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“What’s that you’re drawing?” I asked Jasmine as she sat across from me at my kitchen table.
She looked up at me with tired eyes and simply said, “I don’t know yet.”
Her tone wasn’t angry, yet it wasn’t excited. It almost sounded as if she was bored with our conversation even though it had just begun.
“Jasmine,” she interrupted.
“It’s Jasmine now.” She glanced up at me from the drawing she was sketching, “Just Jasmine.”
Of course it was, I thought to myself. I looked around my tiny apartment. What was my sister thinking sending her daughter to live with me? I don’t know why this surprised me though; Nia has been like this ever since we were kids. She has always been spontaneous, as long as I have been reliable. I glanced at Jasmine’s suitcase resting near the door. It was a decent size, enough to be staying for more than a couple weeks. Jasmine was seventeen now and a senior in high school. I hadn’t seen Jasmine since she was four. Of course, then she preferred Jazzy.
“How’s Uncle Kevin?” Jasmine asked smudging the pencil in with her right index finger.
“Good,” I answered a little too enthusiastically surprised that she had even remembered my husband’s name. “He should be home soon. He teaches Math now at your old school…” I let my voice trial off. I stared at the leaves falling outside, dancing in the wind. How was I going to explain to Kevin that our niece is now living with us and I have no clue why my sister dropped her off this morning or when she’s coming back to get her? How were we going to pay for everything? Money was tight enough as it already was and yet I still jumped to my sister’s rescue again, without thinking of the consequences.
“Yes, Jasmine?” I answered trying to smile through my worry.
She turned the picture she was drawing around and walked over to the living room to watch T.V. I looked at the picture. It was of me, talking moments ago, trying to get information out of my long lost niece. I studied my face and saw a mirror of my emotions; worry, pressure, and loneliness. I folded the picture and stuffed it into my pocket. I turned around in my seat and stared at the back of Jasmine’s head. Her sneakers were resting on my coffee table, which I had just wiped clean that morning. I wanted her to come back to the kitchen and talk to me. I wanted her to explain why her mother had left her here. I wanted her to take her damn feet off my coffee table.
“So, is chicken good for dinner, Jasmine? That’s your favorite, right?” I asked pulling the chicken out from the refrigerator.
“I’m a vegan now,” she said like I should’ve known the answer.
Of course you are, I muttered to myself. I tossed the chicken back into the refrigerator and grabbed the lettuce instead. I took a tomato and knife and sliced the pieces so thin that they were barely there.