The Dilemma

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James hung up the phone and let out a sigh. It seemed like his sister, Joanne was having one of her anxiety attacks again. This time it was something involving her teenage son, Adam, who was about to celebrate his 13th birthday in a couple of days.  Joanne, had always been overly protective of people she cared about. Even when they were children, she was fiercely protective of Karen, their youngest sibling, and would never ever let her out of her sight. Most of the time, he’d indulged her because of her past medical history. She’d been diagnosed with hypertension and anxiety at a very young age, and as a result she often took a lot of things more seriously than she should probably have.

Deep down, James knew where Joanne’s current problem stemmed from. This birthday would be Adam’s last one at home, before he moved away to join the rest of his friends at Senior school in Manxville. He knew that both Joanne and her husband Phil’s decision to send Adam away for senior school, was a difficult one. But it was the only practical solution that they could think of. Over the past few months, Joanne had kept asking James “Why must they grow up so quickly? I’m not ready to let go of him yet.” Today, she’d asked the rhetorical question again. "I wonder, if he feels the same away about moving away from home. Ah, who am I kidding? I bet he’s looking forward to it!” she’d mused.

James sighed. He and his wife, Kathy, had already gone through this phase, having sent two of their teenage kids away at 14. Yes, it had been difficult, but they knew it was for the best. Their reasons had risen from the same ones that were plaguing Joanne and Phil currently. Mount Seglaw, where their family lived, only had one senior school. And their students were well known for getting into trouble with the law. From drugs to guns to sexual assault to thieving and even murder. So Father Paul had suggested the church-run school in Manxville, about 50 miles away, for anyone from their congregation who wished for their kids to have a better foundation in life. And the recent news of the stabbing of a teacher from Mt. Seglaw High, by one of the 14-year old students, had only added to Jo and Phil’s decision to send Adam to Manxville. After all, the teacher had been stabbed for merely asking the kid why he hadn’t submitted his assignment.

Though he’d dismissed his sister's concerns as another one of her attacks, James found his thoughts wandering to the series of phone calls he’d been receiving from Joanne for the past few weeks. Up until the age 12, Adam had been a good, well-mannered, bubbly and church-going kid. But soon, his friend circle expanded, and the changes in his behaviour were apparent. He was constantly angry, yelling, screaming, throwing tantrums and became increasingly foul-mouthed. He had also started hanging out with some of his new found friends, who were much older and went to Mt. Seglaw High.

Finally in an attempt to get him to stay at home rather than wander the streets with his friends, they had succumbed to pressure from the parents of his other friends, and had gotten him a new gaming console with a copy of the latest action game that Adam had wanted, as an early birthday present. Though Phil and Joanne knew that getting him a video game console was not the best solution, they were happy that Adam was at least spending more time at home, rather than hanging out with those no-good kids. Of course, once he moved to his new school in a few months, he wouldn’t have access to the console. Which meant everybody was a winner. And Adam’s behaviour had started to change too. He yelled and shouted much less and was also more manageable. He had also started attending church every Sunday, a fact that both Jo and Phil were extremely happy about.

But Joanne had started to notice that there were other changes in Adam’s behaviour. Though he had become a lot more subdued, he was very distracted and she often caught him staring at the TV screen lost in thought. He always seemed to be scribbling away, whilst constantly murmuring to himself. To make matters worse, a couple of days ago she had found an A4 size sheet with the hand- drawing of a building which suspiciously looked like the Heritage centre in the centre of Mt. Seglaw. One of the oldest buildings in the region and rumoured to be the holding place for a variety of precious stones and jewels, the Heritage centre was the only building in Mt. Seglaw, that had round-the -clock protection by the Police department. Recently, there had also been a news doing the rounds that a team of suspicious characters were offering good money to kids who could provide information about the Heritage centre. So when Jo came across this drawing of what she believed was a plan of the Heritage centre, she panicked. There were a series of arrows, crosses and circles and other strange markings which seemed to lead to a room which was marked with a giant X. And the handwriting on the piece of paper was Adam’s.

In a bid to get him to speak, and hopefully spill the beans about the drawing, Joanne had tried asking Adam if there was something bothering him. But the answer had always been a negative head shake. She wondered if he was secretly taking drugs, like she knew some of the other kids of his age were, and if that was clouding his judgement. She hoped not. No matter, how much she persisted, Adam would not tell her what was going on. And that’s when she decided to speak to her brother James.

The first thought that popped into James’s head when Joanne told him about her suspicion was that she was fabricating the story to try and keep Adam with her in Mt. Seglaw. But after hearing the story and her concerns repeated constantly, James had his own concerns. One part of him just wanted to dismiss it entirely. But another part of him, wanted to believe his sister. After all, he had seen some of Adam’s “new friends”, and he knew they weren’t the best influence on him. He decided that he would speak to Adam in a couple of days when he came over to play with his cousins. In order to dismiss his concerns, he needed to speak with Adam and try and get to the bottom of this.

A few days later,

James peeked into the living room. Adam was sitting on the couch, staring at the TV screen as if in a trance. The Xbox controller was on his lap, and he seemed to be talking to himself as Jo had mentioned. His sister Jo, who was standing behind him in the kitchen, gently nudged him. Taking a deep breath, he walked purposefully towards Adam, who barely glanced up and  continued to murmur incomprehensibly.

James observed him carefully. Beads of sweat were starting to form on Adam's forehead, and he was shaking both his legs vigorously. Laying a hand on his shoulder, James raised his voice and said“Adam, we need to talk.” Adam ignored him and muttered something under his breath. James raised his voice slightly and said “Adam!” Almost instantly Adam snapped out his trancelike state. He looked at James and said “Ah, Uncle James! I didn’t see you. How are you?” James looked at him again. His eyes, which previously looked glassy, were now back to the shade of blue they had always been. “How are you, Adam? Is there something bothering you? Your mother has been sick with worry. She says you haven’t been eating well. Or sleeping. And that you keep talking to yourself. Is everything okay?”, asked James, enunciating every word slowly. Adam looked at his uncle, who was staring at him as if expecting an answer. “Well, yes…..everything is fine. I’ve just been ….well…..having some issues” said Adam, turning his face away from James.

James pulled out the folded sheet of paper that Jo had found in Adam’s jeans pocket. “Is it anything to do with this?” he asked. Adam glanced at it and nodded his head. James felt like he’d been punched in the stomach. He knew Jo was spying on them from the kitchen, and he was sure she had heard Adam’s confirmation too. But he knew he had to be strong. Especially since Phil was away on business. He laid the sheet of paper on Adam’s lap and asked Do you want to tell me why you have a drawing of what looks like the Heritage Centre in your pocket? Where did you get this from?” he asked.

Adam looked at his uncle questioningly. “What is uncle talking about?” he wondered. James looked at Adam’s confused face and said Adam, your mother and I know about this plan. The police have been on the lookout for people who have been passing information to those outsiders who have been trying to break-in to the Heritage Center”. Adam’s eyes widened.

And then suddenly he burst out laughing. “That drawing is from the game that I’ve been playing. I’ve just been trying to figure out how to unlock the room to get the magic potion." divider

 

[This post is written for the Project 365 program at We Post Daily aimed at posting at least once a day, based on the prompts provided. The prompt for today was “Pause whatever you’re doing, and ask the person nearest you what they’re thinking about (call someone if you have to). Write a post based on it. " I have decided to write a fictitious story about a mother's concern for her teenage son. And of course, I've twisted it a bit. To stick to the prompt, I have said the story largely from James's point of view ]

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