Want to start at the beginning - Unweaving pt. 1
Robin’s friends called the house a few times to check on her. She decided that they must have set up shifts because the same person never called twice in a row. Not that she ever spoke to them. She let everything go to voicemail, and she completely ignored texts. She could imagine them on the phone with each other, sharing their worries, just as she had with them after Caius’ mother died.
Robin couldn’t think of anything to say to them, and could imagine only too clearly the things they would say to her. The only thing she could think to do was continue to ignore them.
There was another week left of school before summer vacation, but most of her teachers had sent home the work she needed to complete. Mrs. Wayne had made her come in and take her trigonometry final in the counselor's office, but with that done she knew she wouldn’t have to go back to school until September. It would be impossible to ignore her friends for that long, but she would deal with that when she had to.
Her parents worked during the day, and Daniel still had to finish his last week of school, so Robin was alone most of the day. Her mother and father were gently encouraging her to get out of the house rather than spend hours alone in her room. She finally agreed to take the dog on a daily walks. She would wait until she knew her friends would be in class, but still early enough in the day that the sun hadn’t cooked away the lingering coolness of morning.
When she got home she would put away Cap’s leash and the terrier would trot into his kennel, unsure what to do with Robin intruding on what was usually time he spent napping alone.
She went to her room and sat on the floor in front of her bookcase. Each day she told herself she would stop reading Caius’ stories. She knew she was only upsetting herself more. But when she saw them there, knowing he’d written each word on those pages, she couldn’t stop herself.
The book she pulled down today had a tan cover and a plastic binding. She flipped through the pages, stopping randomly somewhere in the middle.
It was one of his more bizarre stories, about a troupe of traveling actors from Elizabethan times who’d been abducted by aliens and forced to perform Shakespeare for intergalactic dinner theater.
She let her mind get lost in his cramped handwriting, trying to picture Caius’ strange world of fiction. But the words grew fuzzy and hard to read and tears brimmed in her eyes. A tear dropped and smudged the word ‘pantaloons’ and she hurriedly blotted at it, upset that she’d damaged his story.
The shame of it welled inside her and part of her mind knew it was irrational. Caius wouldn’t care about one smudge, he’d written dozens of stories and most of them he’d dirtied with spilled drinks and his own hand running over the pages.
But that small rational voice was drowned out and tears ripped through her. She cast the book aside and lay down on the ground.
When she finally got up she was horrified to find it was only 10:30. She still had hours to spend on her own. Maybe she should call someone back tonight. She wasn’t sure she could spend another day by herself.
She was gathering up her small bit of dirty laundry when the phone rang. She looked at the caller id for a long time before she answered.
“Hi Kyle,” she said, worried that her instinctive response had sounded too cheerful.
“I’m not bothering you, am I Robin?”
“Not at all,” guilt twisted in her stomach. It had been four days since the funeral and she had meant to go see the Griffiths, to make sure Oliver was taking his medication at least. But she couldn’t bring herself to do it, to go to that house knowing Caius wouldn’t be there, that the only thing waiting for her where Kyle’s sad eyes and Oliver’s blank expression.
There was a moment of awkward silence. Her mind spat forth the normal pleasantries of ‘how are you?’ and ‘I hope everything is going ok.’ She bit her lip and held back the words, not sure what to say in their place.
“I wanted to thank you Robin, and your family for everything you’ve done for us.” There was a strained geniality in his voice.
“Oh you don’t...it was just,” when she couldn’t think how to respond she just hung her head, holding the phone loosely.
“I was going to call and talk to your parents later tonight but I needed to talk to you right away. I’m making some plans and I wanted to know your schedule.”
“Oh?” Her mind turned to the days and nights of the summer ahead of her, and of the emptiness they represented.
“I’m planning a little ceremony to say goodbye,” his voice faltered and the geniality wore away in an instant, “to say some of the things that were left unsaid before the accident.”
Robin was confused, she didn’t know there were any ceremonies after the funeral. Her own family didn’t attend church so all the formalities of Caius’ services had been a bit of a mystery to her.
“Well I’m not doing much. I’m out of school already and at least for now I’m not planning to get a job this summer.” In summers past she’d worked as a lifeguard at city pools, but she hadn’t decided if she would do it this year.
“Would you be able to come over some night this week, it would probably take a couple of hours?” His voice sounded less strained.
“Sure, is it something I should ask my parents about?” As far as she knew the burial was the last thing her family had helped plan.
“Oh no, this isn’t something like that. It’s a family thing.”
“Any night will work for me.”
“That’s great. Then I’ll schedule it for as soon as possible, Rhonda is always so busy, but I’m sure she’ll be able to make time.” Before Robin could ask who Rhonda was, Kyle had moved on, “You should probably eat first, because we won’t have time during the service. And if you could, maybe bring some things with you. Things that meant a lot to you and Caius.”
“Alright.” She thought about asking what exactly they would be doing, but Kyle sounded more optimistic than she’d heard him in a long time, and she didn’t want to do anything that might spoil it.
Whatever it was, if it helped him get through his grief, then it was probably good. And maybe it would help her too.
Unable to deal with more structureless days of grieving, Robin decided to call Reagan, one of the lifeguard supervisors for the city pools. He was an easy guy to talk to, always in a good mood. She asked if she would be able to come back and work over the summer and he enthusiastically promised she would get all the hours she wanted. She need to come in and review some of her training, update her certificates, and she could start any time.
Though she couldn’t imagine exactly how it would feel to be back out at the pools, she remembered enjoying herself in summer’s past. The idea that she could feel like that again, that she could simply enjoy doing something, made her hopeful for the summer ahead.
She promised Reagan that first thing next week she would be in to do the training. It was only after hanging up the phone that she realized that had been her first conversation in days that had not in some way been about Cauis or her own grief. That made her feel a little happy, but also very guilty.
On Thursday Daniel offered to come along to the Griffiths and Robin spent a long time debating if it was a good idea. Kyle had only invited her, though she couldn’t imagine that he would object to Daniel being there. But Daniel was only eleven and Robin already thought going to the funeral had been too much to burden him with.
“Caius was my friend too.” Daniel said to her in his calm voice, “I would like a chance to say goodbye.”
She had a hard time disagreeing with anything he said in that voice. “I just don’t know how long it will take, I’m not even sure what we’re doing.”
“All the more reason for me to be there, so you don’t have to go through some strange ceremony all on your own.”
That had made her feel better about the whole thing. She realized the idea of going to Caius’ house, maybe seeing his room again, would be slightly more bearable if Daniel were with her.
The sun still hung over the horizon but the blue of the sky was fading into a bloody purple as they walked the five blocks to the Griffiths’ house. Two of Caius’ notebooks rested at the bottom of Robin’s bag. There was also her small silver charm, a rearing horse, hung on a black rope, a present Caius gave her last summer. She had a dozen other things that had mattered to Caius and her, but she thought the books and necklace would be the best.
As the sky darkened, heat leaked out of the air. It was almost pleasant, being on a walk with her brother on a nice summer night, if she didn’t think about where they were going.
The yard around the Griffith house was soft and green. Small piles of dirt stood in heaps all along the walk and one large pile sat in the middle of the green grass. The dirk was dry, cooked by the sun over a number of days. Robin remembered something about Kyle putting flowers in and planting a tree. He must have abandoned the work after the accident.
There was an unfamiliar car parked in the driveway - a white minivan with a colorful array of bumper stickers. A few were pleasant platitudes about being kind to your fellow man, while others were odd looking symbols and artwork.
“You said some lady was going to be here?” Daniel asked.
Robin shrugged, “Yeah, someone named Rhonda, she’d probably from their church.”
She slowed as she approached the front door, looking above it to the window on the second floor that looked in to Caius’ room. It was closed, no light on, just dark squares outlined by window framing. It awakened the hollow pit she’d been somewhat able to ignore for the past few days. She ached inside and felt her happy memories of looking up at that window, anticipating Caius’ bright smile, be pulled down inside the pit, vanishing into painful apathy.
Daniel put his arm around hers. He was not pushy, did not try to crowd close to her - he only slipped his arm through hers and waited. She looked down at him, at his dirty blond hair and felt such relief that she didn’t have to go through this alone. She squeezed his arm close and continued to the door, readying herself for a night of dull ceremony and uncomfortable ritual.