Beneath all the fighting used to be love. It was hard to tell from their words, but was easily evident in their behavior. Had she ever even pushed back the hair on her own head as she did his? But he saw it. Saw it all when they thought he wasn’t looking and their actions were noted.
Noted like everything.
He saw their obvious, their hidden, their cause. He saw right into the middle, all the time and for as long as he could remember.
A first will be the day that something he knows doesn’t end up coming true.
He knows they won’t stay together.
Knew it with the first thought he ever had, knows it now.
The only question he had was — when?
He struck camp as he always did.
His parents were hard and they expected him to pull his weight. The wilderness gives if you know how to take, but it’s always unforgiving — no matter what you know, no matter how you take.
They taught him this and lived it at the same time. Surviving, always with one eye open.
He strapped the pouch containing their medicines, the ones they trusted him to carry at least, across his chest and shouldered the bag of pots and pans. Kicking the dying embers of their fire one last time he turned to follow the only two people he knew in his life.
The only two people he hated.
The cold rain that started later that afternoon matched his mood perfectly. He no longer cared where they were going and only wanted to stop. Wanted it all to stop.
Maybe if they stopped then these things he knew wouldn’t come to pass. How could anything happen to them if they weren’t actually doing anything? It made sense to him, but never seemed to convince them. “And how long should we do nothing?” his mother would always ask.
“Until it stops,” was his standard reply. His wish.
“People don’t just stop,” his dad would then add. “Stopping means you give up. That you no longer care.” Always with a quick glance towards his love after saying such things, hoping to see what he knew wouldn’t be there. She neither noticed his glance, nor was it there.
If anything cut into the hatred he had for his father, it was this that they shared. The knowledge that the woman who once loved them both no longer did. No longer could.
That person was gone forever. Her love for them but a memory.
They continued towards the setting sun, as always. Both of them for different reasons, him because he was made to. His escape attempts were nothing to be proud of. He had slept alone in the wilderness only once in his entire life and it was on his second and most successful attempt. Successful because they probably didn’t expect him try again so soon after his first, thought their punishment would have left no question. They were wrong about that for the last time.
He was caught within hours the next seven times and so decided to save attempt ten for when he was older. Much older.
If he lived that long.
He never could see his own future and that almost bothered him as much as knowing all the rest. He was never present in what he knew for certain of his parents’ future, but for some reason also knew that meant nothing about his.
Only one thing was lost on the boy who remembered everything and always knew what was to come.