I’m brain-dead. There’s no more worst case scenarios I can run through, no more alternative stories running through my head. I abruptly crash into the realisation that this is real life, that this is my story, this is real... And it feels so much worse than anything I ever imagined.
“I panicked,” says mum, bringing my attention back to the present, “I called every hospital, every single person I knew, and even the police. But no one knew anything. They were the longest and most agonizing hours of my life…. My phone finally rang at midday, it was the police.”
A shiver runs down my spine and my body feels freezing cold. My fingers are numb, my brain is numb. My heart aches and it feels like someone is trying to squeeze all the air out of my lungs.
“They told me Morris had been in an accident, and his car was found on the side of the road two hours North of our home. I think he wanted to take you up to his hometown, in Rotorua.” Mum takes another big breath, and I try to do the same, but no air seems to be enough. My insides feel like ice, but still I feel sweat dripping down my neck. “I’m so sorry darling, he passed away before he could even get to the hospital.”
My heart shatters into a million pieces. I had known, I had always known. But I realise now that there was this teeny tiny piece of my heart that had always held on tight to the hope that maybe, just maybe... dad was still alive. And it feels like that tiny piece of hope was all that was holding my heart together. As mum’s words hit me in the chest, that hope just vanishes, and all the pieces fall apart. I clutch my chest with one hand, hoping I can somehow keep the pieces from falling all the way to my feet.
But I can’t.
I close my hand into a fist and take a shaky breath in.
“And you,” says mum as she caresses my cheek, “you were unscratched. The paramedics called it a miracle.”
I release all the air from my lungs, and I order them to keep working, even if just for a little bit longer.
My mind is running a million miles an hour while mum’s words sink in. After we finish talking, I leave the lounge and I hide in my bedroom. I need some space for myself.
All those years just trying to imagine who dad was, where I came from, what my father might have been like... And now I have all the answers laid in front of me, and I feel like I have so many more questions than ever.
I feel lost. And scared.
My name is not even my name. Who am I?
I’m not stupid, I always knew there was something in my heritage that was completly… foreign. I knew since I was a little girl that I was different, all the other kids made me fully aware of this every time they teased me for the colour of my skin, the shape of my nose, and the roughness of my hair. I always wished I looked more like mum, who was just another drop of water among the crowds.
I have always been like oil, unable to mix myself into this water-made-world. My chest still hurts, even if I’ve managed to keep the panic demons far enough for them not to take over.
I’m not dying, I remind myself. I’m okay. I’m accountable for my own breathing. I open the fists I didn’t know I was squeezing, and stare at the half moons drawn deep into my palms. I run a thumb through the sore spots while mindfully breathing in and out until my chest is fully back under my control.
Being alone here, the weight of the information crushing me, I realise there’s only one thing I can do to make it better.
I grab my phone and call the first number on the speed dial.
“Hi, can you talk hun?” I say as soon as I hear her pick up.
“Uh oh,” Emma sounds already worried on the other side of the line. “What happened, girl?”
“Big... fat... life crushing news,” I say while I try to keep a neutral voice. I know I’m not fooling my best friend though.
“I can be there in 15 if you want me to go over, I’m not far.”
“Actually, that would be amazing,” I say with a sigh. “Thanks, girl.” I release another breath and the tension in my shoulders diminishes considerably.
“I’ve got ya, girl,” says Em. And before I can say anything else, she hangs up. I know for a fact that she’s already jumping in her car. Emma might always be late, but she'll be there in the blink of an eye whenever I need her.
These are the longest 15 minutes of my life.
As soon as Em arrives, mum leaves under the pretext of having to run some errands, and we are left alone in the house.
“So…” Em says tentatively.
“Sit down, I’ll bring the hot chocolates.”
“Oh, wow, this is more serious than I expected.” Em mutters as I walk away.
I get into the kitchen, and two minutes later, I sit in front of my best friend as I take a deep breath, and then a sip of my drink.
“Mum finally told me about my dad.” I say as I push the other mug across the table. My voice is smaller than I expected, but I think I sound confident enough.
“Wow, Sam, that's… huge…” Says Em as her eyes open up wide. “Why? I mean… Why now? She’s been avoiding the subject since like... forever.” Em leans over on the table, cupping the mug between both of her hands, her full attention on me. I feel like she’s trying to read the story from my features as if there was a book written on my skin.
“She got some unexpected news today, apparently my grandad from dad’s family side passed away.” I take another sip of my hot chocolate before I keep going. “Mum told me she always kind of blamed my grandfather for everything that happened, and there’s also a pretty decent inheritance involved... She thinks I can use that money to do a Doctorate overseas or something, further my studies once I finish my Master's.”
“Oh, wow!” Em grabs a loose strand of her hair, and starts twirling it, then wrapping and unwrapping the strand on her finger; a nervous tic I've seen a thousand times. “And what do you think?”
“I think… I’m not sure, I think I don’t care about the money, I just care about knowing who my father was… knowing my roots… I feel like this huge door has just opened in front of me.” I take another deep breath, trying not to be crushed again by the weight of all this knowledge. “So, my dad was called Morris-” it's the first time I say my father's name out loud, and my voice breaks as soon as I do. I can feel years and years of accumulated tears cascading down my face as I hide behind my hands. I hear rushed steps, and then Em’s arms wrap around my shoulders from behind.
“It’s okay Sam, it’s okay, cry as much as you need to, let it all out.” She says in a soothing tone as she rubs my back.
It takes me a few minutes, but once I finally settle, I tell Emma the whole story.
We are sitting in silence after having talked for hours without end. Sam told me everything, how her parents met, what he was like, what happened on those last few days before her mother decided to leave him. And I don’t really know what’s harder to believe: that my best friend was borned in a different country, or that Antonella managed to keep it all a secret for such a long time.
But regardless, I have a bit of an idea of what Sam must be feeling like. I don't remember that much about my own mum, and slowly forgetting about her is the scariest thing I've ever been through.
Sam never knew anything about her own father, and now she has all these pieces of information that she doesn’t know how to put together… It sounds to me like it’s the same process, but in reverse. I guess I can picture the things going through her head.
I try to think about ways to help Sam deal with this; at least I knew my mother, so I'm always looking for ways to remember her and to keep her present in my life. I often visit places I know she liked, or delve in activities mum used to love. Sam doesn't have that option, she's just trying to glue Antonella’s words together, and turn them into an actual person... into the shape of her dad.
Oh, that's it, I'm a genius!
“Sam!” I yelp, “I know you said no before, and I know you don’t like things being gifted to you... but considering the circumstances, I think you should accept my amazing offer, and say yes to the trip I proposed to you the other week.” She’s looking at me like she has no clue what I’m talking about, but I keep going. “You might even be able to repay me later with that inheritance money if you really want to.”
Looking utterly confused, Sam looks up at me and shakes her head slightly.
“What are you talking about? What does the holiday have to do with anything?” she asks.
“Don’t you get it Sam? We can go to New Zealand!” I say excitedly. “We can learn about your dad’s country, see the place where you were born, the places he used to go to!” I can feel my eyes shining brighter by the second, my heart fluttering in my chest. "It will be an amazing way to get to know more about him, to experience his culture, see his home."
"I don't know Em, you know I've never been out of the country," she stops for a moment, a confused smirk on her face, "well, at least being aware of it, now that I know I was actually born in a different country." She seems to think about it all for a moment, probably pondering the pros and cons of pursuing my crazy idea. "It's just so much to take in, you know?" She concludes.
"I can only imagine," I say in a softer tone, "but that's exactly why we need to embarque on this adventure, so you can find closure in all the craziness of this." I put my hands on Sam's shoulders, my eyes piercing into hers. "And while at it, I'm hoping I can help you let go of that jerk-shit-stirring-ex-scum of yours." I finish the sentence with a huge smile as I pronounce every insult slowly, savouring each word. "So, what do you say?" I ask.
Sam starts to nod slowly, a little smile spreading on her lips and reaching her silver lined eyes. I let go of her shoulders and clasp my hands together in anticipation.
“Okay,” Sam says finally in a small voice after what feels like an eternity.
“Okay?” I can’t believe my ears, but my hands part slowly regardless.
“Okay,” says Sam again, with a bit more enthusiasm, and I start to clap happily, my heart doing backflips in my chest now.
Then she adds with a smile: "We’re going to New Zealand.”
Note: Thanks for following up with my story! Means the world to me that you're reading it!
Are you excited for the change of scenary? New Zealand is such a magical land💕