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Al-Ki (only the Prologue)
Darlene Eze was extremely grateful for the heat that circulated her 1993 Dodge Caravan, keeping her breath from coming out in thin misty clouds. But even with the continuous waves of heat, ice crystals lingered around along the edges of the windshield. Winter was her least favorite season, beautiful as it with its Christmas joy and snowflakes. Right before it disappeared in the palm of your hand you could catch a glimpse of the unmistakable patterns on each and everyone, different, God must have created each individually by his own hand. She hated must how the cold lingered deep in her bones a full half hour after she would escape into her home removing its numbing teeth only when chased away by the piping hot cup of cocoa she had just to serve this purpose. The snow covering the scenery along interstate (# of interstate) was almost blinding, causing the beginning of a headache if she stared too long. Instead she focused on the empty road ahead, watching her vehicle swallow up the fading white lines. She cautiously removed a hand from the steering wheel to flip on the radio. Darlene smiled admiring her timing as the melody of her favorite song played through the speakers, occasionally bit by static. She began to sing along when the chorus came in. Her voice deep and melodious, she could always sing and as a child she’d even wanted to become a singer but her shyness allowed her only to bare her voice to a select few.
"Come on Melissa, sing with me," Darlene laughed, tickling her daughters knee behind the seat. Melissa rolled her eyes in false annoyance but added her soft soprano voice to her mothers.
Darlene looked over her children in the rearview mirror. She couldn't quite grasp where the years had gone. It was hard to believe that Melissa, now a rebellious and strong-willed sixteen year old, had once run through the house pretending to be superwoman with a bathing towel tied around her tiny shoulders.
She glanced over at her sons and smiled, losing track of the lyrics she'd been singing. Her eldest Matisse at thirteen is a carbon copy of his father, as if he'd been created from his genes alone. The only thing that differed was his personality. Darlene hated to admit it but besides his looks he was nothing like his kind and gentle father. There was something malevolent about her son; she would catch it in glimpses. His anger would boil up so suddenly at the simplest of things that Darlene, sometimes, feared her son. At those times the only thing she could do was to send him away to his room. He would march up to her, just as tall as she, his forehead wrinkled just like his father’s in the scarce times that he did become angry. He would stand there breathing so hard Darlene could feel his breath on her face. They’d stand there for what would seem like hours, his fist clenching and unclenching, before he’d stomp off to his room where she could still hear his anger through the thick walls. She never informed anyone of the fact that she was sometimes terrified of her own son, not even his father. She dealt with her son the same way she dealt with the fact that the only reason he walked away was not because she was his mother but because he’d decided that she wasn’t worth her time.
She watched him release his seat belt to retrieve Matthias’ toy keys from the floor. He was the only one Matisse has patience for, putting him to sleep most nights and sometimes abandoning his own bed to occupy the space beside the Matthias’ crib.
Matthias was considered the miracle baby. Born ten weeks before his due date, he was snatched from Darlene's arms seemingly only seconds before being hurried out of her sight, only to be seen again after a recommended rest.
Later with her family gathered around the noisy incubator-like machine it shattered her heart to realize that the only things that aided in keeping her third child alive were the many tubes and machines attached to his small life. She would stand there praying so that she’s still be a mother of three by the end of the week, so hard in fact that she imagined God had only answered her prayers in hopes of shutting her up. He was almost as small as her hand. She was afraid to touch him, to breath, he seemed so fragile. Each day the Eze's crowded around their son and brother grow stronger each day. Darlene’s hopes heightened each day as they arrived and she noticed one less tube attached to one less machine. The nurses actually started to smile around them instead of holding their mouths set to spill forth sorrow.
Finally the day came when Matthias Eze was released from the hospital. It took forever to get home, his father refused to drive more than fifteen miles per hour, ignoring the furious honks if those always in a hurry. He’d smile stating that they should have left their homes five minutes earlier. They’d even been pulled over by a balding policeman. He’d simply glanced in the backseat, noted the newborn then tipped his hat and wished them a good day.
Now Matthias sat in his car seat completely absorbed with his toy keys. At the age of two they were just beginning to see the effect his prematurity had had on him. Months ago they had discovered that he didn't respond when his family called, trying to get his attention, and when his mother mistakably dropped a pot onto the floor while he sat in his highchair he did not seem to notice. Doctors had confirmed their fears and they learned that Matthias was deaf.
The family learned not to expect Mama’s or Dada’s, for he couldn’t hear them chanting them like a spell at his ears. Instead they were all enrolled in American Sign Language courses and grew excited when Matthias’ hand motions resembled signs they practiced with him. In some ways Darlene felt at fault, maybe something she had done during her pregnancy had caused his early arrival. She wouldn’t know but she couldn’t help feeling remorse, her son would never hear her voice or anyone else’s, never heard music or is able to sing along with it. He had been robbed of something he could never recover, leaving him in silence.
Her husband, Omarr, reached over from the passenger seat, tapping her temple.
“What’s going on in the head of yours?” he asked smiling. Darlene leaned into his warm hand so that it rested on her cheek. She adored this man immensely and couldn’t remember a time when she hadn’t. They were one of those pairs that were fortunate enough to have known each other their whole lives. As children they had played together, as teens dated but in college grew apart. But as destiny has a role in everything, Darlene believed, their paths were crossed once more and here they were.
“You know we’re really lucky,” she thought aloud. They had a comfortable house, beautiful children, the jobs they wanted, thinking about it, Darlene realized she couldn’t ask for anything more, for she had it here, in her reach.
Trees stood imposing on each side of the road. Darlene was beginning to fear that they were lost. She reached for the map sitting useless in her husband’s lap till now. She opened it momentarily blocking her view of the road. Omarr’s hand instinctively moved to grab the wheel as she struggled to remember the name of the turn off she’d taken, hoping it was the right one. She cursed at the result half expecting an outburst from Melissa or Matisse about the curse jar but they’d stopped participating a while back. She folded the map back down from twenty squares to one, handing the map back to her husband in exchange for the steering wheel.
“I have to turn around,” she exhaled. Just then her car hit a dry patch of ice. The heavy backside of the van began to shift to the left. She struggled to remember the instructions that’d been drilled into her head so many years ago and she cursed herself for procrastinating the installment of tire treads. It smacked her in the face as her car came a full 180 to the road. Turn into the skid. Her view was filled with those thin tree trunks and her ears with the screams of her family as their van began to flip. A slide show of trees and snow-covered ground alternated across her field of vision just before the windshield shattered. Shards of glass scraped their harsh limbs across her skin. The van seemed to flip a dozen times before it finally came to a rest. Darlene’s cheek rested against the cold glass of her window. A burning pain began to wrap itself around her chest, reaching up to lick her neck. She felt a warm liquid run from somewhere behind her ear, dripping into her eyes. She blindly reached for her husband’s hand causing a shocking burst of pain at her elbow. She ignored it but to her disarray she grasped only empty air. Darlene felt herself begin to sink, her vision blackening. Before this dark abyss swallowed her whole she remembered her complete and utter astonishment to realize the radio was still played the last lyrics of her favorite song. Jane Siberry’s voice haunted the silence of her family as she sung strong and clear, no static now. She was calling all the angels.