(First 3 pages)
“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy, when skies are gray, you’ll never know, dear, how much I love you, so please don’t t-“
“Mom! Stop already, you know I hate when you do that. I’m almost a teenager, it’s time to stop with the baby stuff.’
“You’ll always be my baby, sweetheart. If it makes you feel better, though, I’ll try to keep it to a minimum. Since you’re so grown up now.”
She exaggerated the last part and ruffled my hair. I pushed her hand away and pulled the mirror down to make sure she hadn’t messed it up too bad.
“Mom! It’s my first day of school. I don’t want my hair looking all crazy.”
She smiled warmly at me as we pulled up a little further in the car rider line.
“I wish your father was here to see you becoming such a big kid. It’s hard to believe that you’re already going into the 7th grade. Time just keeps flying by, and it’s taking my little stinker away with it.”
A fresh tear rolled down her cheek, but the smile remained. She wiped it away quickly and widened her eyes trying to stave away any further water works. We were near the front of the line now and she pulled up to the curb in front of the school.
“I’m sorry, I know you don’t need your Momma making you look silly in front of your friends. Have a great first day sweet boy. I know you’re going to do great.”
I would usually bypass a hug at this point. But given the circumstances I reached out and squeezed her tight for a moment, I could tell that she really needed it. My dad’s passing was sudden and had been very hard for both of us.
He worked late most nights to keep food on the table and clothes on our backs. That may sound like I’m reciting and it’s because I am. He never let us forget it, but he was a loving man. He always wished that he could have more time with us, but most of the time we did have with him he was just too exhausted to do anything. I’m sure that’s the main factor in what eventually happened.
My dad was coming home late one night about 4 years ago. I was already supposed to be asleep in my room, but I was up and playing Nintendo DS in my bed. I had just won another round of Mario Kart when I heard a sound from my mom that I couldn’t tell was a scream or a loud and ugly cry. You know, the kind of cry that you do when you find out you can’t stay the weekend with your best friends, or if you smash your finger in a door really bad.
I put my DS away and pretended to be asleep. I know I probably should have run to check on my mom, but sometimes when you are little like that all you can think about is not getting into trouble. I laid there worrying about her until she came into my room and sat on the side of my bed. She held me by the shoulder, still crying, but trying to hide how hard she was crying. She always did that with me, like she didn’t want me to know how hard things could be on her. Like she could make the truth of things easier on me if she could just take all the pain on herself and not let me know how bad it really hurt.
She brushed my hair and spoke gently as she thought I needed to be woken. I played the part of waking up and stirred, stretching a bit, and looking towards her.
“What’s wrong Momma? Are you ok?”
“It’s your father, Michael. I just got a call, and he’s been in a terrible accident on his way home. He died at the scene. He was gone before the ambulance got there to help him.”
Died? Dead? My dad couldn’t die, he was my dad. I needed him. We needed him. There had to be something wrong. It couldn’t be true. I couldn’t believe what she was telling me, it had to be a big mistake or misunderstanding. I really couldn’t believe it all the way until I saw his face at the funeral. The doctor said that his injuries were on the inside, so we were able to have an open casket viewing.
Seeing his face like that. So still, no color, no motion. That was when I finally believed what had happened. When the reality of it started to sink in for me.
My daddy was dead, and he wasn’t going to magically come back from work one day to ask me about my day. He wasn’t going to play Wii Sports with me on the weekends, or make us steaks on the grill, or get mad at me when I didn’t clean my room, or anything. He was just gone.
My mom did her best to take care of me after we lost Dad, but I could tell that it was hard for her. She worked two full-time jobs, and another part-time job when we needed it. It wasn’t often that she was home, and when she was, she was so tired that it was like she wasn’t even there. Basically, she began to remind me of how Dad was, which scared me for her.
We sold our house and moved into a little apartment to make things easier on her. I was glad that she could finally breathe a little bit more, but the new apartment and new school were hard to get used to. I never showed it to Mom, of course. I had to be strong for her the way that she was always strong for me.
I finished hugging my mom and gave her a smile as I grabbed my backpack and turned away to head to my first period. I turned back to look at my mom for a split second and saw something that made the hairs stand up on my arms. There was a shadowy black figure crouched in the seat behind her. At least, I think it was there. When I blinked hard and looked closer there was nothing. But it had to have been there… I saw it as plain as I’d seen her… And I felt it, looking at me. Looking into me.