you don't text me when it's over, i'm gone when that bell rings, okay?"

he nods, and it's so hesitant. his fingers fumble for the door, he hefts his bag over his shoulders. "love you, ma."

like always, it hits her square in the chest, how much she loves this kid. "love you too. i'll be here, okay?"

he gives her one more awkward smile, clambers out of the car. gabriel shuts the door behind him, and carefully blends into the crowd of other teenagers. molly watches, hands on the wheel. she turns on the car simply to let the radio play and the air conditioner hit her with a cool wave of air.

this wasn't going to be easy. not always. she wasn't prepared for things like this, having to cope after an injury like this or juggling complex teenage emotions. molly was trying, though, as hard as she could.

first period ends. he texts her, c u later, ma.

relief floods through her. she starts the car, and hits the road.