I woke up the next morning, and I remembered everything from the night before. But there were some parts of it that faded and slipped away, the way dreams usually do. But nearly all of it took root in my mind, and filled my head, embedding it in memory. I went over the events of the night again and again, lying there, trying to fill in the blanks.
It seemed as if we had hardly stayed at the graveyard with my father. I don’t remember any of the words he said to me, but I do remember pain, a heartfelt longing in my chest. Then there was a pale green light everywhere, and I felt another pain, physical and absolute. I remember the feeling of tiny shards of glass and metal piercing me, and then black, and Clara was bringing me back, flying next to me again, away from the graveyard. She didn’t talk after we left, at least, if she did I couldn’t remember what she said to me. She seemed sad though, and strangely serious. She frowned the whole way back.
Now that I thought of it, all of the blurred parts and missing pieces had happened after visiting the graveyard. I remembered everything before that with the utmost clarity. Clara coming into my room, and taking me away from my bed, becoming a weightless body of light, flying in the air, gazing out at the giant moon. It was all there, except that it wasn’t. Not all of it. Not really.
A knock on my door jolted me out of my thoughts. With a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach I realized that it was morning of the next day. Light pooled into my bedroom through the blinds of the window. I could not sleep anymore, could not escape from the reality of my situation, or fly out of the window into the night sky. The dreams were over, and the real world was crashing all around me.
“Honey?” my mother’s voice. “Time to get up. It’s past nine.” She sounded fine. Normal. I had not known how afraid for her life I had been last night until I heard her speak. I thought something awful had happened.
“I’m up,” I called back.
Then I remembered that it was a Saturday, and that my mother would be home for the day. My spirits lifted. Today would be different. I would explain everything to my mother, and would not lie to her. She would believe me, she had to. And then we would get rid of my uncle the boggart, and he wouldn’t be around to ruin our lives any longer. It was wishful thinking, I knew, but it was all I had.
I got out of my bed and went to the door, and opened it. My mother was not there. She had probably gone back to the kitchen to finish whatever she was making for breakfast. She usually made me pancakes or french toast on Saturday mornings, with sausage or bacon and eggs, and I would drown them with puddles of maple syrup, and drink a tall glass of pulp-free orange juice.
I walked out to the kitchen, and saw my uncle sitting on the couch in the living room, legs spread out wide. He was wearing a pair of baggy black sweatpants, and no shirt. His large belly protruded like an extra pillow, and he rested his hands on it. When he saw me he smiled, and raised a hand to wiggle the stubby fingers at me. He was watching something on the television, but I didn’t stop to see exactly what. Some cop show. The screeching of tires and sound of guns firing followed me into the kitchen.
My mother was working on making something, but it wasn’t french toast, and it wasn’t pancakes, or waffles or eggs, or any other kind of breakfast food for me. It looked like she was making bread, or a pie, or pizza. Something with dough, for she was kneading a large lump on the counter.
“What’s for breakfast?” I asked, watching her.
She barely turned her head. “I don’t know,” she said. “Just make yourself whatever you want. There’s cereal in the cupboard, and bread for toast if you want.”
“What are you making?”
“Pie. Your uncle felt like eating some, and asked me if I would make it. I’m making one cherry and one apple.”
“Can you make a blueberry one?” Blueberry was my favorite.
“No. I’m only making two.”
I wanted something warm for breakfast, so I got a loaf of bread out from the cupboard, and placed two slices in the toaster. I watched my mother knead the dough, and then spread it out with a rolling pin while I waited. When the toast popped up, I took a knife and spread on peanut butter and strawberry jam over the top of each piece. I poured myself some orange juice, and took it and my toast to the table.
The cop show was loud. I was pretty sure it was in the middle of a car chase. My uncle kept letting out great bursts of laughter, and each one sounded like a single, grating bray of a mule.
There was a knock on the door, and my mother told me to go and answer it. I left my half-eaten toast, and went to open the door, to find Ms. Cleary standing there on our porch.
“Good morning,” she said to me with a warm smile. “I was wondering if I could talk with your mother for a moment. Could you go and get her for me?”
I nodded, and half-ran to the kitchen. My uncle’s head was craning over from where he sat, trying to see who was at the door. “Who’s there?” he said. I didn’t answer him, told my mother instead.
“Ms. Cleary?” she said. “Who’s that?” She went to the door, wiping her hands off on her apron.
My uncle stood up with a low groan, hands pushing up on his knees. “I’ll handle this,” he said. Just go and finish what you’re doing.”
My mother stopped, shrugged, and turned around, waddled back to the kitchen obediently. I could hear her back at work, humming to herself, completely uncurious. I stayed in the dining room, and peered behind the wall to watch. From there I could see Ms. Cleary in the doorway, behind my uncle’s immense form, still shirtless. He scratched his belly and yawned.
“What do you want?” he said.
“Well,” began Ms. Cleary. “I live next door, just there,” she said, pointing over across the hedge, “and it seems my granddaughter Clara, has made a new friend, and she was wondering if he could come over and play.” She leaned over so that her head poked from around my uncle to look at me. “Would you like to come over today?”
“Now just a second,” said my uncle, the boggart, and stepped to block her view. “We’ve got things planned today. Family things. So I don’t think it’s really a good idea. You’ll have to go and tell your granddaughter that.” He sounded smug, as if he had just won an argument.
Ms. Cleary lowered her voice, and I could only just barely hear her murmuring. “You will leave the boy and his family in peace. Your kind don’t belong on this side.”
He laughed like he was gargling chunks of granite in his throat. “Again, I must refuse. You old hag, do you think I’d abandon this magnificent world of the senses for that gray void again? I’m not going anywhere. And there’s not a thing you can do about it.”
He slammed the door in her face without another word, and laughed as he stomped back to the couch. He dug in his sweatpants’ pocket, brought out a pack of cigarettes and lighter, and lit one there. He drew in a deep breath of smoke, and exhaled with a deep sigh of content, saw me watching him from behind the corner, and chuckled.
“You see,” he said, leaning forward and propping his elbows up on his knees. “What did I tell you? She has no power over me, and I know what she is too, yes. And you’re not going anywhere.”
I was sick and tired of being afraid of him then. Ms. Cleary had been right there. Just right out that door was my salvation. But I knew that if I ran for it, my mother would only follow me, and bring me straight back, and my uncle would never have to even get involved.
“You’re stupid,” I said. “And ugly, and way worse than my real uncle ever was. Why won’t you just go away.”
He sat back on the couch, took a long drag, and blew out a plume of smoke. “I’ll tell you why,” he said, pointing the cigarette at me. “Honey!” he called.
My mother came bouncing into the room, all ears. “Yes, dear?” She didn’t say a word about my uncle smoking, though I knew she hated cigarettes.
He pointed at me again. “Ground him. He called me stupid and ugly. Send him to his room.”
Her face contorted in rage, and she smacked her hands down on her apron. She wasn’t herself, I knew. Somehow, my uncle was controlling her, making her do what he wanted.
To. Your. Room, young man. Now!” She shouted the last word, straining her voice. When I didn’t immediately move she stomped over to me, grabbed me by my hair, and dragged me down the hall.
I stumbled, and half-fell, trying to keep up with her so it didn’t hurt as much, but she was walking fast, and yanked my head forward every other step, to make sure it hurt. She threw me in my room and slammed the door. I fell to the floor, holding my head and listening to the sickening sound of my uncle’s laughter coming from the other room.