How Sweet the Silence
“Your Dad left this morning – he won’t be coming back.”
He popped another sweet into his mouth and nodded, his cheeks bulging with a strawberry flavoured jelly. She gave his hand a squeeze-he looked up. Her eyes were firmly fixed on the path ahead. They walked the rest of the way home in silence. he clutched his bag of sweets against his leg.
As they turned onto their road he could see the empty space outside their gate where the car would normally be parked. It’s absence was conspicuous- it reminded him of when they took the christmas decorations down-the spaces they left seemed brighter than the things themselves. he had hated that car. The one time his Dad had picked him up from school to take him to an appointment he had hidden until play time was over. he didn’t want anyone seeing him get into the bright orange smartie on wheels. he couldn’t sit down for two days after that.
She struggled with the key in the front door. The lock looked shiny…new. There was sawdust on the doorstep. She wiggled the key a little to the left and the latch gave way. The house seemed quiet-emptier than usual. The TV had gone. he stared at the dust free square where it had once sat. Witness to all.
“Your Dad took the telly with him-sorry.”
Reaching into the scrunched paper bag he pulled out a fruit salad chew and awkwardly unwrapped it while trying to support the bag between his inner arm and his side. starting to chew, he looked across at her and shrugged. She closed the distance between them and wrapped him in her arms. He rest his head against her neck and breathed a deep sigh. Not of despair-he felt free. he felt light. he felt safe. HE had gone and all the egg shells had gone with him. he felt laughter bubble up from a forgotten place.
They had chips for tea. They sat on the living room floor and ate them out of the paper. They tasted better than they ever had before. They listened to the radio and danced to every song with the volume turned up. It was just the two of them – no sudden movements.
Before bed he checked the front door twice and insisted that she put the chain on. She lay beside him on the bed and read from ‘The Wind In The Willows’. That night he dreamt that his Dad was outside, standing on top of the TV-trying to look in through all of the windows. HE couldn’t get in and he had swallowed the only key-it was made of sweets.