I stared at my mother’s fresh grave, the humid air causing my hair to stick to my neck. I feel my aunt place a hand on my back, giving me a soothing rub. I push my sunglasses up to the brim of my nose, an attempt to hide my bloodshot eyes and silent tears.
Just two weeks ago, my mother was leaning over my desk, kissing me on the cheek, letting me know she was leaving for her night shift at the hospital as an RN.
I still remember how thrilled she was when she finished nursing school and got the job. She had worked so hard juggling work, studying, along with taking care of me. The day she got her first paycheck as an RN, she walked into our apartment with the brightest smile on her face, cradling a box with the shoes I had wanted for months and cupcakes from the local bakery to celebrate.
Things in my mom and I’s live just started looking up. We didn’t have the biggest home or the newest car, but we had each other, and that’s all we needed. My mom was always my best friend and my biggest supporter. She was always bragging about how I was going to be the first Mendez to attend college. I can still hear my mom’s voice bragging to my aunts and uncles. “Ava is the brightest girl,” she would start. “I can already see the scholarships with her name on them. Either way, I can tell you she’s making me a proud mama”. Then she would give me a big hug, and all my family would nod in agreement. That’s all I ever wanted to do, make my mother proud.
“Ms. Mendez” someone called out, causing me to jump. I turned to see Jim, apparently my father’s assistant, who had asked to make sure I made it safely to California.
I hadn’t seen my father for five years. Our yearly visits ended when I was 11, and I had refused to be a mini bridesmaid for his wife, Brooklyn. But who wanted to see their father Marry someone half his age? Last I heard, Brooklyn and my father Dave were expecting their baby, a girl, but that was a while ago. The last time I had heard from my father was two months ago; he had sent me a simple card and check for my seventeenth birthday.
“Ms. Mendez, if we don’t leave now, we are going to miss our flight. I don’t want to disappoint Dave.” Jim speaks again, bringing me back into reality.
“Okay,” I said, letting out a sigh. “Just give me a second to say bye”. This causes Jim to send me a stern look before heading over to his luxurious rental car.
“I’m sorry you have to go with your father, Ava, but it is for the best,” My aunt tells me, wiping tears from her own eyes. “We will always be here if you need us, and your father promised he would let you visit over the holidays.” I push smile at my aunt and tell her to let my family know how much I would miss them. I felt as though I didn’t only lose my mom, but I was going to lose my entire family, and it made my heartache. I understood why I had to go live with my father. None of my family had the resources to take care of another child.
I turn away and look at my mother’s grave one last time, setting down the flowers I had been clutching in my hands. I send a silent prayer and ask that my mother guide me to the next chapter of my life.
“Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen. This is your pilot speaking. We will be landing in about fifteen minutes if you could please turn off all electronics and buckle your seatbelts. It has been a pleasure to have you all aboard, and we would like to welcome you to California.”
I lean my head back and close my eyes. This had been my first time flying first class, and still, I was not too fond of it. Everything felt too compact, and I could feel Jim staring at me as if I was going to panic and cry at any second. I wanted to panic and beg Jim to buy me a flight to go home, but I knew I had to accept that being in California was going to be my new home.
Jim and I exited the plane, and he takes me to the front of the airport, where the Driver and a black escalade await us. “How far away is Dave’s house?” I ask as we pull off.
“Around half an hour,” Jim replied, not looking up from his phone, quickly typing an email.
“And you said all of my things had been sent their correct?” I ask. I can tell Jim is getting annoyed with my questions.
“Yes, there in your new room, waiting to be unpacked, Jim mumbles, typing away. I let out a sigh and stare out the window.
As we pull into the long, winding driveway, I feel my jaw drop. Dave had moved since I last visited, and this home was even more extravagant. It looked like the mansions you would see on TV that the Kardashians would live in.
As we enter the home, a tiny woman approaches us. She appears to be in her mid-forties and has her black hair tied in a tight bun, pulling a vacuum in tow. Her face was makeup-less, and you could see the wear of years of hard work, but her smile was wide and bright.
“Hello, who is this?” The woman says, extending her hand to me.
“This is Mr. Watson’s Daughter, Ava Mendez,” Jim says, giving the women a stern look. The women looked confused, I assume, because I more after my mother, rather than Dave’s dark blonde hair and light skin. I take the women’s hand and shake it.
“Oh, I’m sorry for the confusion.” Rose says, “It’s Nice to Meet you, Ms. Mendez. You can call me Rose. I am head of the cleaning staff here.” She smiles.
“Nice to meet you as well.” I respond, Rose had a sincere demeanor, and I was glad to have someone with such a welcoming presence in the house. Dave descends down the staircase, which leads to Rose leaving the room.
“Ava, I’m so glad you are finally here.” My father says, pulling me into a hug. I shake my head slightly, thinking about how the only reason I am here is due to my mother’s death.
“Hello Dave” I say, giving him a tight smile. I see his demeanor father from my use of his first name. Under no circumstances was I calling him “Dad,” he has lost that privilege over the years.
Jim lets my father know he is going to head home and leaves Dave and me alone.
“So how was your flight” Dave asks, trying to ease the tension.
“Terrible, I hate planes,” I respond. “Where is Brooklyn” I add.
“Upstairs dressing Chloe. They both be down shortly,” Dave responds.
“Yes, she’s your half-sister. She had her second birthday last month.” I shake my head, trying to process everything. I had always wanted a sibling, but my parents had split when I was young, and my mother was always too busy to date.
“Brooklyn comes down the stairs, holding a little girl who had pink cheeks, curly blonde hair, and blue eyes just like Brooklyn. “Ava! You’ve grown so much!” Brooklyn chirp. I can’t help but roll my eyes, Brooklyn had only met me once, and it was for a brief hour.
“That’s was five years does.” I mumbled, causing Brooklyn to let out a little laugh and my father to uncomfortably shift his weight. We all continue to stand around, an awkward silence filling the air.
“Do you want to hold Chloe?” Brooklyn offers.
“I don’t know. I would really like to lie down. It’s been a long day.” I say. It’s the half-truth. I was tired, but mostly I just wanted an escape way from Dave and Brooklyn.
“Oh, alright,” Dave says, sounding somewhat disappointed. “We’ve already set up a bead for you, and the room is going to be up the stairs, second door on your right. Dinners at Six.”
“Thank you,” I say. I climb the staircase and find my bedroom door. As soon as I shut the door, I lean against it, feeling the tears streak down my face before I can stop myself.
The thing I would do to be in my mother’s and I’s old apartment. The things I would do just to be home.