Love Under Contract Excerpt – Dean Hodel

Love Under Contract

Six hours after Michael’s mother was laid to rest, his beatings began.

“Get up, boy! Get up! She always had time for you. ‘Let’s give Michael a good education.’ ‘Let’s do this for him,’ or ‘Let’s do that,’ she’d say. Every day she’d go to work for you. Well, she’s gone now! It’s all your fault,” Michael’s father sneered.

At an even 6’, Michael could have defended himself. He didn’t have the bulk his father had, but he had speed. Michael felt the anger boil up in him. His hands clenched into fists on the linoleum floor.

His mother had kept his drunk father away from him. Now she was gone. Nothing stood between his father’s fists and him. Anger was like a living beast lurking, waiting to jump out.

Michael’s father, Steven Travers, stumbled over his feet and fell onto the floor. Steven was a large, muscular man. Steven worked on the rails in the New York City Subway system.  Today he traded in his orange reflective vest for the only suit he owned. The last time he wore this suit he was getting married.

 Michael’s mother, Carina Travers, would have wanted the father and son to look after one another.  Carina would have reminded her son that he looked too much like his father to ignore him.

Michael wanted to honor his mother, but he couldn’t this time. Between father and son, there was a river of distrust and anger that ebbed and flowed.

Carrina and Michael had chosen the linoleum together. Michael could see the drops of blood from his nose fall onto the beige and blue pattern. Michael waited on the floor, not moving, and listening.  When his father fell on the floor, Michael lifted his head up.

Steven was on the floor, and his body was shaking. Michael heard a low moan come from his father. Slowly Michael backed away from the man on the floor and got to his feet. Michael avoided his father by walking through the kitchen to get to the hallway that led to his room.

As he walked through the hallway, he saw the pictures of himself and his mother in cheap frames. The house was filled with second-hand goods. Michael tried to understand why his mother stayed. As the moans from the living room grew louder, he tried to understand what kind of man put alcohol before the woman he loved. The situation made Michael question if his father loved his mother at all.

“She should have told me she was sick. She should have rested. I needed more time.” Michael’s father was loud and slurred. His father’s words were littered with accusations and tears.

Michael knew it was time to go. The glue that had held the family together was gone. In its place was a man who had years of regret and a boy whose promise and potential demanded more from life. When he reached his room, he pushed the door, so it was still ajar. Then, Michael reached under his bed and pulled out his knapsack. He kept a go bag ready at all times. He kept it ready in case his mother came to her senses and wanted to leave. It never happened, and it wouldn’t now.   Michael picked up his mom’s picture frame from his nightstand and put it in his bag.

It was time to start the next phase of his life. Michael had money saved up. He had a whopping total of 6,000 dollars.  He knew he was able to get construction jobs. Construction sites liked his size and strength, and he liked getting paid off the books.

His mom was gone. He was ready to start a new life. He just needed Sadonna, his girl, his future wife.

He and Sadonna Alston met in detention and had been kindred souls since. She was his safe place. She had been at the funeral, but his father didn’t want anyone riding with him that wasn’t immediate family. At first, Michael was going to fight, but Sadonna calmed him and told him it was okay.

Michael had it all planned. He would go to her apartment and show his go bag. She’d look at it, and she’d get hers. They would leave like they had dreamed of doing for the last year. It was sudden, but the time was right.

He walked down the picture-laden hall for the last time.  As he passed the pictures for the final time, he said goodbye. Goodbye to his childhood, goodbye to the safety of his mother’s arms. He said goodbye to the only home he’d ever known.

Glancing in the living room, he saw his father still on the floor, mumbling and intermittently crying. He walked out the door, letting the green metal door slam behind him. He took a deep breath, and for once he felt free.

The only thing he needed now was Sadonna. Now was the time to begin their new lives.