Chapter 3: The Wheel is Turning
“Sierra, the phone is for you. It’s Baran,” Mom shouted.
“Coming,” I shouted as I ran down the stairs. I picked up the phone from her hand. “Hey, why didn’t you call from my cell?” I asked.
“I wanted to talk to your mom, as well baby. I won’t be able to make it to dinner today. Something’s come up”
“Oh, okay. I’m sorry to hear that.” Baran had never canceled dinner at our house before, so this piqued my curiosity. “Wait, something’s come up? Like what?” I asked.
There was an eerie silence at the other side of the phone, all I could hear was his heavy breathing. “Uhm, nothing to worry about. I gotta go, I’ll see you tomorrow at school,” he said. And that was it, as his voice was promptly accompanied by the click of the phone.
Had he hung up on me? He certainly had. It was weird, not something my considerate and perfect mannered boyfriend would normally do. I decided not to think too much about it.
Soon, we were all gathered around the table eating Mom’s famous lasagna, the recipe handed down to her from her Italian side of the family. It was my favorite food in the world ever, and I would never get tired of eating it. I took another large bite, savoring the deep rich flavor of the sauce which exploded in my mouth, blissfully mixing with the taste of the fresh homemade noodles, as well as the meat and cheese combination layering the lasagna. I decide to ignore all the carbs flowing to my body by the minute as I took another large bite.
“So, where is that boy of yours?” asked Grandma. She was back to her old self, thankfully. She had dressed up nicely, even put on some light makeup over her face. And, I saw no reason to alert others to what had transpired in her room before.
“Oh, he couldn’t make it.” I said, casually.
My grandmother’s hand lifting the fork carrying a small lasagna piece stopped in midair, I watched the cheese stretch about two feet long off her plate. And, she paused for a second as if deliberating whether or not she should take the fork all the way to her original intended destination, but in a snap decision, she put the utensil back on the plate again, as is, and untouched.
“I see,” she said. ” Children, I’m not too hungry. This erratic Chicago weather has surely taken a toll on me, it’s slowly sapping all my energy. Yes, I feel quite exhausted. I think, I’ll just take my rest now.”
“But, Mother you have barely touched your food. Are you sure you’re okay? Shall we call a doctor?” asked Dad, his voice was calm, yet I could see by the ticking muscle in his jaw that his panic was barely restrained beneath the surface.
“Of course, what utter nonsense, my boy. What will I do with a doctor? I don’t have anything that cannot be cured with a good night’s sleep. Sierra, dear, do accompany me to my room, will you? I don’t want to fall down those steep stairs.”
“Sure,” I said as I sprang out of my chair. Grandma had never asked for help in walking up to her room before, so her request had taken me by surprise. This was indeed a credible signal of her exhaustion, and she was probably scared that her limbs would give out on her. I helped her up the stairs, going slowly, all the while holding her firmly by the elbow. As we approached her room though, she unclasped my hand and rushed inside displaying a shocking newborn energy and vigor. I followed her inside.
“Do you need help getting into bed Grandma?” I asked.
“What nonsense child. I have no time to sleep. There’s absolutely too much to be done. Now, I want to make sure you remember my words clearly from earlier,” she said, her blue eyes widening in anticipation.
“Yes, of course.” I stammered. What in blazes was going on? “But, what are you going to do? I thought you were tired?”
“Oh, I’m feeling much better, my dear. Now, there is something I need from you Sierra.”
“Sure, anything. Do you want me to bring you a plate of that delicious lasagna in here?”
“No, child. I want something else. Come, sit here by me on the bed.”
“Okay,” I said as I sat next to her. She took off the pendant from around her neck, holding it in her hand. “Let me see your birthmark, Sierra.”
I had a diamond-shaped birthmark on my chest, right above my heart, thankfully everybody thought it was a cute tattoo. So, it never bothered me, not even when I was clad in a bikini by the beach. I’d never been conscious of imperfections in my body, a pimple on my forehead, a scar marring my skin, or a birthmark on my chest, in my opinion, were the outcome of the touch of nature, and I was the ever embracing type. I was in some way, so unlike Payal. She was extremely pretty, I mean like beauty pageant type of gorgeous, and it was as if her unrivaled exotic beauty victimized her in some way, forcing and pressuring her to look perfect all the time. I remember at one time she had skipped a whole day of school because of a large pimple on her cheek. So, yeah, that was not me.
I realized Grandma’s unwavering gaze was still fixed on me, the intensity of which was scaring me. “Uhm, why?” I asked. This was getting too weird for my liking and I felt at the edge of a precipice, slowly moving towards the inevitable, yet felt paralyzed with inaction.
“Just show me, Sierra. We are running out of time. I’m trying to protect you,” she said, with impatience in her voice.
“Okay, okay,” I said as I bared my chest where the mark stood, quite red to my surprise. “I think it’s getting infected, I’ve never seen it this red. Perhaps, I should have it checked at the med center tomorrow.”
“It’s not infected, child. The fire is triggered, that’s all. The Uruloki is waking up and we need to stop it all costs.”
“What? You’ve been so strange this whole day, and I’m afraid the time has come for you to make some explanations here Grandma,” I said, in a tone that meant business.
“I will. I will, child. As soon as I can. I promise. Just trust me,” she said, and, as to my surprise, she pressed the pendant to my birthmark.
“Whoa, what are you doing?” I barely had time to ask, when the birthmark right before my eyes began to change shape, its edges slowly shrinking towards the center until the whole mark completely disappeared right before my eyes. I felt a sharp momentary pain right in my chest, and feeling of loss so profound, that I shivered uncontrollably, as if a chilling cold had taken my body captive.
“What’s going on? What’s happening to me?” I muttered. My eyes started closing out of my own volition, my limbs were numbed, I couldn’t move as I simply collapsed on the bed.
“It’s all right my baby girl. Just let it happen, don’t fight it. It’s all going to be better, trust me.”
I woke up with the buzzing of the alarm clock. For a second, I had no remembrance of who and where I was, and I was about to scream with the hollow feeling of emptiness, just like in the movie of Memento. Then, it all rushed back, and I started breathing again. It was Thursday and I had to get up if I didn’t want to be late for class. I noticed suddenly as I stretched lazily in bed that I was not in my own bed, nor in my own room. What was I doing here in Grandma’s bed? I had no clue. I went to my room, took a quick shower, got dressed and was down for breakfast, all within half an hour.
“Hi baby, what happened to you last night?” my mom asked as she scrambled an omelette for me. She was taking a short break from work for a few months, which meant we all got to enjoy her cooking thoroughly.
“What do you mean?”
“Your grandma said you simply fell asleep in her bed as you two were chatting. We couldn’t wake you up, and we simply left you there.”
“I don’t know. I simply don’t remember. The last thing I remember is taking her up the stairs to her room. Oh, my God! Where did she sleep last night, then? And she was feeling so exhausted at the dinner table. I can’t believe I invaded her bed and room last night when she most needed it,” I exclaimed.
“It’s okay child, I slept in the guest room. So many of those in this house, one almost does not know which one to choose,” Grandma giggled, as she entered the room, feeling extremely cheerful. “And, I’m feeling much better today, just as I thought I’d be,” she said as she placed a kiss on my cheek. “How are you feeling Sierra?”
“Good, I guess. Even, if I cannot imagine what made me fall asleep like that,” I admitted.
“Probably my boring chat, ” she said, her eyes twinkling with merriment.
I laughed. She was one hell of a woman, possessing an amazing sense of humor. And, I loved her for it.