She ran to the door, laughing hysterical. She couldn’t wait. Her mother was gone but she was back now and all she could feel was everything.
When she opened the door it wasn’t her mother. It was someone she had never seen before. He stood outside on the little mat that said ‘home’ on it. She looked up at him. ‘Where is mom?” she asked, immediately ashamed that she hadn’t said hello or ‘how are you’ or ‘what’s your name’ or ‘can I offer you some tea?’ Hadn’t her mother taught her better? But she was scared now and she didn’t know if it was ok to behave badly when you weren’t happy, when your mother was gone.
He looked down at her. ‘Oh she’s with me,’ he said. She ran to hug him. This was the next best thing to her mother being there. He knew where she was. He had come to bring them together again. ‘I can’t wait to see her. I have so much to tell her. I didn’t wear my slippers on the linoleum and I am still alive. I am ok. I broke some things, but we can fix them together. That’s ok.’ He looked down at her and he smiled, a big smile, a smile that didn’t seem to end. And then he walked away.
She wanted to run after him but her mommy had told her not to leave the house without her. Would her mommy be mad if she did it this one time? She didn’t want to risk it. So she let him go. She yelled after him. Sir. Sir. Sir. Sir. Just like her mom did that one time they went shopping together and a man had left his wallet and mom called after him so she could give it back to him. Sir. Sir. Sir. Sir. Sir. Sir. But he was gone. He must be deaf. Her mom had told her about people who couldn’t hear very well.
When she closed the door she started to wonder about what had happened. Maybe the person was upset because she didn’t say hello or offer him tea. Maybe he was shocked at how rude she was. Maybe he left because of something she said. What could she do, what could she say to make him tell her? When would he be back?
A-ha! She had an idea. She would make a special meal for him. She had seen her mother make some cookies and tea for strangers before. She wasn’t supposed to touch the stove, but this was an emergency, wasn’t it? So she turned it on. She didn’t know how to tell if it was working. So she put her finger on the top of it to touch and OH It hurt. It hurt. It hurt. She pushed her finger into her mouth and it pulsed. She pulled it out. The skin had turned white.
She cried until she felt like she didn’t want to cry anymore.
‘Ok,’ she said to herself. ‘It hurt but you learned something. That’s good. Learning is good.’
So this time instead of touching the top part she let put her finger a little above it and she could feel it get warmed up. She was proud of herself for figuring this out. How smart you are, her mother would have said if she were there.
The kettle was too high for her to reach. She had seen her mother use the chair to get too-high things before. That’s what she would do too. So she pulled the chair up to the stove. Now she was tall. She felt herself smiling, and she instinctively looked over her shoulder because this was the kind of moment her mother would have been so proud of. This is the kind of moment where she would have looked behind her and seen her mother’s face. But no one was there.
Well, that was ok. She would have to feel proud for herself this one time.
She got some water, put it in the kettle, got the tea from the little cabinet, put the tea inside the kettle, and put the kettle on the top part that was hot. She heard the pot do what it had always done when her mom made tea. She did it. She really did it. The tea was ready. Now the cookies. Where were the cookies?
She looked in the little cabinets and in the drawers, but couldn’t find them. Where were they? She knew those cookies were important. They were the only way she was going to get her mother back. She started normal and patient, but then she started to break things and push things again. ‘Where are they?’ she said louder and louder and louder until she was screaming. She was mad at her mother now. How could she put them somewhere so secret? Why would she do that? Why did she have to be so mean?
She didn’t find the cookies. So she decided on something else, whatever she could find.
She heard a knock on the door again. And again she ran to the door. Again there was he was, the person she’d never seen before.
‘Hello, sir! Please come in. I have some tea for you. I tried to find some cookies but I was unable to, but I have other things.'
The stranger walked in, looked around inside, and sat down at the table where her mother used to sit. ‘Oh that’s my mother’s chair,’ she thought, but she stopped herself. She didn’t want him to leave. He could tell her what she needed to know. She smiled at him, served him the tea. She was thinking now, thinking harder than she ever had before. How would she get him to tell her? She thought about what her mother would do. What would my mother tell me to do right now?
‘How are you doing, sir? How has the weather been?’ she asked smiling.
‘The weather is nice. I have been fine. How are you?’ he asked. She was terrible, sad, hurt she said. Her mother was gone. Did he know where she was? No, no. That’s a stupid question. She was sorry. Of course he knew where she was. She was sorry. But could he help her? Could he bring her back? She kept talking hoping to keep him there longer, thinking that if he stayed long enough she could get the answer, she could get her mother back. And he did stay longer than the last time, but he gave her no answers still.
He rose from the table, and let himself out. And it continued like this over and over for a very long time. Each time she let him in he stayed longer. Each time she tried to woo him with bigger and more elaborate tricks. She pushed herself so hard to create something more alluring for him, thinking ‘this time it will work. Really.’ And each of the tasks she assigned herself pushed her to be better and more skillful.
She learned to cook and clean for herself. She took baths by herself. She had cleaned up all the messes she had made while she was upset. She threw away all the things she had broken, all the things that had her mother’s ghost in them. She didn’t look over her shoulder anymore. She wasn’t sure she missed her mother anymore. She couldn’t tell what she felt.
One day there was a knock on the door. She didn’t run to see who it was. The monster lived with her by now. On one of his visits he had accidentally fallen asleep on the sofa after she’d fed him a feast, and she realized how nice it was to have a companion after all. So she never asked him to leave and he simply stayed without much conversation about the matter. She had stopped hoping it was anyone else at the door. She finished the sip of tea she was in the middle of. She carefully placed it on the little plate. She quietly put the little plate on the table and then she looked at the clock as she rose from her chair to head to the door.
She walked right up to the door, put her hand on the knob, even turned it, but then she stopped. She took her hand off the door and returned to her seat, finished her tea and went to bed."