day-after-christmas-morning

5 Darkest Days

It is clear to me that envisioning what happened in the house with little nine year old Kate and her mother before they found the body – that’s the meat of this story.  Its not so much about the death of Kate’s father.  Its about how Kate’s mother lost it and how a young girl bolsters up her own courage and wherewithal and figures out how to manage the crisis.

Day 1 – Christmas Day.  Kate’s mother, let’s call her Barbara, has put it in her head that her husband is off somewhere shacking up with some tramp.  He’s been distant lately and since he is a big executive, she is not THAT surprised he hasn’t come home for Christmas.  To cope, she tries to make it seem like its not that big a deal and goes through the day as if nothing is wrong.  She and Kate open presents in the morning, then have a nice Christmas dinner.  Barbara has a little too much wine at dinner and starts bad-mouthing Kate’s Dad.  Kate has a sense that things are terribly wrong and misses her dad.  When her mom gets too drunk and passes out in front of the TV, Kate puts a blanket over her and snuggles into her next to the couch.  She doesn’t fall asleep because every noise the house makes, she thinks it might be her father coming through the front door.

Day 2 – Day After Christmas.  Barbara and Kate wake up on the couch in the early morning light.  Both of them thinking it had all been a dream.  Barbara is groggy from the prior night’s wine intake and goes upstairs to take a shower.  Kate gets to work tidying up the living room so that all the wrapping paper is put away and presents are nicely stacked together to be taken upstairs.  Kate can’t help but notice the presents for her father that are still under the tree.  As she is fixated on the presents she hears a CRASH upstairs and run up to see what happened.  Barbara is sobbing on the bathroom floor, her hair and makeup and robe all a mess.  She had thrown a heavy jewelry box, a gift from her husband, at the huge vanity mirror above the sink.  The mirror is cracked in several places, the jewelry box is splayed out with the contents pouring all over the bathroom counter.  Kate is at first stunned by her mother being so undone but then immediately runs in to hug her while Barbera sobs into Kate’s hair.  Kate manages to get Barbara to get into the shower.  Kate cleans up the jewelry box.  Then, while Barbara is still in the shower, Kate goes downstairs and calls the police to report her father as a missing person.  Barbara is more composed after her shower and for the rest of the day the two sit at the kitchen table, drinking tea and hot chocolate respectively, waiting for the phone to ring.

Day 3. After a night of taking turns to wait up for the phone to ring the duo are pretty much zombies.  Kate spends her time counting the times her mother taps her fingers nails on the table.  Barbara starts her deliberate, incessant rant on why her husband is not there.  She talks and talks and talks about Kate’s dad – making up reasons why he didn’t make it home, why he can’t call, why he didn’t think to give them a heads up that he would not be home for Christmas.  Not all of it is bitter, lots of it is nice stories of how they met and funny things about his habits.  Kate is just a little concerned about the cadence of her mother’s speech.  Something about it is not all there.  Its not a conversation, its Barbara going on and on, sometimes repeating herself, not asking for a response.  When Kate does chime in or ask a question, Barbara sometimes glosses over it like she didn’t even hear Kate.  Kate tries to make a dinner for them of microwave popcorn and hotdogs but neither one of them has an appetite. 

Day 4.  Its frantic today.  After two days of relative calm, Barbara can’t stop moving around the house today.  Now she is frenetic, must get everything cleaned up, back in order.  She is even talking about “taking down Christmas” until Kate cries “no, we’ve got to keep it up for Daddy!” and Barbara comes close to smacking Kate.  Instead, she rushes past her to put all the opened presents away and get the vacuum out and dust every inch of the house.  Kate watches as her mother runs back and forth, trying to figure out if she should aid her or abet her.  She decides to withdraw to the kitchen where she sets up post for the most important of duties, communicating with the police station.  She calls them 4 to 5 times a day to see if there are any updates.  Kate has become very reliant on Sargent Mathers for his kindness, patience and sense of hope that they will find her father.  Her fifth phone conversation that evening ends with the fact that the police had confirmed that her father had left his office in the early afternoon on Christmas Eve.  And according to witnesses, he was alone in his car. Kate and her mom fall asleep on the sofa again, watching reruns of old movies into the wee hours of the night.

Day 5.  The cold seems to pervade everything today.  No amount of moving about or tea drinking or hot cocoa can get it out of your bones.  So, after her morning call to Sargent Mathers for an update, she focuses on building a fire…

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