Mama stayed inside, out of the sun, standing at the window in her stained satin slip. Sometimes she walked from room to room, opening drawers and cupboards as though searching for something to help her make sense of the world. She was waiting for my father to come back even though she knew he never would.
Ged was like him. He didn’t say much, and I never minded. He talked with his eyes and his hands, and I knew he loved me. When we moved in together, we left town and rented a house by the lake. We were happy, or so I thought.
But I’d never seen the mask of silent anger and self-loathing that darkened his face for weeks at a time. When he came home from the garage he would take a cold beer and sit at the kitchen table staring at the wall. We no longer went down to the shore or hung out with our friends along the boardwalk.
Then Nelson arrived. Ged wasn’t fond of cats. But he took to this tiny stray with the missing eye; the other the same bright blue as his own. Nelson was our charm, and I prayed for us.
One afternoon we got caught in a downpour as we were gathering firewood, and we raced back to the house, laughing. It was a rare good day; Ged seemed happy.
I threw our muddy clothes in the washing machine whilst Ged heated some soup. We sat down to eat and I asked if he’d seen Nelson. The cat had been asleep by the stove when we walked in, but now he’d disappeared. It wasn’t like him to go out in the rain.
Our eyes met and we both jumped up. Nelson was always climbing in the washer. I ran through to the kitchen and saw his tiny body turning with the clothes. I hit the stop button, but I couldn’t bear to look through the glass again and see him limp and still. Ged crouched down and peered into the drum.
‘It’s ok,’ he said, ‘he’s still moving.’
We wrapped him in a towel and he fell asleep in the crook of Ged’s arm.
Later, we made love for the first time in months. The rain had stopped, and through the open window I heard an owl. Nelson’s tiny head lifted for a moment before he curled round asleep again.
I watched their faces as they slept. We were all safe.
But the next day Ged’s eyes looked through me. I made pancakes for breakfast, but he said he was going into town. Nelson slipped out of the door behind him.
I stood at the window like my mother used to do, and waited for them both to come back. But neither of them ever did.