‘Hello, Mum’ he called on his way downstairs There was no reply. There rarely was. Nor was she in the kitchen where as usual he made his own simple breakfast before slipping his neck through the strap of his satchel and making his way to school. No father there either. He had never known who his father had been, not even whether he was alive. He would have liked a father to be in the kitchen. But no. Just no Dad. Ever.
Before closing the front door he made sure he had his key. He had no idea where his mother went, but there might well be no-one in when he returned. Then the well-known way to school. Walk, bus, walk.
He liked school. People to meet and talk with. Something to do. Exercising his brain. He liked thinking of answers to questions and putting them down on paper. Writing essays even. But then school was over.
Home again. Walk, bus, walk. He opened the door to his house.
‘Hello,Mum,’ he called. As no reply, he thought ‘Probably out’. Not downstairs anyway. He checked.
He went upstairs to change out of his school uniform. As he passed the open door of his mother’s bedroom, he noticed that the room was dark. The curtains still drawn. He saw the hump of his mother’s body in her bed.
This was unusual at 4.0 o’clock, but not without precedent, especially if she had been up late drinking the evening before. He did not draw the curtains, however; he had been shouted at before for doing that.
Instead he went to his mother’s bedside. She was very still. Must be breathing very lightly, he thought. Then he noticed that her eyes were open. ‘Mum,’ he shouted, louder. Then louder again: ‘Mum. Mum.’
Still no response.
Then he knew.
No dad. Now no mother either.