097. cracked

The ritual, as it later became, started when he was just eight years old.

It was the first time that his dad had done the laundry, washing all of the bedding in the house, and Kurt had panicked. He'd gone into his parents' room—no, his dad's room—and gone to his mother's pillow when he realized that it didn't smell like the flowery perfume she had loved. Instead, he could only smell the strong, comforting yet abrasive scent of lavender detergent.

For months he'd tried to cling to any small item he could that still had remnants of rosewood. However, it all faded quickly, and before long, it was all packed away, anyway. And suddenly he felt lost.

He'd had a bad day when he got home from school and went looking for his dad, only to find the house empty. He knew he shouldn't be too surprised—he didn't see his day's truck outside, after all. Still, his heart ached a little bit. He was getting used to it, though—his dad having to work extra hours and the ache in his chest.

He sat down on his father's bed and looked around the room hopelessly. His eyes fell upon the empty dresser that bad been his mother's, the white paint cracked, bits of the pink and green flower border chipped off the trim. Still, he could make out the tiny roses that snaked around, painted on by his mother. "It adds a little something," she had said with a grin.

He smiled weakly at the thought. He wished so badly she was there, and his smile faded as his heart recieved another dull stab. He found himself gravitating toward the dresser, running his fingers along the trim, a piece of the cracked paint flaking off to the floor as he did so.

Without thinking, he slowly dragged one of the drawers toward him. He knew it was empty, but still his heart sank. He started to push it back into place.

Then, he froze. He yanked the drawer back open. Faintly, he could smell it—the sweet, earthy scent of rosewood. He didn't hesitate, jerking open the four drawers, letting the smell drift over him and through the room.

He moved back to the bed, letting the comforting scent surround him and lull him to sleep.

Burt got home late, feeling frustrated and exhausted from the hectic workday. He frowned at how quiet it was, setting the carry-out dinner on the counter.

"Kurt?" he called out, but got no reply. He sighed and went downstairs to check if he was in his room, but it was empty. Frowning, he made his way upstairs instead.

Immediately, as he reached his own bedroom, Burt was hit with the scent of his late wife's perfume. He hesitated before pushing the door open, seeing Kurt sleeping soundly on his bed, Elizabeth's dresser wide open. Slowly he went over to Kurt, sitting down as softly as he could.

Kurt stirred, blinking up at his dad, rubbing at his eyes.

"Hey, buddy," Burt said, his voice and smile weak he was hit with an onslaught of emotions—this might never get easier, he thought desperately... none of it. He let out a breath as Kurt readjusted himself.

He'd been aware of Kurt's quest for some reminder of his mother, particularly her scent; he'd even considered purchasing a bottle of her perfume for him... something, anything... but he couldn't bring himself to face it. They were both finding this so hard, and somehow buying that bottle of perfume might just break through that fragile normalcy they were creating.

"You know, when we got that dresser, it wasn't painted, it was just stained wood," he said quietly. "Then I'd been looking for something, can't even remember what I needed... but I broke a bottle of her perfume—it cracked right open. It spilled all over the top and into the drawers. Left a huge dark spot on the wood. She laughed about it, which I couldn't believe. She loved that dresser. Just said it gave her a reason to spruce it up, though. So she painted it. Not the right kind of paint, that's why it's comin' off in some spots..." He trailed off, smiling. "Told me she'd never have to buy perfume again, what with the way it made her clothes smell..."

Burt watched as Kurt relaxed a little, finding comfort in the story. He sighed. His kid didn't need this. He deserved his mother—to smell her perfume on her skin and her clothes, not from opening up an old dresser.

"I miss her," Kurt murmured, so tiny that Burt almost missed it.

His heart clenched and he wrapped an arm around his son. "I know, bud," he breathed out. "Me too."