[WAR X] Reminders
Mommy called out to me and I ignored her because she was Mommy and I was her child. Also because it was Sunday, which means was Lucky Charms day. I pretended that the rustling of the stool was loud enough to overshadow her voice, and I happily continued dragging the chair to the refrigerator. I was already a whole six and a half years old, and I could almost see over the back of the chair without being on my tiptoes. Soon, I knew I’d be able to reach the cereal box all by myself. I knew she was still watching me, though, because I could feel the tips of my ears turning pink, like they always did when she was looking at me. But I still ignored her. It was Sunday. I was allowed.
The pinkness of my ears turned to red as I clamber down, doggedly clutching the colorful box. The pink spread to my cheeks and I stopped ignoring her. “It’s Sunday,” I said, wishing I didn’t sound so guilty. “I’m allowed, Mommy.”
She looked at me and sighed. “I know.”
“Oh.” I was glad she didn’t try to stop me. Sunday had always been Lucky Charms day. I scraped the chair over to the cupboard. The bowls clinked as I pulled one out. The biggest one, the grown-up bowl for a grown-up girl like me. I was six and a half. Actually, six years old and seven months and twelve days. I was a lot easier to ignore her when there was once a week marshmallow-y goodness clinking around in the grown-up bowl.
“Anita, I need you to sit.” I was mildly interested when I heard her use my actual name. Most times, she just called me Nita. Everyone else did. But I still ignored her because I wasn’t not done. I scuttled over to the refrigerator, but I was still too small to pick up the entire gallon of milk. She knew that. I turned to her and looked at her with my best puppy-dog eyes, waiting for her to come to the rescue. She didn’t.
My hand locked around the metal handle, but my eyes couldn’t decide where to look. I wrenched the door open, and cold air swirled around me. My skin rose into little mountains. Defeat.
“Mommy, I need…” I stopped. Took a breath. “I need…” Just a word. Only one word. I hated to say it, though. I bit my tongue. “Help.”
Her face didn’t look right. It was all pinched and white. She looked tired, like she’d been up all night, and I noticed that she was still wearing her shoes even though she was inside. She was already dressed. But I waited for congratulations, something like “Good job asking nicely instead of whining!” I’d been practicing. I wanted to be good for her.
Mommy didn’t say anything. She walked over without looking at me and firmly closes the refrigerator door. The icy air vanished.
“Mommy!” I couldn’t help but whine. What else would I do? “It’s Lucky Charms day! You said it. It always is!”
“Just sat for a minute, Nita.” There’s the nickname.
I put my hands on my hips, just like she did a few moments before. Inside of me, a volcano heated up. Purple to yellow to orange to red to white. I knew it was dangerous. Purple was calm, like the stoic mountains and the dark sky. I fought to keep purple for their sake, because white was destructive and terrible, stars exploding and awful rage. Breathe, breathe, breathe.
Mommy was still watching me critically. I sat, taking calming breaths. Purple. Calm, peace. Purple.
“Anita,” she said again.
“Mom,” I replied flatly. I cringed. Rude. Purple. I breathed a few more times.
Mommy didn’t notice my struggle. She took a deep breath as if she was going to tell me something she didn’t want to, something horrible, something like… like Daddy died! My breaths stopped abruptly. That’s what it was. I knew it. I knew it, I told him he should never go back to work! Daddy died, his plane went down, I was half an orphan.
“Okay, Anita,” she began painfully.
Daddy died, I thought with dread, and I pushed away my cereal. The plane plummeted in my mind, cloaked in flames and whoosh!ing with Daddy still in the front. I couldn’t even think. It felt like the time I fell out of a tree when I was five and lay on the rocky ground for a moment, gasping for breath on the hard ground.
“Riley is sick,” she said.
The rocky ground wasn’t so hard any more. “So then…”
“Riley is sick,” she repeated firmly.
I was giddy with joy. Daddy was alive! I dug into my cereal with gusto but without the milk. It tasted different without the milk, but I thought I liked it. “He probably has an older-boy-disease,” I said. Riley’s my older brother. Back when we were younger, he and I would run around and play castle and knights in the streets, and then eat pizza and watch a movie. The movie was usually scary, but I didn’t care. I was strong when he was around. But as of late, he hadn’t been hanging out with us that much. “So he’ll just stay in bed and eat soup and he’ll get better.”
“Anita, Riley was really sick.”
I kept eating. I didn’t need to tell her about the time when I had a 100 degree fever. She was there.
“He’s in the hospital.”
The hospital? That was the kind of place for grandparents and old people who needed to get shots every day and take the swalloy-y vitamins. Not for 16-year-old elder brothers. “The hospital?” I asked, my eyes widening.
She nodded and ran a finger under her eyelashes, as if she was looking for tears.
The hospital. “But…” I began. I seemed to have caught her disease of not finishing my sentences. “It’s only morning time.”
“He was admitted last night, and—”
“Last night?” I asked. So that’s where he was. He certainly wasn’t playing castle with me. “He’s been there for that long?”
Her face was pinched. She vanished into the craft closet and emerged with an armful paper, markers, and stickers. I loved stickers.
“We’re going to go up and visit today. Make him a card, just to remind him.”
“Remind him of me?” I peeled off a dinosaur sticker. Its arms were outstretched, as if it was ready to give Riley a hug. I knew Riley hadn’t forgotten me. Two days ago, we had pizza. He tickled me and drank my pink lemonade while I was giddy with giggles.
“Remind him of… of how much all of us… love him.” Mommy was breathing funny, like I did when I was trying to cool down my volcano. Something felt wrong. I looked up at her but she had already left. I could hear her in the bathroom, blowing her nose. She must be sick too.
I was so happy to see Daddy come home hours early that I hugged his legs and told him I’m so glad he’s alive, but he didn’t pay me much attention. He brushed me away, distracted, and I knew he just wanted to talk to Mommy. So I went and sat on my chair with flowers and fairies on it.
“I won’t have any fun today if you don’t play with me,” I told them, trying to find my puppy dog eyes.
They ignored me this time.
I sighed really big. Then again. And again. They still didn’t notice. So I got down and started lining up my fairy dolls, because right then, they were the only people who seemed to love me.
But there was only so much love I could take from people who coudln’t even talk. I played with them all day, but I was bored. Bored, bored, bored. Daddy wasn’t even cooking, even though it was almost time for dinner. Now I was bored and hungry. I glanced over at daddy, and I could hear horrible hacking sounds. My eyes widened. He was choking! He was dying again! I ran over, and he was sitting at the kitchen table. He was trying to breathe; I watched his shoulders going up and down as horrible sounds ripped out of his throat. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know the Hemlich! I looked around for a phone. 911. Mommy always told me to call the police when I needed help.
“Daddy, don’t worry!” I told him reassuringly. I still couldn’t find the phone.
He turned and looked at me with his eyebrows hidden in his hair. His face was red, like mine was when I get angry. It was also wet. But he wasn’t choking. And he was holding the phone.
“…Daddy?” The bad kind of butterflies swarmed in my stomach. I’d fallen out of the tree again.
He wordlessly handed me the phone, and I pressed it to my face. It was hot, like the phone had a fever. “H… Hello?”
“Nita, it’s Mom.”
“Mommy…” I wanted to tell her about Daddy and how he was sick too. Everyone was. First Riley, then her, now Daddy. Maybe even me.
“Emily, remember how Riley was sick?” she asked. Her voice had gone all high-pitched and soothing, but I could sense the thunderstorm below. I nodded, but then I remembered she couldn’t see me. “Well, he… accidentally… took too much medicine last night. There was too much medicine inside of him, and the doctors couldn’t…” There was a voice in the background that sounde like a church bell. Death knells.
“Too much medicine?” I asked in confusion. I couldn’t see how he could do that. He hated grape flavor. Only Daddy heard me, and he started choking again.
“Nita, listen.” Mommy was back in my ear. “He… Riley… he… he’s gone. He passed away.”
There was a buzzing in my head. “Passed away… like Nanna and Grandpapa?”
The other end of the phone started making a really weird sound, like a Fido snuffling at me for a biscuit. He passed away, too, but that was over a year ago. He was Riley’s dog.
“Did he get my card?”
“What? Anita, what—”
“My card, Mommy,” I said as if it was the simplest thing in the world. It really was. She asked me to make it for him, after all. “The one with the dinosaur sticker. Did you give it to him? Did he see it?”
“Honey, no, he was… unconscious when I…”
He didn’t see it. He didn’t see the friendly dinosaur. He didn’t see that I wrote “I love you” at the bottom and drew a pizza and some pink lemonade and a castle and Fido on the front.
I couldn’t breathe in enough to say it out loud. “Then he didn’t know. He wasn’t reminded.”
The phone snuffled again. I realized it was Mommy. She was the one snuffling. “Reminded…” she said.
She didn’t say anything. She just snuffled. I guessed she forgot. I guessed I’d have to help her remember.
“Reminded of how much we love him.”
Last edited by Kai-Mei; 07-23-2011 at 01:23 AM.