When we got back to our house, mom and I crept inside as if we were scared of being heard. She pressed her key in the door slowly, pushed the door open inch by inch like there someone pushing it closed from the other side. There wasn’t.
Hardly anyone ever used the front room, except pop when he was watching television. It’s his room, really, full of things that are his, like his books and his cup and his coat. Mom said we should go stay at Grandma’s, the night pop came for the things that are his. I looked around the room to see what was still here, and to see if I felt any different.
It’s my room now.
It took me a few minutes of looking around before I started to recognise stuff, before I could focus my eyes on anything. There was the old couch we got off grandpa, and the armchair no-one sat in. There was the television, and I wondered if pop had got a new one to take to his new house, and if he would like it as much as this one. There were my videos in the cabinet underneath. I wondered if he looked at them and thought about me before he left, maybe for just a minute.
There were my shoes in the corner, where I left them last night, as if I’d been here the whole time, a spy hiding in the room to hear what was happening. But I didn’t know what had happened. I wanted to go pick up the shoes to see if just holding them would tell me anything. I didn’t do this. Instead I took off the shoes I was wearing and put them next to the others. Now it was just a pile of shoes, and I didn’t have to wonder about what they had seen and heard.
I didn’t know what mom has been doing since we got back. She had gone straight through towards the kitchen. Maybe she was leaving me alone for a bit. I was glad about that. I sat down on the armchair, the one up against the side wall. I wanted to see if I could make myself feel different here, that’s why I sat in the chair. I suppose things did look a little different from that spot, but not very. I squinted a bit to see if I could make myself think this was someone else’s house, like maybe it was a friend’s house and I was coming over to see if they were doing okay after his pop left.
I stood up after trying this and decided I was going to look properly at the windowsill. It was where the photographs of us were kept. I guess I was thinking that some of them might not be there, that he might have taken them. But I saw straight away that they were all there. I wanted them to be there before I looked, but when I saw them I just felt angry. I counted them, five photographs in frames. Two of me, one of mom and pop and two of all of us. They had left them there like nothing was going on. I picked one of them up and looked at it really closely until it became a blur.
I can’t remember when I started crying, and I don’t even think I realised I was until mom came back in to the room. She must have thought I was just sat there watching television like pop does. So I think we were both surprised when she came in, because I was just stood in the middle of the room with my coat and bag still on and no shoes, crying. I could feel the sleeve of my coat was wet, too.
She rushed over and put her arm around me and said, ‘Oh, love.’ It was nice, she wasn’t always like that. Then she said that she assumed I was just watching television, as I’d thought, and then she asked me if I did want to watch television, but I didn’t.
So she took my coat and bag off and we went into the kitchen. This was where the dining table was and it was where mom always sat and talked to her friends who came over. I never really sat at the table except when we were having breakfast or tea, so it felt a bit strange to sit there now, but that’s where she put me.
We didn’t really say anything to each other while we were sat at the table together. I guessed she had things in her head that she was trying not to say, things like, ‘How do you feel now pop has gone?’ She couldn’t say that obviously, but maybe that was the only thing in her head, because she didn’t say anything else either.
I felt that I didn’t want to be with mom. I didn’t really understand that feeling, it was the first time I had ever had it. So I thought about it for a bit while we sat there. I think I did quite well to come up with all the different explanations. Maybe I was angry with her for something, like pop leaving. Or something small, like taking me away while he was leaving. I know that is she left, I’d want her back. But she didn’t leave, so I can’t feel that.
Maybe I didn’t want to be with her now because it was just me and her from now on, and I didn’t want to start that yet.
She said something about making me a sandwich. It was only half past ten, I saw on the clock up on the wall. But I said yes anyway. She wanted to do something. She said I should go into the other room and watch some more television. I just shrugged my shoulders. She’d forgotten that I wasn’t watching television. She’d forgotten I wasn’t my pop.
I could be him, if that’s what she wanted.
I walked in, and I did put the television on this time. I picked up the remote and changed the channel. It didn’t matter from what to what. I looked around again. I went to sit on the couch, in the spot where pop sat when he was in here doing this. A sandwich was brought in. A drink was brought in. Mom smiled. A smile was brought in.
I don’t know how long I was there before I heard the key. I barely heard the key, at first. It was being pressed in slowly, like we did before. I thought for a second it was mom and me coming in again, creeping in again, but it wasn’t.
He came into the room and sat down next to me. He touched my head. He didn’t mention that I was in his spot.
‘Did you forget something?’
Mom had come in.
‘I don’t want to leave. I want us all to be together, still.’
She sat down next to me and took my hand. I wasn’t looking at her, or at him.
‘This is confusing for him,’ she said. Then she said something about my pile of shoes in the corner, picked them up, and took them somewhere else.
It was just me and my father again. He looked at the television. I picked up the remote and changed the channel, just up or down one. From what to what, it still didn’t matter. It showed that I could.
It’s my room now.
Richard Berry writes about this theme over and over again. He can’t get past it. He has also written for Dream Catcher and has forthcoming work in Bandit Fiction and Horizons. @richard3berry