I watch as his hands cast shadows on the wall. A single shaft of sunlight illuminates us, too exhausted to move. Too numb. His long fingers move gracefully, arms stretching out to the heavens like he’s calling to her.
He always was a mummy’s boy.
I wonder how he’s going to cope. Forced to grow up, an adult before his time.
Lying here, it’s hard to believe she’s gone. I hug him closer; his tears stain my black cotton dress. I smile to myself at the irony: she hated me in black, and yet it’s the only socially appropriate attire for today. Not that I normally worry about such things. I’ve done this for her; she was always so preoccupied with what people thought. “Get those ripped jeans off before the neighbours see,” she would hiss at me. Once, I did, right in the front yard. I left them there and marched past her. I was 14, and it earned me a week with no internet, but I saw her smirk as I passed.
The tears come now. I can’t let him see me crying. I can’t cry, not yet. When I’m in my room and the family have all gone and I’m alone, that’s when I can cry. I’ll try not to remember her recently, as she got too skinny and I would have to help with her wigs and take care of everyone. No, just before. Before I grew up. Before dad left. Before I had to quit school.
Now my mum is dead and I have a little brother to take care of and night school to think about and my entire future before me. Now she’s not here, holding me back, trying to stop me from being better than she ever was. From making something of my life.
“Of course, there’s no hope for him now. I suppose Gertrude will have to take him in…”
I catch my great-aunt Edna blathering to someone I’ve never seen. I put a protective arm around him, and he begins to cry. That draws even more looks. The few that are left, using up our hospitality and our food and our patience. The few that are here “remembering” my mother.
My mother would never have put up with this.
I leave him sobbing, the late afternoon sunlight now disappeared. It’s no longer late afternoon; the service was hours ago.
I pass through the door. I stopped being a girl years ago, but this will be my last act of teenage defiance. I turn my wrath on all of them. Right now, I can indulge my petulance. I have an excuse. Right now, I want nothing more than them all gone, and it to be just me and my brother, so we can think about what we do next. Just me and him.
And mum. More than anything, I want my mum back.
I fall to the floor.