Silence veiled the house like a shroud, the type of peaceful silence that likes to hang around in the early morning, before the shrill sound of the alarm ripped through the fabric of their dreams and jolted the adults awake, before the scent of breakfast wafted from the kitchen into Ester’s room, before the buzz and hum and rush of life began. It was early, early enough in the morning that the fog had an excuse to linger, encasing the world in a white shawl, reluctant to seep back into the moist earth from which it came. Outside came the dulcet tones, the faint pitter-patter of water droplets staining the pavement, a shower of rain that will give way to the coming sun. The warm silence was only accompanied by the rhythmic hum of the air conditioning, constantly running in the background, in sync and in step with the falls and rises of Ester’s breath. With the covers draped over her body ad face, an outsider might assume that the young girl was sleeping, trying to catch some more precious moments of sleep before she would have to get ready for the first day of school. However, despite her still body, her mind was very much awake, unable to fall asleep despite the lull of the comfortable silence and familiar white noise. Her only music was the faint tick, tick, ticking of the clock, sitting primly on her wooden dresser, which overlooked a window, veiled by flowery curtains. Through the stained window, although clouded over a bit, one could make out the faint silhouette of an oak tree, the gentle light of the sun seeping through the branches, the fog rising like a prayer.
Ester usually loved the peaceful lull of her spacious house in the morning. While she felt that her mind couldn’t function with the usual buzz of life, the silence left her alone with her thoughts, her little private time. However, that was the problem. Ever since she caught a glimpse of that first back to school commercial, Ester began dreading each morning, each day she crossed out on her calendar reminding her of how little time she had left. Any mention of school put her in an irritable mood, she would quickly turn off the television if any back-to-school commercials came on, and would opt out of any shopping trips. Her mother decided that enough was enough and practically dragged her to the store by her ear, during which Ester sulked the entire trip with a petulant pout as Maman and her sister prattled about new clothes. Like the skilled procrastinator she was, she waited until the last day to do any panicking. The false security of her blankets couldn’t hide Ester from her incessant thoughts that kept her up through the night and into the early morning.
With an unconscious movement of her arm, the covers, formerly draped over her body, slips off, revealing a chocolate face with softly molded features: a bulbous nose speckled with dark freckles, brown eyes adorned with dark circles framed by short, curly eyelashes, claret lips with a sloping cupid’s bow. A soft, irritated moan escapes from her lips as she shields her eyes from the soft light escaping the window, draping the fallen covers over her. Soft reds danced in her vision fading away into the dark, and the world beneath her eyes darkens once more. Unlike the rising haze, who carried the pretense of getting up, she had no intention waking up that day.
She couldn’t pinpoint when the heat from the blankets became stifling, but when it did, she found the comfortable warmth suffocating, and shrugs them off her body. She watches them slide off her bed, falling unceremoniously onto the linoleum floor. Her tired eyes trailed the floor, catching a few things: unfinished sketches littered the floor, old candy wrappers littered the floor, the corners lined with dust.
Tick, tick, tick.
Ester’s eyebrows twitched. Each tick, every second nagged at her, like an incessant bug, that no matter that no matter how long she wished to stay swathed in her covers, time would crawl slowly, but surely towards the morning.
Tick, tick, tick.
Something inside her snapped. Deciding she couldn’t stand that damned alarm clock anymore, she propped herself up from her bed and walked towards her wooden dresser. Ester didn’t even notice how cold her bare feet felt on the tiled floor as she grabbed her new alarm clock, naively thinking she knew how this contraption worked. After fumbling with it, turning and tossing it over in her pale palm like a Rubik’s cube, she tugged on the cord and the LED light blinked no more. Only the constant hum of the AC remained.
Noticing the faint outline of dust, Ester sets her alarm clock down and runs her fingers on the dresser, stopping at a particularly deep scratch, a memento from a favorite cousin dropping by. She wipes the clouded window with her hands in vain, before opening it entirely, letting the light seep through. Through the small opening, she gazes silently at an oak tree jutting out from the jade terrain, encasing an august sky in its flakey chains. Through the wispy clouds tinged orange by the shy sun, splashes of pinks streaked across the sky. The branches swayed in the wind, as if bidding her a good morning.
Ester came to a conclusion: the sky looked like cat vomit.
Although, she mused, the cat would have to eat a lot of pink stuff to get the right shade of pink. Pink tuna would have to be a must, perhaps they wouldn’t mind if it was topped with pink frosting, speckled with pink sprinkles a la mode with strawberry ice cream. The concoction would so sickeningly sweet that the cat would instantly upchuck it like a hair ball. A giggle tickles her throat, and the ghost of a smile touches her lips. She could present it as her science project and ask, with an innocent smile, for an unsuspecting volunteer from the audience. Reassure them, watch their expressions turn from awe to horror…
She couldn’t help it; a laugh bubbled up from inside her before she could stop it. She didn’t just laugh; she snickered, chortled, snorted. Only when the heaves from her chest dies down did she mentally scold herself for cackling like a mad woman inside a lonely room. Still, even though her cheeks were tinged red, it lifted her spirits a bit, and she slid off the bed. Partly because Ester decided she’d lazed in her bed long enough, partly because the rich aroma of breakfast wafted into her room.
Before she even caught a glimpse of her mother, Ester was greeted by the familiar put, put, put sound, which meant something was simmering on the stove. Maman was boiling something for breakfast, maybe some leftovers made into a soup or boiled plantains. Maman believed in starting the day with hot soup, partly because of the convenience, mostly because the stew needed little caring over, which suited Maman just fine, because she wasn’t the type of mom that liked leaning over a hot stove. Ester’s mom was always busy, busy, busy, a rushed flurry of early mornings and hasty good-bye kisses transitioning into late nights, where she could finally rest her feet and close her tired eyes.
Her mother’s voice rang through the silence, bringing Ester out of her stupor.
“Esty, can you stir the soup for me?”
Opening the cupboards and sifting through the mess for a wooden spoon, she complied and began stirring the simmering pot. The kitchen felt cozy, maybe because the rich smell of cooking wafted in the air, maybe because the sound of soup simmering soothed her nerves.
The clickety-clack of high heels hitting the tiled floor was the only warning she got before her mother appeared behind her, giving Ester a warm embrace.
“Good morning, Esty. I never expected you would be up so early, thought I’d have to pull you by your ear again to get up.”
Ester turned around to look at her mother. Smile lines adorned the edges of her lips, her eyes adorned with dark circles, the price of staying up too late