I turned from my desk and looked out at the dying garden of roseheads leaning toward the earth; a sign of their two month long neglect. I pursed my lips and sent them a thought of apology. I returned to my textbook and stared at the formulas. A sigh escaped me.
I'm not gonna finish this tonight.
I closed the book and rose to walk along my small square room, letting my legs stretch out from their two-hour dormancy. The floor creaked loudly as I walked along the old brown hardwood. The steady creaks were interrupted by a onset of swift bumps outside the room followed by a knock on the door.
I dropped on the bed facing the door. “It's open!”
The door creaked open and my mom's curly red head poked in, speaking softly. “Hey, Jamie, you up?”
I leaned back and propped myself up on my hands. “Yeah, I'm up.”
“Umm,” my mom put her lips in her mouth; a sign she was going to say something she knew would cause an awkward silence, “You going over to Kevin's again today?”
At once, I was walking back to my desk, grabbing black flip-flops from the floor and throwing them onto my bare feet. “Yep,” I grabbed my jacket and punched an arm in.
“You know --”
“Mom,” I interrupted, “I really can't talk about this right now, I have a final I need to study for, I'm nowhere near finished and...” I sighed. I was being rude, “I'm sorry. Later?”
My mom nodded slowly. “Later.”
I zipped up my jacket and walked over to her, dropping a kiss on her forehead before sliding past and started down the stairs and out the door into the cool autumn air.
It was about a half a mile walk to Kev's house. I pulled out my headphones and started speedwalking down the street, Hungry Lucy's “Rebirth” blocking out any outside sounds. It didn't feel like a lot of time passed before I was standing at the end of the brick walkway leading up to his house's door. As soon as I pulled my headphones off I heard the loud chirping and crashing coming from inside. Despite the cold weather, all of the windows of the dark blue, two story house were open, its curtains blowing erratically in the wind, almost in line with the grunts and screams. Amongst the cacophony, I could make out an older Irish female voice yelling “Shoo! Shoo!”.
A few seconds later a small winged bullet shot out of the window, flying to safety atop a streetlight across the street, chirping loudly. The bird's orange chest contrasted greatly with its lacquer black feathers and yellow beak. It stepped a few paces forward before taking flight again.
“SHIT!” the woman yelled while slamming the window closed.
I followed the stomps from the window on the right to its twin on the left. It slammed shut. This wasn't a good time. I turned to make my way back home when the window opened up again.
I turned to see Kev's mom motioning me back to the house. I raised a hand with a small grin at her. She motioned for me to come back, her voice raspy and tired. “Come on in, the door's open.”
The door opened into a dark and narrow hallway accompanied by a stairway, a thick layer of dust, and the stench of dead flowers. Stepping inside, I watched the dust rise into a miniature cloud and dissipate between my toes. The loud creaks of the stairs alerted me to my host. As she slowly descended, she kept a hand onto the railing, the dust disappearing beneath her palm. When she reached the end she swiftly wiped her hands, cupped them and rose her eyes to me with a sad smile. This wasn't my first visit. Though we never spoke about it, we both knew why I was here. We stood in silence for a moment before she spoke softly.
“How are you, sweetie?” she asked, her familiar blue eyes rimmed in tears.
I shyly bit my lip, trying to contain my emotion. “I've been alright.”
I didn't think to reciprocate the question. I knew how she was doing. Time passed slowly as we stood there staring at one another, trying to feign happy gestures. Finally, she raised her aging hand to my shoulder, squeezing weakly, her sniffs interrupting her whispering speech.
“Its okay, honey. You can go on up.”
My quivering lips prevented me from replying. Not being able to stand the silence, I slowly walked past her and started up the stairs, finding temporary solace in the cries of the aged wood.
Kev's room was at the top of the stairs. Its dark blue door, dotted with white lines from chips and peels, was shadowed in by the window's pervaded light. A small figurine of a geisha with a somber gaze hung from its knob. I carefully clutched the knob as I entered, as if to not disturb her.
My eyes were confronted with a life-size image of a bedbug crawling by the window, a trail of blood-steps following it. Beneath it, wrote “...and you thought you had to worry about Vampires?”
I chuckled a bit at the poster, going over to open up the blinds in the mostly dark room. I caught myself in the large mirror on Kev's desk, sculpted in by a sheet of cobwebs. Spiky blond hair and green eyes were plastered on a dark brown skin pallet personified by a black t-shirt, a short ball necklace, and baggy blue jeans over thin limbs leading down to black flip-flops.
Reaching over to wipe the dust off the mirror I noticed what I'd forgotten. A silver thick ring around my thumb, engraved with the phases of the moon over a black backdrop. I ran my finger over it.
You're always staring at the moon, so I figured to get you this so you could do it all the time.
I smiled at the memory. Kev always gave great presents. I proceeded to wipe the dust from the desk, forbidding myself from privately scolding anyone for the lack of maintenance. Kev's room was always unkempt, commonly consisting of piles of clothes randomly spotting his floor. His bed never kept clean sheets unless done by his mom, and the nightstand and desk were decorated with the chaotic placings of CD cases, action figures, necklaces and notebooks all covered in a layer of dust.
I sat on the edge of the bed in front of the desk, looking at myself in the mirror. My eyes were quivering in their reflection, and I shut them tight to fight off the emotion. Tears forced themselves through my eyelids and hunched me over, sliding anxiously down my chin to dot the dusty floor. A small pond had accumulated at my feet before I began wiping the salty water from my face. I rose from the bed and took a short glance around the room before urgently stepping out into the hallway from which I came.
Hours had passed and the hall had since been darkened with night. I slowly descended the stairs, trying not to disturb the silence no more than I had to. It was late and I didn't want to disturb Kev's mom if she was asleep. I reached the end of the stairs and began to tiptoe my way towards the foyer.
“Sometimes I feel as if it didn't happen.”
I nearly tripped onto the door, startled by her sudden confession. I followed the voice and found her in the adjacent room, slightly illuminated by the neighboring streetlight. She sat motionless on the couch, head slightly tilted, eyes looking forward aimlessly. Her hands lay on her lap, neglecting a smoking tea cup sitting precariously between her knees.
I secretly shudder at the sight, walking slowly to join her. I sat diagonally from her on the love seat by the entryway.
“Denial is underrated,” she continued slowly, “I'll never learn the lesson that grief is unavoidable. If I could I'd deny that I haven't had any ill feelings in my many years.”
Her eyes never wavered nor blinked as she spoke, and her lips appeared unnatural under the collective stillness of her body. I shifted uncomfortably in the seat.
“I shall never...see him...again.” The words begot watering in her motionless eyes. “And the denial that I force myself into is never enough to sustain the days. I ought to end them.”
At once her head shot upright and her eyes darted to me, her glare piercing in the semi-darkness.
“Get out, Kevin. Don't come back.”