Light. His eyes were still closed but the light was unmistakable, right there, on the other side of his lids. Not bright, but there. Far away. On the other side of his sleep, his oblivion. Light. He tried to force his eyes to open, his lids to lift. Somehow, the light was associated with the slug feeling in his stomach, the heavy gnaw that pushed against his intestines, against his ribs and into his lungs to stop his breathing. It sucked the energy out of his arms and legs, solidified into solid pain as it wrapped itself around his heart and squeezed.
He opened his eyes and the tears spilled out.
He couldn’t remember what was on the plate on his desk; It could have been just an empty plate he’d put there with some imaginary breakfast that he didn’t feel like eating. On his laptop screen luscious red petals wrapped around themselves in the spiraling beauty of a wild rose but he didn’t care. He couldn’t remember if he’d already processed the image or if he’d just opened it. The picture meant nothing to him. He had no idea why it was on the screen.
His arms were beginning to fatigue from holding his hands over the keyboard where they did nothing. Or had they done something? He didn’t know. He didn’t care. The slug feeling in his stomach was the slug of his entire body and his thoughts. He was a slug crawling through a pit of grief. He thought about going out on his bike to take some photos but he didn’t feel like doing that. He thought about showing up at the mall early to talk to his customers but he didn’t feel like doing that either. He looked at the empty plate and at the monitor with the rose petals all wrapped and wrapped and wrapped…
He had no idea what time it was. It was still daylight. He wasn’t sure if the sun was coming up or if it were going down. Was it morning or afternoon? He didn’t care. He didn’t think about it. He stared at the two high windows. The curtains were drawn. There was sunlight on the other side of them giving them luminance and highlighting the swirl pattern that he’d never really noticed before and barely noticed now.
She’s dead. Gone.
His stomach rumbled but he wasn’t hungry. The thought of food made him nauseous. Looking at the sunlit curtains made him nauseous. Sitting in the chair made him nauseous. Breathing made him nauseous. His fingers scratched the arms of the chair as he sat staring at the curtains.
Natalie gazed out the window at the long shadows of buildings and trees as the sun went down. Jacky had stayed in his flat all day. Natalie had read about Krista’s death in the local newsfeeds. All day, she’d been tempted to knock on his door. She wanted to hold her son in her arms and tell him how bad she felt and how cruel it was that he should lose the woman he loved. She wanted to absorb his tears with her love.
But that could come too close to giving everything away. It would be almost certain that he would see who she was, that she was his mother and had been alive all these years.
And then what would happen?