This story is by L.W. Davie and was part of our 2020 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
I open my eyes because the sun is hitting my face through the gap in the curtain. I tell it not to do this every day, but the sun won’t even listen to Mummy when she asks.
Anyway, I’m awake now. Am I too early? I don’t want to make Mummy mad. I’ll lie here a bit longer. I roll onto my other side. The crack in the wall smiles at me and I smile back. Bored of the wall now. I sit up. What am I going to do today? I lie back down.
There are stars on my ceiling, as if the night sky was here, in my room. Just like the stars on the ceiling at kindergarten! It is day tenty-million or something since I last went there, I think. I wonder if they miss me. I miss the swings, and the red and yellow paint, but not the blue paint. I stained my white t-shirt with that, once. I miss the bean bag on the mat that is closest to the heater. I don’t miss the cold water Miss always makes us wash our hands with. And I don’t miss the mushy apples that come in a basket from the delivery man.
It’s been a few minutes, I should go see Mummy now. She’ll be so proud that I waited. She’s always telling me to wait before going in to see her.
I walk, so quiet and good, and reach up to the doorknob on her door. I turn it on the first try this time, push it open and walk to the bed. The door hits the wall with a bang and she makes a funny groaning sound.
“Mummy,” I whisper, so quiet and good.
She moans, and I wonder if she’s forgotten words again. It happens in the mornings sometimes. She says, sometimes, words don’t come back to her brain for a whole minute after she wakes up! I’m always thinking of words to say, so I don’t really know how that could happen.
She lifts the blanket, her silent signal that I can climb in beside her. She is always so warm. I pull myself onto the bed and snuggle in against her body and giggle.
“Mummy, what day is it today?”
She sniffs and lets out a big breath that tickles my forehead. Still no words.
“Wake up, please.”
“Sorry, I’m awake, I’m awake.”
A droplet of water hits me on the head. “Ow! Mummy, I’m wet.”
She sniffs again and lifts her hand to wipe her eyes. Is she crying again? The other night it was before bed and yesterday it was while she was making me a tomato sandwich. I don’t want her to cry any more tears down her face and onto me.
“I love you, don’t cry.”
At first, she cries some more, and I pat her on the arm like she sometimes does to me. Did I make it worse? But then she starts to laugh and pulls me in tight against her and I squeal because the day can begin now that Mummy is awake and has found her words and has stopped crying.
All morning we play and laugh in all the corners of the house because we can’t go outside at the moment. It’s just us two because I am her special boy who she must protect. We make a pirate ship with the cushions from the couch. I’m always the captain and we always find the treasure. We make bread that we put mashed bananas in, and we read books while we wait for it to cook.
Mummy used to drop me at kindergarten in the mornings and then go to another place where she calls work, and then she would pick me up in the afternoons and we would go back home. I never cooked bread with banana in it at kindergarten, but I did play pirate ships sometimes. I don’t know why I stopped going there or why she doesn’t go to work anymore, but she said it was because of a bug that was all over the world. Yuck!
“Don’t we have any bug spray?” I asked and she laughed but we didn’t go back to kindergarten the next day so the answer must be no.
Sometimes Mummy is on the phone and I can sit and watch the TV and be quiet and good. The time just disappears into thin air when I do that because soon it is time for dinner and a bath. But she looks like she has been crying again and I feel a little sad too. Daddy usually came home at this time. I miss hearing his car out the front and his hand messing up my hair when he came in the door. I miss his smell, like smoke and flowers all at once. Mummy must miss him at this time as well. And maybe in the mornings in bed, because he used to be there then too.
“Don’t cry. Daddy will come back when the bug is gone.”
Mummy looks at me funny, then comes over to me on the couch. My skin is all warm and pink from the bath and she gathers me into her arms and I snuggle in closer.
“Darling, Daddy won’t be back. Not ever. I’ve told you this.” She croaks like a frog as she starts to cry again. But I shake my head.
“No, no, no. You said Daddy was gone because of the bug. And you said we were stuck inside until the bug was gone. And when that happens, we can go outside, and then Daddy can come back.”
She squeezes me really tight but she shakes her head. Why is she confused? Maybe she is tired. I think she is because just like in the mornings it seems like she has forgotten her words again. She puts me into bed and strokes my face. Mummy doesn’t do the stories quite like Daddy, so it’s okay that she can’t speak, and I don’t ask for any anyway.
“I love you, Mummy,” I say as she kisses me on the cheek and turns out the light. I roll over and close my eyes tight shut. The sooner I can sleep the sooner another day comes and I might be able to get back to kindergarten and play on the swings again. The sooner I can sleep, the sooner Daddy can come home.
Day tenty-million and one.