by H.G. Parry
The police had been again in the night. Tommy's bedroom was right near the stairwell, so he could always hear their footsteps thundering up before the sound of glass smashing and the screams. In the morning he went into the corridor to see which door it had been. There were always glass shards crunched into the linoleum afterwards, so he wore his slippers.
"The neighbors from Flat 705 have gone," he informed his mother as he came back. "The Wallaces."
"Nobody ever lived in Flat 705," his mother said. She was frying ham, and her face was pink. "It's always been empty. We never had neighbors there."
Tommy sighed. "Well, they've gone," he said, and pulled himself up on his seat to wait for breakfast.
When his plate came, there was less ham than there had been this time last year, and the butter on his toast was scraped very thin. His mother had no ham at all.
Tommy went to Lilith's house for lunch. Lilith had pretty blonde curls and wore dresses, but she was his age and knew how to play all the games that other kids didn't understand. She was his only friend, and sometimes he thought he loved her, even though her curls were so pretty.
Her mother gave them water and sandwiches, and then they went to Lilith's room and sat on the yellow woolen blanket that covered her bed. Tommy loved the blanket. It was the only wool he had ever seen.
"Did you hear the police come last night for the Wallaces?" Lilith asked.
Tommy plucked at the blanket. "Mum says there are no Wallaces," he said.
"That's silly," Lilith said, not unkindly. "I remember them. They had a baby, and once they asked if I would like to hold it. I didn't want to, though."
"No way," Tommy agreed, making a face. "It smelled."
"Mum and Dad are going to see about getting them back," Lilith said.
"Back from where?" Tommy asked.
"I don't know," Lilith said. "Where they are."
"That's silly," Tommy said. "If there never were any Wallaces, they can't come back."
When he was younger, Tommy would say goodnight to the people who had no longer ever existed. He thought dimly that if he kept their names in the world, they would still be there, too. His mother came in one night when he was in the middle of telling Mr. Shrieber to sleep well.
"Mr. Shrieber's not here, Tommy," she said. "He was never here."