Brayla pulled her brown hair back into a bun. She peered into the mirror and frowned at a stray hair. She tugged it up, smiled and examined her reflection.
It had been one year since her mother’s best friend, David Bowie, had died. Well, more like a former best friend. It had been a year of serious change for Brayla. A year ago, she was too shy and quiet to speak out or even show her face. But now, she had learned to be proud of who she was. Today especially, Brayla thought with an excited smile.
She noticed her brown hair was becoming a dusty red and her eyes were getting lighter. Her new habit of putting her hair up had revealed a storm of freckles speckling her face. Brayla put on her best confident smile and tried to feel fourteen-years-old.
To be honest, she still felt like that thirteen-year-old girl who’d gotten the earth-shattering news that her hero had died. But after a mysterious dream visit from David Bowie, she’d become tougher. Stronger. And hopefully, today’s visitor would be able to shed even more light on her connect to the singer.
Her mother bustled into the room frantically in a mismatched blouse and skirt. She was a whirlwind of energy after inviting their visitor but the decision had also turned her into a finicky perfectionist.
She smiled at Brayla, panting.
“You look lovely, dear,” she gasped, out of breath, “Now, have you seen that checkered tablecloth?” Brayla laughed.
“A friend’s visiting,” she teased, “not the President!” Her mother playfully threw a pillow at her.
“I’ll have you know that Brayla Winters is the most profound perfectionist who ever lived,” Brayla’s mom told her, giggling, “David never heard the end of it.”
“I think the tablecloth’s in the dryer,” Brayla replied, getting up.
“Thank you, darling,” her mother said, “by the way, do you have that playlist ready?” Brayla grinned and nodded. She’d been working for months on a carefully coordinated playlist of her mother and her favourite David Bowie songs.
“Alright,” her mother said, sounding only slightly reassured, “I’ll go get the tablecloth.” She whizzed out of the room, leaving Brayla alone with her thoughts.
Would Brayla Winters be anything like her? She’d only caught a glance of her at the funeral. Would it be too painful for her to talk to Brayla about her and David? Or… Brayla hated to consider the possibility that Brayla Winters might, like her mom used to, hate David.
Suddenly, as if on cue, the sound of the doorbell rang through the bungalow, followed by a shrill shriek.
“She’s early!” her mother screamed.
“Calm down!” Brayla replied, rushing to the door, “I’ll get it!” She threw the door open and gasped.
Brayla Winters was gorgeous. A long braid of raven-black hair twisted down her shoulder and her soft, violet eyes echoed pain and hardship. Her skin was pale, making her eyes stand out vividly. She looked so delicate, that Brayla got the feeling that if she fell over, she would shatter into a million pieces. But, despite her appearance, Brayla also felt a little intimidated by this slim, tall woman holding a little black suitcase.
“Hi,” she said, her voice decorated with a British accent, “You must be Brayla.” Brayla stood staring, mouth open. She nodded slowly. Brayla Winters smiled.”It’s so great to see you again,” she told her sincerely. Brayla’s mom flew into the doorway.
“RAY!” she squealed. Brayla Winters grinned and hugged her tightly.
“Sam! I’ve missed you so much!” she replied, pulling out of the hug and examining her, “You look great! How’s Paul?” The mention of Brayla’s father stung. It hadn’t occurred to her that Ray might not know about his death. Brayla’s mom smiled sadly.
“He passed away about a year ago.” Ray gasped.
“That’s terrible!” she whispered, tears fogging her eyes, “I knew he was ill, but Paul was always a fighter…” She trailed off. “I’m so sorry, Sam. He was always like a brother to me. I’ll miss him.” Brayla’s mom nodded sadly.
“We all will,” she said quietly. They stood there for a few moments silently, maybe remembering the times the two women had shared an apartment with David and Paul in London.
“Well, don’t just stand there shivering outside!” Brayla’s mom said, a little too cheerily, “Come in!” Ray smiled and walked into the entrance hall. All their panic had paid off – the bungalow looked fantastic. Miraculously, Brayla’s mom had managed to put the table cloth on the table and Brayla had flipped on the music just before getting the door. David Bowie’s voice drifted from their speaker as they led Ray towards the table.
A few moments later, they were sitting at their plates full of spaghetti and meatballs. Brayla watched amusedly as the two friends chattered about the old times and cracked inside jokes.
“Remember, on your birthday, when Paul put together that tacky dance routine?” Sam giggled. Ray laughed.”Do I ever!” Brayla noticed they left out her mom’s favourite part of that story – that David had written “Moonage Daydream” and done the dance to it for her with Paul.
“These meatballs are great, Sam!” Ray said.
Suddenly, Brayla dropped her fork as the opening chords of “Letter to Hermione” echoed around the room. She and her mom locked eyes, both thinking about how David had written this song after Brayla left. It was sure to hit a sore spot. Ray sat not eating, her fork frozen in the air.
I care for no one else but you.
“Ray?” Sam whispered.
I think maybe you feel the same.
“Are you ok?” Brayla asked.
But something tells me that you hide
When all the world is warm and tired
You cry a little in the dark
Well so do I
A tear ran down Ray’s cheek, but she wiped it away, her pale cheeks turning crimson.
But did you ever call my name
Just by mistake?
Her violet eyes shone as she forced a wobbly smile.
“I’m sorry,” she said quietly, her voice trembling, “I just – I just miss him.” Sam came around the table to hug her friend as the music rang out, clear as a bell.
I’m not quite sure what I’m supposed to do
So I’ll just write some love to you
Ray pulled herself together.
“That was stupid, I’m sorry,” she told them. Brayla shook her head fervently.
“No way,” she said, “I miss him too.”
Ray smiled at her. “I just wish I could go back and fix my mistakes,” she sniffed, “I regretted leaving David as soon as I closed the door. But I was too proud to admit that I was wrong.” She shook her head slowly. “It’s too late now, though.”
The three sat in hushed silence, the fading music hovering over them like a ghost.
“Let’s stop talking about unpleasant things,” ray said quickly, “My, Brayla, you’ve grown so much! When I last saw you, you were smaller than my arm!” Brayla looked at her, confused.
“What?” she asked, “We – we’ve met before?”
“Yes, you came to our apartment in London when you got out of the hospital,” Ray explained, “You were a beautiful baby and now you’re a beautiful girl. How old are you now?”
“Fourteen,” Brayla replied.
“My goodness,” Ray said, “Practically an adult!”
But Brayla wasn’t listening. She’d gone to their apartment. Could she have…
“I’m sorry,” Brayla interrupted, “Did I ever meet David?” Ray looked at her.
“Of course you did!” she told her, “He was overjoyed. He played with you all the time when you stayed with us.” Ray smiled, her eyes clouded with memories. “David loved you with all of his heart.” Brayla vaguely remembered her mother using the same sentence to describe David’s feelings for Ray.
“He – he loved me?” she whispered.
“So, so much,” Ray said.
Brayla didn’t know what to think. How could her mom have hidden this from her? Why hadn’t David tried to visit her? He did, she thought, He chose me to talk to through the dream. He wanted to see me before he left.
“Alright,” Brayla’s mom said, rubbing her hands together, “it’s getting dark and we’ve got a big day tomorrow. Let’s hit the sack.” Ray yawned.
“Good plan,” she said sleepily, “That flight left me a little jet-lagged. And we certainly don’t want to be tired tomorrow.”
With a surge of excitement, Brayla remembered tomorrow’s plans. She got up, brought in everyone’s dishes and before she knew it, she was lying in bed, wide-awake. She felt like a kid on Christmas Eve, thinking of the presents that would be waiting for her in the morning…