Steady eyed, I stared at the door on the right side of my room through the gloomy shade of twilight as I lay awake on my bed. The sound of the rain beating on the roof and walls, and the wind howling all along like mourning wolves, was deafening . . . but not a breath closer to the piercing screams of silence that swallowed me.
God, I wish . . .
The silence was tearing me apart inside, so very slowly, making me feel every bit of the pain as it sheared in deeper and deeper . . . until a tear slipped from the corner of my right eye. I didn’t care to wipe it off. I let it be. I only cared to pray that this silence would break in defeat to my mom’s loving whisper.
It was the seventeenth of August. If mom was still with us, she would’ve walked into my room through that very closed door at which I was staring at, and whisper to me my very first birthday wish with a tender kiss on my forehead; like she always used to do. Then I would hug her back and return the love, wishing her Happy Birthday too.
I waited . . . waited for a miracle.
Seconds ticked off.
Seconds turned to minute.
Not long after, I realized it’d been quite some years already since I’d stopped believing in miracles. No miracle happened when mom lay pale and thin on the hospital bed . . . And no miracles yet.
I rolled onto my side, ripping my gaze away from the door that was never going to open to reveal the miracle I craved for, and soaked my pillow wet with tears that bitterly trickled from my eyes.
It killed me to imagine and wait as though nothing had changed. But of course, everything had changed . . . ever since she left us six years back; ripped apart from us, from me by cancer. Merciless. I was ten then.
Just around 5:00 am, I peeled off the warm covering and went straight towards the bathroom. I took a quick shower, got dressed and stepped out of my room. I quietly stepped down the stairs, taking extra care not to disrupt dad and my extremely alert eight years old brother’s sleep.
By that time around, the roar of the rain had ceased and when I opened the front door, all that’s left was a drizzle; which was really good because I didn’t have a car to drive me around since I was still underaged. Dad had promised to get me one once I get my driving license. But with the weather in this town, a car was as vital as your legs.
Out here in East Port, spring was a rainy season, autumn was a rainy season, and winter was a worse one. Sunshine was not more than a visitor on yearly basis. Of course, we did have our sunny days once in a while but mostly it was rain and wind, which wasn’t surprising for a South Dakotan town. The weather kept shifting like going through TV channels.
I walked leisurely along the pavements of a damp, empty highway with an umbrella at hand, scanning all the stores and houses and coffee shops that I passed as I headed towards Rose’s Roses, the florist shop, where I worked part-time every weekend for the fun of it. By the time I reached the shop, the morning light had compassed the sky in its full glory and Mrs. Clayton had already begun arranging the flowers when I walked in.
I loved this little shop where I worked because inside it, the feelings I feel always changes to something entirely surreal. Inside the little shop was a different world; a world of romance and fairytale. Mrs. Clayton, an aged lady with beautiful silver hair that ended just above her shoulders, was lilting her body lightly along with the lilting of the song as she sang her favorite song ‘Dream a little dream of me’.
’Sweet dreams till sunbeams find you
Sweet dreams that leave all worries behind you
But in your dreams, whatever they be
Dream a little dream of me’
“Morning, Mrs. Clayton,” I said as I stepped in.
“Good morning, Alana.” She looked back and smiled at me.
It was saddening to know that this morning would be the last time I see her until I see her again . . . which I was still not sure when. She always treated me like a daughter. She was a family.
Like always, she remembered my birthday and gifted me a beautiful, red rose. With a rueful smile, I hugged her and settled into her embrace more comfortably.
“I’m going to miss you,” I said as she came and received me mid way.
She patted my back fondly and said, “Oh, Alana. I’m going to miss you too. And your brother. Don’t forget to come visit me.”
“I promise,” I replied with hints of sadness tracing my voice.
“I have arranged a bunch of pink roses for your mom,” she said and pointed towards the counter.
Pink roses had been my mom’s favorite.
“Wow! They’re beautiful. You’re the best.” I said as I raced towards the counter.
“Pleasure’s mine, Sweety.” She smiled kindly.
The light drizzle still lingered when I left the shop after helping Mrs. Clayton with some of the chores.
I guess it’s life, I thought as I walked back home. One day one leaves, the other day one returns. Or in some cases, they just keep going and doesn’t return at all. It’s life, I thought.
We were moving back to Los Carlos and I pretty much had no problem with that since I would finally be together with Kendra, my best friend since elementary. I missed her a lot. We rarely met since I moved here and so the thought of seeing her everyday excited me already. I’d already told her that I was coming back, but saved the news number two that I would be going to the same school for surprise. So I was looking forward to seeing the look on her face when she sees me in Greenwood. And then, there was Jacob too.
But on the other hand, half of me had some problems with the moving. I was going to miss Mrs. Clayton. Like very much. And then there was David, my little brother. He was barely two when we left Carlos six years back. And all he’d ever known was all here in East Port. He’d been pretty sad lately at the thought of not seeing his friends from school again. He was the sweetest of all apples and I didn’t want him to be sad. Since Mom left us so early and dad was always busy, I took David under my responsibility and I’d tried my best for him. I loved him a lot. I would do anything to keep him happy.
But either way, we hit the road at 11:00 am since my surgeon dad, Ryan Lancaster, got transferred back to St. Stephen’s, the hospital he previously worked, and there was no way around it.
And just before we drove off as I was standing next to dad’s car, the-sweetest-of-all-apples hugged me warmly and said, “Happy sixteenth birthday, Alana. You smell old.”
Carlos was just four hours drive from East Port so by three in the evening, we were back to our old town, old neighborhood, old home. Dad had managed to get our old house (a five bedroom, single-family detached home style) back so there wasn’t much to adjust. We were already acquainted with the whole thing and therefore it was an easy settlement - more like a twist in time, minus the numbers that were added up in our years.
Before anything, I headed towards the cemetery with the bouquet in my hand. I still remembered the town vividly. Nothing had changed so much in six long years... only that few shops had been replaced by other shops, hardware stores, book stores, coffee shops, etcetera, etcetera. And as I walked along the pavement towards the cemetery, I noticed that Big Jerome’s cafe was nowhere to be found. It used to be just around the corner of the street and I used to love the vanilla Ice cream they have there. If the cafe was still there, I definitely would have stopped by to meet Big Jerome and have some ice cream. It’s funny how I, as a little girl, used to wonder why he has such big tummy.
When I reached the cemetery, a sense of wistfulness overwhelmed me as I looked over at all the gray and white stones of different heights and sizes from a distance. It looked like some medieval European town; one I would definitely love to go visit or maybe even settle down. But the moment I saw someone sitting on the stone I respected so much, the wistfulness was immediately overtaken by a grip of astonishment and confusion.
I marched through the iron gate and came to stand in front of him. But he didn’t seem to care a bit that I was standing right there. He kept writing away on a black diary which was on his right knee, leaning on the headstone and sitting like a misplaced king.
He was young, probably about my age. Donned in black colored ripped jeans, faded denim jacket over a black T-shirt and with the way he had styled his bronze mop of a hair in an impressive up-do, I could clearly make out that he was obsessed about the way his bronze hair looked. He also wore a black headband around his forehead. I cleared my throat to get his attention. He still didn’t seem to care the slightest bit.
“Excuse me?” I called, disbelief profound in my voice.
He quickly scribbled one more line before looking up at me as if he would die the next moment. When he did finally lifted his face, I beheld the most gorgeous face I’d ever had the privilege of seeing. He had deep and consuming, brown eyes as though there were fire smoldering behind them. His features were sharp and chiselled yet with hints of passion and softness in the way he met my eyes.. He said nothing for a while and stared at me with an unreadable expression. I didn’t miss out to see him slightly widen his eyes at the beginning.
He lightly lifted his chin to a nod questioning me like ‘sup, bro’.
“What are you doing here?” I asked, slightly dazed as his perfect face challenged my cool.
His eyes then scanned me up and down as if he was looking for fractured bones; so keen that they almost made me itch and as if he was the Prince of Yoghurt, he did it so coolly.
“I think I know you,” he finally said.