When the hub of a wheel falls away there is nothing to keep the spokes together. It was likewise with the Cooper family; Laura having been that hub. The funeral was over and everyone who could have lived without her had gone home. That left Tommy, John and Julie, the people who couldn’t possibly do so, alone together in the house.
The house itself was quiet—too quiet—as if someone had declared a moratorium on all sound including conversation. Julie became scarce, spending a great deal of time with friends. John now spent the balance of his days staring at the blank TV screen, beer in one hand, TV guide in the other. He looked as though he hadn’t the strength even to open the cover of the magazine to see what programs were on.
There were no more family meals in the dining room and the ticking clock annoyed no one. Time just didn’t seem to matter anymore. Food didn’t matter much either.
It had been days since John had gone to work in the garage. He did not ask Tommy to work either. No longer did he belittle him or bark orders. Whenever he did see Tommy, it was pity in his eyes rather than scorn—with pity being much the harder of the two to bear.
Tommy was an orphan now and the strength of that realization left him reeling. He did not know how to proceed nor could he catch hold of any reason to do so. The house was filled with knick-knacks, photos and other reminders that mocked him and so he took to his room. There was less of all of that in his own space and he couldn’t look at it all right now.
Beth had been by a few times and he had trouble looking at her as well. Her eyes were also full of pity; clearly she felt sorry that he no longer had a mother. He felt angry and jealous that she did. He recognized the wrongness of this emotion and so said little while she was there. Days passed, as they will. Days… and then weeks.
When Tommy lost Laura, Beth lost Tommy. Throughout this period, she reached out for him as hard as she knew how but he had remained sullen and uncommunicative, refusing to even leave the house. She tried very hard to imagine what it was like—being him—but had no range of experience from which to draw understanding. Whenever she did try and talk to him, she felt awkward and struggled for something to say. It was all so heavy. She was hurt and she was lonely, wanting more than ever to feel anything that felt like Tommy again—anything that had even been close to feeling like Tommy. This feeling had grown to overwhelming on the day that Nicky Freeman came by.