"The police have found your mum."
I paused in the act of shovelling another tablespoonful of soggy cornflakes into the open cavity of my embouchement. I turned my head to face my dad, who was half-hugging the door frame in an awkward manner.
"Oh," I said.
The spoon took on the final leg of its journey and there was a few seconds of silence as the cornflakes reached their destination.
"It's a proper man's conversation, this!" exclaimed my dad. I just stared at him, feeling too well-slept. That was all there was to do those days: sleep.
"Whereabouts?" I obliged.
"West coast of Ireland."
I continued on my breakfast, and loaded a few more spoons into my trap in quick succession, wiping a dribble of milk from my lip with with the curtain hanging over the window half a yard away.
"Where?" I said.
"Sligo," repeated Dad.
"No; where's she now?"
"Sligo Mental Hospital," said Dad.
I turned my attention to my fingernail, which was short and suffering from white cloudy patches.
"Not surprised," I muttered.
Dad caressed the door frame, rather as if it were a woman, I thought with a hint of disgust. Was he missing Mum? They weren't that close, were they?
Involuntarily, I remembered his regular outings earlier in the year, and my interpretation of their nocturnal hours. But no; that had been disproved. Had it, though? What was to stop it being true? Well, said reason, the fact that he'd been seeing that solicitor guy, for instance, or that creepy guy who tried to kill me. Unless that had been my imagination. I don't know anymore. My imagination is dull as far as imaginations go, but it's certainly pro-active in liaison with my memory.
From under the canopy of my eyelashes, which are thick and black like a girl's, and just as unattractive as the rest of me in their break from the norm of murky yellow hair and eyebrows, I watched Dad's fingers stroke the black walnut door frame, down the long rings. In my mind's eye the wood changed and morphed, and suddenly it was long smooth dark hair, silky and beautiful, and Dad was stroking his daughter's hair with the protective love of a proud father. Dad had loved Vere's hair.
Vere...Deanna. In turn, I imagined myself stroking those silky tresses, a dark waterfall, so soft and relaxing and beautiful...
No, no, no! Stop this, Den! It’s just so ridiculous!
“Caught you out there, son,” said Dad – why was he so jovial?
“Phew – you nearly had me choking,” I said, frowning as blackly as I could manage.
“Nah, we really are moving,” said Dad.
I looked up again, to see that he had detached himself from the door frame and was now leaning on the gas hob and playing with the nobs, which, by the by, fall off more often that not.
“We’re moving as soon as November comes roundabout,” said Dad. “We can’t have your mother back here again, moping in her art studio. We need a change, and most of all we need to get out of this house and out of this town.”
“Oh,” I said once again, taken aback. How could we leave? Vere died in this house. How could we leave it? How could Dad want to leave it? Vere is buried in the cemetery down the road. How could we possibly leave her grave?
“I’m not coming,” I said.
“Suit yourself,” said Dad, flippantly.
No reaction at all. Served me right.
I coughed coarsely. Of course I was going. How could I not take this chance at getting away from Douitchurch, my school and my teachers and these horrible people in this horrible town? I couldn’t stay. Perhaps if I left I would finally be free of my nightmares. Perhaps I would finally be unhaunted by the dread of the blue-cloaked murderer. Maybe a new start was just what I needed and craved.
“Okay,” I replied.
Or perhaps there would be something missing when I left. Perhaps there would be something unfinished, to do with Blue-Cloak, something pending, which would be postponed to a later date, when the pain would be far worse. Or perhaps that was just the pain of leaving my only friend, Deanna Macpherson.
“America. We’ll join your mum in Sligo, and take a boat from somewhere in Ireland. What d’ya say that we leave all our manky old furniture and go on a huge shopping trip together in Delaware.”
“Oh,” I said.