Erin of Mercy

I wasn't sure who was more depressed – me or my mother. We were both semi-comatose from grief but at least we were alive.

I saw the sheets on my mother's bed move just a bit as I passed her room on this particular summer morning, the happy sun shining through the half-opened curtains of her unhappy room. I wondered if she felt as miserable as I did even on this wonderfully picturesque summer's day.

It was difficult to get up most days. I couldn't sleep but I struggled just to get out of the bed in the morning anyway, fighting against the blue mood that had encased me for months.

It was the same for my mother, ever since my father died in June in a very public car accident that made the front page of the local newspaper, the gruesome wreck splattered across the fold for all to see.

My sister Tammy was the only one of us who seemed to find the inner strength of character to carry on in our father's absence.

"Daddy wouldn't want me to waddle in weepy despair," she said. "Somebody's got to hang tough considering you are Ma are both basket cases."

I admired Tammy's courage and stamina. She endured better than me. She definitely knew how to get up in the morning and get things done. She paid attention to the bills and made sure the dishes were cleaned and the clothes washed. Tammy was strong in conviction and thank God she was around to keep me and my mother functioning.

I stood in the doorway of my mother's bedroom waiting to make sure she moved again just to be certain she really was alive.

"Why are you standing there?"

I turned at the sound of Tammy's voice, not realizing she had arrived as I stood in our mother's bedroom door.

"I never know if we're going to find her dead or something," I said with concern.

"Mother," Tammy said. "Why don't you get up and have some breakfast?"

My sister stepped into the room and approached our mother's bed, placing her face close to our mother's. Tammy brushed her hand across our mother's forehead, pushing away some of her graying black bangs. Our mother didn't react.

"Come on, Mom," Tammy pleaded with a sigh. "You can't stay in bed all day."

The doorbell rang.

"It's probably Jimmy," I said as I walked down the hallway and through the living room to the front door.

When I opened the door, I was surprised to see Tammy's friend Erin standing on the porch.

"Isn't it kind of early?" I frowned.

"Hi Denis." She smiled cheerfully.

"Tammy's occupied," I said.

"Your mom?" Erin sighed, peering past me into the house. "Another bad day?"

"Every day's a bad day," I remarked, studying her through the screen door. She sure was pretty. Always had been.

"How long do you think she'll be this time?" Erin wondered.

"I don't know," I admitted.

"Well, tell her I'll be at the pool if she wants to come," Erin said lightly. "Good to see you, Denis."

"Was that Jimmy?" Tammy asked when I joined her in the kitchen.

"Erin," I let her know.

"What'd she say?"

"She'd be at the pool."

"Of course," Tammy sighed. "Where else would she be?"

"Life's never going to be the same again, is it?" I realized.

Tammy looked at me sadly. "Nope," she said truthfully.

"Shit," I mumbled.

"You're going to have to pull yourself together when school starts," Tammy advised.

"I know," I grumbled. "I just need some more time."

"We're running out of time," Tammy stated. "You better get back on track before you get stuck this way."

"What about Mom?" I asked.

"Her too," Tammy remarked. She opened the refrigerator. "I can make some bacon and eggs if you want."

"I'll just have cereal," I said, going to the cupboard to pull out the box of Wheaties.

"I'm taking Ma to Grandma's," Tammy announced. "You want to come?"

"That's a long drive."

"Yep," Tammy agreed.

"It's kind of boring there," I added.

"Sometimes," Tammy concurred.

"Why are you taking Ma there?"

"Change of scenery," Tammy explained. "Anything to get her out of her damn bed."

"I guess I'll stay here," I said.

"You'll be okay?" Tammy needed to know. "You're not going to do something stupid, are you?"

"You can call Jimmy's mom if you want," I suggested.

"Na, I trust you, bro," Tammy smiled.

"Thanks," I said sarcastically. "And thanks for taking care of Ma," I added with more sincerity.

I ate my Wheaties at the kitchen table while Tammy jostled our mother out of bed and made sure she got dressed.

I handed Ma a donut when she came out of her bedroom and I helped Tammy get her to the car in the garage. Mother refused to drive after Dad died in the car accident. She didn't seem to notice me until she was seated in the passenger's seat of the car.

"You're not coming?" She asked blankly.

"Na, I'll man the fort," I said with fake cheerfulness. "You two go ahead."

"Call if you need to," Tammy said as she got behind the driver's seat and backed the car out of the garage.

I gave them a wave but my mother wasn't even looking at me and Tammy was too focused on her driving to pay attention.

I waited until the car disappeared from sight before returning to the house, sitting at the kitchen table and watching the birds in the backyard from the kitchen window.

The house had felt empty since Dad died – but now with Tammy and my mother gone, it was even more depressingly still and I didn't want to consider that I was now the man of the house.

Dad's death had changed my life forever and I had no control over that reality. Well, actually, I did – if I could just find the inner strength to stop feeling sorry for myself and blaming my dead father for all my woes. It was up to me to deal with my issues

The doorbell rang again. I figured it had to be Jimmy this time. He usually came over to hang out when he had nothing better to do. I sighed, left the table and headed for the front door, not sure what Jimmy and I would do on this another boring lonely summer's day with no father and no reason to care.

But it wasn't Jimmy. Smiling on the other side of the screen door was Erin. I was surprised she was back, and I looked twice because she was wearing a bikini underneath an opened white blouse, her reddish hair pulled back underneath a red bandanna.

"Why aren't you at the pool?" I asked.

"Where's Tammy?" Erin wanted to know.

"She's gone," I said

"Where she go?"

"She took my mother to our grandmother's," I revealed.

"Oh, Man," Erin protested. Then she gave me a look. "Why didn't you go?"

"I didn't want to," I shrugged.

"I don't blame you," Erin replied.

"Well?" I asked when she made no effort to leave. "Is there something else?"

There was something in her eyes that prevented me from shutting the door. She was smiling at me and that made me feel self-conscious.

"So, you're here all on your own," Erin realized, looking into the living room behind me before returning her gaze to me.

"Yeah," I confirmed.

"You going to let me in?"

"What about the pool?"

"The pool's not going anywhere."

"Do you want to come in?"

"Do you want me to come in?" She teased.

I opened the screen door and I stepped back. Erin came through the door with a smile on her face.

She was nearly two years older than me. She was friendly with Tammy because they were in the same class and they were neighborhood buds. I knew her from being around and she was nice to us after our father died. Plus she sure was pretty. Always was.

"Why aren't you working this summer?" Erin, asked, plopping down on the couch.

"I got canned," I informed her. "Too many no shows."

"Tam says you're pretty bummed out, just like your mom."

"She's doing worse," I said, taking a seat next to Erin on the couch and eyeing her remarkable legs, tanned, slender, and long.

"When will Tammy be back?"

"Late, probably. It's a long drive. Plus she'll want to visit."

"She trusts you being here all by yourself?"

"Do you think I'm going to burn the house down?" I frowned

"Maybe with yourself in it," Erin reasoned.

"I'm not that out of it," I said defensively.

"Tam thinks you are."

"I just need some time."

"Maybe you need something else," Erin suggested.

"Jimmy might be stopping by," I lamely revealed.

"Nobody gives a fuck about Jimmy," Erin replied. "Go close the door. And lock it."

She was looking at me seductively and it was hard for me to believe that she was implying what I thought she was implying.

I got up and locked the door anyway. I was willing to try anything to forget about the grief and pain I was feeling.

"I saw Tam and your mother leave," Erin told me when I returned to the couch. "That's why I came back."

"To rescue me?" I asked. "To save me?"

"Maybe," she smiled. "At least maybe I can make you feel better."

"For how long?" I sighed.

"Long enough," she assured me.

"Is that why you're wearing a bikini?" I asked.

"It sets the tone, doesn't it?" She laughed. "That part wasn't planned," she insisted. "I really was going to the pool."

"But not now?"

"I hate watching your family fall apart," Erin remarked. "Your mother used to be so outgoing and positive. She was my favorite teacher. Now she's a member of The Walking Dead."

"She can't handle my father's death," I said.

"And poor Tammy," Erin lamented. "Trying to keep it all together. Doing everything and having no life of her own. She hasn't been to the pool all summer."

"She says she's doing it for my father," I said.

"She needs to be living her own life not being your mother's nursemaid and your surrogate mom."

"I think the distraction helps her not feel," I theorized.

"Thank you, Sigmund Freud," Erin said sarcastically. "And what's going to happen when she does start to feel again? She's going to crash like Skylab."

"Are you here for her or me?" I asked.

Erin threw me a look. "Well, aren't you brave?"

"No, just lonely," I replied.

"And sad," Erin observed.

"Are you going to help me?"

"Yes," Erin confirmed. "I'm going to let you fuck me."