Falling back as one with the Earth to be swallowed up by the glimmering ocean- each wave so in sync as they crash against the rocks, only to continue back on its path down the planet- the satisfying feeling is enough to push me over the edge, the breathtaking fall is worth the long moment of peace to come.
I sigh dreamily as I open my eyes only to squint them shut again. The sounds of the Pacific Ocean just outside is enough to send me into a different world. Yet the Californian sun comes up, signifying a new day, a new conversation, silence, glance. I get out of bed and make my way downstairs, eyes glued to the steps to avoid the multitude of photos on the wall that are slowly starting to come down as each sun sets and rises.
My mother sits at the table, coffee in one hand, a smoke in the other. The acknowledging nod we give each other has become routine. Today, though, she hums out to me. “Today might be the day you know. There might be a knock at the door and a pack of gum with your name on it, young lady,” she says, the smirk in her voice coming out louder than what she actually said.
“Yep,” I reply, popping the P,
“A couple years late, ay? He’ll say, and then we’re all going to group hug, isn’t that right?” I ask back, hoping that my sarcasm matched hers. I got my justification from her raised eyebrow and long sip of her coffee.
I smirk, although my eyes start to sting in a way that’s all too familiar. I can’t tell if it’s going to be a silent moment, like the way water colors flow down a canvas, or a complete scene like exploding, aggravating, paint bombs. It’s the first one, for sure, as I drip like candle wax, retreating back to my room.
The skids the moving vans left eight years ago are still imprinted on the street outside the door. They might as well have been tattooed on my forehead. He left us. At a young age, I had no idea what was going on- it was as if whenever there would be a clash, the television would be turned on, and it was as if only Minnie and I existed, completely oblivious to the whirlpool that was arising, spiraling everything into what was a mess of unspoken words that were translated onto documents.
“Ey, little miss, don’t you worry, our… your family is just going to grow,” my father said with a light smile. All the worries my four year old self had washed away.
With then bright eyes I looked up to my father's brown ones, “What do you mean Papa?” I ask. When my mother explained to me vaguely what was happening, how mommy and daddy were feeling different, I was for sure it would just be my mom and I forever.
“Oh, don’t you know? Pretty soon you’re going to have some step brothers or sisters to look after!” he explained.
I couldn’t believe how naïve I was, even for a four year old. Thinking back to counting the months on my Disney princess calendar wondering when Mom was going to start showing (the book from the library said that it would be four months), she never showed.
She “hit five months” soon after I turned five myself, and being the oh-so-mature five year old I am, I decided to finally ask “Mommy, mommy!” I exclaimed holding out the y.
“Aren’t ya squishin’ the baby Mommy?” I asked, tongue falling between the gaps in my mouth. The glass she was holding dropped to the floor as she looked at me. It wasn’t exactly horror on her face, or hurt, but some form of realization that life was actually going on, and I stood there on my tip-toes dazed and confused as to why my Mommy would decide to start cleaning the mantel with a baby in her tummy.
“Huh, four was a… weird… age, wasn’t it, Bobby?” I ask, voice raspy, nose red. Bobby, my probably fifty pound overweight orange tabby. A mew being my only response. Lifting her up from my pillow would be no use, I could do without the scratches for today.
“Emilia, come on hun, I need some help.” My mother calls and I’m making my way to the hallway, recently we’ve started taking down the photos. They were left up, “to keep memories” but I think they were really left up to at least have one piece normality. Evidence that he was ever here, that his first family was started in this old, light blue house with a creaky step as you walk to the door.
I reach for the ones at the top. My eyes fixating on a Polaroid that my dad sent to my mom, with some money, and a letter saying he’s okay. He’s standing in front of his new house. In the photo it’s him holding a set of keys and a thumb in the top left corner. I knew who’s thumb that was, it was hers. It was that one touch that unraveled everything. It was still enthralling me, as I lazily placed frames face down on the table. My mother the same, her eyes not glossy but blank, avoiding any eye contact she might make with the past.
“Take that down first and for all, will you?” My mother snarled, not even looking my way.
“Come on Mom, I, this is mine.” I stutter. Conversation falls flat.
“We’re almost done. If you weren’t so trigger happy with a camera and a glue gun this would be done fas-“ I say being interrupted by three raps sounded at the door. I don’t think much of it at first but instinct kicks in and I do, I analyze, I silently question. No one comes over, especially not on a miserable Thursday afternoon.
“Who is it?” I ask. My mother’s eyebrows crease, the stress wrinkles become more evident. What’s going on? They knit even closer as three knocks sound again. What I assumed was a confused smile, plastered on my face.
“Mom! Are- are you surprising me?” I ask, gasping and jittering. Ignoring me, she carefully trekked down the stairs, as if, if she stepped too hard, the walls would collapse. Was it her heart from where the beating was heard, or was it mine? I followed her down the stairs, breath hitching in my throat.
“Stay in your room.” She murmured.
“Why? What’s going on?” This was one awful surprise. It’s all just a surprise.
“Just go!” She yelled, voice rasp, probably a good half a pack was downed today. The knocks were consistent now and I ran up the stairs, placing myself on the top step just out of eye view. The click of the door had me biting my lip in anticipation.
A shadow was revealed on the floor, swallowing my mother’s petite one. Broad shoulders, that’s all I could tell. Murmured voices were heard, kept low. “You can’t keep me away.” The males voice said.
“You made that choice years ago.”
Wait, this couldn’t be.
I was sweating by now, nearly falling off the stairs trying to get at least one sign to confirm, that he kept his promise, it was just overdue. “No!” A shrill voice brought me out of my thoughts and now I couldn’t control my own feet as I skipped every other step, jumping over the creaky one, skidding across the wood floors, eyes clamped shut for a reason I don’t know why. What if I was wrong?
Releasing the breath I didn’t know I was holding for so long as my eyes were locked onto a pair of brown ones, glimmering in the five o'clock sun. Waves got louder, the crashes echoing in my ear, loud enough to drown out the rest of the world, but not the tension. The tension just seemed to be growing and growing and growing, I needed it to stop! “Emi,” He said, one childhood nickname breaking the dam that held back a Yangtze River, which is one of the biggest in the world.
Running up to him and enticing him in a grasp so tight that he could never leave again, that’s all I wanted to do, but I felt too exposed having my mother's eyes bore into me.
She was there for it all, the growth, the moods, we evolved together into new ladies. It wasn’t him who deserves the hug, which would probably be one of the bests to receive because you can’t tell which emotion is in a hug, you can just tell that it’s tight and protecting. He hadn’t been there to give me hugs. “So now you control your feet?” She says with a frown.
“Jo,” a fiery glare is shot at my father.
“Sephine. Come on,” He says slowly.
“D-d-dad.” My voice cracks. I’m crying?
“You, you, why are you back?” I exclaimed, my voice raising two octaves. I didn’t even know were possible.
“I promised ya, didn’t I?” he replies, a quivering smile.
“It’s been so long though! You can’t jus-”
“I promised I’d come back, so I didn’t exactly break my promise now didn’t I?” he asks, gaining some confidence.
“Well, technically!” I exclaim. Mom and I stand beside each other as he stood opposite of us. I was so ecstatic to finally have him back, yet the distance between us now was much greater than when he was across state.
“I’m here to make amends, I promise.”
“Stop promising things.” My mother and I say simultaneously.
“Look, I know what I did was unforgivable, and I’m, I’m not going to ask for forgiveness but… but look! I have Fruit Loop gum!” He said, with trembling hands and a quivering lip.
It’s been discontinued for two years, in the States. How he got it, I don’t know. My vision blurred as I blinked down at the red and yellow label.
“No!” I shout, slapping the pack out his hands. Even my mother gasps as it hits the floor. I look up and my breath hitches at the sight, silent tears roll down everyone face. This wasn’t the reunion I deserved. I deserves this years ago, the stepbrothers I daydreamed about, should be standing right next to me as we become best friends. My mom should be pulling a pizza out of the oven.
“Josephine, my beautiful Emilia, I’m so sorry. I can’t express how much I wish things went down differently.” he states. My chest constricts- my ribs feel like they're tied together, pulling in all different directions- at the time of his voice, oh I wanted to say everything was okay, but it wasn’t.
“I’ll go now.” He states, voice cracking. My mother showed him out and I just stood there staring at the pack of gum.
Maybe one day, I’ll get the reunion. I’ll finally find out if there are more pairs of eyes out there that resemble the unique color of an oak tree in the summer, and we’ll all sit and chew Fruit Loop gum, from London or Asia, while playing ring toss.
It’s funny how one person can cut the ties that are thicker than water, blood, so easily. It makes you believe that blood might be thicker than water but the way love works controls it all and suffering can be good for the soul. It takes everything to evolve. Once you evolve then you can finally fall into the peace, and flow away with the water and leave yourself to the Earth.