The bus from school drifts along the tarmac; so slow is it moving. I decided to sit alone at the front. The Terrace, we call it. I get a 180 degree view, including a close-up of the driver’s balding scalp. But at least I don’t get to catch them staring at me. Unfortunately, in my chosen solitude, every minute is multiplied tenfold.
It has been a little over four weeks since my father’s funeral. Life has gone back to normal, or the new normal at least. On the upside, my grades have never been better. I got my first A+ in an English essay that was graded by Soul Crusher Mahony. It would appear that even the most hard-ass teachers are taking pity on the poor grieving boy. Instead of the expected envious looks, what I got from some of my classmates was sympathy. The envy would have been better.
The rest of my classmates stole glances my way. They would quickly look away when our eyes met. I had suddenly become a new species. It was enough to make me want to go back to my depressing home.
Even my friends have become more delicate around me. Peter, who only a few days before my father’s death could not shut up about the mountain camping trip his father had organised for them, had nothing to report about said camping trip. Josh avoided the subject of family altogether. Even when they gave me birthday gifts two weeks ago, they made sure to be understated.
Who celebrates their birthday when their father is dead, right? The truth is that I had forgotten all about my birthday. If Peter and Josh had not given me the game console, my birthday would have passed for me like any other ordinary day.
I haven’t had a second conversation with mother about father’s company. What would be the point of engaging in a discussion in which I find one specific outcome as acceptable? Either I would be happy, or most likely, devastated. I only want her to tell me that she will keep father’s part of Cerecon. Now I don’t know what she will do, if she hasn’t done it already.
Many a day have I been tempted to call Noel or pass by his office. But what would I tell him? That he shouldn’t buy my father’s part of the company? And for what – to appease a fifteen year old kid who desperately wants to hold on to his dead father?
Maybe I shouldn’t blame mother. She is coping in her own way. Who is to say that I’m not doing the same thing? She wants to move on by selling, I want to hold on by not selling. Whatever the outcome, at least one of us will be happy.
The bus stops. I have to look out to see that we have reached my house. I clumsily get up and out of the bus. I can only hope that the driver didn’t have to stop too long whilst I was stuck in my head. Just more attention I don’t need right now.
When I reach the door, I notice that it is not locked. Mother is supposed to be at work. When I get in, I see her sitting in the living room. She looks exhausted.
“Hello. You are home already?”
“Hello. Nice to see you too.”
Her sarcastic tone doesn’t elude me.
I go over and sit on the couch next to her.
“You know what I mean. I thought you would be at work.”
Her face becomes tense.
“I thought so too until my boss gave me forced sick leave. He said I was losing concentration; that I needed time off to recover.”
She shakes her head.
“Can I not just be the grieving widow? I need to work.”
I don’t know what to say. I thought her going back to work would make her feel better. I thought it would get her back to normal. Lately, I have even had to remind her to get groceries. Most times she appears preoccupied with something in her head.
“How long is the sick leave?”
“Craig gave me two weeks,” she says through clenched teeth, like she wishes to cage the words.
“Maybe during that time we can see a grief counsellor.”
I only say we because I don’t want to single her out as the one with the major issues.
She looks at me like I just made the craziest, unlikeliest suggestion.
“I’m fine. I’m not the one with the problem.”
“Craig is,” she says with frustration in her voice.
“He thinks I don’t know that he is intimidated by me. He has been worried for a while now that I want to take his job. Or maybe it’s his infatuation for me. He thinks just because my husband is dead, I’m supposed to run into his arms.”
None of what she says makes sense to me. This is not like her at all.
“You have never said this before.”
Or maybe she told Dad?
“There are a lot of things I don’t say,” she says quietly.
“Forget I said anything. I will just have to wait out the two weeks.”
“Ok,” I say reluctantly.
I’m not sure if she is ok, but what could I do? She probably needs the time off. I get up and go to the kitchen. I need some juice. I open the fridge and it is empty.
“Mom, the fridge is empty,” I shout.
I go to my room and decide to feed my brain with my latest homework instead.