Magnetic

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Chapter 2

After cleaning the dishes and opening a few Christmas presents—I got mostly gift cards and cash; after the age of ten, everybody in my family stops trying to figure out the kind of actual presents you’d like and decides to just go the easy way out—my father and I were back in the car, exhausted and ready to go back to our hotel. Normally, we would stay at Nana’s in a spare bedroom, but there were already too many people that had booked rooms at La Casa de Nana.

Right when my father slammed the driver’s side door shut behind him, he immediately burst into tears.

Nothing went badly at Nana’s, so there was no apparent reason for him to be blubbering like he was. I didn’t know how to respond, so I just kind of looked at him, opening my mouth to say something, but too scared that I might say the wrong thing. When he started sobbing so much that he sounded like he had gotten a terrible case of the hiccups, I finally asked, “Dad, are you okay?”

Of course, that question caused him to cry even more.

“I hate seeing your Nana like that,” he said finally, lifting up his glasses to wipe his bright-red eyes.

“She seemed fine today,” I said, trying to cheer him up. “She was very alert, recognized people, and moved around.”

Nana had been diagnosed with dementia and Parkinson’s disease many months earlier, around the middle of the summer. One of Dad’s sisters, Melissa, had moved in with her right before the official diagnosis and assisted her with her daily tasks. Aunt Melissa was in amazing physical condition—she used to be an award-winning professional gymnast—which was to Nana’s benefit, because sometimes Nana would wake up and her legs would be too stiff to even get herself out of her bed.

My aunt would provide for the two of them. I had no idea how she even had time for a job of any sorts, but I definitely admired her for completely putting her life aside to care for Nana.

“I’m honestly so glad that we’re moving. I feel so guilty for not being out here earlier,” he told me as he shifted the car into reverse.

The mentioning of moving made my stomach flip again. I had no idea how to console him, because of the fact that I didn’t agree. “Don’t feel guilty,” was all that I could think of to say.

When we were about halfway to the hotel, he was composed for the most part. I had been watching the scenery pass us by when I could feel my father looking at me. “Nicki, I’m sorry.”

I glanced over at him and lifted an eyebrow, unsure of what, exactly, he was sorry for.

He noticed my confused glance and said, “I’m sorry I’m taking you away from your friends. Your home. Your school.”

“It’s fine,” I lied. I didn’t really want to talk about it, so I turned back to the window to look out onto the fields that surrounded West Cliff. I could see a herd of black buffalo in the distance, some wrestling with each other. It was almost breathtaking how different the scenery here was than in New York.

A small outline of a town was barely visible in the distance.

There were no quality hotels in West Cliff, so we had to go into the large neighboring town of Monraville to find a good one. Back at home, we didn’t have to travel forty-five minutes to find a nice hotel. We’d just have to walk a bit down the block.

“I know you’re upset with me,” he continued, “but I need you to understand why we’re moving here.”

“For family,” I recited, looking over at him to meet his eyes. “I know.”

“Wouldn’t you like to live in the same neighborhood as your family? For six years, it’s just been you and I.”

There used to be three. Me, my dad, and my mom. But, not anymore.

Every morning, she’d wake me up with a song while playing with my long blonde hair. “Good morning, Nicolette. Wake up, sleepyhead.”

It had been her favorite name. One day, while she was braiding my hair, she told me a story of when she first heard the name.

When she was seventeen, she went to a small-town Italian diner down the street from her house called Purple Fountain. The waitress introduced herself as Nicolette, and my mother instantly fell in love with the name. That day, she wrote down in her journal that if she ever had a daughter, she’d name her Nicolette.

So eight years later, when she gave birth to a baby girl, she was dubbed Nicolette.

I was Nicolette.

She was the only one who ever called me it, because when I was younger, I felt like it was too difficult to pronounce and wanted a new name. I didn’t like how long it was; I wanted something shorter. Thus, it was shortened to Nicki for day-to-day usage.

But still, the name Nicolette meant something to me. It symbolized my mother and her love for me. The day of the accident, I promised myself that nobody else could replace that symbolization and call me by my true name. I’d be Nicki from now on.

Whenever a teacher would call roll and say my full name, or a doctor would greet me as Nicolette, I’d instantly feel guilty and angry, as if someone had taken away the strong importance of it. I would have to remind myself that they didn’t know the significance. To them, it was just a name on a piece of paper, just like the one before and the one after.

I was now Nicki to everyone who lived on earth, the piece of Nicolette inside of me dying alongside with my mother in that accident.

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