A beautiful breezy twilight setting on a yacht sweetened by the ebbing sound of the orchestra playing a melodious heart-warming tune on the beach and a glass of chilled champagne as an appetizer was the last thing I enjoyed on my vacation. I smiled beatifically and closed my eyes as I enjoyed the way my blonde curly hair swayed according to the motion of the light wind. What could ruin this special moment?
“A letter for you, ma’am.”…well, that spoiled it. A man on another yacht close to the one I was in stretched out his hand and handed me a letter. It was from Lily, my younger sister. Could this day become any worse? I hadn’t heard from her ever since I sent her new clothes when I went shopping. I was sure she needed or better put, wanted something from me. Why else would she write to me? I opened the envelope and read the letter’s content:
30, Topaz close
Houston, Texas, USA.
25th October, 2019.
I have never been so perturbed to the point where I have to call your attention. I don’t even know where to begin. All I can tell you is that you have missed the best vacation of your life, Worst of all; you can never get this vacation again in your lifetime. I looked up to you as my elder sister, to choose right but you chose wrong as usual. This time, you might just regret your decision all your life.
Why couldn’t you discern that mum wanted you to stay back this vacation? She wanted you and I to be with her in her last moments. She breathed her last breath and gave up the ghost without seeing her first daughter. You preferred going on a silly vacation to staying with your mom in her last days. She gave up the ghost on the 23rd of October and her corpse is in Living Springs Hospital mortuary.
Before you get back, the funeral would be taking place. Come back if you wish to do so.
I was dumb-founded and flustered as tears welled up in my eyes. “Mum was sick?” I thought. She looked hale and hearty when I last saw her. She didn’t show any signs of being ill and she didn’t inform me…maybe she did!” I rummaged my back pack before I could bring out a crumbled dog-eared letter from mum. She had given it to me a few days before I left for the holiday but I stuffed it in my backpack without reading it. My cheeks had an unhealthy pallor as I read the letter:
30, Topaz close,
16th October, 2019.
I’m glad to see you all grown up and excelling in your studies. Now, you are going on a vacation and if I don’t get the chance, I just want to let you know that I am proud to be your mother. I was hoping that this vacation would be different; maybe you change your mind and stay at home with me. It’ll just be Lily, you and I, just like old times.
My last check-up, which would probably be my final, left me feeling distressed. The same virus that took your father away from us has come back for me and I have fallen victim to it: Tuberculosis. The doctor says there’s only a week left for me to live. I hope to spend my last days with my two angels before I go and meet your late father. If you still wish, you may go on with your vacation. It’s fine by me but stay safe and take care of yourself. Love you!
Tears were already gushing out of my eyes and I couldn’t fight them back. I felt weak and feeble; like a shadow of my former self. Why didn’t I read it when she gave me? I wept noisily and the man controlling the yacht kept turning back to catch a glimpse of me. For a moment there, I was completely flustered. “I’m just 16!” I said in my mind. “There is no way mum would leave me. There is no rhyme for her death. I won’t believe it.”
I finally wiped my tears and summoned up the courage to ask the man turn the yacht around. He didn’t hesitate to get me back to the beach in a flash. I sprinted to the street and called on a taxi to stop and reasoned with him to take me to Houston. It was a nine-hour’ drive from Dallas and the taxi-driver stopped regularly to refill the car’s fuel tank.
I got to our house at eight o’clock in the morning. I stood on the front porch and looked at the garden at the right. Memories filled my head and I reminisced how mum, dad, Lily and I would play on the artificial grass. We would tickle each other and mom would tell jokes that would make us roll in the aisles. Dad kicked the bucket as a result of Tuberculosis when I was 13 but mom filled in the gap for dad. Now, she was gone and there was no one. I shook my head, waking up from my day dream.
I turned to the door and heaved a deep sigh before knocking on the door. The door knob clicked, the door handle turned and the door swung open. Right there, my 13-year old sister was weeping and sulking heavily. I gazed into her eyes which were already red from crying. I could see the pain in her. She wasn’t ready for the loss. At least she was there till mum kicked the bucket. I was out lavishing and enjoying outside while my inside was vanishing. It caught me unaware; I didn’t see it coming.
Seeing Lily crying caused me to burst into tears. I hugged her tightly and her tears drenched the breast pocket of my shirt. I remembered how I would console Lily when she would cry because she missed mum whenever she traveled. I wish mum would just come back and say, “I’m back, angels! Hope you didn’t cry much while I was away?” That is something that would definitely happen, in my dreams.
Lily took me to the back door leading to the backyard and I saw our relatives, mum’s friends and workmates. The atmosphere was tense and everyone was in low spirits. I was the odd one out of everyone as my Hawaiian shirt, cargo pants and baseball cap contrasted greatly with the usual black attire that one would wear to a funeral.
The fear of seeing the lifeless body of my mum rooted me to the spot for a while as I hung my head down in shame of being the odd one out on “my” mother’s funeral. A choir sang a slow chorus that caused me to cry silently as it started to drizzle. I dawdled to join the small crowd and my aunt Jade and Uncle Raymond welcomed me with open arms under their black umbrella. However, that didn’t make a difference as their tears kept dropping like rain droplets on my cap.
The coffin was about to be closed and lowered into the ground, close to dad’s grave. I loosed myself out of my aunt’s and uncle’s grip and moved close to mom’s coffin. I tapped her cheek lightly and said “mum” under my breath, even though I knew she wouldn’t wake up. My tears dropped on her cheek and I cupped her face in my hands and kissed her forehead.
The rain was increasing heavily and I walked back into my aunt’s and uncle’s warm arms. Four brawny men closed the coffin, lowered it into the ground and buried it with earth. We all went into the house and our relatives served refreshments to the guests and bid them goodbye.
Meanwhile, Lily and my two cousins –Lisa and Liza- sat on the floor, resting their heads on my laps. It seems like it is now my responsibility to look after them. Aunt Jade, Uncle Raymond and our other aunts and uncles explained how Lily and I would live from then on. I didn’t pay attention to what they said and I was sure Lily didn’t too. They offered us food and drinks but we refused since we had no appetite. We stayed that way till dusk. I excused myself to go to bed as I was fatigued. While I was walking up the stairs, I noticed that my cargo pants were soaked with my cousin’s and Lily’s tears at the thigh area. Obviously, it was going to take a while to get them to move on.
I sank into my bed and cried into my pillow until I had a splitting headache. I stood up and took some pain killers, showered and put on my pajamas before sitting back on my bed. Thoughts filled my head and it was hard to pick which one to brood on. What Lily wrote in her letter about mom not getting to see her first child before giving up the ghost hurt me a lot. I f I were in her shoes, I would be a bit sad in my afterlife.
When dad left, I thought I couldn’t live without him. In the end, I moved on. Now, mum has gone too. Maybe I’ll learn to live without her. At least, she was proud to be my mother. This was just the beginning of yet another new adventure for me…