The book sat open on the floor between their beds. Liam didn’t know how to read yet, but he could look at the pictures. Adam had been able to read some of the words.
Earlier in the evening, Liam had taken the book out to his mother.
“Mummy?” he offered her the book.
She had looked at him, eyes wide and glistening. She walked away from him.
“Mummy?” he had called after her, his arm still holding the book out to her.
“Liam, leave her alone,” his father said from behind his newspaper. “No book tonight. Bed time.” Something about the way his father’s voice struggled to leave his lips had made Liam run.
He opened the book and sat on the floor of the bedroom. The story he knew – it was their favourite book – but he didn’t know the exact words, and it wasn’t the same if it wasn’t in their mother’s voice The booked stayed on the floor when Ben crawled into bed and pulled the covers up under his chin.
“No book tonight, Adam.” The empty bed didn’t reply.
Liam lay on his back, looking at the light bulb, letting it burn a white spot on his eyeballs, one that he could see when he closed his eyes. He liked to do this so that when their mother turned out the light he still had a little bit of it to help him go to sleep.
This night, however, no one came to turn out the light. Liam eventually fell asleep, their mother crying in the next room, and their father’s tense voice droaning behind it. He dreamed of reading the book down at the dam at night, with only the light behind his eyelids to see the pages.