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Her eyes were rimmed in red with dark circles underneath, yet she had a smile on her face. “I’m so happy you’re home Cindy-loo-hoo,” she said, using the Dr. Seuss nickname she hadn’t called me in years. “Are you ready to go?” she asked.

“Where? Go where, Mom? Where is Dad?”

“Your father didn’t want to wait so he left already, but I wanted you to come with us so I waited for you.” Her smile was big, but her eyes were glistening and were completely void of any emotion.

“But where did he go?” I asked again, stepping further into the room.

“Don’t worry, we’ll be joining him soon. I just wanted to talk to Jesse first,” she said, stroking the dinosaur.

“Mom, Jesse is dead.” I reminded her. “He died years ago.”

Mom nodded and her eyes darted to the Star Wars themed wallpaper and then to his stack of Legos in the corner. “I know that, silly.”

“Okay, because I thought for a second you were saying that…”

“I just wanted to let him know that we’d be joining him soon,” Mom said. It was then, when she shifted the stuffed animal from one arm to the other, that I noticed the gun on her lap.

“Mom?” I asked, my entire body starting to shake with awareness of what she was really saying. “Tell me where Dad is,” I whispered.

“I told you. He’s gone. He left without us because he couldn’t wait. He was always the impatient one.” She shook her head and rolled her eyes. “You’re a lot like him in so many ways,” she sang.

“Why do you have a gun, Mom?”

“Silly girl, how else are we going to meet up with Jesse and your father? I mean I know there are other ways but I think this is the quickest and most efficient. After all, we don’t want to keep them waiting too long,” she said, patting the dinosaur’s back like she was burping it. Back and forth she continued to rock, never breaking the slow and steady rhythm. The chair creaking with each roll over the hardwood floors.

I took another step toward her hoping to snatch the gun from her hand, but she saw where I was looking and picked up the pistol, waving it in the air. “Nah ah. Your father wanted to be the one to hold it too but I insisted. This is a job for Mommy and no one else. It’s about time I took some control and took care of this family. Having us all in the same place is the first step.”

My foot on the floorboards sounding as quiet as a beating drum. “Now, now, Cindy. You were never good at waiting your turn, but the good news is that you’ll be first.”

“Where did you send Dad to meet Jesse?” I asked, tears prickling behind my eyes but the adrenaline coursing through my veins prevented them from spilling.

“I don’t see why that matters,” Mom said, blowing off a strand of dark curls that had fallen into her eyes. “But if you must know he left in our room. It was a lot messier than I expected. When I send you I think it should be in the tub, then I’ll just climb in after you. Maybe I’ll leave some bleach for the sheriff, red stains are the worst, especially in the white grout,” she said with the same eerily cheery voice she’d greeted me with.

I took a step back and Mom continued to stare up at me, smiling a full-toothed smile from ear to ear. She didn’t follow me when I turned and opened the door to their bedroom. It was empty.

Mom’s gone crazy. That doesn’t mean Dad is dead. She could be lying. She could be making it up.

I rounded the bed.

Please be alive, please be alive.

On the floor on the side of the bed against the wall was my father’s lifeless body, his eyes and mouth both opened, frozen in surprise.

I gasped and covered my mouth. “No, no, no, no, no!” I shouted.

I backed away from my dad into the hallway and when I looked down the hall my mother was no longer in the rocking chair. I turned to run out the door but ran directly into the soft satin of my mother’s pink nightgown.

“You ready honey?” she asked, cocking her head to the side. The gun was in her hands but it wasn’t raised.

“I, I, I need to say a few things to Jesse too,” I said, scooting past her towards his room.

She smacked herself in the forehead with the barrel of the gun. “Silly me, of course you do. I’ll be waiting right here and then after we meet them we’ll have ice cream.”

“Yuh yuh yeeaaaahhh, ice cream is good, Mom,” I said, sniffling. I sidestepped her and pretended like I was turning down the hall to Jesse’s room, she shifted her shoulders to make room for me, and I took the only chance I knew I had and burst into a sprint, dodging her as I made a run in the opposite direction toward the door.

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