“Listen, Ma. Listen.”
I cracked an eye open to find my son’s face looming before mine in the grey morning light. With a whoosh of cold air, he lifted the doona and scooted in beside me, his icy feet biting through my pyjamas.
“Good morning, baby bear,” I murmured into his hair.
“Shhh, Ma! Listen.”
Rain. Lots of it. Drumming out a steady rhythm against the roof.
Thomas giggled. “Mum’s making puddles for us.”
The joy in his voice simultaneously broke my heart and mended it a little. When Lauren was dying, she’d explained to Thomas that she would always be with us, even after she was gone.
“I’ll be in here,” she said, touching his chest. “And in here.” She ran her hand over his head.
“But how?” he asked. “How will I know?”
“The best bit,” she told him, leaning close, “is that I’ll be in the weather too, so I’ll be all around you. When it’s a bright, sunshiny day, that will be me smiling down. And when it’s raining, that will be me making puddles for you to splash in.”
My beautiful wife with her beautiful heart. She always knew just what to say. It had been a long and lonely year without her.
“Come on, Ma!” Thomas was out of bed now, pulling on my hand. “The rain stopped. Let’s go puddle-hunting.”
* * *
A laundry dilemma threatened to spoil our plans. Thomas’s sock drawer was empty and the washing on the airer was still damp. The clothes basket revealed a tricky situation. There were nine socks in the bottom but none of them matched.
“Great news,” I said, holding up a blue sock and a black sock. “It’s odd sock day!”
“No way!” Thomas said, folding his arms. Even at five he was set in his ways.
“Come on, it’ll be fun.” My voice was breezy with an edge of desperation.
“Hey, there’s no need to get stroppy. They’ll be hidden under your gum boots. No one will even know.”
He shook his head.
I was tired, my patience waning. “Do you want to play in the puddles?”
“Then you need to wear socks.” I held them out to him. “Do we have a deal?”
“Fine,” he grumbled, snatching them.
Was this a glimpse of Thomas the teenager? I pushed those thoughts away.
* * *
The street was empty, the sun barely up. 7am on a Sunday morning in winter. I shivered, pulling my coat closer around me.
“Hey, Ma! Watch this!” Launching into a deep puddle, Thomas shrieked as cold water splashed up, flooding his gumboots.
“Shhh, Thomas! It’s early. People are still sleeping.”
“Well, they’re just silly.” He refused to be silenced. “More puddles for us!” he yelled. His grin was contagious.
We spent nearly an hour splashing and squealing before the joy started to wear off. Eventually Thomas turned to me, his little body shaking.
“Time for a warm bath and some porridge?” I asked.
We squelched back home. Soggy-footed, tired, happy. Stillness and silence returned to the street.
Allison Black is a queer, disabled writer who has a very tricky brain and a BA in Creative and Professional Writing. She currently resides on Dja Dja Wurrung land in regional Victoria, Australia with her awesome rescue cat, Astrid. You can find them both on Twitter @crashing_silent.