I pretended to be asleep. He made his breakfast and packed his lunch. It was November – dark mornings, cold house – so I stayed in bed, listening to the sounds of the dawn: boiling kettle, butter knife scraping toast, ringing spoon stirring cup of tea, turning pages of paperback western.
I heard the back door open; the raspy cough of the car starting and the heater blowing warm air to clear the frost from the windows. The trunk sprung open and I envisioned his rifle in its soft case stowed carefully away; a sandwich and a thermos of tea packed into his red knapsack, tossed on the passenger seat. The trunk slammed shut, and the backdoor opened once again. More footsteps – this time into my room.
I kept one eye opened just enough to see his silhouette against the dim light coming in from the kitchen. He stood there for a moment, looking at me, waiting beside my bed, listening for some sign of lucidity. Finally he put his hand on my head, ran his fingers through my curls, and walked out.
At the time I thought it was a funny trick, lying so still, pretending to be asleep – because everything is funny when you are a nine year old boy. I was going to tell him when he got home that I had fooled him; that I was really awake the whole time. He’d laugh and rough up my hair with his strong hand and call me a “little scamp” – like he always did – but not this time. This time, he wasn’t coming home.
You see, I could have hugged him and told him I loved him and that I admired him and wanted to be just like him, but instead I pretended to be asleep for a laugh. Things were never quite as funny after that.
Don’t ever pass up the chance to tell someone you love them.