THE DAY MY MOTHER DIED; MY LIFE BEGAN.
The days that followed were a blur, but every single detail of that day is clear and fresh in my mind. The house was unusually warm during that fall and the entire living room smelled of nutmeg. I could still smell her in the nutmeg. My eyes scanned around the room taking each detail about my mother. Magnus-my brother- was spread across the couch, his face blank, staring at the ceiling. His eyes were wet and the skin all around them red from all the crying. I was standing at the breakfast nook staring at him.
I was not sure what I felt. All I was knew everything would be different from now on. All I could do was take in deep breaths and push back every single thought in my mind. I was biting my cheek and bobbing my head to the continuous ticking of the clock in the living room. It had been thirty minutes since we walked in.
Over the next few days, everything moved so fast. I didn’t shed a tear at her funeral, and I didn’t know why. My father signed us all up for therapy. It was nice knowing he was trying his best considering the number of nights I heard him crying whenever stayed up late.
Everything came and rushed away in waves for me. Magnus wasn’t any better. Matthew was trying to hold all of us together with his constant reminders that everything was going to be okay. He never said it aloud anymore, but his body language always suggested it. He was being much more protective of each one of us and taking up responsibilities in the house. I thought it was decent of him since he was the oldest amongst us and my father was always buried in his work.
It was months later and the void my mother had left was still there. The constant need for her love and company. I was the only one left in therapy. The doctor thought I was an interesting case since I didn’t show any signs of grief ever since I stepped into her office. My father was glad to let me continue with whatever it was, but I felt more like a study than a patient.
A year passed and my senior year came in. That was the point in my life where I found a temporary replacement for the numbness. Liam. Matthew and Magnus were mostly away for college making the house lonely. My father was putting in more hours at his firm making every single trip home among the loneliest in my life. I got used to being alone to the point I needed someone like Liam around. Took me a while to figure out he was just as boring as my life could get.
I remember exactly how we met. I was skipping an appointment with Dr Yazzie. ‘Your Love’ by HAERTS was playing along. Each beat in sync with my heartbeat at that moment. Weirdly enough the track that was playing at that exact moment has never left my mind. The tune always ringing in my head anytime I am near Liam like a ******* earworm. I wasn’t supposed to be there. I wasn’t supposed to gain an interest in anybody or vice versa. I was only there because my brother had forgotten his wallet. I yanked out my earphones to the silence of the diner. A few clinks of cutlery here and there but it was mostly empty.
My gaze lingered on Liam for a while longer than usual. He was a sucker for rules even in the way he dressed. At the same time, he wanted to break out of those chains, keeping everything neat and offsetting some few things to at least lie to himself. Every single strand of his brunette hair was combed back except for that single strand that looked completely out of place intentionally. He was wearing stonewashed jeans and a black shirt with a varsity jacket on top of it. Neat. That was the best way to describe him. Yet he felt too dressed up for the occasion.
My gaze shifted back to my brothers who were seated on the other end of the booth. I dropped the wallet onto the table and inserted my earphones back into my ears not asking Liam what his name was or uttering a single word to my brothers and proceeded for the door.
Sitting a metre away from Liam right now and all I can do was question myself why the sudden rush of false dopamine he wore the first few months was even there to begin with. We were at the diner we met, and he was still the same stuck up ***** he had been back then. His hair always combed but that single annoying strand sticking out in rebellion. His ivory skin tone that always felt misplaced with his grey eyes and his face a borderline between symmetry and asymmetry. He was probably a head taller than me. I never bothered to confirm that because I wasn’t welcome to the idea of standing next to him in front of any form of reflection.
“I need to get going. She will be on my case if I miss another session,” I lied as I stood up. I had been lying about my whereabouts lately to avoid him and I didn’t know how long it could go on. On the other hand, I was also trying to figure out how to get out of this relationship. This whole thing has been draining me for the last two months. I knew I had to let him go but this was Liam. Any small hint of affection he took it and blew it out of proportion and made it a part of his fundamental core of existence but despite all that I walked out while smiling at him.
FOR AS LONG AS I REMEMBER, I HAVE LOVED RIDING BICYCLES. While everybody else couldn’t wait to turn sixteen and start driving, I wanted to keep riding my bicycle. I could ride down the street my hair free without giving a care about the wind in my face. At least then my troubles felt lighter and every inch of my body would be tingling with excitement. I think I was just looking for a way to get high on dopamine since it was the only thing I had.
The road back home was mostly empty today and at least I could use my earphones. That always heightened the effect of the wind across my face. I just loved every bit of it. The rush of the wind past my ears. My eyes tearing up from the cold air flowing through my face. The hard grip of my hand on the bars that had given me blisters. It always felt liberating and that was why I was suddenly sad when I got to my driveway and had to slow down.
Usually, either Matthew or Magnus had a guest. It was mostly Matthew and Theo, Liam’s broody yet kind of hot brother. As I had predicted Theo was seated next to Matthew, a chessboard on the coffee table and the television running but both were focused on their phones.
“Where is Magnus?” Theo turned to look at me and something about his gaze made me feel uncomfortable.
“He went out. Something about refilling the liquor cabinet before dad came back,” Matthew answered without looking at me. Sounded like something Magnus would do. Theo was still staring at me as if he had seen me for the first time.
“Fine, I will be in my room if any of you need me,” I said and rushed upstairs to my room. I jumped onto my bed and rolled over until I was right in the middle. The mattress was a bit worn out at this spot because of all the symmetry I kept in place. My walls told the same story. Everything was placed in a way that one half complimented the other. Posters on one side equalling out with the other. Bookshelf complimenting the board on the other end. Magnus who was a complete opposite of me thought I was sick in the head. He had a weird sense of arrangement. Place it where it fits at the moment. Matthew, on the other hand, was normal. Sometimes organised, other days a bit disoriented.
I heard a knock on my door and immediately jolted out of bed. I said they could disturb me if they needed anything but not so soon. I swung the door open ready to rant at Matthew but instead was met by Theo’s eyes staring down at me. His shoulder slumped forward slightly and his intense gaze on me. I was always nervous around him. For somebody who spent a lot of time around my brothers and happened to be my boyfriend’s brother, there was really was nothing we ever did together or talked about.
With my arms folded over my chest, all I could think about was my racing heartbeat. “My brother is coming over.” I wasn’t listening to him at all, instead, I was inspecting every single aspect of his physical body. They were twins with Liam but nothing about them showed it. Instead of Liam’s piercing eyes, his were a warm hazel colour and his skin wasn’t all pale. It had a creamy shade with small patches of white. Some of them creeping up his shirt around his neck. “Mia, are you listening to me?” I drew in a short breath and roughed up my hair a bit. Why was I touching my hair around him?
“How does that involve me?”
“Mia, my brother told me you left him for some appointment you had, and you are here. Means something is probably not right and you need space. He will be here in five minutes.” He was trying to help. Very noble of him.
“Fine. I will be out.” He smiled at me and pocketed both his hands. “What?”
“Can I join you?” My fingertips turned cold and my mouth went dry. I opened my mouth trying to say something but nothing. I was stuck looking at him staring down at me. “I will be outside.” He said and walked away casually like we had been friends who hang out.
“WHY ARE YOU STILL WALKING WITH ME?” I WAS OFF MY BICYCLE PUSHING IT DOWN THE STREET. Theo was right beside me. Now that he was closer, I could see the major differences, even if the constant shift between shade and light always interrupted me. He was taller with a lean athletic build almost similar to his brother. He didn’t answer me, instead kept walking hitting any pebble that came close to his feet.
“Why are you still with him?” he asked and immediately stopped. I was about two steps ahead before I noticed and turned towards him. “Forget I asked that,” he said and proceeded to walk. There was still that hint of mystery for me when it came to this boy. His brother rarely mentioned anything distinct about him or something worth making him interesting and the first time I talk to him, he barely says a sentence.
“He is still with me,” I replied as we walked on. With the few sentences we had shared, I had told this boy more about me than I had initially intended. “I don’t like your brother” He chuckled, his shoulders shaking slightly with his hands still dug into his pockets.
“You don’t like him,” he repeated. “The only question is why are you still with him?” He was saying exactly what I had been thinking for the past few months. “We are fraternal.” He randomly said. “We are very different.” He added. I smiled at him. Like that was supposed to convince me. They were still brothers and probably told each other everything. “I can shift my loyalties when it comes to you.” I was going to take my chances.
“I have been planning on breaking up with him.” He didn’t utter a single word for the rest of the way back home. He reverted to kicking pebbles and stealing glances at me.
Liam had been to my place twice. Each time trying to push me into going out with him or spending more time together. The second time he was here he was feistier than usual. It was approaching the third weekend of the month. His least favourite time of the month. He never told me what he did on that weekend that worked him up like that. All I knew was he became quite erratic at that time
I heard a knock on my door and Magnus’ head popped. “What do you want?”
“Dad was asking where you are?” My face immediately lit up. I rushed out of my room and headed downstairs. My father was facing the kitchen his phone stuck to his ear. Whoever he was talking to wasn’t making him happy and he wanted to hang up. I waited by the stairway until he was done and turned around.
“There she is.” He said and spread his arms wide ready for a hug. I walked up to him and immediately felt safe as he wrapped his arms around me. I had missed him. “How have you been?” he said as released me.
I took in a huge breath. “I hate it,” I said rolling my eyes. “Why do I have to keep seeing her? I am not a mental risk.” He was smiling. “Why are you smiling?” he either enjoyed the torture I was going through or according to him most of the time I whined I sounded like my mother. I disagreed with that, Magnus was the one who inherited our mother’s looks and behaviours. He even spent more time with her compared to both Matthew and me.
“Just keep seeing her.” He was always worried about my social life and thought therapy would help. The fall my mother died, everything in his life came to a standstill. We had even pooled up a bet on whether he was going to meet anyone new. In my opinion, he would do it after I was gone to college, but Magnus and Matthew thought it was this summer.
“Will you be around all summer?” he nodded. That was not a definite answer. “I got a confession. I have been skipping therapy and lying about it.” He was going to figure out soon now that he was home.
“I already knew that. Matthew filled me in.” That ******* snitch. I had an appointment today and I had all intentions of going to see Yazzie. I had been harbouring expectations about somebody for the last two weeks and that is clearly out of place for me.
This was my second therapist. It was no longer about dealing with grief for me but having someone who can listen to me talk without having an opinion or being offended by my views. The only problem was when they always tried to twist your words to bring them back to what they called the ‘core problem’. Mine was my mother’s death.
I always sat by her door and rested my head far back so it leaned on the thin walls. Some days I could hear whatever was going on from this point and I could see everyone who walked out after the session closely.
On Mondays, it was the lady with low self-esteem. It was clear she was a part-time bulimic. There were weeks she would have oat stains on her shirt and other weeks the life wasn’t anywhere near her eyes and her mouth was completely dry.
Tuesdays happened to be a recovering drug addict. I wouldn’t say that much about him though. He had relapsed about eight times in the last year. There were days he was all steady and could manage a step or two without looking like an idiot and other days he looked like a cloud of rain was hovering over him the entire day. Accompanied by the fact that he wreaked of sweat on those specific days.
Wednesday was the Insurance broker’s turn. I loved playing the game of ‘Am I a complete ******* or is the worst thing I have ever done is cheating on my wife.’ Dr Yazzie had left his file right in front of me wide open once and my eyes skimmed through gathering whatever I could. That was why I knew the latter. It was a hard task considering Yazzie’s terrible handwriting.
Thursday was the attorney and his wife. I still never understood why they came in a pair and Yazzie was not a marriage counsellor. One thing I knew was the wife was not wearing her ring consistently as you would expect. I suspected she was having an affair. The husband was an overworked individual who possibly hated his life.
Fridays were a bit interesting because it was open sessions. That was when the first-timers were slotted in together with the subtle weirdos like me. I got to see new meat every Friday and profiling them was always a completely satisfying way to start my weekend. Especially for those who spoke loudly and didn’t know how thin the walls were.
“How are you today?” I slipped my bag from my shoulder to the floor and dropped flat onto the couch. I preferred staring at her ceiling than looking at her. She was pleasing to the eyes with her ivory skin that was possibly as smooth as it felt and her wild hair that framed her face like a mane.
“What makes people interesting?” I asked and sat up. “I think am interested in Liam’s brother. At the same time, I know this is going to be short-lived because I am breaking up with Liam soon and probably, he leaves with his brother. You know twins and always coming in pairs.” I had been thinking about that weird afternoon with Theo for the last two weeks and I hadn’t seen him since. It was like he disappeared from the surface of the earth.
“Maybe. What about the nightmares, are they back?” I turned my head and looked her straight in the eyes. She was pushing it.
“Those are permanent. As long as I have a good imagination they will always be there.” I hated talking about those and she had tried in the last five sessions to expound on the topic. I just felt like they will be there for life. I don’t scream or wake up in the middle of the night frantically scared. I liked to classify them with lucid dreams I had in the morning and whenever I didn’t want to dream, I simply stayed up and kept myself busy.
“What will you do about your interest in Liam’s brother?” I would rather live this summer through then disappear to college. It was a better decision than any other I had ever made. I would be doing what I love and far away from everything that reminded me about my life. Well, two to four hours away.
“I don’t know. I think I will wait and see how it plays out.” I lied. “I mean, I have nothing to lose.” I couldn’t wait to be done with this melodrama I called life. The fact that I had to listen to sad songs to lighten the mood proved how sad my own life was. It wasn’t miserably sad like most. I liked to think of mine differently.
At least I had a sense of wakefulness and I could tell apart plain sabotage and unfortunate circumstances. I just felt like everything else was a butterfly effect of whatever has happened earlier. My mother dying was the reason I was visiting therapists. The constant visits to museums and art galleries with her was the reason I loved art. The Ward family moving to town was the reason I was stuck in between choices. The common factor in all this was me.
I think it was safe to say everything was connected. Well, everything except Theo. As much as I hate to admit it, but it is scary that I have taken time to think of what to say when I see him next and that is scary because I never count my words. I think them through right before they roll off my tongue but premeditating on non-existent conversations. That was certainly something I never did.
“What happens if I gain increasing interest in him? Do I avoid him?” I asked. I could treat Theo like he was something I wanted to avoid. The guy had barely spoken a paragraph to me and all I could do was think about him.
“You can be friends.” Friends. “You need to be more social. It helps to be social at times Mia. Your family can’t be the only social unit you have.” My chest felt heavy when she said that. I adjusted myself on her sofa and sat up focusing on the window. The outline of the other buildings was starting to show with the afternoon sun.
“The problem with friends is they become too much. They take too much of your space and time and I don’t want. After all, I will be leaving for college in two months.” Yazzie wrote on her notebook adjusting her glasses in between. “Ten points for you.”
“No. You have identified that friends are too much to bear. Is this the same way you feel about your brother?” I should have never mentioned this to her. Magnus was a different case. She was going to say that I am right about my assumptions and I needed to confront the situation on my own.
“Magnus is a grown-up. He knows how to take care of himself.” She wrote something into her notebook again. “What now?”
“That wasn’t what you said when you were here a few weeks ago.”
“Well, I changed my mind.”