Joey missed her. He really did, though nobody seemed to think so. He didn’t really blame them. He didn’t emote like people expected. He didn’t cry at her funeral, or take time off of work or school. How could a teenager take the loss of his mother so well, they would ask. Did he not love her, or did he not care?
Love. What a hard emotion to nail down. He had always struggled with it. She’d been his mother, who’d taken care of him his entire life. More than affection, he felt indebted to her. He took a job as soon as possible so he could save up money and take care of her one day. His father, too. It was an equal exchange.
He walked into the house one day, home late from school. The biology club met on Mondays now. Fridays were too busy. Monday was his father’s late day too, but he would likely spend the evening at the bar drowning his loss with his friends. A good way to spend his time. Joey, on the other hand, planned to study. He worked on Tuesdays, so he wouldn’t have time to prepare for his Wednesday exam. Use time wisely. That was his mantra.
The worst thing about coming home was his mother’s porcelain. She’d loved porcelain angels. He gave her one every year for her birthday, and her few friends often did the same. Those doe-eyed angels lined a large oak shelf in the hallway. They stared at passers-by with their dead eyes, and their little feathered wings cast eerie shadows on the back of their shelves.
Joey didn’t believe in spirits or soothsayers. God, devils, angels, ghosts, ghouls…all nonsense, with only a single exception. He’d long feared and sincerely suspected that the angels watched him as he walked down that hall. I’m crazy, he would think.
He only talked to her about it once. He didn’t talk to her much. He didn’t really talk to anyone, for that matter. However, this was too compelling. He needed to wash his mind of such nonsense. He still remembered her smile, too.
“God made angels to watch over us,” she said in her honeyed voice.
God isn’t real, he thought. Maybe evil did. It appeared to flourish, while God was nowhere to be seen.
“One day, when I’m old and gray, I’ll go to Heaven. Then I can watch over you, too.”
She hadn’t died old and gray. She’d died in fire and twisted metal. They hadn’t even been able to display her in an open casket.
He thought about it all as he stepped into the hallway. Her voice called to him. He walked fast, but he allowed himself a sideways glance. There the angels sat, staring at him with hollowness. The gentle expression on their childlike faces were supposed to be loving and non-threatening, but their attempt at love was dark and artificial.
Just as he feared, the eyes followed him. Was it an illusion of the shadows, as he’d long hoped? He stopped, with coldness in his blood, and watched as they stopped, too.
He reached the end of the hall and turned around cautiously. They were there, watching. Now, he swore, they’d turned towards him. Each and every one of his mother’s porcelain angels faced him, looking at him with cold eyes.
He slammed his bedroom door and let out a low, groaning sigh. For just a moment, mingled with the hum of the air conditioner and his own heaving breaths, he swore he heard a honeyed voice.
Why didn’t you love me