The tremor of her hands, that’s what gave her away. Or was it the stoop of her shoulders? It had to be the shaking. I hadn’t seen such trembling, unless you count the time I had the most horrifying nightmare. So I went to her, my arm naturally curving round her waist as she stood at the counter. Her head lifted turning to cast her gaze upon me. Fear struck deep within at the look, so devoid of life and hope. Tears were waiting upon the corners of her wide eyes. The blue of her irises shimmering, almost transparent, begging me to see the pain and emptiness.
I shuddered, pulling her closer, wrapping my arms around her, “Whatever could be the matter? What, please tell me, could mean so much that it has almost broken you?”
At her silence I continued, her whole body beginning to quiver against me, causing me further alarm. I fairly cried out “Mother! Please, what is it?”
She spoke, but I barely heard a whisper, choked with a sob, “You… Your sister…called,” I couldn’t help but groan, presuming it was Sharon, my oldest sister she was referring to, as only she could get Ma going like this. My chin instantly lifting in anger as my hold on her relaxed. I mean, I should have known.
“What is it this time?” I ground, bitterness clenching my teeth together, “No, wait, let me guess” sarcasm dripped from my tongue as I used Sharon’s whiny tone. “She’s in trouble, the guy she’s been buying her drugs from is after her. Wait, she’s pregnant? Again?”
The tortured sound of my mothers voice didn’t stop the tirade, her words garbled. “She can’t afford another abortion? Or, wait, she’s doesn’t know why the power company hates her but she swears she paid the bill and they say she didn’t, now all of her money is spent and the power has been turned off?”
As suddenly as I’d started, I stopped my ranting. Mothers’ body shook violently against my side, her sobs increasing with each spiteful word I roared.
Sharon. Ugh. Always something with that woman. She infuriates me! Worse, the hell she puts our Mother through! Our parents through, at least when Dad was alive she seemed to try to control herself. Maybe it was just a case of not telling as much on herself. My reverie was broken by the baleful sounds of my Mothers’ crying. I hate how Sharon’s actions do this to her. Small or big, Sharons’ drama always broke Mom’s heart.
My eyes drifted over her taking in the bent head, almost as if she couldn’t hold it anymore, curled fingers on my shirt, as if she were holding on for dear life. This wasn’t quite normal, this must be really bad, Mom usually could talk, I mean, cry yes, but she didn’t seem able to make coherent speech.
“Mom?” I tried. “Mom what is it? I’m sorry I went off, it’s just that, you know, I hate how much Sharon gets to you, this isn’t the first time, it won’t be the last, aw Ma, c’mon, please? Don’t cry.”
I thought she was going to rip my biceps out when I said that last part, her knees buckled pushing her off balance against me. I stumbled against the weight then caught us up against the counter, gripping her tightly.
My arm jerked to pull her round enfolding myself in her comforting embrace. Realization at the meaning behind those garbled words struck home. My own arms offering what little comfort a suddenly broken heart could share. “Oh my God! Mom! I’m sorry! I didn’t…” We clung tightly together, her fingers digging into my flesh as I gasped, struggling to take it in, forcing my mind to accept what it denied so vehemently.
Images crashed against my squinted eyes, silent films of fond memories, hopeful dreams. She was going to quit, go back to school. She, oh God, she can’t be dead! I couldn’t, I wouldn’t accept it. Suddenly pushing out of moms arms I spun away. Visions of Sharon dancing before me in a holographic film. Her hair, the soft curls. I could remember how once I likened her to coffee: ‘a creamy sweet cup of coffee’ I’d said. ‘Rich, aromatic too’. Her laugh, it seemed to tinkle around the room just as I heard it in my memory. She had never had to go through what I’d gone through- the perms, the colors. Mine was such an odd combination, I’d never cared for it.
I could almost feel her fingers in my hair as she smiled into the mirror at me. “I love your hair, why do you do all this to it?” Her hand sweeping the counter before me. The various items almost seeming worthless suddenly Until I glanced at her hair, then mine. “I can’t stand it! Half’s straight, half’s curly, gaah… And, what color is this? It’s not black, it’s not brown. And blonde streaks? Where did they come from anyway? My hand gripped my hair, holding it out as I’d turned to look at her. Pain brought on by my ‘ugliness’ made me feel inferior to her. How I’d looked up to her then. My older sister by five years.
As I slowly came back to the present I stopped my pacing to hurry to her. Drawing her hands into mine I led her to the table. “I’m sorry Ma, that was mean and horrible of me, please tell me what happened,” I said.
My ears opened as my mouth shut and my eyes wept like they’d never cried before.