Nothing weighs on us so heavily as a secret.
-Jean de La Fontaine-
I was too upset to breathe, too mad to think, too vicious to socialize, too depressed to eat; I was definitely on the verge of losing my will to live. I lay in bed, with my face buried into my pillow. Stifling my cries and it acted as my tissue to dry my tears. I couldn’t stop the flow of waterworks that trickled down my face. I felt like I was choking on air. My lungs searing from the lack of oxygen.
I had taken a life. This was all my fault. I should have kept quiet as she told me, but I was just too darn stubborn to listen. I laid there and replayed the events on that fateful day; I was broken. Completely shattered.
I was still mourning my mother. She was my best friend, my rock, my teacher, my role model but most importantly, she was a mother that could never be replaced. She was my mom and I loved her. I wasn’t the easiest kid to keep under control. I made her job hard. I don’t deny that, nor do I deny how horrible of a daughter I was.
My fault. I took her life and for that I know I don’t deserve to live. I promised to never hurt her, and I did without even knowing that would be the outcome. I took a deep breath, my eyes welled with tears. I didn’t want to be here anymore. I was ready to leave.
I let my fingers glide over her gravestone once more, brushing away some leaves that had found their way there. The stone was cold and its iciness to the touch jolted me, reminding me this was all real. It said, ‘Kayceen Vanessa Chambers, a loving daughter, a wife, a mother, and a friend’. This that was engraved on her stone wasn’t enough. She was more than just a family and a friend. So much more and no one would ever know because she was gone.
The day her new home became six feet under in the ground, I had said goodbye to her. I thought I needed to say it so that she could move on from this life onto the next, but I suppose it made no sense. It wouldn’t have worked since I never really meant it. It’s funny how one can force themselves into believing something else so that something can seem less dreadful.
I guess I was hoping that somehow, all of this was a nightmare, a prank, some sick twisted trick. I was hoping that at any moment, she’d walk into the kitchen and smack me across the head for leaving the dishes in the sink. Whenever I said goodbye, it was sort of like a see-you-later thing. The only discrepancy was today- was different.
I stood up and brushed the knees of my jeans. With a heavy heart, I walked away. This was the last I would ever come to visit. I promised myself this time. This time, it would be the last goodbye. I wanted to stop reminding myself of the flames that engulfed the armor of metal that pierced her. I wanted to forget the hefty price I paid. The penalty of disobedience was my mother’s life.
I cried all the way home. Only tiny sobs escaping my tightly pursed lips. It had gotten dark fast. Only the crickets whistling and my footsteps connecting on the pavement as I walked in silence. The silence wasn’t as deadly as that of my hollow house. I didn’t have a home anymore; it was just a house. A home was complete, safe, and homey. Without my mother, it was no longer a home. I didn’t mind creating an excuse so I could leave the quiet and lonely house that was once cheerful and happy. Even if the excuse was going to visit my mom. The house brought back too many memories. I felt I had cried enough, yet I haven’t gotten around to stopping. Everything in that house reminded me of her.
It was the simplest of things that reminded me of my mom. The fading green paint on the door. Originally, it was installed with a dark blue when we bought the house, but mom had said the color clashed with the character of the house, so we painted it a nice dark green. Of course, dad let her do what she wanted. He was a sucker for keeping her happy. The dream catcher on the patio out front, she kept hanging them up, every time I had a bad dream. Now every time I walk onto the patio, they’re there and I can’t help but feel a little anxious.
I missed the way she was hellbent on folding the laundry a certain way. She called it ‘the right way’. I missed her stress cleaning days. There were times when I looked forward to our talks and her bad mom jokes. I missed watching movies together and hearing squeals when her favorite actor got screen time. Sometimes, I forgot she was gone. I started to forget what she looked like and then what her voice was like. The only thing that kept her memory alive, was our videos and now I wish I had spent more time focusing on our memories and documenting everything.
Slowly, I started to notice the little things. At dinner, the food tasted bland and not because the cooking was bad, but it didn’t taste the way she always made it. Remembering that she wasn’t here anymore kept hitting me hard like a ton of bricks and it hurt.
Mom wasn’t here and dad wasn’t himself. He left early in the mornings and returned even earlier the next day. He sometimes fumbled up the stairs from exhaustion. He was a cop and that meant he worked late sometimes but now that mom had died he seldom came home. He was working more often, and I hardly ever saw him. He had been burying himself in work ever since... Because of mom. Recently, he started to make more of an effort to be home, but I know that only because my nan had stuck around after mom’s funeral.
I realized I had neared my house and I froze up. I was panicking. The ground under my feet felt as if it was shaking. It looked as if it was opening. I was crying; I didn’t want to go home. I didn’t want to go back to that house. I bent down and I cried, my breathing heavy but shallow.
“Make it stop, please. I can’t take it anymore. Please! Dad! Help!” I cried silently, pleading for a release. “Someone... Help me!” I whispered.
The ground stopped shaking but now I saw the past. I was reliving the final moments of mom’s death. We had crashed but it was my fault. I woke up, everything a haze. Everything was upside down. I looked for a way out and crawled out of the extremely bent up vehicle. I had injured my arm. Any sudden movements felt as if someone was tearing my flesh. I had a huge cut, so much that my flesh was hanging off. Then I remembered... Mom. I ran to the other side of the car and I saw that my mom wasn’t moving. She was still in the car. I reached through the broken shards of glass of the window and shook her.
“Mom! Wake up! You can’t die on me!” I shook her frail form even harder. “Mom, please wake up!” I screamed.
Suddenly, my favorite song started to play. I heard my mom’s voice in the form of a song. This wasn’t a part of the memory. It was a recording of my mom singing to me. It was a song that comforted me many times in the past. I closed my eyes listening for a while and slowly the panic went away. The song brought me back to the real world. My breathing evened out and I was able to stand up once again.
I took out my phone and looked at the caller ID. I allowed it to ring out. I just stared at my phone, trying to compose myself. It rang again and this time, I answered.
“Hey dad,” I answered cheerfully.
“Hey kiddo,” he replied. “Have you left the cemetery yet?”
“Yeah, I left not too long ago,” I told him.
“Could you get me ginger ale at the store on your way back?”
“Dad, I’m almost home.” I chuckled. “Besides, didn’t you buy a bottle yesterday at the store?”
“I-uh... The thing is...” Dad became silent and I waited for him to continue. He seemed as if he was trying to either come up with a lie or explain the complication.
Did dad hang up? Just as I was about to check I heard laughing in the background, and I knew it was Ma.
“He said he slipped!” she answered for dad.
“How did that happen?” I laughed; I was curious. I wanted to know the story of how he slipped and what it had to do with the ginger ale.
“Never mind that” my dad spoke up. “Just hurry and get home.”
I nodded and soon realized he couldn’t see me. “Yes, dad. I’ll be there in five. Bye.”
“Bye.” I hung up and kept walking but a bit faster this time. When I got home, dinner was already on the table.
“Hey. I’m back.” I said as I walked into the dining room.
“Lex are you okay?” asked Ma. She was looking at me closely like she had noticed something.
“Of course, I’m fine.” I smiled at her. However, she didn’t seem convinced. My eyes were still sore from crying so much. My dad walked in from the kitchen with some drinks and put it on the table.
“Sit down and let’s have dinner.” He told me seriously and I nodded. Even though I was happy for the save, dad didn’t look happy at all. I was about to sit down and eat but then I remembered to wash my hands. I did and then sat down.
Tonight, we said a brief prayer and we ate. Dinner was silent, my dad hadn’t said a word and neither did Ma. They were quiet, too quiet. This was unlike Ma to go so long without saying a word. Dad didn’t once look at me or ask me to pass him the ketchup. This was weird. We were having French fried chicken for God’s sake!
I felt so uncomfortable that I started to pick at my food unconsciously, while occasionally peering at the pair in front of me.
“Umm, are you guys okay?” I asked suspiciously, and as I did, Ma’s eyes glanced up at dad. Maybe they argued. “Did I do something wrong?”
“There isn’t a problem at all.” He looked at Ma. He was serious and his voice tense. He jammed his fork into a piece of chicken and ate it.
“Okay...” I said, backing off. I didn’t want him to get mad at me. There was silence and we kept eating. No one said anything and it gave me time to think.
“Richard, I think you should tell Lex. She’s old enough to know and Kaye would’ve wanted her to know.” Ma had suddenly spoken up. It sounded like something she couldn’t keep to herself any longer.
“Eureka, I’ve made my decision already, it’s not up for discussion,” my father blandly replied while still eating. He was being careful not to meet my eyes. “I no longer wanna talk about that.”
Then it went back to silence. What does Ma mean by I’m old enough to know? What doesn’t dad want to tell me? It was very odd to see the two like this because they were always going at each other. It was sort of like watching two apes fight for a bunch of grapes; except this was done playfully. They seemed young by nature.
“Dad, tell me what is going on? You are behaving weirdly. “I tried again. I didn’t like his attitude. It was something important. Ma wouldn’t have brought it up if it wasn’t.”
He suddenly stopped eating and dropped his fork on his plate; he got up and took his plate to the sink, leaving us at the dining table. I got up pushing back my chair, but my grandmother stopped me. She held onto my hand and shook her head. She was clearly warning me.
“Give him some time, Lex.” I nodded and pushed my plate away. “He just needs a minute.” I had lost my appetite.
“But look at the way he was acting. I think I should talk to him.” I stared at the door he just slammed.
“Give him time. It’ll be fine.” I sighed and nodded giving up. “I hope you’re right.”
“I know I am.” She smiled and looked at me with such concern.
I wanted to sleep. It was almost midnight. I had plans with Ma tomorrow, and I needed to be energetic. I didn’t want to lag from lack of sleep. I sighed heavily; maybe a good night’s rest is what I needed to help unload my heavy heart.
“Ma, I’m going to my bed,” I told her as I kissed her forehead.
“Okay, don’t stay up too late” she smiled mischievously at me as if she knew something I didn’t. She always asked if I had a boyfriend, maybe that’s what she was going on about, but I answered as I left for my room.