Aunt Jade

Submitted into Contest #144 in response to: Start your story with somebody taking a photo.... view prompt

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Fiction Sad Contemporary

           The photo snaps and his laughter immediately follows. The sound, a ray of sunshine on a cloudy day. Lucky for us, it’s a beautiful sunny day in March. The field, overflowing with green grass for miles, as far as my eyes can see, provides a serene atmosphere. Other than a few apple trees, there’s not much out here. While it might seem boring for some of my friends, it’s perfect for me; for the time being anyway.

           He was born the day after my 22nd birthday. The long hours of labor had been filled with anxiety, fear, and of course, pain. That was until he arrived. I remember holding him in my arms, so small, and so beautiful. Had it been six years already?

A huge smile spreads across my face as I take him in. His smiling face, adorable dimples, and green eyes. The latter, compliments of the father he didn’t know. This little boy is such a blessing in my life. Most days, I feel I don’t have much to be thankful for, except for him.

           “Another one, Aunt Jade.”

           I smile and snap another photo. The scene itself was unusual for me. Usually, I’m in a different city, although never for long. For once, my time is my own. A good friend of mine gave me his old camera. Snapping photos of beautiful scenery allows me to melt away from the rollercoaster of show business; at least for a little while.

After the photo, he turns and runs towards the swings. Not unlike, most six-year-olds, his attention is immediately swept away by something more exciting.

           “Push me, Aunt Jade.” He yells.

           I trot over to the swing set and stand behind him. After placing my camera bag onto the soft green grass, I grab the black chains and gently nudge them forward.

           “Faster, Aunt Jade!”

           I won’t tell him, no, but I won’t push him too fast. I couldn’t bear him getting hurt and it being my fault.

           His laughter fills the air again. I’m so focused on him, that I don’t notice the presence of someone approaching.

           “Hi, mommy!”

           I glance up and see my sister coming toward us. The closer she gets, I notice the tiredness behind her eyes. Still, she gives him a weak smile. 

           “Hey, baby.”

           “Push me, mommy.”

           I gasp in fake shock. “What about me?”

           His response is a giggle.

           We only have each other. Our mother, who was an only child, passed away when we were just teenagers. She’d been there, but not really there. After our father walked out, the only thing that seemed to bring her happiness was a good time with friends. The kind that stuck needles in their arms.

           “No, let Aunt Jade push you.”

           Finding a large rock among the grass, she sits and lets out a breath, as if exhausted.

“You okay?”

           “I’m fine.” She replies.

           I can tell she’s lying, but I don’t push. It isn’t my style.

           “Hey, baby. Are you hungry?”

           “Yes!” His response is accompanied by him leaping out of the swing.

           “Be careful!” I yell, unable to control myself.

           Fearless, he lands on his feet and takes off towards the house.

           “Slow down!” My sister yells. At least he heeds her commands.

           My legs begin to move towards the house when her words stop me. “I need to talk to you.”

           Standing in front of her, it takes me a while to look into her face. She too used to be familiar with being in the limelight. Her tall slender figure and chestnut brown skin was complemented by long hair that was darker than the night sky. She too used to smile for the camera.

Looking at her now, she appears much older than her 36 years with saggy skin, short hair, and dark circles underneath her eyes. She’s so frail now. I don’t mention it, even if it is obvious. Just not my style.

           “I need you to take him.”

           My eyes turn to saucers. “What?”

           I never had a good example of what a mother should be. So I resigned that I should never become one myself.

           “It’s time.”

           My head shakes violently. “I can’t.”

           “You have to.”

           My eyes meet hers for the first time. No matter how much we hoped and wished, things were changing; and not for the better.

           It’s a beautiful albeit hot day in May. The heat hits my face as soon as I step out of the car. I take in the blue sky and shining sun. Standing to my full height, I smooth my hand down the sleeveless black dress---the only one I own. Looking back, I grab his small hand as he follows me inside the church.

           I never wanted to be here. Yet here I was. Walking to the front, I see my sister, eyes closed, lying there in a pink floral dress. She looks frail, but beautiful; as though she were sleeping. 

           Several years ago, I was a mess. Scared, confused, and uncertain about my future. I loved the business, but then life happened. I am so lucky to have had her there. Supporting me in such a way that went above and beyond what was expected of her. She never judged me, but rather came to my rescue. I owed her so much. At least she knew I loved her.

           We sit and I feel a tug at my arm. “Aunt Jade, when is mommy going to wake up?”

           I don’t trust my voice to reply. Instead, I smooth his hair and kiss the top of his head. The preacher speaks, but I don’t hear a word. My sister is gone. My best friend. My confidant. And my entire world is turned upside down.

           At the gravesite, I notice the sun nowhere in sight. As swift as the weather change, sadness and fear wash over me. What am I supposed to do without her? How am I supposed to go on? I shake my head. I can’t think this way anymore. There was someone I now had to care for. How would I do it? Could I be the mother he needed? She was always better at it than me. Despite everything we’d gone through as kids, she’d been a great mother.

           A couple of hours later, we walk up the steps to the apartment I’d lucked up on finding. The wooden floors creaked when we walked, but other than that, it was a decent space. The kitchen was a nice size with a breakfast bar and space for a small dining set. Right over the kitchen bar, was the living area. At the end of the short hallway, were two bedrooms that shared a bathroom. 

Sure, I could have stayed in the house we grew up in. Old with white wooden panels that had seen their fair share of precipitation and not enough cleaning. There was a nice size backyard, and the field behind the yard was beautiful, but who would mow the lawn? No, it was too much, too painful. For him, or for me? I plead the fifth and instead unlock the door to our new home.

           “Wanna see your new room?”

           He nods but otherwise remains silent. The sadness and confusion on his young face nearly break my heart into two. I’d do anything to take his pain away. Truth be told, I’d already begun trying when I set up his room. 

           Walking to the end of the hall, we enter the bedroom on the right. I flip a switch that illuminates the room. A small bed sits in the corner with a Spiderman poster above it. Along with Spiderman bed sheets, pillows, and a stuffed version of the man himself on top of the bed. To the right is a nightstand, a dresser for clothes, and on the far end is a blue, round plastic bin filled with toys. There is a small space between the end of the bed and the wall. Along that wall is a bookshelf lined with various children’s books. It was important to my sister that reading remains a priority. 

           I sit on the bed and watch him take in his surroundings with his Spiderman backpack on. Quietly he comes and sits beside me, never removing the backpack.

           “You like it?” I ask, rubbing his hair.

           He nods.

I open my mouth to ask another question when his words stop me.

“I miss mommy.”

           Desperate to provide him comfort, I pull him into my lap and hug him. “Me too, baby.”

           After sitting in silence for a while I ask, “You hungry?”

           He nods again.

           Heading into the kitchen, I open the door while he stands behind me. I did shop for groceries; if that includes buying food that could be prepared in 15 minutes or less. I find some franks and throw them into a pot filled with water. After they are done, I cut them into small pieces.

           “You want some mustard?”


           I frown at his request. Was it okay for kids to have relish at his age? I supposed so. I’d have to do research tomorrow. Today, I was just going to wing it.

           After “dinner”, I give him a bath and put him to bed. His green eyes staring back at me remind me of his father. I’d only met the man once and quickly learned that like me, he never desired to become a parent. Yet here it was, the man that had a part in creating this beautiful little boy was gone, as was my sister; and he was with me.

As I tuck him in, my eyes land on a photograph of the three of us at his 5th birthday party. He had a huge smile on his face, standing on top of the wooden picnic table, while my sister and I kissed him on either cheek. As I stare at the photograph, my chest tightens. What I’d give to go back to that day.

As I place the picture on the nightstand, I glance at the mermaid nightlight I’d found. The only non-Spiderman décor in the room. Again, winging it.

           I look down at him again. So young to have gone through something so terrible. My sister is gone, and I refuse to fail him again. I kiss his forehead and tell him that I love him.

           “Love you too, Aunt Jade.”

           I start to close the door all the way when something tells me to leave it cracked. After looking back one last time, I trek to my own bedroom, which isn’t a far walk in the 850 square feet apartment.

As I step into the shower, my mind is filled with a myriad of thoughts. Namely the conversation that I’m avoiding with him. I knew I needed to have it at some point, but not now. How do you even explain it to a six-year-old? How would he respond? Would he hate me? Maybe not at six. Maybe not yet.

The hot water feels good, and I allow it to detox the stress of the past and hold off the uncertainties of the future; if just for a little while.

           Entering my bedroom, I stop beside the bed, fall to my knees, and clasp my hands together; something I hadn’t done in a while. Yes, I’d lost my sister, but I’d also been blessed with something so precious in return.

           “Thank you, Lord, for allowing me this second chance with my son.”

May 07, 2022 00:14

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1 comment

Howard Seeley
02:25 May 12, 2022

Thank you for your story, Sad, but yet, inspiring.


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