Hello and welcome back to Taylor’s Time, the place we shine a spotlight on the writings of a new and talented author!
Today she’s given an exclusive-to-us scene, titled ‘Baby Boy’. She said she was inspired by the following song, so give it a listen first, then read the story, and don’t forget to follow her fan page on Facebook!
My son was led from the blackness of his cell into the brightness of the courtyard. The guards pulled and shoved him this way and that, as if they were trying to trip him. Heavy shackles bound his wrists. A dreadful iron collar hung around his neck. I watched in horror as the guards secured my child to a post. His body, the body I’d bathed for so many years, shivered in the growing chill. His beautiful robes were gone and he was naked. The guards stepped back. They took their whips from their belts. I squeezed the metal bars of the gate that kept me from stopping them.
My son looked up then. His eyes, a reflection of my own, locked on mine. Something inside me twisted and tore. He looked as helpless as he was the day he came into the world, as frightened as he was before I wrapped him up and drew him to my breast. I swallowed.
The tears were coming now, burning and hot. No, he couldn’t see me cry, I couldn’t permit it. I had to be strong.
Then, my son did something I never expected. He smiled. It was a smile he never gave to anyone but me, small and barely noticeable to those who didn’t know him. For a moment, I wondered why. Then, I knew. He was soothing me, comforting me as if I was the one shackled to the post. Unchecked, my tears came full force. I reached my hand toward him. I whispered his name. His expression didn’t falter. He bowed his head and braced himself for the first lash.
My breath caught. He was ready; I was not. The whips were raised. I closed my eyes.
The flame of the lamp, weak and yellowed, barely illuminated our small room. The emaciated body of my husband rested under the blanket. My son placed his hand on top of mine. He squeezed my fingers. The lamp light flickered across his face.
“I’ll take care of us, Mother,” he soothed.
I leaned against him and sobbed into his robe. His father was dying and we knew it. What would happen now?
A loud crack assaulted my ears, followed by a gasp. One….
“You’ve been working all night, my son.” I said. “Come home and rest.”
My son lifted his eyes from the crib he was building. The shop, his father’s shop, was littered with curled wood shavings and sawdust. Carvings, unfinished and now abandoned, sat propped against the walls. Rags damp with sweat were piled beside the opened door. Again, the lamp light flickered in a threat to burn out.
“They’re expecting the baby in three days, Mother.” said my son, sternly. “Without this crib, he’ll have no bed.”
My eyes shifted to his hands. His fingers were covered with blisters and cuts and splinters that had not yet been removed. I opened my mouth and said nothing. I rubbed his shoulder, and walked back to the house, where I discovered my husband, pale and cold in our bed.
A second crack louder than the first; a harder hit. Another awful gasp. Two….
I pulled and tugged at my son’s robe, but he kept punching, kicking, attacking the man on the ground.
“Leave him be!” I shouted.
At the sound of my voice, my son straightened up. He turned to me, panting and trembling. In his hands, I saw the glint of four gold coins. Upon seeing those coins, I remembered his body and my own, starving beneath our robes. My heart sank as I pressed a hand to my ribcage and felt every bone. I shuddered. For days, we’d eaten nothing but a few dried figs that I’d scavenged from under a withered tree by the road. Work had been slow, the tax collectors unforgiving.
How had I not noticed the effect that this was having on my son? How had I not seen how desperate he was to take care of us? To take care of me?
The man who owned the gold lay bleeding and coughing in the dirt. He was fragile and elderly and undeserving of such treatment. My son, my sweet gentle boy, had done this.
“Look at what you’ve done!” I scolded. “I know you know better than this!”
My son looked at the coins and wept bitterly.
“I’m sorry, Mother.” he choked. “I didn’t know what else to do.”
A cry rang out. My insides squeezed.
My son knelt before me in chains. He shook all over, whether from hunger or fear, I didn’t know.
“Forgive me, Mother.”
I knelt, I held his bearded face in my hands, and I whispered,
“I forgive you, my son.”
He smiled at me. Tears welled up in his eyes. I kissed the wound on his cheek. The guards stormed in, struck him in the head with a reed, and dragged him to his cell.
I held my breath as the number of lashes rose.
My son’s cries became louder. A sword pierced through my heart.
Could they not forgive?
Could they not feel his pain or hear his cries?
My son wasn’t the monster they thought he was. He was tempted by need, not by greed. He didn’t deserve this lashing. I’d watched the guilt destroy him even before their whips did.
My body couldn’t escape. But my thoughts carried me away from that horrible place, far away to my sweet sweet little one.
“Look at this, Mama!”
I peered into his bath water, seeing only his little feet in the bottom of the tub. He splashed at my face and giggled. I laughed with him and kissed his hair.
I smiled at the memory.
My little one reached out for me as I rushed to where he lay in the dust.
“My boy,” I gasped. “What happened?”
I took him into my arms and wiped at his tears.
“I fell down!” he cried.
I kissed him on both cheeks, carried him into the house and cleaned the wound on his knee.
I cringed at the sudden silence of the courtyard. I opened my eyes. My son hung from his shackles, coughing and gasping, his blood dripping onto the dirt. I sighed, relieved that the whipping was done, and my son was mine again.
Within moments, the guards would unhook his chains and deliver him to me. And I would be there for him. I would be there to wipe away the blood from his skin just as I had done on the night of his birth. I would be there to clean out his wounds just as I had done after every fall. I would be there to clothe his naked body just as I had done after every bath. Above all, I would be there to love him just as I had done every day of his life.