The sound of Bill and Ben, the Flower Pot Men, blasted through the air. Kevin groaned as he rolled over in his bed to look at the alarm clock. Not that he needed to. It was always the same time, these kids didn’t know how to sleep! Sure enough, the alarm clock glared 4.45am. He couldn’t blame them, they were just very excited. They were always excited.
“Sssshhhhh, you will wake your dad”. Kevin smiled as Donna’s voice drifted up the stairs. She was meant to be chastising them but you could hear the giggle in her voice. She never had been good at being the tough cop. He laid his head back on his pillow and just listened to them all playing downstairs. He closed his eyes and pictured them in his head. Emma’s copper coloured hair would be almost glistening in the light as she ran in and out of the light streaming through the window, trying to get the perfect light for a selfie. James was more active; very rarely staying in one place, preferring to run through the house until he was out of breath. Kevin’s smile broadened as the sound of Donna footsteps become louder, she was chasing James by the staircase and the sound rung out loud and clear through the empty house. Donna was, for lack of a better term, perfect. She was one of those mums who were the envy of everyone who saw her. She was always cool, composed and well put together. Never a hair out of place, never a stain or smudge on her clothes – despite raising two kids who were particularly messy growing up. Even he was in awe of her, especially as he had spent the first few years of James and Emma’s life smelling like stale milk.
‘What I wouldn’t give to go back to those days’ Kevin thought as he stretched out in bed.
The smile slipped from Kevin’s face as reality of life sunk in. He groaned as he swung his legs out of bed, he was not a young man anymore. His bones ached as much as his muscles and moving hurt. The pills didn’t help, the ravages of time far surpassing the science of a little pink pill. Opening the wardrobe, he took out a navy blue suit, crisp white shirt and blue tie, as always. Laughing, he remembered how the sales women had looked at him when he asked her for nine of the same outfit (it meant he could get them 7 of them dry cleaned on a Friday, ready for Monday, and still have something to wear). It didn’t matter what he wore. They never really paid attention to him and, yet, he still liked to put in the effort for Donna. With his clothes laid out, he hit the shower. As the hot water of the shower hit his back, Kevin mentally prepared himself for the day ahead. By the time he would come back into the bedroom, he would be exhausted. A benefit of kids was that Kevin had never slept so well in his life. He laughed to himself as the phrase ‘they sleep like the dead’ crept into his mind.
All dressed and ready, Kevin took a deep breath, turned the knob of the bedroom door. The click of the latch retracting echoed through the house. The kids fell quiet. It was time. He took his time walking down the stairs, simply taking in the sounds of his children happier than they had ever been. The walls were full to bursting with pictures of their family through the years; trips to the zoo, holiday’s, birthdays etc. Every single picture had the whole family smiling, they were so happy. He was on the last step, there was no more room for hesitation and, by the sounds of footsteps, they were coming to him. He took a deep breath in and promised himself, again, that he wouldn’t scream or scare them. It hadn’t worked for the last 7000 or so days but today was a new day.
He stood in front of them, as he did daily, a scream catching in his throat. He thought of the irony. When the police had first come to the door and told him they had been killed, he begged to see them again. He would wander around the house aimlessly, praying to a God he suddenly believed in to see Emma laugh one more time or hear the pitter patter of James feet as he haphazardly ran along the corridor. Yet, for the past 20 years, they had visited him almost everyday. Never maliciously, never in anger, but they were slowly rotting. It was worse than the accident, he could see them transforming from young, vibrant people to decomposing bodies. He got down on his knees and prayed. Again. He wanted them to stop coming to visit him, to move on. But he knew, at 4:45am tomorrow morning, the sound of laughter would rise through the house again.