On a rainy Tuesday afternoon John’s mom drove home after a long day at the Riverwalk, a mall she frequents in the downtown business district to buy a week’s worth of groceries. As she was cruising by Iberville Street, she heard tires screeching then a bright light engulfed her.
“It will be a year ago in two weeks Hon.” Elissa managed to finally tell her husband after a week of sleepless nights.
“I know. I wonder how John’s doing. Since that day he hasn’t really talked about Aline. I’m worried about the kid. Cassie says he’s been awfully quiet lately.”
“Maybe we should go on a trip or watch a game so he could take his mind off it. Let’s ask Phillip.” She tried to sound cheerful but failed miserably. If they were this depressed, it must be hell for John.
“Isn’t it too soon?”
“We have to try.” Her voice trailed off as she focused her gaze on the quiet, empty road outside their 19th century house. It was raining just like the day they lost her.
Almost a year ago, a drunk driver skidded across the road uncontrollably and hit Aline’s car. Elissa and Ron had to pick John up from baseball practice that afternoon and take him to the hospital. On the way he kept asking where they were going and they just didn’t know what to tell him so they kept mum and maintained their composure for the kid. John knew something was wrong. Cassie’s parents always show up and take him for rides but they were never this quiet, never. He felt a knot forming in his stomach and it grew as they sped through the free lane and into the emergency entrance of the hospital. And then he saw her. His mom lay there, serene but pale. He ran over to her, oblivious to the crowd of nurses in the room and the doctors staring at him with sympathy. Tears were streaming down his face as he hugged her tight.
“John. John. JOHN!”
“Huh?” He froze as he felt his wet cheeks. John tried to compose himself as his dad walked in the room holding a phone to his ear.
“You alright buddy?” He asked, convinced that his 16-year-old needed some cheering up. Unlike Phillip, the only time John cried was at hospital while he held on to his mom. After that, John never cried, not at the funeral, at his mom’s birthday or any of their family traditions. Anyone would think that he was over it and has completely moved on but not Phillip. He would often see his son staring out the window for hours at times, quiet and unmoving, just like this morning.
“Yup. What’s up dad?” John said without looking at him.
“Aunt Elissa’s inviting us to watch the Zephyrs game 2 weeks from now. Do you want to go?”
“All of us? Cassie hates baseball. Can’t we just have dinner here?”
“Are you sure? It will Mom’s death anniversary then. Will you be okay hanging around the house?”
“Of course Dad. Besides, I’d rather be home eating Aunt Elissa’s famous Gumbo.” He blurted as he laughed. His dad smiled at him and walked out of the family room, through the hallway and into his office. John heard him shut the door. That meant his dad would spend the rest of the morning asking the Shaws what to do. John wanted to knock at his dad’s office and tell him he’s doing fine so he won’t be so worried but he can’t. He won’t because he’s never lied to his dad, ever.
As John walked to Cassie’s house that morning he was asking God or anyone up there why his mom had to go. The drunk driver was okay, a couple of scratches but he was fine. Why was his mom dead? It’s not fair. He’s been trying really hard to act okay and for a while he thought he was but when it rains, when he hears her favorite song, when he looks up to see the stars at night, he knows he isn’t okay. However for the sake of his family, the Shaws included, he’ll have to force a smile and be okay with it at least when they’re around.
That’s when he saw it.
It was on an unpainted wall a few meters from Cassie’s house. A little brown-haired boy wearing a baseball shirt, HIS BASEBALL SHIRT, looking at the stars and waving at the Cassiopeia, his mom’s favorite, covered the expanse of the wall.
“What’s WOW? You look all flustered.” Cassie stared at John waiting for a response and his usual good morning hug and peck on the forehead greeting but he just stood there, still bewildered.
“Hey are you really gonna ignore me? Hey. Hey. Hey. Hey. Hey… Watcha doin? I’m not stopping til you talk to meeeeee!” She wailed in annoying, off beat tune while she danced around and shook him.
Finally he said, “Shhhhhh! Look.”
“That!” John pointed to the wall.
“Oh. That’s huge. It must have taken the whole night.”
“I wonder how the person knows my mom and I watched the stars every night before we go to sleep.”
They walked to school together like they always do since they were little kids in kindergarten, sharing CRAYONS and all. They’ve been best friends their whole lives, through the awkward cooties days, the can’t -eat-can’t-sleep-because-of-my-darn-braces phase, through the cliques of high school and now the horror of losing his hero, his muse, his mom. Although it pained Cassie deeply when she passed because Aunt Aline was her godmother and her arts mentor, she knows it’s nothing compared to the pain John has been bottling up in the past months. She promised herself that she’d be there for him for whatever he needed as she always was for the last 16 years.
She was still deep in thought when he hugged her and kissed her forehead.
“What was that for?” She asked startled.
“For this morning”
“Huh? What did I do?”
“Because I do that every morning and I forgot to do it. Remember? You’re so jumpy. What’s up with you?”
“Nothing! What’s up with you?” God, that was close. She thought he knew. She almost fainted.
“Okay. You’re weird.”
“So are you. That’s why we’re best friends”
He was always like this with her. Happy.
The following day, as John was walking to Cassie’s, he saw her standing staring at the painted wall. He hugged her and gave her a peck on the forehead.
“Have you seen-“
“Nope” John interjected before could Cassie finish.
“HA-HA! Really funny” Cassie rolled her eyes at him and he laughed. John enjoyed teasing her especially when she’s so excited about something. They’ve been this way since he could remember.
“Cassandra Eloise Shaw, I was joking. Geez! Is it that time of the month again? Because I’ve been counting and-“
“Will you stop talking and look at this? Thanks”
“There’s another one?”
“Looks like it unless I’m the only one seeing this” Cassie said sarcastically as she yawned.
“It’s beautiful. It looks like our cabin in Aspen. Mom loved it there.”
It went on for the next ten days. They were all graffitis reminding him of how happy they were. It should have made him sad and depressed but strangely, it comforts him. These walls would always connect him to his mom no matter how far she is and how long she has been gone. It would constantly remind him that although she’s never gonna watch the stars with him, travel with him, watch his games or come to his wedding, he would always have these happy memories now immortalized on the walls outside his best friend’s house. Whoever spent nights painting these walls is most likely sporting massive eyebags and is broke because of all the money spent on paint. He finally managed a genuine smile.
On Cassie’s Diary
When we were 5, John told me his favorite color was black. I knew he was lying. His favorite was blue; it still is. He only said that so I won’t feel guilty about using our favorite color on my drawings. Every day since then, he would make me laugh, bake me cookies, fend off bullies, bring me chicken soup (my favorite) when I’m sick, teach me to ride a bike then a skateboard and walk me to school. He was always the happy, protective and giving one.
I wanted do something that would show him how thankful and lucky I am to have him. That’s when I decided to paint graffitis on the walls outside our house. You see his mom taught me how to draw, paint and at one point even sew. We both loved the arts. When John was younger Aunt Aline would paint him and hang her works in his room just before he wakes up. It always made him smile.
After almost getting caught sneaking out through my window, getting bad colds that made me sneeze all throughout dinner at the Kents, successfully looking like ET with my giant bags and spending my entire month’s allowance on paint, I painted 12 walls, each with a different story but every single one reminding him of Aunt Aline’s love and the memories they made together, memories he gets to keep.
Finally, I could get some sleep tonight.
Authors’ Note : This is a collaboration piece between my sister, Kayle and I. This is the first time I’m publishing my work so please don’t hate. We would love your comments though.
Thanks so much!
PS My sister thinks I should type in how you shouldn’t copy our work mostly because she put in a lot of work in it but partly because we want the credit (or discredit). LOL. If you’re copying, mention us as your source and we’re all good.
PSS That goes for the photo covers too. My sister will KILL YOU. Trust me, she will.
PSSS Ha-ha. I’m just trying to annoy you.