The day before:
The early evening lull had come to the streets, that quiet between the frenetic commuters and the vibrant party seekers. The bars and clubs were still mostly shuttered, the only visible life being the cafe terraces that teemed with diners, chatting, relaxing after a busy day.
It was getting dark, and the mosquitoes were out for supper. The green shrubbery was starting to look almost black, silhouetted with its colors muted, as if they had been drained away by an invisible hand. Under the moonlight, the avenue lay still. The heat of the day had been replaced by a cool breeze. The brunette girl on the street sauntered under the trees with a sweater dangling from her arm. She moved between the pools of streetlight, feet almost silent of the sidewalk still wet from the spring rain.
“If you were any more brainless than you already are, we’d have to water you.” Penelope narrowed her eyes at Maya as the three of them walked over the puddles, getting closer to Maya’s house.
“Oh, come on! Grow up! I fixed it, didn’t I?” Maya droned as she swung her head back.
“You attached that car’s bumper to the main body with a string.” Alessia furrowed her brows.
“Hey, you don’t get to say anything! You were the one who ran into the car with your stupid bike. The car wasn’t even moving!” Maya yawped.
“Well, it isn’t my fault that a stray dog licked the bottom of my foot. It tickled me so, I lost my balance.” Alessia whined, frowning.
“You’re unbelievable!” Penelope scrunched up her nose as she looked at the porch where they had to drop off Maya.
Alessia and Penelope didn’t need to make sure whether Maya was in perfect condition when she reached home every day, but it was something Maya’s mother had been insisting upon since Maya was in elementary school. The arcade or the school wasn’t that far from home either. One could say it was her sincerity towards her only child or just genuine discretion. Their guess was as good as anybody else’s because nobody knew why she did what she did, and neither did they dare to ask.
“Alright! I’ll see you guys tomorrow.” Maya waved at them, wide-eyed.
“Alessia’s gonna pick us up for school tomorrow,” Penelope yelled as Maya entered her home.
The walls like warm set curd painted white with window frames of mahogany. Inside was the gentle crackle of the hearth, chairs pulled inward to the warmth. The windows were mullioned, overlooking the obscure street. The radio played softly, and the smell of spaghetti and meatballs wafts out to Maya as soon as she steps inside, a smile spreading over her face as she plopped herself onto the couch and took off her well-worn boots.
“Did you lock the door?” Theresa walked downstairs from her room.
“I just came in, mom. I was going to do that just now.” She justified herself as she took off her jacket.
“How many times do I have to explain this to you, Maya?” Theresa looked at her coldly.
“It’s not that big a deal, mom. Here, I’ll latch it right in front of you. It’s not like we’re holding Escobar’s stash in here anyway.” Maya bolted the door before dashing off to her room in frustration.
“Don’t be a smartmouth.” She stated sternly, just to hear her room’s door slam shut in response, followed by a moment of silence.
“Aren’t you going to have dinner with me?” Her mother yelled faintly, with desperation reflecting in her tone.
“No, I think I’m good,” Maya replied from her room, uninterested.
Theresa walked over to the table where both of their meals had been sitting for a while. She sat herself down while holding her head, hopeless. It wasn’t always like this. They had a close connection once, and they still do, even if it seems like the opposite. After all, they just have each other to lean on. Maya knew her mother loved her with all her heart and that she always had good intentions, but maybe she loved her a bit too much, and she only became more protective with time.
“Where is my facewash?” Maya mumbled as she shuffled through the bathroom shelf.
Her room gave away more than she meant it to. Over her study table were pictures of a man who looked much older than her and was most likely deceased, given the careful placement of white candles around the frame. Everything else was of herself, making one almost believe she didn’t have a mother in the first place.
“Okay, that’s all!” She sighed with relief as she placed a hand towel over her face to wipe the dripping water.
Suddenly, chills crawled all over her body, making her feel that something wasn’t quite right. It was moments before the same feeling vanished into thin air, leaving her somewhat alert.
“Good night, honey!” Her mother shouted from the living room.
“Sweet dreams!” Maya responded as she absorbed her surroundings, still wary.
Suddenly, something glimmered on her hand. It was the bracelet Maya’s parents made her wear for as long as she could remember. The heirloom had a sparkle to it in the moonlight, yet the glimmer it brought to her eyes was prettier still. It made her feel that her father was there, that his love was with her, even when he wasn’t physically present to shelter her.
Sleep usually came like the falling of an ax to Maya. She knew it must come, but she couldn’t shake that feeling. Those defenseless hours, oblivious to her surroundings, were enough to light up her whole body with fiery sparks.