Fiction: He Isn’t Here (section 3)

More words on the short fiction I started last week. You can find the first parts here:

***

It was hard not to tell mom what I had done. I felt very proud of myself and powerful but also a little bit afraid. My brother was a brute and a pig and he might be a little bit insane but he was also my mother’s child and I did not know how she would react to his being gone. Also, I did not know if he was gone only for me or if he was really, truly gone for everyone else too. The only way I could know that was to wait and see what mom saw or did not see.

I went back to bed and waited for mom to wake up. It didn’t take long, maybe twenty minutes. I didn’t get bored. There were so many things to think about. When she woke up, she seemed a little bit confused but smiled when she saw me lying in bed beside her, watching her face.

“Hi. Happy birthday.” She touched my hair and, for a moment, I felt like I slipped into an entirely different world, a wonderful, kind, happy place where I was my mother’s only child and had always been her only child. It was a good feeling but it could not last.

I looked up and found my brother standing at the foot of our bed, looking confused and frustrated and very, very far away. He was the gray smudgy thing still and, again, I could only see his face when not looking directly at him.

“How was your night?” I asked mom, still looking at my brother, waiting to see if mother would notice him. My brother was watching her, perhaps waiting for this himself.

“Oh, it was fine, I guess. I had to work extra late. I hated to leave you so long last night. But I guess you took care of yourself just fine.”

There was a pause where I waited to see if she would mention my brother. Where he was. Where he had gone.

“Anything interesting happen for you?”

That was an interesting question to try and answer.

“No. Nothing. Not really.” It was a lie but the kind of lie we told each other often about the things that aren’t there and the things that are there that we wish were not.

My mom watched me for a while, maybe expecting some other thing I might say. I watched my brother, expecting her to notice and startle at the sight of him. She glanced in the direction I was looking but did not notice my brother’s faded shade.

She seemed a little lost in thought for a moment and then, “So, I’ve got the morning and most of the afternoon. What do you want to do for your birthday?”

“I found my muffin,” I told her, smiling. “It was delicious.”

“Good.” She was laughing. Seeing my mom laugh was like a little patch of blue sky through super dark rain clouds.

“We could take a walk. Maybe go to the park. Or a movie or something.”

“Sure,” she said. She could not see my brother staring at her from the foot of the bed, his face twisted with frustration. Once again, he was trying to say something but no sound came from his mouth and I could not recognize the words made by his lips.

“Do you notice anything different?” I asked. “Anything weird?”

My mom studied me, checking to see if I had gone mad and pierced my nose or found some criminal mind to tattoo me. She was careful to check everything. “No,” she said slowly, afraid to admit she had missed something that should be obvious. “What did you do?”

“Oh, nothing. Not me. Just anything different or weird about the apartment or anything?”

She looked around, nervous. “Is this a game?”

“No. Nothing like that. Never mind. It isn’t a big deal. Let me make you breakfast,” I told her.

“But its your birthday.”

“Its okay I want to.”

And it was true, I was usually happiest when I could do something useful for my mom.

“Eggs then. And bacon. And toast.”

And it was great fun to get out of bed and walk to the door, stepping right through the shape of my brother who was no longer there and my mother not even noticing the way his shadow shivered and fell as I made my way across the room. And his face, which was silently screaming from some other dimension right there in the room with us but also an infinite number of miles away.

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