Jodie is a business-minded and busy mother who hates the time her son spends playing video games. Jodie never imagined the day would come when she desperately wanted her son to stop ignoring his phone.
Eleven-year-old Ben was about to defeat the latest boss in his game when his mother, Jodie, snatched the phone out of his hands.
“Give it back!”, Ben tried to grab his phone, but Jodie held it out of his reach.
“You spend too much time with that device. Every time I see you, you’re glued to the screen. You haven’t even heard me calling you for dinner, have you?”
“Please, Mum! I’ll lose everything if you don’t give me my phone back,” Ben pleaded.
“It’s only a game, Ben.” Jodie jabbed her finger at him. “You need to spend more time in the real world to succeed or you’ll end up just like your worthless father.”
“At least I don’t have a heart of stone like you.”
Jodie’s face went pale and her lips quivered, “How dare you? I work hard to provide you with everything you want and you don’t appreciate any of it. Go to your room!”
Ben ran to his room. He grabbed his Naruto plaid off the bed and climbed into the wardrobe. He was ashamed that he had upset his mother, but she didn’t understand! All she did was yell at him.
Ben ran his finger over the faint ray of light that fell on his plaid. His hero would never abandon an injured man. If he could turn bad guys into good ones with kindness, then Ben could make peace with his mother. She was probably as lonely as he was after her divorce.
Mother was in the kitchen. She looked up when Ben walked in.
“Mum, can we go to Comic-Con together?” – Ben asked.
“Comic… what?” Jodie frowned.
“I don’t have time for this crap!”
“You didn’t even ask me when it was coming,” Ben growled. “You’re always yelling at me for not doing anything, but when I really want to do something, you say no. You never want to spend time with me!”
Ben’s words haunted Jody for the next week. It was hard to combine running a business and raising children, but she realized there was truth in Ben’s words. She wanted her son to feel happy, so one day she came home early to surprise him.
Jodie planned to take Ben to the park. She also bought doughnuts to eat together. As she waited, she glanced at her watch several times. The time was approaching when Ben usually got home from school, and Jodie was beginning to worry.
Half an hour later Ben was still not home. He was usually home by this time, playing games on his phone or laptop. Jodie was biting her nails. She never thought she would miss the sound of video games, but she did. Jodie called Ben, but there was no answer.
After thirty-seven calls, it turned out that Ben’s phone battery was dead. His phone was unavailable, and Jody was furious. She paced back and forth between the living room and Ben’s room, then ran to the garage and got into her car.
Jodie pulled into the car park of Ben’s school. She was on her way to the principal’s office when she spotted Ben’s friends on the playground.
“When was the last time either of you saw Ben?” – Jodie asked, approaching the playground.
The children looked at each other and shrugged. Only one of them took a step forward.
“The last time I saw Ben, he was with a man in a chicken suit. He left the school with him.”
Jodie’s blood ran cold in her veins. “The man in the chicken suit? What did he look like?”
“Er, tall, yellow, and covered in feathers.” The boy looked at his friends and they all burst into laughter.
Jodie rushed to the principal’s office. She arrived just in time to catch up with the principal as she left.
“My son has been kidnapped and you have to do something about it,” Jody told her, grabbing her arm.
The principal frowned, looking at Jodie. “I’m sorry, but the school is not responsible for students outside school hours.”
“How can you be so indifferent?” Jodie wanted to shake the woman until she came up with a better solution, but she knew it would do no good.
Instead, Jodie went back to the car and got behind the wheel. She would find Ben herself. Spotting a man in a chicken suit shouldn’t be too difficult. She drove from one end of town to another but saw no sign of her son.
Jodie was in tears. She was about to drive up to the police station when she saw the poster on the wall. Jodie braked in the middle of traffic. Cars honked behind her, but she didn’t care.
“Comic-con,” Jodie whispered. “I didn’t even ask when it was, but it’s… today! Ben has to be there!”
Jodie hit the accelerator and raced towards the convention centre where the event was taking place. “Thank God for that sign!”
When Jodie entered the building, she quickly realised that finding Ben would not be easy. The place was full of adults and children dressed in various costumes, some of which were so elaborate they looked more like life-sized puppets.
Jodie made her way to the exit and climbed onto some crates next to one of the stands. She looked around at the crowd of fantastic creatures. And then she saw it! In the distance, not far from the stage, she saw an ugly chicken costume. It seemed vaguely familiar to her, but Jodie focused on the child who was walking next to the chicken.
She jumped to the ground and began to make her way through the crowd. The scene was getting closer and closer. Jodie stepped around the big red dragon, but tripped over its tail and fell into the mud.
People clustered around her, and Jodie struggled to her feet. She was afraid of being trampled, but two furry paws reached out and helped her up.
“Are you all right, miss?”
The bright pink leopard, who had helped her up, held out tissues in Jodie’s hands. “Take them so you can tidy yourself up.”
“I thank you. I’m looking for my son.” Jodie looked around the crowd, but didn’t see the ugly chicken anywhere. “He’s here with the chicken.”
“I haven’t seen a chicken,” the pink leopard replied. “You should ask if they can make an announcement to help you find your son. I think the information box is here.”
The pink leopard showed her the way she had come, but she had a better idea. Jodie made her way to the stage and climbed onto it. A security guard who appeared blocked her way.
“I need the editor-in-chief to make an announcement,” Jodie pleaded with the guard. “Please, my son is here and I can’t find him.”
Tears rolled down Jodie’s cheeks as she spoke. She was embarrassed and felt out of place, but she had to find Ben and hug him. Once he was in her arms, she would never let him go.
The security guard took pity on Jodie. He allowed her to address the event host.
“Ben, age eleven, can he come up to the stage?”
“Your mum’s looking for you and she’s really worried.”
Jodie watched the crowd from the stairs leading up to the stage while the event host repeated the announcement. A few minutes passed, but it seemed like hours before Jodie recognised her son in the crowd.
Her heart leapt for joy until she noticed the ugly chicken next to Ben. The man took off his mask, and Jodie was seized with a burning rage when she recognized her ex-husband Chris. Now she knew why she remembered the hideous costume: he’d worn it to hand out flyers for a fast food restaurant after he’d lost his job at a marketing company.
“Please don’t punish Ben,” Chris said as he approached her. “I just wanted to spend time with him.”
“Don’t be angry, Mum.” Ben took Jodie’s hand. “You said you didn’t want to go, so I asked Daddy. Look at this cool Naruto costume he made for me!”
“I didn’t agree to give you permission to see our son.” Jodie was shaking with emotion as she looked at Chris, “In fact, no one even told me about this arrangement. And you!” She shifted her gaze to Ben. “Why didn’t you answer your phone? I called a few times. I was going crazy with worry!”
“I’m sorry, Mum.” Ben hugged Jodie. “I had so much fun with Dad, I completely forgot about my phone. Will you please join us?”
Jodie looked at her son in amazement. Ben had never forgotten his phone or his games. She had hoped he would forget his phone, and the fact that he said so gave her hope.
“Yes, please join us,” Chris said.
Jodie took turns looking at her husband and son, who were staring at her with puppy dog eyes. She could never resist that pleading look.
“But I don’t have a costume to wear,” Jodie said, pointing to her dress.
Chris reached under the wing of his suit and pulled out a roll of cloth, which he handed to Jodie. When she saw the brown wig with distinctive tufts on either side, a wave of tenderness swept over her heart.
“Princess Leia. You remembered my favourite movie.” Then she noticed the unevenness in one of the hemlines. “You sewed that for me?”
Chris gave her a smile. Behind them, the event host announced the start of the competition and Ben immediately insisted on entering. As Ben hurried to the stage, Chris pulled Jodie aside.
“Look, Jodie, we need to talk.” Chris sat down on the grass and invited Jodie to sit beside him. “People get married and divorced all the time. It’s normal these days. But if our love for each other has faded, we still have a child together that we both love very much.”
“I know we’ve had our differences, but I respect you as Ben’s mum. I was glad Ben stayed with you because you make more money and can give him more, but I still want to be part of his life.” Chris looked at her seriously. “I have a good job now and I want to see him at least once a week, please.”
Jodie wiped the tears from her cheeks.
“This is important to me, Jodie.” Chris put his hand on top of hers. “Think about what a good example we can set for Ben by showing him how well we can communicate despite the fact that we’re divorced. The fact that we still respect each other will help him be happy when he gets married one day. Don’t you want him to be happy?”
“Of course I do, Chris. I want him to be as happy as we are.” Jodie looked into Chris’s eyes. She felt a familiar warmth sweep over her as he approached her. As she moved towards him to give him the kiss she felt was going to happen, a big red bird fell on them.
“Sorry!” The bird ran off, leaving Chris and Jodie looking at each other awkwardly.
“We should go and support Ben at the competition,” Chris said.
Jodie nodded and they hurried to the stage, arriving in time to see Ben with a wide grin on his face giving a thumbs up.
“I never give up!” – Ben exclaimed.
“Naruto! Naruto!” – shouted Jodie and Chris. Soon the whole crowd joined in their shouts. On stage, Ben looked like he was about to burst with happiness.
After that day, everything changed. Ben spent time with Chris once or twice a week, which allowed Jodie to relax. Ben was no longer tied to his phone and spent more time with family and friends. Jodie and Chris gradually built a strong co-parenting relationship that continued to strengthen even after they were married to new partners.