Five years without hugs; five without a ride in the wooden trolley that holds the coloured cubes of alphabet bricks; five since he was last tucked up next to Sam, while I read the last pages of a bedtime story. Always there, perched on the windowsill of Sam’s bedroom staring out, so that Sam will see him when he comes home. If he comes home. Behind him, Sam’s bed, too small for him now; Sam’s toys, too babyish for a nine-year-old; and the mobile I made of spaceships and stars still hanging beneath the rusting drawing pin that left a dent in my thumb, when I pressed it home.
How Sam came to open the front door, I’ll never know. Perhaps the latch was not properly home. Laura blamed me. I blamed Laura. But in the end that didn’t matter. He’d wandered out into the front garden, where he was never allowed out alone. He’d taken his little plastic tricycle. That was still there. The first I knew anything was when the foreman came down to the shop floor, at a trot. Told me there was a panicking Laura on the phone, in the office. ‘He was right by me. Then he wasn’t,’ she said. ‘I was on a call to my sister and I heard the front door bang. I called him and called him and ran out to the street. He was nowhere!’
Then the recriminations. I must have left the door open when I went to work. At seven-thirty; four hours before. But the postman had been since. With a parcel. She’d have noticed and she swears she shut it after that. Five minutes tops, he could have been out there on his own. He could have run out and been knocked down. It’s a very busy road. I almost wish he had. Then at least we would have known. Had closure. Or even mended him. It’s the not knowing that tears apart your heart. You can’t explain how. You can’t explain why. You can’t grieve. And now, it’s too hard even to hope.
No more the soft little hand in mind. No more the blue saucer eyes, staring in wonderment at the zoo. No more feeding the ducks; riding high on my shoulders; running down the sand, shrieking, as cold sea covered his toes. No more little tantrums, nor clinging to Laura, eyes wet with tears, having grazed his knee. No messy finger-painted paper card on Mother’s Day. And no more Christmases. We each left a present under the tree, the first year. Just in hope, though not really believing. They’re in his bedroom, now. Still unopened.
We’re back together, now, Laura and me. We did split. And the rift hasn’t fully healed, but we agreed we must both be here for his return. The police were very good. But proved useless. The whole neighbourhood searched together; every shed, every bin, every bush, the coppice in the park. The boot of every car. Including mine. No trace. No suspicious sightings. It was though he never existed. All we have left is his beloved teddy. Sitting. Waiting. And every night Laura and I slowly climb the stairs and cross that little room to join him, in a brief vigil at the window. Holding hands, her head on my shoulder, tears in our eyes.