Sam wasn’t sure his life would ever be normal again. Sure his father had willed him the house so they had a roof over their head. But the house just felt wrong. Like ghosts were haunting it. Every time he turned around something was broken and needed fixing and mom wasn’t around to fix it.
He didn’t even want to think about how Izzy was taking things. They hadn’t talked much since the funeral. Losing dad had been expected. It didn’t hurt any less for that, but at least it hadn’t been a complete shock. Mom’s had been.
She tried after dad’s death. He could tell she was struggling to keep it together. There were even a few good times when he though maybe he’d be able to pull her out of it. But then she’d just slipped away.
“You’re doing good, Sam. I have no regrets,” she said at dinner. “You’re going to be okay.”
“But Izzy? She’s too young for all this.” Sam heard the finality of what his mother was saying. He didn’t want this. He didn’t want to see another gravestone out back.
“She’ll be fine, she has you. It’s not that I don’t care about you two, but, I just….I don’t know how to continue like this.”
Izzy’s birthday had been a solemn affair. But Sam had tried.
And Karen tried too. She’d been around more and more. Having lost her own mother even younger than Izzy, she understood what they were going through. She understood what it was like to be alone in a house filled with memories.
Sometimes she stopped by just for an evening to help in the garden or make something to eat. Sometimes just to chat and make sure they were okay out on the island all alone.
“Thanks for coming by,” Sam said trying to pull himself out of the funk he’d been in all morning. She had to be tired to seeing him sad all the time. Hell, he was tired of being sad all the time.
“You’re going back to work tomorrow?”
“Yeah, my leave is up and it will be good to get back into normal life.” If he told himself that enough times, would it make it true?
“I’ll stop by after work then.”
“You don’t have to…”
“I know, but you don’t mind, do you?”
Izzy hated this house. Hated the way the water rattled in the pipes and the spurts of cold water. Hated the way the wind blew through the cracks in the walls and sounded like wailing. Hated that it was so sad all the time.
She’d told Sam they should sell it and move somewhere, anywhere else.
“But mom’s garden is here,” Sam protested. “And dad built this house from nothing.”
That was the point. But Sam couldn’t see that. He saw it as his duty to preserve their parent’s memories. He seemed to like living here. And Karen. Izzy sighed. She tried really hard to like Karen, but there was something about her. Something calculating, the way she was always over, trying to be helpful. Trying to replace her mom.
That had been the last straw. When Karen had told her she should finish her homework after dinner. Karen was not and was never going to be her mother. She’d stared at Sam looking for backup, but he had that sad distant look again. The one she’d taken to dubbing “Sam’s not home” – he wasn’t paying attention.
She’d left the table without a word. Sam didn’t seem to mind Karen being over all the time. They weren’t dating, not as far as she could tell, but she’d seen the way Karen looked at her brother. She wanted to be dating and if that happened…there was no way Izzy was going to stay around here. She needed to get out.
“Watcher, when did it get so late?” Sam looked up at the clock. The last ferry had left thirty minutes ago. The brownies had just finished and Karen had been waiting to try them. He still wasn’t sure why, but today he had felt like baking again.
“Oh,” Karen frowned. “That’s okay, there’s still taxi’s over the bridge.”
“But that’s really expensive.” Sam had just gotten the bills for their place and he knew Karen was paying rent on a place three times as large. Her salary wasn’t much larger than his. “Why don’t you stay the night. Go in the morning.”
“Sure, no one is using …” he glanced at the bedroom door. Neither he nor Izzy had spent much time in their parent’s room. The bunk beds they’d shared might be tiny but no way they were going to stay in there. Although, it was starting to feel like wasted space.
“Oh – don’t worry, I’ll be happy enough on the couch,” Karen said quickly. “What,” she hesitated then continued, “what are you going to do with it?”
Sam rubbed his forehead. “I don’t know. I was thinking that it should be used though. Our bedroom is smaller and if we pulled out our wall, I could move the kitchen back there. It’s rather tiny.”
“That would work.” She looked over and tried to imagine the space. “The whole house is kind of tiny.”
“Dad was saving for a renovation, but that never happened.”
“You should do it,” she said, suddenly decisive. “Change the place, make it your own.”
“Maybe,” he replied. But his mind was no longer on the house
“Do you like me?” she asked suddenly.
“Do you like me? I like you, but I was wondering, and I didn’t want to press. Not when you’d lost your parents. But,” she cocked her head and looked at him, a smile on her face. “you’re looking better these days, so I thought I’d ask.”
Sam thought about it. He liked hanging out with Karen and he liked having her around. He tried to imagine going through this without her.
“You don’t have to answer,” she said her smile fading. “I just…nevermind.”
“No, it’s not that.” Sam protested, forcing himself to really look at her. “I was just imagining what life would have been like these past few months without you.”
“And I think I like you.”