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Our Forever Diamond
Grandma's yellow ranch house, here in North Carolina. Oaky-scented grass with sappy pinecones and a rusty metal fence that scrapes against the sidewalk, shaken by an overly-energetic Yorkie. Inside's out-dated, expensive furniture Grandma inherited from her mother. The large, maroon dining table mocks me, the place of more uncomfortable silence than anything else, topped off with Miranda's mushy asparagus. The living room carpet's grubby fibers rub together under my feet. The back window is decorated with smudges, clouding the view of the hot asphalt. Damn dog's yelps keep me from enjoying the leathery feel of my basket ball.
Twang, twang, twang. I dribble the ball, pacing around the undersized court nervously. Miranda was supposed to be home 15 minutes ago. I can't stand those sketchy boys, Danny, Tomas and Rian she's been hanging with lately. The last thing I need is for her to get herself mixed up with the police, or caught raiding old farmer Jackson's home-grown marijuana in the middle of the night. It's bad enough that Danny and Rian are 17, but Tomas is 19-- a legal adult! Hmph...his age definitely doesn't justify the way he runs his life. I mean, Bayboro has a population of 354 people...why would he need a fully-loaded AK47? Who was there to use it on?
My eyebrows pull together in worry at the trouble Miranda could be in this very second because of those fools. But just then, I hear the distinctive clip-clop of her worn-down wooden sandals on the cobblestone driveway.
"Randy! Where the hell have you been? Its 20 minutes past the time you promised Memaw you'd be home to make dinner. You know how much she depends on that, she's 72 for God's sake." I spat out.
"Chill, Mimi! Me and Danny just went to get Icees at the Cabano. Memaw's probably napping and you know she doesn't mind if I'm a little late once in a while."
She answered, setting down her stained turquoise racket case, it's broken zipper hitting the wooden porch steps.
"Well now that you're home, here's the six dollars Memaw gave me to give to you for tomato paste, pastrami, lettuce and milk. Don't forget- it's the fat-free kind. Hurry back." I mumbled, dropping the rumpled bills into her waiting sun-tanned hand. A warning glance passed from my olive eyes to hers, silently telling her not to make any impromptu trips to see certain people. She came back an hour later, an HOUR! The supermarket is 10 minutes away and getting a couple things definitely doesn't take that long.
After dinner, a few hours of homework and a warm shower, I found myself on the top bunk of the bed Miranda and I shared, staring up at the dark blue ceiling decorated by glow-in-the-dark stars. Momma adulated stars. I remember the hot summer nights when she'd spread out a wool blanket and all three of us would gaze up at the sky, Randy's eyes shining as Momma shared stories about the constellations. Grandma reclining on the back porch, smiling as Mom retold the tales she’d shared with her 25 years ago, on the same patch of grass. We’d always been a foursome, ever since the daddy we hadn’t known found out mom was pregnant with us and left without a trace, Grandma immediately took her in and helped raise us. Soon, the tears I was expecting began to fall, as they had every night for the past two weeks. Momma knew exactly how to care for us, keeping us four together and out of trouble. It hurt to think that her trip to the store to get stuff for our 15th birthday dinner ended our star-gazing nights forever. I wonder what it would be like today if that man hadn't had quite so much to drink, hadn't driven down the same street as her, hadn't ran that red light. She'd be here, things would be wonderful and the weight of responsibility for taking care of Grandma and Randy would be lifted.
I touched Mom’s single maroon stud earring, the match to the one that Miranda had almost stopped from slipping down the shower drain, twisting it around in my earlobe. Mrs. Peterson's words about different ways of handling grief and that Miranda was going through an avoidance phase came to mind. She explained that family, friends, homework, her tennis lessons; nothing seemed worth it anymore to her. Skipping class, coming home whenever she felt like it- if she even felt like it at all. This was all to be expected. Just temporary.
But mom is never coming back.
How can I know that each step away from us Randy takes will be compensated by a step back? I hoped that this really was only a phase; that the selfless twin I'd always looked up to would come out of hiding.
Three knocks on our door brought me back to reality. I quickly wiped the tears from my cheeks and sat up.
"Who is it?" I asked.
"It's your grandma Memaw. Can I come in, dear?" The kind, ragged voice behind the door replied.
"Do you need something, Memaw? Do you need me to find your Melatonin?" I said.
"No, I just wanna talk to you for a minute." Memaw said, determination in her voice. I hopped off the bed, holding the door as she hobbled over to the desk chair next to Randy's mattress. She turned to me, eyes inviting me to sit beside her.
"Mimi, you're growing more like your mother, Diana every day. I see the pain of her absence in your eyes, but you must know, her spirit is with you always. Her spirit is in the sky, in one of the stars that never fade. That diamond sparkles each night to remind us to climb the staircase of life with confidence, each step bring us closer to the moment our spirits will find their place beside her in the sky. Her love is with you wherever you go, she smiles down on you always. Stay strong and focus on the responsibilities you have to yourself and those you love."
A soft nudge brought my mind down to earth, and I realized that Grandma was handing me her already damp handkerchief. I wiped tears from my face, Memaw's words turning up the corners of my mouth.
“Today, I tried to talk her into staying home and watching a movie with us, but she just shrugged me off. It’s not the way it used to be when the three of us would read the afternoon away together. I can’t reach her the way you need to, Mimi. You know that I love her very much, but I know my love has grown weak with this body of mine. You must save her from the life that is consuming her and bring her back, for me.” Memaw’s request trickled into my ears, awakening something within me.
I knew I had to change the way things were, starting now. I quickly hugged Grandma thank-you, telling her that I had to go and find Miranda. I ran to the dresser where Randy and I kept the T-shirts we shared, yanking it open. As I did, I heard something roll and hit the wood. I tossed the sweaters aside, and saw a bottle of Chardonnay. Randy had been drinking! I grabbed it, showing it to Grandma, who shook her head sadly. Within a few minutes I was a block from Memaw's, still in my pajamas. The street signs flew past my damp eyes, until I reached the back of our high school on Prospect Street.
"MIRANDA!" I shouted, squinting to look for her in the dark. Three glowing lights caught my attention and I ran toward them. I recognized her white bracelets, hanging from the wrist attached to a hand which held a cigarette. I ripped the cigarette from her fingers and threw the Chardonnay bottle on the concrete. Ksheeeck!
"Why the hell would you waste good booze like that? Sidewalk's gettin' more than I ever did.” Danny protested.
"Shuttup." I snapped.
Her eyes, wide with surprise, shame, and anger drew a question mark in the silence between us.
"We're going back to Memaw's NOW. I'm not putting up with your s*** anymore. You know if Momma were here, you wouldn't even think about drinking! You're done with allllllll of it, forever!" I screamed into the silence.
"Leave me alone, Mimi. This isn't your problem. Besides, she's not here anymore, and neither will you be in a couple minutes" She warned. Numb, I staggered backwards in shock. She shook Danny's arm off her and grabbed my sleeve. Each step took us farther away from the dumpsters, tension thick in the air.
"I..." She mumbled.
"You're what? Sorry? I don't think so. Think you're the only one missing her? You're insane. You don't even care anymore, Randy. Don't even start."
"I only took the cigarette 'cuz I couldn't stop thinking about tomorrow. It's been a month." She blurted out.
"I know, but we still have to wake up every morning and live. It'll never stop hurting, but we'll get by. Momma will be in our memory always, Ray. You need this more than I do now, please be careful with it." I removed the delicate jewel from my ear and placed it on her palm. She nodded and put it in her ear gently, eyes shining in gratitude. A fresh smile on our lips, she slipped her arm through mine. Together, we made it home to a new beginning.