It’s raining. The dribbles down the window tell me there won’t be play time today. I look round the corner of mum’s room, to see her lying; white as her sheets, in a puddle of red blood on the floor, a blood-spattered, metal torch was lying a few feet away from her. I walk over to where she’s curled up, her hair is messy – all over her face – and her face is pale. Her chubby lips are blue and cracked. I kneel down and lie next to her cold body, and fold her limp arms around me. I just want a hug, but she’s dead.
I whisper into her ear, ‘I love you, mum.’ I see her lips, sort of, twitch, almost making a smile. But maybe, maybe I imagined it. I fiddle with her pretty earring, shiny and silver – a bird – it’s the one I gave her for Christmas. I go round its little wing with my finger-nail; it looks like a robin, the ones with the red chests. I think they’re funny looking, but they’re her favourite type.
I hold her finger tightly in my fist, bending it, just for fun. Then I hug her tight; her blood was turning my t-shirt red, but she’s not around to tell me off anymore. So, I close my eyes, and think about how she died, what happened to her. She was killed, she was. My mum was killed. I don’t like her being dead, but that’s what she is. Dead.
It all started last night, she got home late from work. I was still up watching the television and she told me to go to bed. She said, “Oh James, get to sleep! How many times have I told you?” She seemed angry, so I did what she said. I wandered down the hall in my pyjamas, brushed my teeth and went to bed. I didn’t sleep; I sat in bed and just thought. Not really about anything, but just thought. You know, when you think, but you don’t know really know what you’re thinking about.
While I was lying in bed I heard a noise, a kind of crash and then a bang. I thought it was my chance to get out of bed and see what’s going on, just to check. You see, it’s just my mum and me at home, my dad’s away at work and I don’t have any brothers or sisters so I kind of feel like it’s my job. You know, to keep an eye on things. Anyway, I went out into the hall and it was dark. I don’t like the dark; not one bit. I went back to my room and got a torch. It’s heavy and metal. I took it with me.
I wandered along the creaky floorboards – they were so loud, they kind of echoed in my ears. But when I stopped it was so quiet. I could hear my own breathing. It was coming out in little puffs, like it does after I run around. I was quite scared. I don’t know why. I didn’t know for sure that anything was wrong; I kept going until I got to the stairs. I could hear the television. Maybe it was a noise from the television. But I kept going, down the stairs, slowly – one by one – mum always says it’s dangerous to run down the stairs. When I got to my mum’s room (she sleeps downstairs) I pushed open the door to see her lying fast asleep on the bed. I went back to turn off the television, but it took me a while to find the remote; it was hidden under the sofa.
I went into mum’s room again, to turn off the light, and that’s when it happened. I didn’t even notice he was there before. My torch was on the floor, but still, I don’t know how I’d missed him. He went towards her; he had a big pair of scissors in his hand. I wasn’t sure what to do. He was holding them from the handle. That was wrong. You’re not supposed to hold them by the handle when you walk. You’re meant to hold them by the pointy bit, so you don’t poke someone’s eye out. I tried to call him, or to wake up mum, I don’t remember. But my voice wouldn’t work. It just wouldn’t come out. I still don’t understand why. It was sort of stuck, in my throat, like when you have too many chocolate biscuits, or something really sticky.
I watched him put his hand over her mouth. Why would she say anything if she was sleeping? He started to pull off her pyjamas. I’d never seen my mum without her clothes on. It was strange. She had bits I don’t have. But also she didn’t have the bits I do. She opened her eyes and saw him. She seemed scared, I think. But she didn’t move. She started to shake all over. He put his face right up to hers, their noses were almost touching. I didn’t do anything; I just stood and watched it all happening right in front of me. I don’t think I could have done anything anyway. But neither of them saw me. I felt invisible. Like a ghost.
I saw his other hand, the one with the scissors; open up so the blades were separate. It looks as though he was going to cut her hair. But instead he just opened and closed them quickly. It made a cutting noise, but he was only cutting air. He shut them again and held them tightly in his hand. The wrong way. He started pushing them into her side. She made a noise, like the one I do when she tickles me and puts her hand over my mouth. She squirmed like I do as well. Did it tickle? I’m not sure, but I think it hurt. It must have hurt. I saw cherry red juice, oozing out of her side onto the sheets. He started to smile.
He picked up a flannel from the bedside table. He tied it around her mouth and head, so she couldn’t talk; just like I do with Paul when we play tie-me-up. He took her lighter from the top of the dresser and flicked on the flame. He held it right close to her head, and her hair started to sizzle and burn. Then he put it next to her cheek and it turned red and gooey. Then he held it away and watched as it turned from red, to brown to a kind of black colour. The whole time I didn’t do anything, nothing at all. I didn’t think that anything was wrong. Mum would have said something. It probably hurt a bit, but maybe they were playing like big kids do. How would I know? I didn’t want to ruin the game.
After watching her cheek change colour he put the lighter down and climbed up on the bed so he was sort of kneeling right over her. He didn’t seem very strong. He had sort of skinny arms and legs like me. But then he put his hands on her neck. I thought he was going to hug her, or say sorry or something. But he started to squeeze. I didn’t like it. I didn’t like the way his knuckles went white as his hands squeezed her neck and when he laughed. I didn’t like the sound it made when she hit the floor. She screamed really loudly, it hurt my ears. She saw me, and tried to make me go away, I shouldn’t have been there, but couldn’t leave, I felt as though I was stuck to the floor, just watching him rip at her, but not doing anything. He never even looked at me.
Fat teardrops were rolling out of her eyes. She looked upset. “Why are you crying, mum?” I asked. I felt confused. Why was she crying? I thought it was just a game, I didn’t do anything! She wouldn’t stop. He lips were turning blue and her face was going white as he kept squeezing. What was happening? He needed to stop squeezing her neck, I knew that. But I couldn’t do anything. I did want to, really I did.