He had kept their mother alive in their thoughts. Too alive, perhaps. Her favorite chair still had her half finished embroidery project draped across the seat so they couldn’t sit in it. Her shoes were still neatly lined up by the front door. The glass of iced tea she’d last drank from sat on the kitchen window sill, with a line of dark crud at the bottom of the glass and a cobweb across the top. He wouldn’t let anyone wash it.
He’d been very upset when the house plants began to die one after the other from his relentless over-watering, but he hadn’t been able to stop himself from watering them more.
His father had tried to talk to him about it, gently at first, and then more urgently.
“Look, Robby, I understand,” he’d said. “You miss your mother. You don’t want to forget her and you don’t want us to either. But we won’t. She’ll always be a part of us.”
“She’ll be back,” Robby said stubbornly. “And she’ll be mad if we change things.”
“She’s not coming back, son,” his father said. “We’ve talked about this. We’ve had this talk. Over and over. I am so sorry. I know you are sad. I am sad too. We all miss her.”
“I don’t think you miss her. You took her coat out of the hall closet. It’s not there anymore.”
“Of course I miss her,” his father said. “I miss her a lot. But there was no point in holding onto her coat…..” His voice trailed off.
“I am the only one who cares,” Robby said, and walked out the room. He climbed the stairs up to his parents bedroom and stood with his hands on his hips, looking around.
Robby took his mother’s hairbrush out of the wastebasket where his father had tried to hide it. He put it back on the bathroom counter, next to the sink. He looked at himself in the mirror and tried to smooth down his hair. He was growing it out, to the length his mother wore her hair, curling around her ears and down to the base of her neck.
He went to her closet and bent to sniff at a few of her blouses. They still smelled like her, although the scent was growing fainter. He rubbed his cheek against one of the blouses and it snagged on the stubble. He’d forgotten to shave for a day or two.
Robby walked down the hallway and into his boyhood room. He’d moved back in right before his mother had died so he’d been there when she was taken by ambulance to the hospital. They’d said that she died but she had told him when she was on the stretcher that she’d be back and she’d smiled sweetly at him. So he knew she’d be back. He just had to be patient and ignore all the lies.
He laid down on his twin bed, his feet dangling off the end. He spent most of his time here, now, other than patrolling the house several times a day to make sure they hadn’t changed anything. He’d toss a whiffle ball up into the air again and again, and sometimes bounce it off the wall. His little clock radio buzzed pop songs into his left ear. Every once in awhile he’d hear soft noises, like the squishy slippers his mom liked to wear. Was that her out in the hallway? No, not yet. He tossed the ball up. He caught it. He tossed the ball up. He caught it. He tossed the ball up and waited for his mom to come tuck him in.