I want to smile.
I really do.
But my lips refused to lift and pretend as if the sunflowers in my mind still bloomed at the feel of finally holding a degree in my hands.
“I am so proud of you, Tiana,” my mother said as she hugged me, squeezing me a lot tightly as if to place some of her strength into me. It hadn’t been easy for her, no parent ever wants to bury their child and as she pulls away to look me in the eye, it’s in those brown orbs I see the years of struggle she went through to give her children some form of solace in this world.
After all my mother had taken the risk, left the safety of the place she knew to acquire a better life as opposed to the one she had been subjected to. I never blamed her for leaving all she knew to acquire a better life. And now with Tim gone, it was just the two of us left.
Nonetheless, I was grateful the forces of death had not taken my mother such that in the end I never felt alone. I pulled back to witness tears falling on my mother’s mahogany cheeks. Whenever I saw my mother cry- which was rare, it always turned me into a teary-eyed mess.
“Why are you crying?” I asked reaching out to wipe some of the moisture on her face whilst blinking back my own tears begging to fall. She chuckled taking out a handkerchief from her purse.
“I’m just trying to think of what it would’ve been like if your brother was here,” she responded avoiding my gaze. The sadness I had been trying to tame broke free. I would be happy, smiling as the love of my family radiated all around me was the answer I had in my head.
However, a looming cloud of despair hung over the crown of my head at the obvious absence of Tim. Years have passed, yet time had failed to heal the wound of the day those rose coloured glasses left my eyes to unveil the truth of how cruel life was.
He should be here.
He deserved to be here.
And yet he’s body laid in a cemetery approximately two hours away from my school.
Choosing not to answer her I wrapped my arm around her shoulder,” I am really in the mood for some velvet cake,” I mumbled feeling proud that I managed to make her laugh despite her mood seconds before as we moved amidst the sea of graduation gowns mixed in the bodies of family and friends.
Moaning out at the feel of my mother’s velvet cake, the soft texture of the bakery goodness halted all worries of the future to relish in the present. I opened my eyes to find my mother leaning on the counter, very much amused. I couldn’t help it; my mother simply had a gift when it came to baking such that her bakery became one of the places in town for anyone seeking to soothe their sweet cravings.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever said this or not but I love you,” I said dramatically as I dug my fork into the cake.
“Well I hope you’ll love me enough to not blame me when you get diabetes.”
Glancing up I place a generous portion into my mouth,” Worth it.”
She rolled her eyes, taking a napkin off the counter and proceeded to wipe the corner of my mouth. I hadn’t realised I had some cream on the spot she was suddenly focused on cleaning.
“Such a shame,” my mother said frowning after she stopped wiping my mouth,” a college graduate who still eats like a child.”
An unladylike snort came out accompanied by a hearty laugh, despite the little insult being directed at me,” At least my food doesn’t end up decorating my clothes like Tim.”
“I swear I once grew so frustrated with doing his laundry I was this close to just burning his clothes,” she chuckled even though there was a hint of sadness in her voice until she eventually stopped laughing altogether.
Watching the pain begging to resurface I reached out to give her hand a gentle squeeze, she looked up at me and I blurted out the only thing that seemed to make sense at that moment to say,” If you like, you’re welcome to burn my dirty laundry anytime.”
She reached out; rubbing my cheek affectionately and I welcome the gesture. Welcome each second I had to spend with her as the things we’ve gone through had taught us; in the company of love, appreciate it before life ends.
After spending the rest of the day in the shop we soon returned home.
Dampening the good mood I was in.
Ever since I moved out, I began doing everything in my power to avoid entering that place filled to the brim with memories. Even as we sauntered along the concrete sidewalk I could still feel Tim’s large warm hand holding mine like a delicate flower when I was a child.
And as we neared the steps that led to the double oak doors of my childhood home for a second I could see him. His large stature seated on the steps, head buried between the pages of a journal filling the blank lines with numerous stories dipped with a subtle richness that left me convinced he was the next Shakespeare. He’d look up and smile at us, tossing a blinding light into our lives. It was on those steps we’d share tales, unveil the beauty of our imagination but once the surface of my heels touched the first step I’m met with a cold, empty feeling that those times were gone.
Those times would never come back simply because someone had to take him away.