The cracked pavement seems to jump upwards to meet his every step as he walks home. His head lolls forward, creating a jolting momentum which threatens to topple him forward. He lets himself into the house through the back door, silly, decorative wind-chimes betraying his entrance.
“You’re home early,” mum says, smiling and already moving to the fridge to bring out some leftover lasagne. “Didn’t Darren have enough Playstation games to keep you busy, then?” Her pink terrycloth covered rear wiggles around reassuringly as she digs right to the back of the fridge for his very favourite mango juice. She’s just taken a shower, getting ready for the nightshift. Been sleeping all day, hasn’t had a day off in almost a month. For a moment, his eyes narrow and flatten in fondness.
“No,” he says, Darren hadn’t had enough Playstation games to keep him busy today, or any other day because he hasn’t seen Darren in weeks. Almost two months. Nobody has.
“Oh well,” mum says, in that dismissive way that people do when they don’t know to look out for something wrong. She sets down a cup of tea for him, weak just like he likes it and puts the lasagne in the oven. He lifts it with his left hand carefully, deliberately, upper lip fluttering along the layer of scalding steam before committing to the sip. Watery, too sweet. Perfect. He lays his head down on the gently greasy vinyl tablecloth and gets an affectionate pat from mum as she passes on her way upstairs. He tucks his hand up under his jacket, fingers settling gingerly over the warm sticky mess just below his ribs.