Lucy reached for the glass of water. Her hand stopped about halfway there. Dammit. She felt her breath catch in her throat, and she tried to breathe deep so that she wouldn’t cry again. She hated it when her son saw her cry.
Bam-Bam was in the kitchen making dinner. She still thought of him as “Bam-Bam,” but he’d stopped letting her call him that. He wanted to go by “Abe”, which Lucy hated. To her it sounded like an old man’s name. It made her think of Abraham Lincoln. What didn’t help was that her brother had started calling her son “Honest Abe,” which Bam-Bam loved for some stupid reason.
She reached for the water, and her hand stopped. She told her hand what to do, trying to imagine nerves firing and electricity jumping through her muscles. Nothing. “Goddammit,” she whispered, more to test to see if she could speak than anything.
Bam-Bam came out of the kitchen. He was wearing the apron his uncle had bought him for his birthday. His uncle was a chef, and Bam-Bam thought that was the most amazing thing. “How you feeling, Mama?”
“Good,” she said.
“You need more water or anything?”
Lucy shook her head. “I’m OK.”
Bam-Bam looked back into the kitchen to check the sauce; it was simmering, but he could leave it a minute. He walked across the apartment to the table and sat down with his mother. The chair was too high and his feet didn’t touch the floor, but he didn’t mind. “Mama, you haven’t drank any. You sure you’re doing good?”
Lucy took another deep breath. “Yeah, baby. I just…I’m tired. My muscles are doing the weird thing again.”
Bam-Bam nodded carefully. “I could help you.” The sentence was quiet, matter-of-fact, and heavy.
“Oh, baby.” She took his hand. It was small, but already had scars and burns like her brother’s. Perils of cooking. “Baby, I don’t want you to do that. What if the Agency-”
“They told me I could use my discretion.” Bam-Bam stood up. “They told me, if it’s an emergency, like if the invaders are about to kill someone or take someone or hurt someone, and I can stop them if I go forward, then I’m allowed to.”
Lucy nearly started to cry, but stifled it enough that it just sounded like a cough. “But baby, they already hurt me. You can’t help me now, they hurt my brain, and sometimes it’s just like this now.”
Bam-Bam sat back down. He knew she was right. The damage was done, and it wasn’t bad, but it was bad enough. Sometimes Mama can’t talk. Sometimes she can’t move. His friend Leah said it was like when you streamed a video and the connection was bad. Sometimes it got jumbled, sometimes it stopped altogether until the system picked up again. All you could do was wait it out.
“Hey,” she said. “You know what you could do? You could finish making us dinner, because I’m real hungry.”
He smiled. “Ok. You want noodles or rice? This sauce is good on either.”