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Every Wednesday, my mom makes spaghetti with marinara sauce for dinner.
We cluster around the square table, each with our own side. Mom, Dad, Bobby, and me. Like clockwork, at quarter of seven, Mom gently pushes back her chair and strides into the kitchen. And when she emerges, she always grasps a steaming bowl, filled to the brim with steaming noodles and sauce. The same bowl, every night. Red and blue stripes on a white ceramic surface. The Wednesday Spaghetti bowl.
It’s reliable, having a routine. I can’t ever remember a time without Wednesday spaghetti.
* * *
“Bye, Molly! Bye, Nicole! See you tomorrow!”
As I call out to my friends, the bright yellow buses file out of the parking lot, marching along on their shiny black wheels. I watch them stream onto different roads, savoring the idea that I am no longer a face pressed against one of those windows.
A mandatory condition of Bobby owning a car was that he has to drive me to and from school, every day. Personally, I couldn’t be happier. No more cramming myself along with two others into a sticky, grey-green seat. No more yelling to be heard by the person next to you.
A sharp voice pierces through my happy thoughts, causing me to stumble into a car. “Charlotte! If you don’t get over here right now, I’m leaving without you.”
Bobby knows Mom would kill him if he abandoned me at the school, but he won’t admit that. Not in front of his swarm of “tough guy” friends.
Sighing, I climb in. Bobby groans and rolls his eyes as he starts the car, making it clear that I am an unwanted intruder. We used to get along better. Old family pictures show us clutching hands, laughing. In one image, we’re sharing an ice cream sundae, ecstatic smiles glued to our faces.
I can’t really remember when that stopped. I just know that it’s been a while since he smiled at me.
When we’re home, Mom meets us at the door with a grin and a hug, as usual. Bobby squirms out of her embrace and dashes upstairs, causing Mom’s smile to falter. But only for a moment, for then, like always, she leads me to the kitchen where a snack awaits.
I can always rely on Mom. She has a schedule, which she follows methodically, no matter what.
* * *
I tear down the street, rage, grief, and numbness simultaneously coursing through my veins.
When the medic pronounced him dead- utterly, hopelessly, dead- I bolted.
My pounding feet take me to my street, and soon I’m sprinting up my driveway
I burst through the door to see Mom on the phone. She’s leaning against an armchair as if she can’t support herself, and her face is nearly white as she slowly returns the phone to its cradle.
I know exactly what she just heard. Disjointed words and phrases run through my mind: A group of friends. One too many beers. Driving drunk. Car crash. Death.
I move towards Mom, wondering what to do or say.
But she turns away from me. As salty tears well up in my eyes, she dutifully marches into the kitchen.
I tentatively follow her, wondering what on earth she could be doing at such a traumatic time as this. When I enter the kitchen, I see her facing the sink. Trembling slightly, her hands are meticulously straining a large pot of spaghetti.
Today, my brother is dead. He has died in a car accident and he will never come back. But, like every other Wednesday, Mom is cooking our Wednesday spaghetti.