Short Story - The Room
I count three candles on my cake.
One for me.
One for Mom.
One for Dad.
“Don’t just sit there, Tommy, blow them out,” Mom says.
She is sitting on a chair because she is sick. She coughs into her hand. Dad grabs the trash can. She waves her hand at him. She doesn’t want his help. I look around for my friend Drew. He told me on the phone he would be here.
“Where is Drew?” I ask Mom.
“Remember, Tommy? Drew can’t come because he is sick. Say hi to him.”
She points at Dad’s phone. He is taking a video.
“Oh, yeah, hi Drew!”
I blow out the candles.
Dad cuts a piece of the cake and gives it to me on a dinosaur plate. It’s a plate with dinosaurs.
“Can we save this piece for Drew?” I ask.
Dad looks at Mom. They don’t say anything to each other.
“We just have to cover it with plastic like you do, Mom.,”
She smiles at me and nods.
“Drew this cake is for you.”
I wave goodbye to the camera.
I don’t like masks.
“Dad, please don’t make me put it on.”
“Do you want to see your mom?”
“The doctors won’t let you see her unless you are wearing one.”
He ties it around my face. I hold his hand when we walk inside the building where Mom is. People look away when I look at them. They are scared of me. I don’t know why. People used to smile at me and wave. There are no other kids here.
We ride an elevator to the seventh floor. We walk up to a desk. The man on the other side stands up.
“The doctor said I could bring him,” Dad says.
We walk down a hallway. We stop at a door.
“Mom is inside, but you can’t go in, Tommy.”
I start to cry.
“Do you remember why, Tommy?”
He kneels down next to me.
“Because of the virus.”
Dad picks me up and gives me a hug. He sets me down on a chair facing the door.
“Mom will wave at you when we open the door.”
I sit down and watch the door swing open.
“Mom!” I call.
She turns her head and smiles at me.
“Mommy loves you, Tommy.”
I smile. Dad starts to close the door. He turns to me.
“We will just be a few minutes,” Dad says.
“Okay,” I say back.
The door closes.
I pull my toy car out of my pocket. I wish it was my dinosaur. Dad said it was too big. They don’t let us bring backpacks here. I pretend the car is on a race track like the game dad plays on the TV. I get down on the ground and race the car on around the chair.
“You need to stay in the chair,” a man says.
I look up. It’s the man from the front desk. He scares me.
I sit down and look at the door. Dad is talking. Mom is crying. It opens. Mom is holding her hands in her face. Dad hugs her. The scary man walks into the room.
“Mom,” I start to cry.
I get up to walk to her. The man stops me with his hand.
“Don’t touch him,” Dad says.
Dad picks me up. I swing around his neck to look at Mom.
“Bye, Tommy,” she says.
She is still crying. It makes me sad.
“Wish Mommy good luck,” Dad says.
“Good luck, Mom!” I yell.
“He can’t be here anymore,” the mean man says.
Dad looks at him and nods.
“Where is Dad?” I ask Aunt Kayla.
“He had to get up early, remember?”
“Did he say goodbye?”
She looks at me but doesn’t answer me.
“Dad always says goodbye when he leaves,” I say.
“Yes, he gave you a kiss on the cheek, but you were still sleeping.”
I play at the table. Aunt Kayla cut my sandwich wrong. She cut it down the middle.
“You’re supposed to cut it at the corners. You should cut it right next time.”
I miss Mom.
“When is Mom coming home?” I ask.
“When she feels better,” Aunt Kayla says.
“When is Dad coming home?”
She waits before talking.
“When your mother doesn’t need his help anymore.”
“What is he helping her with?”
“Not a lot but he’s there anyway.”
I don’t understand.
“Can I help her?” I ask.
Aunt Kayla starts to cry.
She keeps crying.
I hop off my chair and walk over to her.
“Can I help you, Aunt Kayla?”
“Yes, go finish your sandwich, Tommy. We’ll play games after.”
I cough and rub the toilet paper roll on my nose.
“I’m dying, Aunt Kayla.”
“You’re not dying,” she says.
“And stop calling me Aunt Kayla, just call me Kayla.”
“That’s what Mom calls you.”
She smiles and sits down by me on the bed.
“The people on the TV said people are getting sick and dying.”
“No more TV for you, Tommy. You’re not dying. People are getting sick but not all of them are dying.”
“Dad can’t come home because I’m sick.”
“Tommy, do you know why that is?”
“Yes, so I don’t get him sick.”
“And that’s how you’re helping your mommy,” she said.
“What if I get you sick?” I ask.
“Then I get sick,” Aunt Kayla says.
“But you will get Mom sick.”
“Why would I get your mom sick?”
“Because you go see her at night,” I say.
She rubs my hair.
“Where do you get silly ideas like that?”
“Because you have a car. People sneak away when I sleep. Everyone is so sneaky. I stay up late so you are too tired when I go to sleep.”
“I think you stay up because Aunt Kayla lets you watch too many cartoons,” she says.
“I miss Mom.”
“I miss her, too,” Aunt Kayla says.
“Is Mom your sister?” I ask.
“Yes, she is.”
“I want a sister.”
She smiles again and gives me a kiss.
“I hope you get one,” she says.
I wake up and Aunt Kayla is gone. Our neighbor Sally is in the kitchen.
“Where is Aunt Kayla?”
She went to the hospital.
“Is she sick?”
“No, she went to help your mommy.”
“Is Mom coming home?” I ask.
“Yes, she is.”
I run upstairs.
“Tommy,” my Dad calls out.
I am hiding in my closet. He opens the door.
“No, no, no, no, no!” I yell.
I pull the door shut again.
“Tommy, what’s wrong?” he asks.
“I don’t want to get anyone sick. I’ll come out when I’m better. That’s what the people on the TV said I should do.”
“Dammit, Kayla,” Dad whispers.
“I’m telling Mom you said a bad word,” I say.
“Tommy, do you remember the doctor who came by the other day?”
“The old bald man?” I ask.
“Yes, he gave you a test. We found out this morning that you aren’t sick like the people on the TV. It’s time for you to come out and meet your sisters.”
I open the door and smile.