Eyes still closed, Mary listens. She listens to Edmund’s light snoring as he lies next to her. She is aware of the house at rest—the house she and Edmund have lived in since they married fifteen years ago. Outside she can hear a light breeze play through the trees. There is nothing to indicate anyone else is awake. No thumping down the hallway of her children… well, child. All the sinks and toilets are mute. She lies still and listens to the silence of the house.
Satisfied she is the only one awake, she gradually opens her eyes and stares at the back of her husband’s head. Edmund has always slept soundly. Mary hasn’t slept well in months—ever since Tommy drowned. She is glad Edmund can sleep; someone needs to be strong for the family. He seems to have found some peace in their loss.
She reaches out and gently touches his short hair. Edmund, my love. What he doesn’t know, and wouldn’t understand, is that their son, while dead, isn’t gone.
Mary slowly rolls to her other side. She sees the clock shimmering “4:17” The soft red glow of the digital clock casts a pink pale light across her side of the room. She blinks and watches the thin curtains shift in the light breeze coming through the open window.
She sits up on the edge of the bed and rests her feet on the cold wood floor. All her movements are slow and silent. She glances at the clock again, “4:18.” Almost the same time as the other nights. She doesn’t think the actual timing is important for this to work, but it can’t hurt to be consistent.
Next to the clock sit a crowd of prescription bottles. Pills for depression, pills for lack of energy, pills to help her sleep, pills to wake her up and pills so she forgets. Mary ignores the bottles. She stopped taking her medicine days ago, and has felt much better since.
She stands up and pauses, listening for changes in Edmund’s breathing.
She walks around the bed and into the bathroom. Gently closing the door, she turns on the small night-light. Evil Knievel, Tommy’s favorite.
The small light provides just enough illumination. She knows the layout of the bathroom well, so she doesn’t need the light to navigate but does need it to see if something changes, or if anything—or anyone—arrives.
Mary opens the bathtub curtain all the way. Turning her back, she peers into the mirror above the sink. From her tippy-toes she can see through the mirror into the tub. Mary pauses at the mirror, glancing at herself. The dim glow from the night-light casts rippled shadows across her skin. Her straight dark hair frames the pale skin of her face, making it appear paper-thin with dark circles under her eyes.
These visits are rare and always a bit different. But what Mary is sure of is that her son has visited her; she has felt him.
Mary turns the faucet and fills the sink with water. She dips a finger into the water then taps the mirror above the sink. As she taps, she whispers his name, “Tommy.” She says his name and taps again and again. Nothing happens.
Her whispers turn to sobs. She falls to her knees resting her arms on the sink and her body shudders. “I love you, baby. I love you, Tommy.” She sniffles. “Please visit me, Tommy. I miss you so much.”
Her sobbing slows. Mary breathes deeply. Where are you, my darling? Will I see you tomorrow night? Using the corner of the sink, she gradually pulls herself up. She rests her weight on the counter and stares at her reflection.
Mary shivers. She pulls her hands away from the sink and gently rubs her arms. She watches as a light frost creeps along the edge of the mirror. Her breath comes out in a white mist.
Then she hears it—a dripping sound—a light splash of water falling onto the tiled floor. She rises up on her toes. Using her hands on the sink to stay balanced, she looks into the mirror.
Through the mirror, Mary sees water in the tub gently moving back and forth. In the center of the tub a murky shape, pale white, manifests itself in the shadows. The shape shifts slightly. Water drips over the edge of the tub onto the floor.
She quickly turns away from the mirror to look at the bathtub. Her body trembles—a mix of excitement and fear. But it is empty. There is no water, no light reflecting off the gentle waves, and no floating body.
She takes quick, shallow breaths. For just a moment, her son was there. The room is still chilled; goose bumps rise on her skin. She breathes deeply and exhales a plume of mist.
There is a light probing touch on her hand. She continues to stare straight ahead. Something small, wet, and clammy grasps her hand. Mary smiles as she hears him speak. “I love you, Mommy.”
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