Welcome To The Harem
Half Life 1976 by Joann Humby
Summary: Deslea's rec: "This excellent POV on a young Mulder is notable for its Teena characterisation. Her view of him is both harsh and loving, fondness shaped by pragmatism and pain. A lot of guts in few words."
The remote link provided for this story has gone down, so I am inserting the text below. If you are the author and would like a different link instead, please let me know.
TITLE: Half Life - 1976
AUTHOR: Joann Humby
CLASSIFICATION: V A
DATE: Finally completed Jan 2002, posted July 2002
ARCHIVE: Gossamer, Ephemeral - others please ask.
On the anniversary of Samantha's abduction. Mrs Mulder looks at her
Part of an occasional series.
Legally these characters belong to some combination of 1013, CC and
He brings coffee to my bedside. A brief goodbye kiss. It's a ritual,
a habit he fell into after Samantha.
It's no longer necessary, I have moved on and am ashamed of my past
performance. Valium and sleeping pills formed an embarrassing
interlude. I, who always took such pride in my self-control. Have I
not always been a fighter, a woman in a man's world, a woman whose
brains as well as her appearance have steered her fate?
I have forgiven myself for the breakdown. In the circumstances, my
collapse into nothingness was inevitable. But for Bill to let me
drown myself in drugs was an outrage. Of course, I've beaten the
problem. The problems. Both the pills and my husband have been
banished from my life, neither will be allowed to control me again.
Problems solved are battles won. In retrospect, perhaps it has been
for the best. Unable to cling to me, Fox has learned self-reliance,
independence, strength. My young man, my pride and joy.
I don't really expect him to go to school today. Though I do give him
credit for trying to preserve the illusion. The right clothes. The
neatly groomed hair. The finger nails scrubbed clean. My little boy
knows how to fend for himself. The thought stabs at my heart before I
move on. It is important to move on.
The boy gives himself away, all the time, mostly in tiny ways. I look
into his tired red eyes, he didn't sleep last night.
I heard the door to Samantha's room open before dawn. He went to talk
to her. That's not a mistake I'd make. I have moved on. Bill says
that I should have made Fox move on. But Fox is not me, not Bill.
Bill and I, we take such pride in our rigid strength, our straight
backs, our unflinching gaze.
Fox has an extra layer of elasticity, an ability to bend and stretch
and sway in the breeze.
His father imagines it shows weakness. He's wrong, I think. I see my
young Fox spring back from disappointment and damage. His flexibility
will make him resilient, not malleable. I hope.
Certainly, it is the resilience that I see now. He is changing almost
as I watch, my boy is growing up. If he chose, he could be a
heartbreaker. His eyes focus on me and I wonder where the gentleness
in his spirit came from. Not from his father. Guilt, that was the
father's contribution to the son. I'd like to claim the soul was
mine, but that would be a lie.
He changed for me. After my daughter was taken, my little boy gave me
little bits of my daughter back. He'd be embarrassed by that idea, so
I'll never say. I'd never discourage him from helping me with the
shopping, sharing the kitchen, kissing me goodnight.
I already wince at his self-conscious attempts to correct himself
when Bill calls by the house. The brave, naive effort that Fox makes
to show him only the well grown boy who is, before my eyes and far
too soon, becoming a young man.
The phone rings. The School. Fox hasn't arrived. What a surprise.
Foolishly, I allow myself to smile at the unseeing phone. I give them
my prepared answer. It's the least I can do. "I'm sorry. I'm afraid
Fox is a little unwell. He should be back tomorrow."
The teacher on the line seems to have more to say. No matter, I know
how to ignore other people's problems. La, la, la, I'm not listening.
I play the role, concerned mother who knows her son well enough to
know there is nothing to be concerned about. The teacher concedes
I smile with a little shameful pride as I hang up. The things that I
do for my boy. He probably doesn't even notice. A flash of a thought
- maybe I should tell him that the school has called? So that he
knows that he has been caught.
Isn't that what parents do, explain that such behavior is self-
destructive? Explain that, in the end, you always get caught.
I smile at the thought. Imagine that, I smile, today of all days. My
son can still make me smile. Maybe I should combine his telling off
about skipping school with some lie that he would see straight
through, like how such indiscipline might affect his grades.
No, this can be my little secret. I'll tuck it away with my big
I won't undermine his independence by explaining that I've saved him
from an embarrassing little scene tomorrow in school. Let him work it
Another phone call from the school. Perhaps I could visit the
Principal, he'd love to talk about Fox. Of course. I also love to
talk about Fox. Tomorrow morning then, first thing.
We pull into the school's parking lot and when we leave the car my
son comes to stand by my door, holding my coat ready for me to slip
my arms into its sleeves. I wonder where he learned his manners.
Perhaps from Cary Grant movies on the TV. I smile and thank him for
his courtesy. He's nervous. He shouldn't be, I'm going to set him
A pretty young blonde thing bats false eyelashes in our direction
while her friends giggle their encouragement. My young Fox barely
nods in reply, apparently shy, but with just the slightest flutter of
his own eyelashes as he meets her eyes.
Oh, yes. My boy could break hearts if he chose. I wonder if he will.
Probably. But not, I suspect, in play. I fear my boy has lost the
will, the talent, for play. He'll break their hearts, but with such
good intentions, for such noble causes. That's something he shares
with his parents. Good intentions and noble causes.
I apologize to my young man, he is tense and self-conscious enough
without me drawing further attention to him. We head inside and he's
some heady mix of skittish and subdued as he delivers me to the
Principal's office. I swear that for an instant I can still see the
five year old boy walking on tiptoe following a raid on the
"I'll see you this evening." I tell him.
He wants to say something, but doesn't, and I notice that his jaw
clenches as he starts to back away. Orthodontist work is too
expensive to be treated so casually. I expect I should stop him.
After all, that's what mothers do. But I don't.
He nods and leaves before his eyes give anything more away. I imagine
he'll head to the washroom and hide for a little while before he goes
to class. I did that much for him at least, I taught him to hide.
I assume that the presence of three staff members is an honor.
Perhaps it's just that I am an object of curiosity and they are
making up for my three years of missed plays, basketball games,
parents evenings, award presentations.
I see that I'm a surprise. Perhaps it's the Chanel jacket that
disturbs them. With a son called Fox, perhaps they were expecting a
flower child. Foolish thought, 1961 was not yet a safe place for
hippies. Maybe now they will wonder about his father. Perhaps they
already do. Do they imagine a dark skinned man called Running Bear?
We flash through the pleasantries and the opening remarks.
"We're concerned about Fox." The first round is left to his year
tutor. She has learned the habit of treating everyone as a small
child. Fox probably uses her for target practice.
I smile at her nervousness as she falters. I'm sure my son seemed
much more of a worry when she spoke to her colleagues. "How so?" I
keep my voice bland, force the silly little bitch to say what she
means. Not surprisingly, she flounders.
The man who identified himself as responsible for pastoral and
careers counseling takes over. "Fox is withdrawn, he finds it
difficult to make friends."
So? "And this manifests itself in his performance?"
They look at me as if I've just recommended the use of leeches and
bloodletting to cure his ills. Better that than their well meaning
therapeutic snake oil. They try to explain it in easy words.
Psychology for beginners. Spoken to me. The nerve of it.
I hear their sickeningly casual arrogance. "This withdrawal makes him
bury himself in his studies, placing him under pressure that could
lead to a breakdown."
Buried in his studies, of course. I force them to define their terms.
"Yet he gets his head out of his books for long enough to play for
your basketball and baseball teams."
They shrug, uncertain, then push forward again, acknowledging the
point, then ignoring it. "He's a gifted student, but he's unhappy, he
needs your support."
"He has my support. I believe the issue here is your assumption that
he should be happy." Happy, how crass. Happy - a term that
incidentally, they have yet to define.
There is a yawning chasm of silence. The Principal recognizes that
it's up to him to break the impasse. "You understand his
"His sister is missing. His parents have separated. He was treated as
a virtual suspect in a criminal inquiry by the police, the FBI, his
classmates, his neighbors. He's seen that suspicion in the eyes of
his teachers. Do you understand that if he was *happy* - it would be
a sign of insensitivity or worse?"
They shuffle guiltily back in their seats. It is time for me to move
in for the kill, I had no idea that it would be so easy. "You expect
me to order my son to act as if he fits your vision of happiness to
salve your consciences?"
"Mrs Mulder. We wouldn't dream of...."
So why ask me here? I say nothing, they can see my reply written
across my face.
"We just wanted to assure you that we are happy to help, in any way.
That if ever there is something we can do...."
"Thank you. That's most reassuring. Perhaps you might start by
assisting him in finding a scholarship to Oxford rather than
dismissing his wishes as whims."
They freeze. Good. Learn to hate yourselves. Then maybe you'll
understand Fox's world. And mine.