After quite a while, the noises from the other room seemed to start being louder, then quiet again. She wondered if she could go in there now, but didn’t want to be a bad girl. So she kept waiting, hoping that Mommy would come and get her soon. Her brother was in there with everyone, and she was very, very mad about that. Mikey wasn’t that much older than she was, so why did he get to be in there with the adults (and everyone else) while there was crying going on? She’d have to ask Mommy about that later in the car after she’d had a nap, of course. Riding in the car always made Lisa Ann sleepy. She kept on swinging her legs, listening for the voices to finally start coming closer.
The voices were very quiet now, practically whispers. She could hear Daddy and Mommy arguing just a little, like they used to before Daddy moved into his new apartment. She wasn’t sure what they were saying, but she could hear them like she used to, and they were moving farther away. Lisa Ann was very impatient now. She slid off the big chair and onto the thick carpet, feeling her dress slide up her legs as she did. The velvet tickled her legs, and she had some pins and needles in her feet, but she stayed very quiet. Good girls were quiet. Mikey told her that, and Mommy seemed to like it when Lisa Ann did the things that Mikey suggested. He was smart, but not always a good boy. Mommy yelled at Mikey sometimes, but she didn’t yell at Lisa Ann at all. She was a good girl, though she wondered why Mikey didn’t just do the same things he told Lisa Ann to do. She decided that she would ask him when she saw him, and nodded firmly.
The voices were now silent.
Lisa Ann crossed the room to the door. It was quiet. She hoped it would stay that way, and padded quietly down the hall. There were still no voices close, and she felt a little bit excited at sneaking like this. She didn’t sneak often, and this was a special treat in her mind – a delicious bit of being willful, knowing that she might be doing something just a little against the rules. Lisa Ann poked her head around the corner and saw the mostly empty room. She crossed it, dodging chairs and found her brother. HE was quiet, and she pulled up a nearby chair. He stayed quiet, and she thought to herself that Mikey must be trying very hard to be a good boy. She turned her head and looked around. Still, the room was empty, so she pulled the chair closer to Mikey and took his hand in hers. He didn’t pull it away.
“Mikey? How come you got to be in here with Mommy and Daddy tonight?”
“I just was Ell.” He only called her that when he was trying to tell her something she should be good about.
“Are Mommy and Daddy fighting? I thought I heard Mommy crying, but I wasn’t sure. Mommy always cried when they were fighting.”
“No, Ell. Not tonight. Mommy and Daddy were not fighting, but I don’t think they are back together, either. You were a good girl, right?”
“I was!” Lisa Ann smiled and nodded as she spoke. “I made Mommy a card. Want to see it?” She waved the card in her hand, never letting go of Mikey.
“It’s pretty. She’s going to like it a lot. Listen, Ell, you have to listen to me, okay?”
“Sure, Mikey.” Lisa Ann leaned in very close. Mikey had his teddy bear in his other hand. “Can I hold your bear?”
“I’m going to hold it for a while, okay?” he squeezed it tighter.
“Okay. What do you want me to do, Mikey?”
“You are going to have to be a very good girl for Mommy. She’s really going to need that. Daddy, too. I think you are going to have to be a good girl for a long time.”
Lisa Ann made a face. “I’m always a good girl, you know. I just forget sometimes.”
“I know, Ell. But Mommy and Daddy were talking about a lot of sad things, and I want to make sure that you are just going to be good so they don’t have to get mad. If you do get yelled at, try not to cry, okay?”
“What sad things? Daddy has a nice place, and I like our bedroom there…” she trailed off, squeezing Mikey’s hand.
“Can I tell you a secret?” Mikey whispered.
“Yes!” Lisa Ann liked secrets. She was a very good secret keeper.
“I’m not going home with you tonight. Mommy will talk about it more, but I’m just not. Not tonight.”
“Oh.” Lisa Ann was a little sad about this. Sometimes Mikey would sleep over Daddy’s house when she didn’t, and she missed him. It was nice to be able to snuggle with Mommy, and sometimes Mikey would leave her a note on her pillow, just in case she missed him. Lisa Ann kept every one of his notes. “Are you sleeping over Daddy’s?”
“No. But just be good for Mommy, okay? It’s really important.”
“I will, Mikey.” Lisa Ann fidgeted in the chair. It wasn’t as nice as the red one she was sitting in before, but it was still fuzzy against her legs. “Are you sad too, Mikey?”
“Yes. A little. It’s hard to explain to you, Ell. I love you. You’re the best sister ever.”
“I love you, too. You’re the best brother ever!” Lisa Ann beamed. She leaned in and gave him a hug and a kiss.
“Thanks, Ell. I’m really tired. Is Mommy coming back?”
“I don’t know. I heard them going somewhere else. That’s why I came to see…”
“It’s okay. Here…” Mikey held out the bear to her. “You take this for now. Don’t lose it, okay?”
Lisa Ann hugged the bear close to her face. She could smell her brother on it. “Thanks, Mikey. I promise I won’t lose it.”
“I didn’t leave you a note, but you know that I always miss you.” He paused, “Always.”
“I know, Mikey. I miss you too.” She was hugging the bear as she spoke. “I think Mommy is coming…” Mikey must have fallen asleep. Maybe he just needed a nap, Lisa Ann thought to herself. She hugged the bear and held his hand. She might get yelled at for being in here, but she didn’t think so. The room was pretty, now that she looked around a little more. There were flowers and candles, and it smelled like Mommy’s garden in the springtime.
Lisa Ann’s mother and father walked slowly into the room together. Her mother fell into deep, muffled sobs when she saw her daughter sitting by the small casket holding her brother’s bear.
The tears flowed freely, and her heart broke again.