Authors: Alina Man
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, distributed, stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, without express permission of the author, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages for review purpose.
This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to any person, living or dead, or any events or occurrences, is purely coincidental. The characters and story lines are created from the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
To my amazing grandmother.
you for loving me.
I’ll miss you and love you always <3
To my “tati” and my sons, thank you so much for encouraging me to follow my dream. I don’t know where I would be without you guys. Love you always.
A special thank you to Teresa Martini, Kay Jackson, Jenn Silacci Wolff, Becky Wimmer, Donna Fisher, Angel Davis Perry, Marcia Woodell, Heather Dozier, and Lili Mickey for reading my stories. Your support means the world to me.
To the amazing Amber Bungo – thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking the time to dissect each and every paragraph and making it better.
To all the readers – I can’t thank you enough. Without you these stories mean nothing.
Last but not least, thank you to my friend and editor Irene Osequera-Martinez for spending your evenings reading and editing my story. I love you my friend. You are one amazing lady.
Table of Contents
I couldn’t believe she was gone. Have you ever lost someone really dear to you? What did you feel? How did you go on? I sit in my rental car with the engine turned off, rain pounding on my windshield and I feel nothing. No cold, no pain, no fear; just numbness. Is it normal to feel so numb?
We just buried my grandma, my only real family, my best friend, my teacher, my confidant, my everything. We knew she was sick and had prepared for this for a while. I guess you’re never really ready to let go, are you? How can you be ready to let go of someone you love?
The mourners are all long gone and they will not be waiting for me at the house. It was one of the many promises I made to her; that we will not get together after the funeral to mourn her. She wanted us to remember the good times and continue life as if nothing had happened. A month ago she had a party at her house and invited all her friends and whatever little family we had to celebrate her life. Oh the looks on everyone’s face when she asked each and every one of them to say a few words about what they liked and didn’t like about her. Mrs. Burns almost had a heart attack when nana asked her to tell everyone what she would miss the most about her after she was gone.
Yup, that was my nana, always cracking jokes and making everyone feel good. She always said, “What do you have to be sad or angry about? Always remember that someone out there has it worse than you. You only live once my princess and you are the maker of your own destiny.” And then she would wink, pat my cheek and go back to her baking or her knitting.
Was she right about us being the makers of our own destiny? Because if she was, I am really bad at it, let me tell you. I really am. If I wasn’t bad at making my own destiny, I would be able to sit here and say that my life turned out exactly how I’d expected, that I was happy beyond belief and madly in love. Instead I’m miserable, confused, and lonely. And let’s not forget full of regret; regrets mostly over not coming home more often after college, regrets of not spending more time with nana while she was here and regrets about not telling her more often that I loved her and I was grateful for everything she did for me.
The ringing coming from my purse brings me back to the present. It takes me a while to find it through all the mess I have in there but whoever is calling doesn’t mind waiting, because the ringing doesn’t stop.
“Hello?” I ask, my voice hoarse and unrecognizable.
“Hi babe,” the strange voice answers.
“Who is this?”
“Brenda it’s me, Joe.”
“Ohmygod Joe I’m so sorry. My mind is all over the place right now.”
“No worries. Listen I just called to find out if you’re flying back home today. Remember we have dinner plans?”
His indifference to my feelings should no longer surprise me, yet I can’t help
but feel hurt.
“I’m sorry but I don’t think I will.” I wonder if he can hear the anger in my voice. “Joe, I just buried my grandma and meeting your clients for dinner is the last thing on my mind right now.”
“I’m sorry dear, you’re right. Forget I asked. Do you need anything or is everything settled there?”
“No I’m good. I will be here for a few more days to figure out what to do with the house but I should be home by the end of next week.”
I don’t even bother to say goodbye and hang up on him before I say something I’ll regret later.
After all the years together this is all I get? With just that one phone call, I feel like I just woke up from a three year coma. Everything that my nana ever told me now all of the sudden makes sense.
I start the engine then take a long last look at her new home before driving away. The rain is thick and heavy and it reminds me of when I was little, my nana used to tell me that the angels were probably crying or doing laundry and that’s why there was water coming from the sky. At that age I never even considered questioning her theory and loved watching the rain from my bedroom window. I could stare at the sky for hours trying to see if I could catch a glimpse of an angel or two. It was a childish thing to do but it always put a smile on my face. Everywhere I look has a memory attached to it and in each and every one of them I see my nana. The pain is reaching deeper and deeper pushing hard on top of my heart.
I try not to think about the phone call because
today is not about him. For three years it’s been only about him, I’ve just been too blind to realize it. I pull in the old driveway of my grandparents’ house and turn off the engine but I can’t get myself to move out of the car. Maybe if I close my eyes and wait a minute or two, everything will go back to normal and I will wake up from this bad dream. If only life worked that way.
I grab my bag and dash for the front door trying to escape the large raindrops but still manage to get drenched from head to toe. The thin dress is soaked and pasted to my skin making me shiver as I fumble with the key. I open the door and walk into the large foyer I don’t know what to expect so I just sit there for a second and wait. I know I’m acting like a crazy person but I can’t help it. I feel like I’ve been abducted by aliens and I no longer have control of my body.
I drop my bag and leave the shoes behind by the door not wanting to make a mess on the shiny hardwood floors my nana was so proud of. She loved everything in this house and took really good care of it. She used to say that the way you keep your house can tell others what kind of person you are inside. I never really understood what that meant but I didn’t disagree with her either.
Every room in the house is still the same as it was before I left for college, like a time capsule waiting to be discovered, and I try to look for a sliver of proof that she’s gone yet I find none. It’s as if time stood still and I don’t think I want to move forward anyway. I just want to sit here and remember everything about her. I’m scared that if I let life go back to normal I will start to forget things, forget the smell of her perfume, the sound of her voice, the aroma of her cooking. So I sit still, my eyes closed, picturing her rolling out the dough for the noodles, smiling and telling me stories about her life before she moved to America.
The lights aren’t working and I use the light from my cell to find my way into the living room. I know there are candles somewhere because she loved to light them on nights such as this one. I light up the large pillar candle on the coffee table and immediately the room is immersed in a warm glow. I shiver from the cold and say a small thank you prayer when I find the fireplace all set up and ready to be turned on. The room is fairly small and within minutes it starts to feel warmer. With my small amount of luggage still in the car and the lights out in the house, I am forced to keep the damp dress on for now. I pull the big chair closer to the fire then wrap myself in the throw I find on the back of it. Before I know it my eyes get heavy and I find myself drifting in and out of sleep before I’m surrounded by complete darkness.
I don’t know how long I’ve been asleep but the sky is dark and the fire in the fireplace is almost out. I get up and try to turn on the lights but nothing happens. There’s so much quiet around me making me uneasy and hearing things that are not there. Maybe this was a bad idea; me staying here all alone on the day of her burial. The loud knock on the door makes me jump out of my skin. I walk slowly towards the front to check the peephole but all I see is darkness.
“Hello? Anybody home,” a man’s voice asks from the other side of the door.
I don’t recognize the voice, so I push away from the door
. Maybe they’ll leave if I don’t say anything. I’m about to walk away when whoever is outside starts unlocking the door. Instantly panic takes over and I start looking around for anything that could be used as a weapon. The large black umbrella by the door is the only thing I find and I grab it with both hands. I’m holding onto it for dear life, ready to use it just as the door opens wide and a large figure makes its way inside.
“Stay right there! Don’t come any closer!” I yell at the intruder.
“I won’t just don’t hit me, ok? I’m a friend of Sonia’s.”
turns on a small flashlight and pulls off the hat he’s wearing and I can see his face now. He looks kind of familiar I just can’t say where I’ve seen him before. I stare at him for a moment when it hits me.
“You were at the funeral, weren’t you,” I ask him but still keep the umbrella up high ready to make my move.
“Yes I was. I saw your car in the driveway and wanted to come by and make sure you’re ok. The lights have been out for a while because of the storm and usually they will stay out until morning.”
I don’t say anything and it looks like he is not planning to leave anytime soon. I’m about to ask him to do so but he just keeps on talking and I’m not sure what to do next because the alien that took over my body is obviously as confused as I am.
“I’m Noah by the way; I live across the street.”
I remember my
nana telling me about her neighbor, Noah. She mentioned him several times in the hope that I would go out with him if things didn’t work out with Joe. Gosh nana, what were you thinking?
“I’m sorry, I’m being rude. I’m Brenda,” I finally say and put down the umbrella before offering my hand.
it and gives it a small shake. “I know your name. I told you I’ll never forget it,” he says with a smile and makes me wonder just what exactly does he mean by that. His palms are callused, nothing like Joe’s, and immediately I wonder what kind of work he does. Let’s just hope he’s not some serial killer.
“Would you like some tea? That’s all I can manage without burning down the house,” I ask and instantly wonder if it was wise to have him in the house at this hour.
“Tea sounds great actually.”
We move together towards the kitchen and for some strange reason I feel very comfortable around this stranger. Not sure if this is the real me talking but for the first time tonight I feel ok. I put the kettle on the stove and start looking around for mugs
, tea bags, and sugar, and come up empty handed. I feel another pang in my heart for not paying more attention to the small things while she was alive. All the small things I took for granted and I could no longer have. The stranger points me in the right direction, more at home around the large kitchen than I ever was.
“You sure know your way around here,” I say sarcastically.
“I should since I spent a lot of time in this room, especially in the last few months,” he laughs and it brightens up his whole face.
As we wait for the tea to cool down a bit, I take a moment to really look at this intruder. He has really dark hair, longer than what I usually like,
large eyes the color of dark chocolate surrounded by the most amazing set of eyelashes I’ve ever seen on a guy. He also has a beautiful mouth that seems to constantly smile. I guess he is good looking in a rugged way, not that I care. He lights a few more candles and as I place the tea in front of him I notice the piercing in his eyebrow. I’ve never been a fan of piercings on a guy but for some reason it only adds to his appeal. He towers over me, with large broad shoulders, and the left side his neck has some type of tattoo peaking from his thermal shirt.
I’m surprised you didn’t jump back on an airplane after the funeral. It’s been what, three years since you came back,” he says and stirs the tea around.
How would you know that? Are you like the attendance police? I didn’t know I had to report to you each time I came over to see her. I have a very busy schedule but I called every day,” I say defensively.
“Wow slow down princess, I didn’t mean anything by it.
You know she missed you an awful lot, don’t you?”
I know she did, and don’t call me princess.”
Just that simple nickname brings back another memory of nana. It’s my
seventh birthday and grandpa got me a life size princess doll, dressed in a long pink gown. She has a beautiful tiara on a mass of curls, and shiny crystal clear slippers on her tiny feet. I walked around the house with her tiara and talked with a fake English accent, ordering my nana and papa around like a real princess would. Those were the good simple times when I didn’t know what the real world was like, when my only worry was that I wouldn’t get to have ice cream if I wasn’t good. Any kind of pain could be taken away with nana’s kisses. Noah places his cup back on the table, the noise making my memory nothing but a shadow flowing in the wind.