Title: Learning Together
Characters: May Parker (Aunt May), young Peter Parker
Word Count: 839 words
Summary: A week after Peter comes to live with them, May and Peter do a little bonding.
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Finally breaking her inertia, she tucked a wispy strand of graying hair back behind one ear. Don’t be silly, May Reilly Parker. It’s only a box full of old clothes, she chided herself.
But it was more than that. The no-nonsense side of her personality was sure she’d gotten over it years ago…
Slowly, May sat beside the box on the twin bed, and opened the flaps wide. She placed her hand on the soft yellow fleece and traced the outlines of the embroidered duck on the breast, before eventually lifting it out and settling it in her lap.
She had forgotten about these old baby clothes, hand-me-downs that a friend had given to her after her own son had outgrown them. May had placed them high atop the guest room closet, saved in hopes that one day this room would become a nursery.
But that had been decades ago, and season after season of cleaning hadn’t turned up the lone little box. Not when the room had seen little use, even by the few guests they had entertained.
That changed a week ago. This room was now occupied by a timid little boy with sad eyes, a boy who missed his parents so much. May wasn’t sure how best to raise him – she had no experience with children at all – but he had no one else. And he was family. That was all that mattered.
He needed a space of his own, too. And this closet full of an old woman’s forgotten treasures was not the best way for a young boy to start a new life.
Suddenly, May heard a creaking on the floorboards outside the room. She looked up to see Peter’s small face poking into the doorframe. Her hands stilled, she hadn’t realized that she had been stroking the fabric, lost in thought. How long had she been sitting there?
She shook her head to clear the cobwebs, placed the fuzzy sleeper to the side, and beckoned for Peter to enter the room. “Come here, honey.” He still didn’t feel very comfortable in this new house – she wondered idly how much of that was awkwardness in his new situation, and how much was natural shyness.
He walked tentatively toward her, holding his place in a book that looked much too large for his hands. “Um, Au—aunt May, could you help me with this word?”
“Of course, dear,” she assured, taking the book from him. Her eyes widened when she saw the page and its title: Radioactivity. She flipped the book briefly closed to read the cover. Even though the cover featured many colorful illustrations, the title was surprising: Science Encyclopedia. She didn’t think it was really the kind of book most six year olds would read. “Did you get this from the library today, Peter?”
“Yes, ma’am. I got five books, as many as they would let me…” He suddenly looked concerned. “Was that okay?”
“Oh, no problem at all!” His face softened in relief. May decided not to question his choice of reading material, after all, his father Richard had been quite brilliant. Gently, she continued, “What did you want to know?”
He pointed to a word in the second paragraph. “I think it says…” He squinted, leaning closer to the page, “…ra-di-o-i-so-topes… is that what it says?”
She looked at the context: There are three types of radiation given out by radioisotopes: alpha, beta and gamma. “That’s exactly what it says.”
“I read that an isotope is a different form of an atom…” he continued with growing strength, to May’s astonishment, “but why ‘radio’…? Does it have something to do with sound?”
Brilliant is an understatement, she thought. “I think it has something to do with radioactivity. But I’m no expert, mind you.”
A flash of a smile appeared on his face, the first she remembered seeing since they had first met at the funeral. “Oh, yeah! That makes sense! Thanks, Aunt May.” He hopped up and started to leave the room, book in hand.
“Peter?” she called impulsively, not wanting this moment of bonding to end. “Wait a moment, would you?”
He turned around puzzled but expectant. “Yes?”
“I have a few boxes I need to take to Goodwill.” She quickly folded the sleeper, placed it back in the box and shut the lid. “Could you help me carry them to the front porch?”
“Sure!” He set the book down carefully to lean against the wall, and eagerly held his hands out to take a box.
She watched him walk toward the front door with a fresh sense of purpose. Just before she hefted the larger of the boxes to follow him, she spared a quick glance for the now empty shelves. It’s time for some new memories, she thought, and shut the closet door.
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Original prompt: I don't know why she and Ben never had children. I think it would be nice to have something about May from the time when Peter first came to live with them.
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