Never Been Loved(9)

By: C.M. Kars



He nods sleepily. “Daddy, I’m tired.”

Fuck. Shit, fuck, fuck!

Shame presses down on me like a living thing, burning through me as I settle Jules’ kid on the ground. I locate his pouch on the counter, hidden behind some bananas that I know I didn’t put there and pull out his glucometer.

Heart in my mouth, and dread settling into the pit of my stomach, I crouch and put Matty up on the kitchen counter, watch as his shoulders slump forward and he squints around, trying to see. My hands shake, like I haven’t done this a million times before, as I jab in a test strip, and ready the mini-piston by pulling back on it. I always give Matty the choice of which finger he wants to use for blood.

He gives me his middle finger of his left hand, holding out all five fingers and staring at me like I’m the one who caused all this. Fuck, maybe I am.

Swallowing, I stab his finger with the mini-piston and watch his finger bead with a perfect red dot, ready to be sucked up by the test strip already in his glucometer. When the blood’s in the test strip and the five second countdown starts on the glowing surface of his machine do I let myself breathe normally. My part’s done, now I have to see what the result is.

I might as well be crucified with the way the number of his blood sugar levels hit me. Twenty-fucking-five. He should be at a five – a normal level. Jesus, what the hell did Eddie feed him – sugar-rolled donuts? There’s no time to get pissed right now. I need to get him his insulin.

Opening the fridge door, I go for the drawer bit under the glass-cased butter, open it and pick up the refrigerated pen that contains his fast-acting insulin.

Turns out once your pancreas gives up on you, you need two kinds of insulin to take care of the food you eat – slow-acting that acts as a baseline so your body constantly has some sort of circulating levels of insulin, and the fast-acting kind – the one you need right after meals to deal with whatever shit you ate.

Matty lifts up his shirt once I’ve put a needle on top of the pen and squirt out any excess in case of air bubbles. I ended up bruising his skin last time I injected him with his insulin, probably hit some capillaries on my way in. I pinch his little boy fat and insert the needle in, watching his face the whole time.

His blue eyes so much like my sister’s stare at me, then through me, like he’s gone somewhere else. He doesn’t utter a sound, and his face doesn’t crumple like it does right before he starts crying. He takes it like a champ while hot bile rises up my throat.

Jules’ son shouldn’t be sick like I am. He did nothing to deserve this. Me? I knew something bad was coming. I deserve to be sick. Not Jules’ kid, not him, not when he hasn’t done anything wrong.

“It’s okay, Daddy,” he says, patting my arm when I’m done discarding the needle in a special box we get from the pharmacy, and putting his insulin away. “Can I go to sleep now?”

I grunt, because I can’t talk. I lift him off the counter and settle him in his room, not giving him any shit on the state of it. I’ll clean it up later, when he’s out cold. I help him into his Iron Man pajamas, and tuck him in with the blankets that I take up off the floor. Matty’s eyes stare at me and he gives me a small smile like I’ve done a good job.

I hate that smile – the exact one Jules used to give me when she was grateful for a ride home, or the five bucks I’d give her for lunch at school when Mom gave her weird diet shit instead. This is all I have left of my sister – her little boy who calls me Dad. Her little boy who deserves so much better than me.

“See you later, kid,” I say, leaning down and I get a wet kiss on my cheek. I’m going to eventually have to tell him girls don’t like that, but that’s another conversation for another time. I sit on his bed with him and watch him curl around the hand I’ve planted on one side of my body.

My eyes burn and my throat gets thick and I want to punch something, make it bleed, make it hurt. I didn’t ask for this, I didn’t ask for this kid to be in my life. I didn’t want this. But I have to try and make it better – for him.

I clean up the entire apartment, and go over my finances, because hey, why not end a shitty day with an extra dose of shit, right?

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