The death of Mary and Richard Parker.
Peter was six when he lost someone for the first time. His parents dropped him off at his aunt and uncle’s with a kiss on the head and a promise that they would be back for his birthday the next week. They didn’t make it. They phoned to apologise but May had to turn them away as Peter didn’t want to talk to them. So Peter blew out the candles on his cake with his aunt and uncle with two empty seats at the table. He cried himself to sleep that night. At the mere age of 7 Peter had his heart broken the first time, he somehow knew even at the age he was that they weren’t coming back. They would have come back by now if they were and they had left him forever.
The week long sleepover became two, then three and then the daily calls to check up on them stopped. Ben and May knew they should have done something when the calls stopped but they held off as they made a promise to Richard and Mary that they wouldn’t tell anyone that they had left. Yet when it hit a month and poor Peter asked when mommy and daddy were coming back and they didn’t know how to answer, they knew they had to break that promise. For weeks May and Ben phoned every hospital and police station they could hoping for a sign or something, but nothing. There was no trace of them. He continued to attend school but May and Ben would receive calls from his teachers telling them that they were worried about Peter. That he was crying randomly in class and wouldn’t give an explanation as to why. May and Ben didn’t really know what they were to tell them either.
The two month mark hit and it was then they got the call. In a sort of fucked up way they were glad, they finally had an answer as to what happened and where they were, but nothing could have prepared them for having to identify their battered and mangled bodies, or even worse ... telling Peter.
When Ben and May told him, he did not react in they way they expected. They expected him to breakdown and cry but no, Peter was angry. This was shocking as Peter never got angry, he was rather docile and more patient than any other child May or Ben had ever encountered. They didn’t know what to do, he believed his parents to be monsters, that they didn’t love him. They abandoned him. It wasn’t exactly true, they were killed and May tried to tell him so but he wouldn’t hear it. He refused to talk to them for the two weeks leading up to the funeral and would only see him at dinner or lunch, but he would sit in silence. It was like having a ghost in the house, the once happy, playful child was now a shell of who he was. They wanted to send him to therapy but they didn’t have the money for that and it devastated them that they didn’t know how to help him.
He seemed to hate his parents, at least May seemed to think so. Ben didn’t tell May, but every night he would sit outside Pete’s door his heart breaking more each time: hearing the child sob into his pillow muttering to himself for his parents to come back and that he was sorry if he wasn’t good. He seemed to blame himself for their leaving. Ben would have went in to see him but he knew he would never talk to him if Ben confronted him about it. Peter needed to come to them.
The day before the funeral May was about to go and check on Peter to ask if he was sure he didn’t want to attend, fully expecting him to shout and slam the door, but she heard a loud shattering sound and a muffled sob. She nearly fell as she ran to his room and burst through the door and what was before her, made her heart bleed. The room looked like a bomb had been dropped, clothes and books were strewn across the room, the mirror on his desk was smashed and there on the floor sat Peter. Tears streamed down his chubby, red cheeks and a little blood on his hand. He sobbed as he lifted his little hands slowly up to his face, and it contorted in shock and terror as if he didn’t know what happened or how it got there.
May dropped to her knees, ripped off her scarf wrapping it round his hand and buried Peter in her chest. She felt the tears prick at her eyes but held them back from falling. She knew she had to stay strong for Pete in that moment, he needed her. She cursed at Richard and Mary in her head, guilt etched at her for this but the anger towards them for hurting the little child in her arms outweighed her guilt. The poor boy didn’t get a goodby. Through his sobs he stuttered out apologies. He repeated:
“I’m so sorry auntie May. I’m so sorry”
She shushed him, trying to calm her hysterical nephew as he clung to her like she was his lifeline. She knew then she had to protect the boy, take care of hi like her own child. She guesses he technically is now. Sorrow hit her at that thought but she brushed it off. She probably should have been more nervous about the commitment she making to herself, she never wanted to be a mother, yet she knew in her heart she had to. He deserved so much more that life was giving him. More than her. But she and Ben were all that he had left. They would be there for him for as long as he needed them.
The three of them sat in the front row, listening to Richard’s friend talk about his life and what type of person he was. That he was going to be missed. Mary’s friend had already spoken of her and led the podium in tears. As Ben looked down at the picture on the prayer card, he realised just how young Mary and Ben were.
They had a whole life ahead of them and it was taken far too soon. Ben felt the lump in his throat build up and was about to let out all his built up grief and sorry for his dead brother when her remembered. He looked down at the 7 year old clutching his crying wife’s hand and he couldn’t do it. He felt he would have been making about himself if he did. He was about to look up once again to listen to the speeches when big, doe eyes locked with his and reaches for his hand. Peter gave him a bittersweet smile and said;
“It’s okay uncle Ben. You can be sad too”. Ben’s world came to a halt.
Ben had lost people before, grandparents, great aunts and uncles. He even lost his mother at 17 and his dad just last year so he knew what loss felt like. But getting that call, being told you have outlived your little brother. That he was murdered, he’d never felt pain quite like it. He never thought it would be possible to feel something like that again... until Peter said that. Hearing Peter, a seven year old, tell him that it’s okay to be sad: that was the worst thing to ever hear a child say. That damn kid somehow knew he was trying to hide his grief and pain and was aware that Ben was trying to hide it because he didn’t think he was justified to be upset as Peter has lost his parents. How that kid saw through his act, he has no clue. That kid was smart. Actually, no. That’s not the important thing. The kid is good. A far better person than he was and he was only a child. And, it was in that moment that Ben made a promise to himself that he would always protect Peter, nothing and no one would ever hurt him again.
This promise was broken.