When James' mum and dad split up, all hell breaks lose and James' life is turned around.
The bare, splintered wood riddled his hands with blisters as the cool night breeze blew into James’ face. He was tired and his only desire was to return to his room, cry for a bit and slowly drift into a dreamless sleep where he did not have to think or feel.
The floor was hard underfoot, that he remembered, and the smell of disinfectant that wafted from the nearby bathroom.
With intensity he had never felt before, his dad held onto him, clutching him close as if he were a long lost relative. On the other side he held Darren, his brother, but there was nothing new there.
Behind the door in front of them could be heard a frantic scuffling and rustling. James couldn’t remember the words, lost in the passage of time and ferocity of volume. No words were discernable from the cacophony of warped sound. It was like a badly tuned radio. The only noise he remembered was his own racking sobs which heaved up his throat like vomit and tore at his stomach and chest leaving a sharp pain.
Then she appeared in the doorway, suitcase in hand. Tears were streaming down her soft, pudgy face.
He could feel them now, the same ones rolling down his own freckled cheeks. He could hear the heavy gasps of exertion beside him as mud fell like drops of dark blood onto the nearby grass, choking the life from the dull green. James dug the spade into dirt and heaved, his heavy limbs barely complying with what his brain was telling him he ought to be doing.
“I’m going to mum’s, you can’t stop me!”
“What about the kids, or are you that selfish?”
“You don’t love me and I don’t love you, there’s no point us living like this, I need to leave,” her face broke down even more than it had, leaving a shattered visage like a motley, Greek mask.
“Get out of the house!” he roared, his face turned puce. For the first time, James was truly scared by his father. His mind wondered if that’s what his dad would be like should he ever stop loving James. He shivered, and through his tears, clung closer to him, “aren’t you even going to fight for them?” his words dripped with venom, “you make me sick, go, get out!” She came towards him as he pushed her.
James rubbed the sweat off his brow. The silence was unnerving and the silver ichor shed by the moon made him feel vulnerable, as if he were being watched and he did not like that. He ducked his head down and simply hoisted another mound of mud from the ground. He was very tired now and his eyes felt raw and puffy. But he had to do this, for dad.
With a sickening twist, she fell into the banister, and then fell some more.
And from that point she kept falling. Every thought in his head dropped a little more. As he grew older, he came to realise that she had never been a perfect mum. With death, it tends to put people on a pedestal, but for James, when she left him, he began to understand that she was far from ideal. Death had allowed him to see that.
A day later, his dad sat in the chair, stock still. James sat with his brother on the Playstation. WWF Smackdown and he was getting whooped. His dad left the room. James shouted angrily as the Player 2 Wins screen lit up the TV. Soon after, his dad returned with a platter full of sandwiches. He softly called the boys who turned around. With a gleeful look on their face, they ravaged the cheese butties. Quietly, James handed his dad a sandwich, but he shook his head and looked down. When they had finished, he left the room and took the plate with him.
James leant for a moment on the shovel, his teeth gritted till they began to hurt. The icy wind bit at him but he cared little for that now. Instead his thought returned to his manipulative mother, the way she had played everyone like an idiot. And all the while he couldn’t stop thinking about what she might have become if she were still alive. James smiled ironically, after all, this was the most time he’d ever spent with his brother and father. Suddenly a foul stench reached his nose. Something was rotting as if it had been left for years on end. He made one more hack at the dirt before he felt it hit something hard.
James had been nine years old.
When his dad came back, he placed the controller down on the floor. Darren barely even realised, his eyes were so focused, with a hint of redness around them as the light cast a watery effect on his pupils. James touched his dads hand which lay on his lap. Slowly he moved them away. For some reason, James was not perturbed by the distance of his father, the way he didn’t hold him as he sat on his lap. In fact, this was quite normal. He had always been distant.
James turned, his face very close to his father’s.
“Daddy,” he muttered softly, “where’s mummy?”