Mary sat on her green living room couch with a wrapped present on its wooden coffee table, waiting. It was a surprise for her son, Saul, who was due to visit after school. The minutes always seemed to go by so slowly when she waited for him. During the rest of the day the hours flew while she kept herself busy, but when 3:30 pm rolled around she stopped whatever she was doing to get ready. The one occasion she’d lost track of the time, Saul had come before she’d had the chance to get her place cleaned up. That had ended up being a rather traumatic visit. Mary never wanted a repeat of that, so she always paid close attention to the clock now.
Slam! Her front door opening and closing loudly made her wince and rub her temples.
“Mom! Mommy? Where are you?”
She jumped up and ran to meet him in the tiled foyer to envelope him in a hug and kiss. “How’s my boy today?”
He kissed her cheek. “Fine, Mom. Fine. How’re you?”
“Happy to see you. Also, I have something for you!”
“What is it?” he asked eagerly.
Mary led her son into the living room, and he whooped with pleasure when he saw the package. He tore into it with little boy gusto.
“Mom! This is the latest Connectorix building set – the space station one! How did you know?” he asked gleefully.
“I saw your father last night and he told me about it. So I decided to have it here when you came to see me today,” she replied with a smile.
“You’re the best Mommy ever! Although I wish your house looked more like ours.” Saul looked with faint disapproval around her vintage parlor.
Mary said quietly, “I feel more comfortable here, that’s all. This is the house that I grew up in.”
A cloud must have passed overhead outside, because the sunlight streaming in the windows dimmed for a moment.
“I’m sorry, Mommy!” said Saul, jumping up to hug her. “I didn’t mean it. Let’s build, okay?”
She smiled as the cloud moved on. The two of them spent the afternoon building the set, but they weren’t finished by the time the doorbell rang.
“No. I don’t want to go!” said Saul stubbornly. “We’re not done!”
Mary kissed him. “It’s okay, honey. I promise that this will remain exactly as it is until you come back tomorrow.”
She held out a pinky to him. “Promise.”
He grinned and hooked his pinky finger with hers. The bell sounded again.
Saul got up. “Okay, Mommy. See you tomorrow!”
He went to the front door, yanked it open, and Mary winced as he slammed it behind him again.
Saul took the computer jack out of his skull and held it out to the man standing beside him. “Hi, Daddy!”
Steven smiled as he took it and coiled the jack with its lead on top of the VR machine. It, in turn, was connected to the special hospital bed that held his wife’s unconscious body in their modern bedroom. Mary had been in a coma in the waking world for the last three years, but the VR machine was able to keep her connected to their family.
“Hi, son. How was your visit with Mom?” He ruffled Saul’s fair hair.
“Great! She said that you told her about the space station building set!”
“I did. Shall I tell her how much you liked it when I visit her tonight?”
“Can’t I come then, too?” Saul wheedled.
“Saul, you know the doctors said that she can only have one person at a time in her mind – that’s why you see her after school, and I see her after you’re in bed,” Steve admonished lightly. “Now come on, it’s time for us to have supper.”
Saul ran out of the room while Steven followed more slowly, the smile drooping away as he glanced back over his shoulder at his comatose wife.
“I only wish it would be time for you to come and have supper with us, too,” he whispered to her before gently closing their bedroom door.
Susan Bianculli, a happily married mother of two, has loved to read all her life. Fairy tales from collections like The Yellow Fairy took her to magical places when she was young; and Fantasy and Sci-fi stories took her to places such as Middle Earth and Dune in her teens. A graduate of Emerson College with a Minor in Writing, she is the author of the 4 book Young Adult e-series The Mist Gate Crossings: Prisoners of the Keep, Bascom’s Revenge, Descent Underearth, and The Long, Dark Road. She has also written 3 prequel novellas to it, and has appeared in other anthologies. To see what else she’s written, check out her website: www.susanbianculli.wix.com/home