Mrs. Grundy stared at the broken bay window in her front room and sighed. The offending baseball was buried in the plush carpet. Large shards of glass lay scattered over the carpet and hardwood and arm chairs and the bay’s bench. Fresh tracks in the snow outside marked it a recent event.
Mrs. Grundy leaned down from her wheelchair and picked up the baseball. It probably belonged to the next door neighbor’s boy.
He liked to play in the front yard, and Mrs. Grundy didn’t mind. At 75 years old, she was past playing catch, or she’d be out there herself, tossing the ball to the boy like she had done with her grandsons.
Pictures of the two young boys dotted the walls and smiled from the tables. Young, happy, alive.
Mrs. Grundy rolled the ball in her aged hands. She’d have to ask Jeffery, her live-in caretaker, to get the window fixed. She would herself, but she couldn’t get her new smart phone to work quite right.
Jeffery was out right now, or she’d ask immediately. Jeffery was a nice boy, in his early twenties. He was polite, well groomed, and did his jobs efficiently and effectively.
“I wonder where that boy’s gone,” she muttered, still rolling the baseball.
Jeffery reminded her of her oldest grandson, Kennedy. Kennedy had a cheeky personality and a beaming smile. He was baseball crazy. Mrs. Grundy had showered Ken with baseball cards and gloves and bats.
His brother, Dan, was more of a bookworm, though he did enjoy playing catch. He loved to read in the bay window in the late afternoon when the sunlight would dapple the carpet. Sometimes, he would sprawl out on the floor, propped up on his elbows, focused entirely on his book. Mrs. Grundy had let the boy raid her library, filled with books collected over a lifetime. She had a few first editions that he adored.
She could picture the boys now, Dan buried in her worn copy of Treasure Island, Ken tossing a baseball back and forth between his hands. He could never sit still, not even in church. He always had to be doing something.
How lonely her house seemed, empty of the boys. The stairwell no longer echoed with their hurried footsteps or yells of “Hey, that’s mine!” There were only two plates to wash up, only her own laundry to do, and Jeffery did all that now. Only echoes and memories
She no longer cooked grits and toast for breakfast, no longer prepared school lunches, no longer straightened crooked ties on Sunday. No more reminders to brush their teeth and say their prayers before bed. No more curling up together on her bed because of storms and nightmares. No more desperate pleas for a puppy. How they had begged, because Mandy Jenkins had a cocker spaniel and they didn’t, promising chores with no complaints for months and months. They settled for a gerbil. The gerbil had a surprisingly long life, and it still tottered away in its cage in the kitchen, named for Jackie Robinson.
They’d bickered over it. Dan had wanted to name it Long John Silver. Ken had advocated for Jackie Robinson, and had eventually won his brother over by offering to wash the dishes for a week.
A smile danced across her lips and faded. She would have bought them any pet they wanted, even a tarantula, had she known what would happen next.
She never thought the day would come when she would stand next to their graves and listen to the pastor read the liturgy.
A school shooter had stormed their middle school. Ken was one of the first to go. Dan lived for two days before his wounds took him. Her boys were two out of eight victims that day, and the gunman was rotting away in a cell. And now, she was alone.
She had children of her own, but they all had their own lives now. They didn’t bother to visit, didn’t bother to call, not even on her birthday. She had another grandson, somewhere. She didn’t even know the boy’s name.
Her health had declined rapidly in the past few years. Whether it was from grief or otherwise, she didn’t particularly care. She’d taken Jeffery on around the time of the boys’ funerals. He’d been her companion since.
His wife had been a teacher at the school and yet another victim. Highschool sweethearts, they’d been married for less than a year. She and Jeffrey managed to find a strange solace in understanding the feelings of loss the other felt.
He read to her. The Bible was her book of choice, but also Jane Austen, Keats, Treasure Island. Jeffery quite fancied the Book of James himself, and they’d read it several times together. Pastor Morrison had even preached on it, just for them. Didn’t that make them feel special?
He brought and read his own favorites, which just so happened to be anything by Tolkien. He found The Silmarillion particularly intriguing. She, on the other hand, found it a good alternative to her sleeping pills.
She was started from her memories by the sound of the door opening and Jeffery dipping back inside.
“I’m back, Mrs.G!” he called. She could hear him struggling to take off his heavy coat and gloves. His head, topped with curly red hair, popped around the door frame and caught sight of the window. “Hello, hello, what happened here?”
Mrs. Grundy held up the baseball, a wry smile touching her lips. “Timothy will be wanting his ball back.”
“His mom’s not going to be too happy about that,” nodded Jeffery, “I’ll call a repair guy, and duck tape it up in the meantime. Don’t want the snow getting in.”
He disappeared for a second, then suddenly stuck his head back in.
“Hey, Mrs. G…” he started softly, his face twisted with conflict, “Do you..do you think Katherine would mind...if I went out with somebody?”
Mrs. Grundy took a breath and thought for a moment. It was the same question that had rattled through her head when her boys had died, and she’d taken Jeffery on. Would they care if she treated the grief-stricken boy the same way she did them? Would they care if she ‘adopted’, so to say, another grandchild? She had decided no. Her boys probably would have enjoyed Jeffery’s company, and been enraged, if she hadn’t ‘adopted’ him.
“Jeffery,” she said with a half-smile, “I don’t think Katherine would mind at all.”
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