Mamma, you must get up. We must have something to eat. Otherwise we will never have the strength to fight. And this is a fight, Mamma. We are in a battle. It is still going on.
I don’t have the strength, my darling boy. I know I need to get up, but this evening, I am outweighed by pain and hopelessness. It’s gone too far for me to be able to see a way out. I can only see darkness now, for you, for us. I cannot see a way of taking you to the places we used to talk to you about, your Pappa and I. I cannot see him coming back, and even if he did, for what? To what? To shame? To humiliation?
My darling Mamma, when I grow up, I will show you how wrong you were to give up this evening. I will take you to the top of the mountain, to the clear snow, where the leopard pads silently along the white ridge and her breath comes out in a great cloud, and the glistening waterfall has frozen into huge icicles behind which dance the bear cubs, waking up into a world full of wonder…
How strange. You remind me of a world I haven’t seen for so long that I feel now as though it is all a dream. Perhaps it’s still there, that place that you imagine.
I’m not imagining, Mamma. I’ve seen it. I know it’s there. Somewhere. Wait. Listen. There’s someone at the door. Shall I let them in?
No. Let them open the door themselves if they feel they want to. We may not be able to stop them, but we don’t need to open the door.
The knocking comes again, more insistent now.
Rita? Rita, are you there?
The door opens and a man comes in. He’s stooped and he wears rags.
Pappa? Is that you?
The man looks at the boy, who has propped himself up, but is too weak to get out of bed. He goes over to him and tousles his hair.
I’m not your Pappa, son, but I know him. Or rather, I knew him. He sent me here to tell you to pack up. He got in trouble. I’m here to help you get out.
I don’t think Mamma can move. She’s too hurt. See?
The man looks at the woman for a moment.