They stood in a small group, not saying anything and occasionally sipping their drinks. People moved about the room carefully, talking in hushed voices. Every so often someone would stop by the group, offer condolences and try to engage in some kind of conversation, but they blocked all attempts at conversation, giving monosyllabic answers. As the day wore on, more and more people left the house until finally, it was only the three of them left. They migrated over to the sitting room and sat on one of the couches, on the table in front of them were bottles of alcohol, they drank in silence. Finally Tom drained his glass and set it down, not bothering to refill it.
“We should eat something.”
“I’m not hungry.”
“Neither am I.”
“We should still eat.”
Tom stood from the couch and went into the kitchen, a few moments later he returned with a tray laden with food. He set it on the table and sat down again. He studied the food for a moment then picked up a sandwich, he took a bite and chewed methodically. He filled his glass with soft drink and used that to wash the food down. After a few moments, the others began to eat too.
“So It finally happened.”
Tom picked up a bottle and filled the three glasses.
“Are we toasting?”
“No, just. I don’t know.”
Together they picked up their glasses and took a sip.
“So What do we do now?”
“What do you mean?”
“It feels like we should do something.”
“It’s over now. She’s gone. That’s enough for me.”
They drank in silence for a little longer.
“What are we doing about the house?”
“Split the money three ways then?”
The other two nodded.
“Ok, we’ll go through it over the next few days, mark anything we want to keep. What do you want to do with the rest? Donate it?”
“I think we should burn some of it.”
“I kind of like that idea.”
“I don’t know. Not sure if that’s legal.”
“Why not? I don’t mean like a big bonfire.”
“I guess then. If that’s what you want.”
Tom looked at his watch.
“I should be going. Will you two be ok staying here tonight?”
“Yeah. There’s food here, the beds are clean. We’ll be fine.”
“If you need anything let me know. I’m not that far away.”
Tom stood, he waited awkwardly for a second, to see if either would stand for a hug, but they didn’t.
“I’ll see you in the morning then.”
He left the house, not looking back.
The drive was short, only ten minutes, but it had still been five years since he had last seen his mother. Eight since he had seen his siblings. It was weird. They had both moved out at the earliest opportunity, he didn’t blame them really, he would have done the same if he could have. They had both moved as far away as possible. He didn’t think they kept in contact with each other, but then he wouldn’t have felt excluded if they did. They were closer in age, spent more time with each other growing up. Going by their overall demeanour today, he didn’t think they had much contact. Just another few days and it would be over. They’d go back to their separate lives. In some ways it was a relief, but in others it made him a little sad. He wondered what it would have been like to have a close family, like his friends had. They met up for meals, even went out to bars together. He didn’t have that with anyone in his family. They were distant. Cold.
He thought Stacy might have been married, but she didn’t have a ring. Maybe it was just a boyfriend. Jake had a ring, but Tom never asked about it. Tom had suspected that Jake was gay before Jake had moved, but neither brought it up. None of them had talked about their personal lives with one another. Stacy would probably know if Jake had a husband or wife. Tom had already decided he would never marry, he would be alone. It seemed right. Safer. He was used to the silence of an empty house. It didn’t make him feel sad anymore. He had accepted it. He knew his few friends thought it weird, but how could he even begin to explain it to them? It was easier this way. Better. He had accepted it a long time ago.
As he pulled into his driveway he wondered what, if anything, he wanted from the house. There was nothing that didn’t have some tainted memory. Maybe there was something in the attic, something of Grannies. They were happy memories at least. He went into the kitchen and took out a bottle of beer. He wasn’t feeling drunk, despite drinking all day. He belatedly realised he probably shouldn’t have driven, but it was too late for that. He took a swig then went into the sitting room. He should eat dinner. He hadn’t eaten anything bar some sandwiches. He took another drink then decided it didn’t really matter all that much. He turned on the TV and found something half decent. He didn’t really watch it, he just wanted something on in the background while he drank. It really was hard to believe she was gone. When he was a child he thought she would live for ever, some dark goddess hiding in suburbia. They had all gone in together on a headstone. Small, subtle. She would have hated it and that’s why they got it. She would have despised everything about the birthday party. There were no family speeches, no speeches at all really. The flowers were ones she hated, the food were things she didn’t eat and of course, the alcohol. She never drank. Though that was something he should have been thankful for. It might have seemed spiteful to others, but it helped them. That was important. The people who came didn’t really know their mother. Their mother never had close friends, she had acquaintances, co-workers, but that was it. It made the funeral a little easier for them all. He drained the bottle then stood to get another, he stopped. No. Tomorrow he’d have to be up early tomorrow. He couldn’t leave that job to just them. Tom climbed the stairs to bed, maybe tomorrow he’d feel happy.
Maybe this feeling of strange ambivalence would end.
He should feel something, shouldn’t he?