Peter was lying on the bed and staring at damp patch on the ceiling his blue eyes were lifeless.  It was neither his bed nor his bedroom; he was in his Nan's house.  His, was just four houses away all closed up with a sign saying for sale and he knew that he would never see it again.

From outside the noise of children playing in the playground made him feel even worst.   Since That day everyone had behaved strangely, and even Billy his best friend, looked at him funny. 

He was aware of people whispering when he was around; - Did he cry? - Did he say anything? – How is he at school? – Does he play?

‘He is in shock’ his Nan kept saying, ‘He needs time’.   Whenever he had cried his father always had said angrily. ‘You are a man, Pete and a man doesn’t cry, does he?’ and just to please he always had stopped.  But now he didn’t feel like crying, he felt nothing only a big black hole in his heart.

He would have given anything, even his train set to go back when the four of them were happy playing in the garden; he could almost smell the barbeque his father was so good at. 

Now his dad was away forever to something called a prison and he was glad that he doesn’t have to see him ever again. 

The newspapers called his father the butcher of 10 Stanley Street because in frenzy, he had stabbed Peter’s mother 30 times.  Although he couldn’t recall the all event, the headlines and his friends at school made sure he knew every details of the murder.

He remembered very well that day it was the day Billy had asked him for the first time to stay over for the night.  He had run home to ask his mother but when he had stepped into the kitchen and by the look of her, he had known it was not the time to ask.  So, he had said nothing, had made himself his tea and had sate opposite her.  She had looked awful her blond hair was uncombed and her eyes were puffy and red.  She had been crying, but then she had done a lot of it since Laura’s death just over a year ago.  Although she had been four years old and younger than him, he had loved her.  She had been a cheerful little girl, with long blond hair always chatting way to anyone who would listen. and would have done anything for him.

Nan had said, God took her away and his mother had said it was meningitis.   But who ever took her away took not only the life out of his mother but Peter's lovely sister.  Sleeping tablets had become his mother new comfort and a way of living.  As for his father, his temper, his drinking and his mood had worsened.   He had gone on working at the factory, followed by long stops at the local pub and although he had promised to give it up, he had gone on betting. 

On the sink had been two days of dirty dishes and on the floor next to the patio door, weeks of soiled laundry.  In fact the house had looked like her, unkempt, unloved and abandoned.

Staring at her cup of tea she had said in blurred voice,

“Pete! Your father is coming back early today because.....because… he lost his job, and …and…’ and then she had cried.   He remembered he had jumped out of his chair and had rushed to her.

‘Mum, don’t cry! Please don’t cry! It will…’   But at that moment the front door had slammed so hard the wall shook and in a second his father had stepped in the room.

‘Bloody hell! Look at you both!’ he had yelled, ‘Sitting and drinking tea!’  His face was red and his eyes looked foggy as if he had hard time to focus. 

‘Useless! That's what you are, f**** useless!’ By then his face had been so close to Peter’s that he had smelt the odour of beer.    Was it because Peter had put his hands on his mother’s shoulder, or because he had started to say?

‘Dad, we were saying….’ but at that moment he had gone for Peter and had grabbed him by his school uniform collar.  

‘You F*** little brat, who ask you to say anything!  Get out!’ he had shouted and with all his strength had threw Peter across the room.  

As he had landed on the corner of the dresser he had felt a sharp pain on the left side of his temple and then had blacked out.    He had never seen the killing and the 30 knife wounds the newspaper was talking about; he had only remembered waking up alone next to his mother.   She had been lying on the kitchen floor with a lot of blood around her and for a while he had thought that his parents had a fight with tomatoes ketchup.   He had never seen so much of it and he knew that he would always remember the smell - sour and sweet - something he hadn’t liked.  He had never screamed nor cried he just had walked outside; his school uniform covered of blood and had rang the next-door neighbour’s bell.

Long after, when he had asked about his father, he had been told that he had gone mad and lost it.   But Peter couldn’t understand what they meant by – lost it - the only thing he knew was that he had lost his mother and that made him made.   So he never asked and nobody mentioned him again.

Now he was waiting for his future. The social services were looking for foster parents because his Nan said she was too old to look after 6 years old.   ‘It would be unfair on the boy’. She kept saying.    She was right, thought Peter because she was far too happy in her widow life. Although she had done some odd baby sittings for her daughter, she never went out of her way for him or even Laura.

They had also written two letters to his aunt Jessica who lives in America but as far as he knew his Nan never mentioned any replies from her.

It was a year ago when he last saw her.  She had staid two nights with them after Laura’s death and even his dad has been nice.  Whenever he thought about Aunt Jessica warmth, smell of roses and laughter came to him. 

‘Don’t forget’ she had said to his mother before she left, ‘you can always send me Peter if you can’t cope’.   So, why didn’t she reply to his Nan’s letters?  Maybe she changed her mind; maybe she doesn’t want him anymore.

It was by now dark in the bedroom and Peter didn’t bother to turn the light on the bedside table. The playground was quiet and the only sound he could hear was coming from the kitchen below.   Earlier the doorbell and voices had told him that the social worker and the child psychiatrist had arrived.   He had seen her many times and liked her.  He had wished he could please her and answered all her questions - how does he sleep? -  Has he having any nightmares? -  When was the last time he remember his mother?  But the only thing he had done was staring at his shoes.

It was just when he decided to get up that he heard someone climbing the stairs.   He sighed, sat and waited.  There was no knocking only the door being open slowly and then Aunt Jessica step in, turning the lights on.

‘Hey! My little prince, did you miss me?’ She said softly, and with her came that sweet smell of roses.

Peter stared at her, no word came out, he just stared, and then his heart broke. A strange sound from his throat came out and with it all the tears he had kept for so long.  Jessica rushed to him, took him in her arm and cradled him like a little baby.

‘Hush! Hush! My little one, you are going home with me – it’s all organised you are my little boy now.’ She said kissing his wet cheeks.

Agnes McMillan


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