Grace stopped mid-step. She had first thought it was her imagination, or a remnant of a memory, but now, standing next to Rory's door, she was certain the smell was real. It was faint, and she thought of Tiggy and how he'd chase invisible scents on his morning walks.
She bends closer to the door and imagines the wafer thin trail winding its way beneath the door, curling up in small tendrils until a slither of the aroma reaches her nostrils. It smells of something rotten.
Grace tentatively turns the door handle. She hadn't been in his room for months, not since his latest outburst. They have been walking on eggshells, exhausted at not being able to help him. Matilda never had this when she turned fourteen.
And Grace knew she shouldn't compare her children.
Once the door swung open, the full spectrum of smells hit her. The musty smell of a teenage boy (sweat, mould, and garbage) hadn't made its way into the hallway.
There was no floor, just discarded clothes and packets of fast food not kept in the house. Next to his bed, purposefully placed on an otherwise clean plate, was an orange, or what had once been an orange. Now it was a mouldy white thing with scales of blistering alien life forms.
She feared he'd been sleeping right next to it, inhaling the fumes. Isn't this bad? Don't people who live in houses infested with mould get sick and die?
Grace heard the front door unlock. She quickly closes the door, unsure how to wage a new battle with a son who shuts them out of everything.