The grass needs mowing.
It is my first thought as I’m ushered inside by my mum. I say as much to her; she either doesn’t hear or wilfully ignores me.
Home invasion. Two months ago. I spent two nights in hospital before Mum took charge. She brought a suitcase, together we took the V-line to Trafalgar, to my childhood home.
I’m insisting on this. I am ready to move back, inside the house I shared with Bob. The door’s been replaced and re-hung. I glance at it suspiciously; I prefer the old one. A state-of-the-art alarm system fitted at the front door, the sensor’s red eye following my every move.
‘Mum, I’m fine. You don’t need to come in.’
‘Rubbish, Helena. I’m staying overnight too. We talked about this. And I’ve arranged for Dad’s old friend Bert to mow the lawn tomorrow.’
‘I can do it.’
‘Let us help you,’ Mum says.
I stare at the floorboards. The last time I saw them, Bob’s blood pooled in a shimmery, morbidly fascinating puddle. I remember how it was drying at the edges as the ambos glided me out.
I was told about Bob my first morning in hospital. Dead. Stabbed twenty-six times in the head, chest, arms, hands and legs. Put up a fight, they said. Kept the intruder busy, away from me, huddled in fear and shock in the hallway, as the police arrived. They caught him, just down the laneway. An ice addict. A stupid, random, fucking senseless attack.
Now, my gaze fixates on the spot, I feel Mum’s hand pull me gently away, towards the kitchen.
‘Let’s have a cuppa love,’ Mum whispers, fighting back tears.
‘Who’s fixed everything?’
‘Hmm?’ Mum’s filling the kettle but I feel she’s dodging the question. Selective hearing.
‘The door. The cleaning. The food and fresh milk in the fridge. Who did it?’ My voice is quiet, measured.
‘Never mind that now, love. Plenty of time.’ Mum opens and shuts cupboard doors. I watch as she acts like a newbie to the art of making tea. It’s not as if she’s never been to my home before; I can’t number the cups of tea the two of us consumed here. Or the dinners, particularly just after Dad died.
It hits me. I sink to my knees, keening. Bob’s dead. Never coming back.
Time passes. I slowly become aware of being held by Mum. The two of us clinging to each other as our mutual tears dry.