Matilda opened her eyes and stared at the ceiling of her bedroom. The bright white hurt her eyes. She closed them again. Her head hurt.
Moments later, there was a knock at the front door. She stared at the ceiling and listened as her father answered the door. She heard him mumbling to someone, but she couldn’t make out any words. She rolled her head to the side and saw the clock on the nightstand.
It was three in the afternoon.
The voices stopped and the front door closed. She could hear the footsteps head up the stairs. They were coming to her.
A light tap on her bedroom door. Followed by, “Mattie?”
It was Delia.
Matilda closed her eyes again. She knew Delia would let herself in.
“Mattie? Why weren’t you at school today?” Delia had entered the bedroom, closed the door softly behind her, and was shuffling towards the bed. Matilda kept her eyes closed. “How are you feeling?”
Delia was sitting on the bed now. Matilda let her eyes flutter open. She focused her blank stare at her best friend.
“My head hurts.”
“That’s what your dad said. Is that all that’s wrong?”
Matilda looked at her friend, amazed at how well she knew her.
“What is it?” Delia’s voice was soft, like a whisper.
Matilda didn’t really want to talk about it. Delia might know, but she could never understand. Her parents were married. They were happy. Her family was complete.
Matilda felt the emptiness in her family every day. But today, it hurt even more. She felt even more empty.
“Is it your mother? Have you been thinking about her again?” Matilda nodded slowly so her head wouldn’t start pounding again. Delia rubbed her palm around the small of Matilda’s back. Even at fifteen, Delia had the motherly touch down solid.
Finally, Matilda sat up. She faced the window, so her back was to Delia. She watched a clump of snow drop from the gutter to the ground below. Icicles hung outside her window, small drops of ice water dripping in the sunshine.
She felt her friend wanting to ask more questions, always wanting to know more about the mother who had abandoned her small child and her loving husband. Delia knew what had happened, at least as much as Matilda knew, but Matilda knew she would never understand that there were always going to be certain days that it hurt more than others.
This was one of them.
“Today is her birthday.”