The dinner table was abnormally silent as Josh and his father sat eating their meal. Neither of them said a word, both finding it easier to just keep eating. Progressively, the silence grew more and more awkward, until finally Josh's father decided to speak. He opened his mouth, but seemed not to know what to say, and eventually pulled it shut. Again he decided to speak, but found no words, and let his mouth close.
He continued opening and closing his mouth--like a fish, Josh noted-- for a few minutes before finally choosing what to say. "How was your first day of school?"
"Fine," Josh said, not planning to elaborate further.
"Did everything go well, considering-?"
"It was fine, Dad," Josh interrupted. "Mom said she'll grab me that pencil case I needed on her way home from work."
Josh's father hesitated. "We need to talk about-"
"May I please be excused?" He hadn't finished his meal, but his father nodded anyway, deciding not to persist the matter. Carefully he slid his chair back and went upstairs.
Josh was up in his room for an hour or so, organizing his stuff and finishing his homework. His mother had come in for a short time and dropped off the pencil case, but she left quickly, not saying much to Josh. Ignoring it, he continued to work on his school work.
And then he heard his father crying in the next room over. His father hadn't cried in years, not since he had lost his job, so hearing him sob was strange. It wasn't loud sobbing, and Josh got the impression he was not meant to have heard it. But heard it he did, so he got up from his desk chair and creeped out onto the landing, crossing it and stopping by the door to his mother and father's room. Slowly, he pushed it open a crack and peered inside.
On their bed, his father sat, crying into his arm. Josh's mother sat next to him, a sympathetic arm wrapped over his shoulder. Josh hesitated before closing the door again and returning to his room, remaining unnoticed.
He returned to his task busily, ignoring the sobbing of his father. Eventually, they grew silent, and Josh looked up. His father knocked at the door and waited for a response. None was given, so he walked in anyway. Josh pretended to look busy, but his red-eyed father approached him and sat down anyway. "Josh, we need to talk."
"About?" Josh responded, mocking uninterest.
His father hesitated, and Josh didn't think he could look more unhappy about having to say whatever he was about to say. "About your mother." More hesitation. "She's… she's…" He stopped, seeing the pencil case lying on Josh's desk. His mouth immediately stopped moving, and he stared at the basic school accessory. Wordlessly, his eyes teared up, and he began to cry again. This wasn't truly even a cry, but rather a wail. He no longer cared about Josh hearing him.
Josh looked past him, into the doorway. His mother stood there, smiling. But in a blink, she was gone.