Petey was starting to think that the leaves would never stop falling and from now on he would have to wake up to the sight of falling leaves and the sound of crunching twigs. Autumn seemed like an endless desert where even the hope of an oasis appeared to be hopeless. If he could turn back time, he thought, if he could put all the leaves back on the tree, everything would be the same and Summer would return. Lately he had been thinking a lot about this. The more he obsessed about it the more it seemed to him that this is the only solution to Autumn’s problem and therefore the impossible must be possible. It seemed silly at first, of course. He obviously knew that fallen leaves cannot be put back on the branches. He decided to disregard this concern though and started to firmly believe that this is what he was meant to do, this was his mission. Yes, he is going to be the saviour of fallen leaves. Leafman. A bit like Spiderman except his mission is so much more special. He is going to turn back time, not jump around from building to building like some crazy toad. He even imagined what his costume would look like. His cape will be full of leaves but not red, yellow and brown, oh no! They will be life-green, full of vitality and energy. He even knew where to find the necessary materials to make it. Mom’s green autumn cardigan will be prefect! It even has the two rope-thingies on it. All he has to do is cut off its sleeves and glue pretty little leaves on it. That ficus at the end of the corridor surely wouldn’t mind if he borrowed some of its shiny green leaves.

When Petey showed up before his mother in his brand new, totally independently handmade costume and go-getter attitude, Mom did not react the way he had imagined she would. Instead of happiness, there was anger on her face. Instead of pride a tint of terror flashed through her eyes. And finally, instead of recognition a tiny bit of sadness settled on her freckled face. Because Mom was tired. She got tired of the events of these past few weeks. Tired of the endless fights, shouting, and moments of deep, teary despair behind closed doors. She was tired of the pleading but most of all, she was tired of all the heavy secrets she had to keep. She knew and saw the questions in her child’s eyes. She saw the uncertainty that was tearing him apart, yet somehow she just wasn’t able to tell him the truth, to lacerate the ordinary. How could she, when Dad and Petey are the best of friends? How will he understand that Dad will not be coming anymore, he will not be playing with him ever again, he has a new family now? She had failed miserably at her only duty as a mother. She cannot protect her child.

The words poured out of her like hot lava. Hot and hopeless as they gushed over Petey almost crushing him. Mom was barely aware of what she was saying. The words she irreversibly poured onto her son closed her in a labyrinth of reckless emotions. Disappointment, monstrosity, disobedient and naughty. Like cries that cannot be silenced, these words resounded in her head for days. Remorse was unbearable. 

The hot tears were burning Petey’s face as they washed over it. He couldn’t understand why Mom wasn’t happy, why she wasn’t proud of him. Couldn’t she see that he was Leafman? Couldn’t she understand that he can now turn back time and can bring back Summer? That he can actually get Summer to return? Summer, with its warm breeze, laughter and…yes. Dad. Does Mom not want for Dad to come back anymore? Why can’t she understand that Leafman can put back the thing that’s fallen, can bring back the thing that’s gotten away and mend the thing that’s broken. And then it will be Summer forever. Dad will always be with him. Mom will always have a smile on her face and he won’t have to wear Leafman’s cape ever again.

The days went by without a single word uttered. The leaves were falling endlessly but Petey wasn’t trying to stop them anymore. It seemed like Mom surrounded herself with a fortress of silence. She was untouchable, unattainable. Then, on Friday, everything stopped. The wind stopped blowing, the clouds stopped moving. Even Sunshine seemed motionless. It spread a dull and monotonous light across the morning sky. Mom called out his name.

Petey! Come down, please. I would like to talk to you.

Her voice cut through the cold silence like broken glass. Petey was surprised by the words that so ruthlessly invaded the silence. The stupor this has caused engaged him in thought more than the question of what Mom could possibly want to say to him. His feet took him to the kitchen compliantly. It was as if he was sitting on a cloud, so easy, so out of body. Mom was waiting for him, hiding her serious face behind a cup of hot tea.

Mom couldn’t find the words. She was mumbling, stumbling through the words at first, talking about how love is more powerful than anything and other cliché stuff that seemed stupid in the moment she uttered them. She scanned Petey’s face but wasn’t able to read it. And then suddenly, the curtain fell. The curtain the little boy was hiding his emotions behind. A strange emotion settled on his face. Hope. Mom couldn’t believe her eyes. After all, she has just destroyed her beloved child’s carefully constructed life.

Petey ran up the stairs, into his room. Maybe she will understand what Leafman can do now. Dad loves him after all, it’s just that he is so far away, too far away. But if Leafman can turn back time, he will definitely be able to bring Dad home.

He ran to the closet and opened its door to find Leafman’s all-powerful cape.

The sound startled Mom. The last time she heard Petey cry like this was two years ago when he tripped on his shoelaces and hit his head on a broken wood board of a bench. Blood was gushing from his head.

She jumped out of her chair as quickly as she could, not even paying attention to the corner of the kitchen counter that sank into her waist. She took the stairs two at a time. She felt like she couldn’t get to her son soon enough. By the time she reached the room she was out of breath. She found Petey on the floor, crying.

What…? – was all she could say because she instantly understood what had happened. The leaf cape. It dried out. The leaves lay brown, lifeless, dry  on the floor around the little boy.

How could this happen? The cape was filled with green leaves. It was Summer itself. Leafman’s power was contained in these leaves. Now he most definitely won’t be able to bring Dad back.

Hopelessness and desperation fell on Petey like a bucket of ice-cold water. Nothing can possibly take him out of this desolation. All he could do was scream. Out of the top of his lungs. Sincerely. Loud. Then came the waterfall of tears. He thought it would never end, but Mom took him in her arms. She didn’t say anything. She just held him. She held her endlessly, forever. There was silence again. Timeless silence. But this silence wasn’t empty anymore. It was full. Full of a mother’s honest, unconditional and irrevocable love.

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