“Cecilia! Get your butt up!” I heard my mom yell from inside the kitchen.
I groaned against my pillow, and slowly shifted my legs to the side of the bed. I carefully used my arms to push my upper body upward and finally, I was sitting up with my feet to the cold floor.
A few moments later, my bedroom door bursts open.
“I said get u- oh, you’re up. Good!” My mom smiled, “You slept in and it’s almost time to meet Aunt Helen and Layla at the diner.” She said while walking over and opening my window curtains.
“Mom... could you be any more annoying right now?”
“Do you really want me to answer that question?” She challenged.
I pondered the thought for a second and frowned. “No.”
“Thought so. Now get up and get in that shower!”
“Yes Mam!” I saluted.
My mom rolled her eyes at me as she turned around and left my room.
I shook my head smiling as I reached for my phone, unplugging it from its life support.
I grinned at the text message I received from Layla.
Layla: Can’t wait 2 meet ur crazy Aunt. I hope she likes rock bands!
Cecilia: Well, only 1 way 2 find out. See ya there!
After hitting send, I sat my phone down on the bedside table and lazily made my way to the bathroom.
The door is locked. I let out a huff.
“Brody! Hurry up! It’s not like you have any hair yet to shave!” I teased.
“Shut the heck up! I’m almost done!” He hollered through the bathroom door.
I smirked as I waited. After five minutes, Brody came out of the bathroom dressed in a pair of nice blue jean pants and a black dress shirt.
“What’s the occasion?” I chuckled, “Hot date?”
“I wish... it’s for lunch. I want to look nice when I meet Aunt Helen.” He sheepishly smiled.
“Awe, don’t worry, she saw me in my pajamas last night. You’ll be alright.” I laughed.
“You better wear something nice too, Cecil. You have to make a good second impression.” Brody ordered as I smiled.
“Sure, I’ll get right on that.”
I ruffled his hair as I went passed him, and went into the bathroom, locking the door behind me.
Once I was all showered up and had brushed my teeth, I wrapped a towel around my body and went back into my bedroom.
I searched for several minutes until I finally came across a short black dress that was nicely hung near the center of my closet. I wasn’t sure how I would look, but I smiled at it nonetheless.
I pulled the dress on and looked in the mirror. It had fit me perfectly. The soft fabric had clung to my body in all the right places. The end of the dress went down to right above my knees. I paired it with a pair of black Doc Martens and a silver-chained necklace my mom had gotten me a few years back for my birthday.
I pulled on a light-blue jean jacket that ended right at my mid-section and began blow drying my hair.
After my hair was dry and completely brushed out, I ran my straightener through it.
I added a light layer of eyeliner and mascara to my eyes and once I was fully satisfied with how I looked, I headed towards the kitchen.
“Ready!” I announced as I entered the room.
“Wow hun, I don’t think you’ve ever looked this nice.” My mom gasped.
My eyes turned to slits. “Gee thanks.”
“Crap... no honey! I didn’t mean it like that, it’s just you never really dress up. This is new. I really like it. Where did you get that dress?” She smiled.
“From my closet, where else? I just wanted to look nice. Is it too much?” I slowly began to frown.
“It’s perfect!” My mother nodded happily.
“Wow, you actually don’t look awful.” Brody calmly stated while grabbing a water from the fridge.
I playfully slapped his arm as I grabbed my black over the shoulder bag.
“Are we all ready? I told Aunt Helen we would pick her up.” I asked as I started to head for the front door.
“Yep, I think so. I’ll drive.” My mom smirked as she took my car keys from my hand.
“Mom, I don’t think there will be a lot of room for all four of us. We should take your car.” I smirked back.
My mom rolled her eyes and handed my car keys back to me. I placed them in my bag and we headed for her car.
Shortly after we left, we arrived at Aunt Helen’s house.
It was a very cute, two-story home with the classic cliché white picket fence surrounding the perimeter of the yard. She had a beautiful garden that stretched all around the front of her home. You could tell that she must’ve hired someone to keep it up for her. The flowers were bright and welcoming. Her doormat read, “A cancer warrior lives here”, to which I smiled upon reading.
We rang the doorbell and a few moments later, a younger woman in a nurse’s uniform answered the door.
“Hello! You must be the family! Please, come inside!” She greeted with a tender smile.
We all smiled in returned as we made our way inside.
Aunt Helen’s home smelled of vanilla. Her walls were a light burgundy color. It almost resembled crimson and I honestly loved every small detail that I found while walking through her home.
“Oh, you’re here!” Aunt Helen beamed as her nurse helped her down the last step of her stairs.
“Wouldn’t miss it!” I smiled.
"Oh my. You must be Brody. Good heavens, you are Michael made over!” She instantly pulled Brody in for a tight hug, and I smiled while watching them. Brody immediately wrapped his arms around Aunt Helen, and my heart melted.
“It’s so nice to finally meet you.” Brody said. I had never once in my life heard him sound so polite.
“The pleasure is all mine, dear!” Aunt Helen smiled, “I can’t believe you’re all three here. It means so much to me that I got the chance to see you all in person together.”
“And Cecilia, you look gorgeous!” She smirked.
We all smiled at her as her nurse started helping her out to our car.
Once she was settled into the passenger seat, and Brody and I got in the back, we headed off to the diner.
I texted Layla who replied saying she was already there and didn’t mind the wait.
I smiled again.
I had no idea where all of this sudden happiness came from. I supposed it was a mix between getting to spend some quality time with my Aunt, and having Layla back as my best friend. I hated being mad at her. Despite the horrific events that took place yesterday, I was still able to be genuinely happy. I knew that the pain of my father, and all of his wrongdoings, would softly burden me for the rest of my life. On the other hand, I truly believed that where there was suffering, compassion was born. Somehow, everything that I had gone through this year would make me a better person. A stronger person.
Once we arrived at the diner, I looked out of my window and saw Layla leaning against the wall just outside of the door.
She looked great in her light blue, ripped skinny jeans, paired with a white tank top and black leather jacket with the sleeves rolled up. Her blonde hair was frizzy for a change, but somehow it looked like it was supposed to be that way. It flowed down her shoulders effortlessly. The dark winged eyeliner made her bright blue eyes pop. I smiled when I noticed the matching pair of Doc Martens she sported, as I looked down at my own.
Yup, best friends.
My mom and Brody helped Aunt Helen out of the car, as I greeted Layla.
I smiled as I approached her.
“Wow, Cecil. I love that outfit!” She smiled, showing me her set of pearly whites.
“I love yours too! We’ll definitely need to trade sometime.” I laughed. She gave me a side-hug as Aunt Helen, Brody and my mother approached us.
“So, this must be the best friend. Don’t be rude honey, introduce us.” Aunt Helen smiled.
Layla chuckled and stretched out her hand to Aunt Helen. “Hi, I’m Layla. It’s so nice to meet you!”
“Nice to meet you too dear!” Aunt Helen smiled in reply.
I smiled to myself at their exchange. Now, Layla had met every one of my family members.
“I’m going to miss Eric, but Layla is cool I guess.” Brody casually stated while opening the door to the diner, “After you, ladies.”
Layla chuckled as she looped her arm through mine and we walked inside. My mom took Aunt Helen’s hand as we all made our way to our table.
After we all ordered our drinks and the server left to retrieve them, I decided to speak up.
“So mom, let’s get this over with. What do you think about Eric and me?” I stared at her, almost catching her off guard.
“I just think you need to distance yourself from him for a while, dear. Nothing too extreme, but a little time apart will do you some good. If you decide to only stay friends, then there’s nothing wrong with that either. Oh by the way, Aunt Helen, Eric is Cecilia’s ex boyfriend.”
“Mom!” I scolded.
“It’s okay, I gathered that much.” Aunt Helen laughed.
“What? It’s not like she doesn’t know who he is by now. He’s the one who gave the money to your father.” My mom casually replied while sipping her drink.
“Cecilia, what do you want?” Aunt Helen suddenly asked.
“I um, I don’t know yet. I want to eventually create something with him again, I just don’t know if I want that as just a friend or something more.” I shrugged.
“I think that’s a good idea. I approve.” My mom smiled, while Brody rolled his eyes at the choice of conversation.
“Well! Now that that’s settled, how about we order some food?” Aunt Helen chirped as she picked up her menu.
The rest of us followed suit as we looked over all of the delicious options to choose from.
“I think I’ll have the tuna-melt.” My mom announced.
“Ew.” I scrunched my nose in disgust, “No mom, get this.” I pointed at a picture on her menu and her eyes landed on the picture of the country burger. It was topped with an egg and some home fries, as well as cheese. My mom nodded in approval.
“It’s looking like a turkey-bone soup day for me.” Aunt Helen spoke up, “Something soothing on my throat is always a blessing.” She smiled.
“Well, you all have fun with that, I’m getting the hungry man special.” Brody loudly announced as he closed his menu.
“Hungry man? You sure about that?” I questioned. Brody glared at me in return.
Aunt Helen and my mom let out a laugh.
“Cecil, what are you getting?” Aunt Helen asked me.
“Chicken and waffles.” Both Layla and Brody calmly stated in unison. I smiled at both of them.
“Gosh, you both know me so well!” I laughed.
Once the server came out with our drinks, we gave her our orders and began some mindless chatter.
Brody told Aunt Helen all about his cars, to which she surprised him by stating she had a collection of her own. Brody beamed as she explained a few of the ones she had in detail. They made a plan for him to go over to her house sometime soon to see them.
I looked at the happiness that radiated off my little brother and felt a sense of relief. Relief that he was going to be okay. Relief that in spite of everything that had happened to us, we would come out closer as siblings. Relief that even though I thought I had hurt my family, it showed now that everything I did was to protect them, and in a way I still managed to do so.
“So Layla, how did you and Cecilia meet?” Aunt Helen suddenly asked.
“At school actually. Cecilia was the only one there one morning, and I found her sitting against the wall listening to some music. Being the marvelous extrovert that I am, I walked up to her and sat down beside her. Then I casually stole one of her headphones and listened to her music with her. I guess you could say I knew from the start that she was going to become my friend.” Layla laughed as she spoke.
“Aw, that’s cool!” My mom smiled, having not heard this story before.
“Yeah, no biggie though. I had to pull her out of her shell!” Layla grinned while throwing her empty straw wrapper at me.
“What? So I like sitting alone sometimes... sue me.” I shrugged, throwing the wrapper back at her face, but sadly missing.
“It’s okay Cecil. We all still love you.” Aunt Helen suddenly said which caused everyone to laugh, even Brody.
“Hey Cecil, remind me to have a good talking with that ex-boyfriend of yours.” My mom announced, referring to how he hurt me, “No offense Aunt Helen. I know in a way he helped you.”
“No it’s fine. If I knew how Michael was getting that money, I never would’ve accepted it. Cecilia, I truly am sorry for that.” Aunt Helen reached across the table to touch my hand.
“No it’s okay. In a way, it was a blessing in disguise. You still got the help with your bills, because I know not being able to afford everything must’ve been such a burden.” I looked over at her and frowned.
“Funny how things work out, huh?” Aunt Helen stated, before casting me a small smile.
“Well, not that I don’t love the current amount of feels going around the room...” Brody sarcastically interrupted, “But can we go now? I told the guys I’d meet up with them for basketball at Josh’s.”
“Sure.” Mom said, drinking the last bit of her tea.
“Well Brody, I loved chatting with you. How about this weekend you come over to see my car collection?” Aunt Helen asked.
“Definitely!” Brody smiled.
“Well, let’s go.” My mom said as we all got up from the table and left the diner.
After saying goodbye to Layla, and after a little bit of driving, we finally arrived back at Aunt Helen’s.
“Love you Aunt Helen! Bye!” Brody and I both said as mom reversed out of her driveway.
“Love you too! All three of you! Take care!” She waved as she stepped inside her home.
Once my mom dropped Brody off at his friend’s house, she began driving home.
“Well I had fun!” My mom said once we got inside.
“Me too!” I replied. “Hey mom...”
“How much longer, I mean, when do you think Aunt Helen will...” I couldn’t even finish my question.
My mom embraced me in a tight hug. “I’m not sure sweetie. When it’s her time, it’s her time. We’ll just have to accept it and have a nice service for her.”
“I just... I don’t want to lose her so soon. We already lost Michael for good, and we just started to get to know her.” I held back a tear.
“I know sweetie. I’m sure she’s as strong as she says she is!” My mom reassured as she pulled away from our hug.
I hope she is too.