Friday, May 8, 2009

Double-Crossed

I’m sorry I didn’t blog yesterday... or the day before... We’ve been having state testing, and I’m devoting most of my time to studying instead of blogging. I have happy news today. We’re celebrating my sister’s birthday tonight (even though it’s really on Monday) by going out to dinner in Los Gatos. We’re going to eat at Aqui, and then pick up a cake at this really awesome place called Satura Cakes. We’ve been there once before, and the cake is. Really good. And I don’t even like cake! Well, not really. Not as much as other things. Like... mint ice cream! Or coffee ice cream! With sliced almonds on top! Yum! We don’t really go out as much as we have in past years (Hey, economy... you suck, did you know that?) so I’m excited.
Also, I have been writing much more a lot more quickly on the ‘book’ I’m working on, Double Crossed. The first chapter is always the worst, but I’m posting it here anyway. I just reread it, actually. It’s... short. And actually, really bad. Hopefully Chapter Two and Three are better. I don’t reread as I write (too lazy) so I have yet to revise those. I might post them here later... if I think of it.
My mother was my hero, the only person in the world I could trust. As a kid you always thought your parents were the ultimate authority of everything, but in my case that was only true for my dad. He was the serious parent who worked full-time and cleaned up the messes my clumsy mother always seemed to make. My mother was my best friend. She had bouncy red curls all piled up in a springy knot at the top of her head. We always fake-wrestled as soon as she got home from work as a college professor, me jumping up as soon as the back door opened and running to meet her. I pulled a coil of her hair, and she tickled my nose with my own auburn waves. We would have sleepovers in my room, telling each other secrets and sneaking downstairs to make snack mix with pretzels, Cheez-its, nuts, and whatever else we could find. Then we would pick out the Cheez-its and leave the rest of the stuff in the bowl for my father to put away come morning. In the morning she always braided my hair for me, up until fourth grade. That’s when I started wearing it loose. “My little beauty,” she’d always say before I left for the bus stop, clucking a kiss on my cheek. I’d always giggle and pretend to wipe it off, but later on in the day I would touch my cheek to make sure it was still there.
And my mother made pies. She would make pies like crazy, sending me to deliver them to neighbors, giving them to homeless shelters, feeding them to my dad and I. She made apple pie a few times, pumpkin pies around Thanksgiving, and once pecan, but mostly what she would make was cherry pie. I loved that cherry pie like nothing else in the world, except my mother herself. Looking back, I’m guessing the pie wasn’t anything too special. It was the whole mother-daughter experience that came with it. When I was really little, we kept a stool in the pantry. She would send me to get ingredients, and I would always grab the stool too. I would climb up onto it to watch my mom crack open the eggs and stir in the sugar, add the vanilla and measure out the flour. Time and time again, she would give me little jobs to do, like measure out baking powder or work the electric egg beater. I never thought about how Hallmark and cliché that was: Mother and daughter in the kitchen together, making pies. Every time my mother pulled out her striped apron and tied it on, I would drop my Legos or stuffed animals or TV remote and dash to the pantry to get my stool. The house would fill with the delicious aroma of pie after she set it in the oven to bake. She’d always wrap me up in a big quilt and set me in her lap to watch TV with her as we waited for it to be finished, but as soon as my nose caught a whiff of that intoxicating scent, I would leap up and out of the room and zip into the kitchen, where I’d peek into the oven. My mom would always follow and glance into the oven as well, then we’d sit in the kitchen and drink up the smell. The beep of the oven sent her to root around for potholders and me to tug open the fridge. She’d slice up the pie, I’d pour glasses of milk, and me and her prepared to feast.
I was nine years old when she died.
It wasn’t so sudden though, actually. She had leukemia, and I was old enough at that age to understand that she was really sick, deathly sick. When she died on March sixteenth at forty-one years old, it wasn’t a surprise, but somehow we were still in shock. From that day until now, my father has been a little more tired than he had ever been before. The bags under his eyes are just about permanent. The hours he works are just about endless. Four years later, the grief stays, but at least the painful shock has worn off. Me and him have been been functioning as best we can, but my life has been so dull without my mother filling it with her bouncy red hair and million-watt smile.
The funeral was short and quiet. People brought flowers and cards to lay on the grave, and casseroles or Bundt cakes for my dad and I. I wanted to bring pie, to be all symbolistic and all, but I was only nine. I couldn’t cook anything other than toast. I stood in my long black little-girl dress, my dad stood in his black suit. Both of us were quiet. Both of us felt the sympathetic stares being shot by the people surrounding us, but I only wanted to be left alone. People would come up to my dad and clap him on the shoulder, murmuring words of empty sorrow. He’d nod in a manly sort of way and wait for them to leave so he could let a few tears slip out. Teary women would huddle together in clusters and make little cooing noises at me from a distance. Eventually one would break off, pat me on the head, and tell me it would be all right. I just stood there numbly and didn’t even try to smile, or nod, or acknowledge that anybody was there. I was through with the funeral before the funeral was through.
My dad and I collapsed in the car when it was finally over. His face was set into a stony frown as he placed his big hands on the steering wheel, but his foot never touched the gas pedal. Then he started crying, big gulping sobs wrenching themselves out from his throat. I watched in sickened awe, feeling my own eyes grow watery and round. I couldn’t believe this person sitting next to me was my dad. My strong hardworking dad had been reduced to this? I couldn’t believe it. I started to cry too. I couldn’t bear to see my father in this state. He cried, and I cried, and finally I crawled into his lap, almost blind from all the tears. He pulled me closer and wrapped his big strong arms around me. I rested my head on his very square shoulder, but it was shaking too much for me to be comfortable. Finally I buried my head in his blunt chest, wetting his jacket and getting snot all over his shirt. I didn’t notice and he didn’t care. I listened to his heart beat, and my own heart slowed its pace to match his. I looked up to see that he was looking back down at me. Neither of us could talk. Neither of us wanted to. He handed me a tissue.
Eventually we must have ended up at home, but how we got there I don’t know.
I am thirteen years old now, in eighth grade. In seventh grade, I did a biography on Robert Frost. One of his poems makes the very true statement of: Nothing gold can stay. I have been living by that quote ever since, because I can relate. My mother was my “gold.” I should have known she couldn't stay.

Yeah, that’s it. Sorry it’s so short! The other chapters are longer, and hopefully don’t suck as bad. I’m really, really trying to write a good story.
I’m really trying.

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