Two months have passed since the night she lost her son Andre, and still she could hear him all around the house. Whenever she’s in the kitchen preparing supper for her husband, she sees him standing there beside her, tugging at her apron, wanting to see what she was preparing. He often asked a dozen questions, and it was usually a miracle for her to keep up with him. Time after time she wanted him to save his questions for his father when he returns from work, but now, in the deep quietude of the house, how she wished to hear the sound of him once more. At least just once, she would love to open his bedroom door in the morning to get him ready for school and find him smiling and laughing while jumping up and down on his bed. He once said he wanted to be a pilot, later on he changed it to wanting to be a cowboy, just like the good guy in that western classic The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.
It is late in the night and like the former nights that have passed she can’t make herself fall asleep. She thought she heard him calling for her in his room. Often he did that when he was afraid of the monster in his closet.
The alarm clock gave the time as 2:35a.m. Her husband lay turned to his side of the bed, asleep. Quietly she pulled herself out of the bed sheet and light-footed out of the room.
Her late son’s room was halfway down the corridor. She opened the door, in her mind hopping to find him asleep under a thick quilt but was disappointed as she now was since his demise to find his bed empty. She picked one of his favourite toys, and Anakin Skywalker figure, and went and sat at the edge of his bed. Tears soon welled up in her eyes.
The doctor’s prognosis had said it was leukaemia. One minute he was recuperating in the hospital, laughing at one of his father’s jokes when they’d stopped by to see him. He had passed away sometime during the early hours of the night. What hurt the most was that neither of them had been there to like hold his hand when it happened.
She laid her head on his pillow, holding the toy figure to her chest. The tears rolled off the side of her face, past her ears and stained the pillow. Her eyes fell closed.
She heard something. She couldn’t tell what it was but it was sharp enough to make her come instantly awake. Her eyes fell to the doorway and she thought she noticed a shadow running out of the room. She shot to her feet and went to the door, looking out the corridor in time to see the shadow disappear down the stairs. There came the voice again and she could have sworn it sounded very much like Andre’s.
“Andre?” she called out. “Andre, is that you?”
She ran after the shadow, her feet scampered down the stairs and her hand wiped sleep and dry tears off her eyes.
She rushed into the den, found the front door half open. Didn’t her husband lock it before they went upstairs, she asked herself. She approached the door and opened it further.
The night’s cold breeze came at her strong, making her wince inside her nightgown. She looked up the road in time to see a little figure that looked so much like her Andre run down the end of the street. She wrapped her gown around her and went about him, yelling out his name. The street lights glimmered on the wet street from the rain that had fell a few hours ago; her slippers made slapping sounds as she followed the figure which disappeared around the corner. She continued yelling her son’s name, telling him to stop.
She’d hope to see him standing at the corner of the street waiting for her but was heartbroken to find no one there. She fell to her knees and started crying.
There came the distance sound of someone whistling a tune. She looked up the street and behind her but found no one there. The whistling was followed by the sound of horse’s hooves clattering on the street’s surface. She looked to her left where there was a dark alley that cut across to the opposite neighbourhood and was surprised to see a man in a cowboy outfit and hat, bearing a resemblance to Clint Eastwood in those old western movies, coming towards her, riding a pale white horse. The man came to a halt before her. Neither of them said anything. They were both alone in the street.
Finally the man spoke in a flat voice: “Your son is dead.”
She nodded her head. “Yes ... yes, I know.”
“Would you like to see him one last time?”
She answered with another fervent nod.
The man turned his horse away from her. Her eyes went towards the direction of the alley and standing at the mouth of it was her eight-year old boy, Andre. He ran towards her, grinning and calling out, “Mama! Mama!”
She half stood up and caught him as he jumped into her arms. She kissed every inch of his face, showering him with as much love that she’d always heaped upon him.
“Oh mummy, you came with Skywalker!” her son exclaimed as he noticed his favourite toy in her hand. She too was surprised that she’d held unto it while she ran out of the house. She gave him the toy, and then embraced him.
“Andre ... oh my baby, I’ve so missed you.”
“I’ve missed you too, mummy. I miss you and daddy every day. Please take care of him for me.”
“I will. With all my heart, I promise I will.”
They then let go of each other. A look of understanding passed between mother and son.
“Mummy, I have to go now. I will see you again soon.”
She gave him a final kiss on his cheek before releasing him to the horseman and stood there helplessly watching her boy and her cowboy stroll away from her back into the alley. When they got to the alley’s mouth, Andre turned to her once more and smiled and said: “See mummy, I told you cowboys are real!”
She half laughed and cried and replied, “Yes, Andre. They do exist.”
The cowboy started whistling his former tune again, the sound of his horse’s hooves clattered on the ground as he and her late son disappeared from her sight.
When they’d gone, she once more huddled herself into her gown and returned to her home, back to lie beside the sleeping form that was her husband.