Craig's mother stood in the doorway, her face in shadow. Craig got up from his bed. There was no point protesting. No point. His father waited downstairs.
They went in silence, closed-off, separated by more than physical distance. Craig's mother drove with her gaze fixed directly ahead. Craig's father stared out of his window, his expression wooden, his eyes unseeing. Craig sat in the back and looked at his hands and felt the atmosphere of the car, uncomfortable, stifling, settle on him like a weight.
Pointless pointless pointless.
This anniversary that was no anniversary because nothing was resolved. Five years to the day and they stood, as they'd stood every year for the last four years, around the small memorial stone as the priest mumbled a few pointless words.
Craig's mother cried quietly, her shoulders heaved under her thin dress. Craig's father sighed and his hand shook as he bent to rub away some flakes of dried earth that had become trapped in the engraved M of Matthew.
MATTHEW LOMAS. b. JUNE 8th 1994.
The priest had let his mother place the memorial stone out of kindness. There was no death date. There maybe never would be, but Matt would be nine forever.
Once they were home Craig went back up to his room. No one said anything. No one had spoken for the entire length of the journey. His mother and father went back to whatever they did, their regular tasks, moving slowly; dead, all light and life gone out of them. They were like husks, like everything inside had been carved out of them by grief. Dried up and numbed to everything and everyone. Sometimes, they acted almost normal. If you didn't look too closely, you wouldn't see the deadness in their eyes. They could pretend, sometimes. Not today though.
Craig lay on his bed. One year. One more year and I'll be gone.
He felt he had to go. The feeling pressed on him until he could have screamed. He had to go. Or else he'd be like that too - dead inside. He was swamped by their mourning and by his own guilt, felt as if he too were disappearing inside it and under it. Like he would become eventually as thin and insubstantial as a ghost, feeble and weightless. Vanish into a waking, living death.
Guilt made him get up, guided his feet out into the hall and downstairs, led him to the cellar door and placed his hand on the door-handle.
Craig stepped down into the cold darkness, and it reached out to him and enfolded him, accepted him. The were no ghosts here. The only place in the house that seemed peaceful somehow. He moved slightly, and his foot scraped against something, where nothing should be.