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"It was horrible mom, his clothes were dirty like he had just crawled from the grave, and he smelled like...like..." Death, she knew he was going to say. She ran a finger to her sons parted lips and quietly shushed him. With surprisingly strong arms she pulled his head back to her chest, he immediately became silent. Jeremy was talking about the boy at school, Chris she believed his name was. The dirty boy. The boy who wore tattered rags and smelled God awful, the boy who had a mouth like a "saber tooth tiger", as Jeremy put it. She knew that her son had to learn, but she wondered if it was too early. If he panicked...
"Mommy?" He said from within the many folds of her shirt. She kissed his forehead.
"Yes, honey?" She answered softly. Jeremy hesitated before answering her, not good, her little boy was traumatized.
"Do you think that I'm crazy?" She cupped his chin in one hand and firmly pried his face from her chest.
"Of course not honey," she said evenly before moving her hands to his shoulders and squeezing firmly. "But, you have to be strong Jeremy. Now stop crying!" She spoke sharply, the look in his eyes caused her heart sorrow, but she would not, could not baby him anymore, though only ten, her son would soon be a man. As if reborn the boy squared his shoulders like a seasoned soldier and with the palms of his hands wiped the tears from the corners of his eyes. She envied him, and in that instant she got a glimpse of the man that he would one day grow to be. She bit back the tears and spoke to him, this time more softly.
"This is the beginning of your lesson." She began emotionlessly, "This is the lesson that was taught to me by my father, and to him by his grandmother, this is the lesson that I will now pass to you. Do you understand all that I have just said." Though Jeremy wore a bewildered expression, he respectfully nodded his head.
"Good. Are you prepared to begin your lesson?" His head bobbed in the same confused manner.
"Wait right here." She squeezed his shoulders once more and stood upon her feet. She entered her comfortably furnished bedroom and hesitated immediately after crossing the threshold, something caught her attention. She walked to her bed and sat down before grabbing the object that drew her interest. It was a picture of her and Jeff, her husband. It was their first photo together, she leaned against him lovingly, one of his burly arms draped around her shoulder while the other snaked around her waist. The random onlooker that had snapped the photograph immortalized their genuine smiles. He loved her so much, and she almost couldn't believe that she had grown to love him.