‘Mum! Come and meet my new friend,’ Jake burst through the kitchen door.
Laura beamed at her son. ‘Your first day back at school went all right then?’
‘It was okay, I suppose. But I’ve made a bestest ever new friend. Can he stay to dinner, Mum? Can he?’
‘If his mum knows where he is and she doesn’t mind. We’re having sausages tonight. Does he like that?’
‘Of course, Mum, it’s his favorite.’
Laura stared through the open door. ‘Where is he then?’
‘He’s right beside you, Mum. Do you like his smart red tie?’
Tears welled up in Laura’s eyes. A habit since childhood, she tugged at her soft, blonde hair, her fingers tweaking the curls. ‘I’m sorry, Jake. Look, I’ll get on with the dinner. It’ll be another half an hour. Why don’t you show your new friend your new toy car?’
Laura watched as Jake eagerly led the way, smiling at a friend only he could see. Once Jake had disappeared upstairs, Laura collapsed against the sink, sobs wracking every inch of her body.
‘Oh, Tom, why did you have to leave us?’ her voice, a wail, filled the air.
She closed her eyes and Tom’s handsome face was before her. Deep brown eyes crinkled as he smiled. His fingers flicked his fringe of chestnut hair from his face and his grin widened. Tom and Jake, like father, like son. Both were dark, so handsome and loving. Every day when her eyes fell on Jake, a fresh wave of hurt tore through her. Two months had passed since Tom’s death, but the memory was still raw and ragged.
Her blue eyes slowly opened and Tom’s countenance faded. She sighed, knowing she should be glad Jake was so happy, that he was beginning to rebuild his life. But he wasn’t. Not deep down. Why would he need an imaginary friend if everything was all right?
‘Dinner’s ready!’ Laura called out a while later.
Footsteps thudded down the stairs and Jake’s face appeared round the corner. ‘Great, we’re starving. Mum, why have you set a place for Jasper?’
‘Yes, it’s a very nice name, isn’t it? Anyway, Jasper doesn’t sit at the table and he can’t use a knife and fork. Don’t you know anything about cats, Mum?’
‘A cat? He’s a cat? Yes, of course he’s a cat,’ Laura said, a wave of sickness passing over her.
She had no choice but to go along with it and a bowl brimming with sausages was placed by the door for Jasper.
‘See, Mum? He was very hungry,’ Jake said, between mouthfuls.
Laura swung round and stared at the empty bowl. ‘But…how…you. I need to lie down.’
Laura mounted the stairs, her knuckles white and gripping the stair rail. She opened the door to her bedroom and sank down onto the bed. Her eyelids closed and darkness took over.
Part two next week