Last night was the worst night of my life.
It was awful. I’m still in shock.
My mother had an accident and now she is gone. I saw her body lying there on the ground next to the rubble that was once our family’s rocket ship. I saw the Grim Reaper come to take her away, ignoring our pleas to spare her life.
And then in just a flash, she was gone.
We all cried helplessly, bawling in the back yard before we pulled ourselves together long enough to go inside the house. Everyone went to their bedrooms seeking time alone to be with their grief. I, ever the oddball, was in the kitchen – cleaning.
I couldn’t help it. When I feel stressed or sad I clean. It gives me a sort of comfort that nothing else, not even my games or books, could provide. Mum was a neat freak just like me who loved cleaning more than the average person would even admit. I guess that’s where I got it from.
And now it’s not the only thing I got from her. Now I’m the heiress to our family’s estate. Sure, I’ve had that title since I was a little girl. Before she was arrested and sent to prison she listed me as the heiress, turning over the entire estate into my name. I don’t know why, I mean, usually when it came to choosing an heir for a family legacy most people would wait until the children were teenagers at least. I guess at the time she suspected she might get busted and didn’t want to have to lose the family estate because it was in her name. Still, I never had to make any decisions as Dad took care of everything but now with Mum gone and Dad in a mess I know the responsibility of managing the estate is going to fall on me now.
It’s sucky of me to think of this only hours after Mum died but I can’t help my practical side from kicking in to remind me of the huge weight I now have on my shoulders.
I mean, I’m not cleaning the floor just because I want to. I’m not that much of a neat freak to mop clean floors. I’m cleaning it because it’s dirty and because it’s what Mum used to do. She did all the cleaning in the house so that none of us had to and now that she’s gone, who’s going to mop these dirty floors other than me? And what about the cooking? Mum made the most delicious meals but I can’t even make toast. None of my sisters can make toast! We never had to learn because Mum was around.
Back in the day, while she was in prison, Dad did the best he could for us but he knew he needed a lot of help. We had Addie, Mum’s second-cousin, to babysit us and help us with our homework. He hired a cook who would come over and make a week’s worth of dishes from breakfast to dinner and even some desserts because he couldn’t cook. Do we do the same thing now? Go back to leftovers and microwavable meals?
The next morning I took a walk outside to get some fresh air but my walk in the backyard was not as peaceful as I thought it would be since I could clearly see and smell the rubble and scorched pieces of metal that remained from the rocket ship that served as a reminder of what we had lost. We already removed Mum’s remains and placed her to rest at the side of the house where the other members of our family were laid to rest but I could still see the way her body looked as she laid there on the ground as if it were happening all over again.
I don’t know why this happened. Why was she on that rocket in the first place? There was no need for her to travel to space anymore because she completed her mission a long time ago. I remember learning when I was a kid how one of us, a Sloane from each generation, is expected to travel to the planet Sixam on behalf of SASA to acquire minerals and elements that are native to their planet for scientific research here. I immediately volunteered to be the one to go when it was my turn without knowing the risks and when Mum went for the first time I actually wanted to go with her but she refused by saying I didn’t have enough training to handle the journey. She had to complete a month long physical and technical training course before she could be allowed to operate the rocket. I couldn’t wait for it to be my turn. But now, even if we manage to repair that cursed ship, I don’t want to go on it or any other ship after what it did to her.
So much for my dream of becoming an astronaut, like my great grandmother, but I guess I could still settle for my backup dream of a scientist. When I told Mum I wanted to be either an astronaut or a scientist she said she was proud of me for choosing to pursue an important career, unlike Izzy who wants to be a comedian or a DJ, and Jo who decided to become a blogger-slash-socialite or whatever it was.
Mum and I had our moments, many moments, when we didn’t get along. I always felt like she was trying to turn me into something I wasn’t. I’m not a girly-girl like her with a flair for fashion and all things pink and pretty. That’s not me. I like sci-fi novels and movies. I like collecting and studying fossils and crystals. I’m even working on an element collection. I can play video games for hours on end and I’m one of the high ranking players for online Blicblock. I have people on gaming forums who seek me out for advice on gaming techniques and strategies. To them I’m cool, but to Mum I was a loser. She even called me that once and it really hurt!
She was gone for most of my childhood so when she returned I was so happy to have her back and I wanted nothing more than for us to become close and have that mother-daughter relationship that she eventually developed with Johanna but not with me.
I always thought we had plenty more time for that to change but now our time has run out and I feel like it’s my fault. I could have let her have her way a few times, taken her advice more often. She only wanted what was best for me and I fought against every suggestion she had that would make me fit in and be more approachable.
I’m a terrible daughter!
I had enough of watching that spot and wanted to go back inside but I couldn’t let them see me like this. I had to be strong for the others who counted on me so instead I got out every tear that was in me and let it pour over the plants in our garden.
I cried, and cried, and cried until I felt numb and there were no more tears left then I wiped my face and walked back inside. The house was quiet but I expected it to be. No one was happy enough to talk or laugh with exuberance.
I went upstairs and overheard Dad talking on the phone while he was in Gabriel’s nursery. He was delivering the news to some of Mum’s relatives. Addie, Mum’s second cousin, was the only relative on her side that I had a relationship with. I have an aunt, Mum’s younger sister, who used to live with us but she moved out when we were kids not too long after Mum’s arrest actually. Dad said they were estranged and asked me not to bring her up in front of Mum. Apparently Mum had a first cousin who lived on the other side of town that she was estranged from as well. I guess Mum burned a lot of bridges in her time.
After hanging around eavesdropping on a few more phone calls I went to Izzy’s room to check on her. She was unusually quiet which worried me.
“How are you holding up?”
“I’m fine.” She said plainly, but the look on her face didn’t read that she was fine.
“Want to talk about it?”
“Want to sit with me for a while?”
We sat down on the bed. Someone else would think she was being cold but I knew differently. She was in as much pain as I was but didn’t know how to express it. Izzy knew how to express herself with poems and music but when it came to talking about her feelings, that was another story. I knew better than to push so we plopped onto the bed, sitting in silence. Maybe it’s a twin thing but we always understood what the other one was feeling without using words and being next to her offered me a kind of comfort no one else in the world could provide.
“Hey girls, can we talk?” I heard Dad say as he walked in. Neither one of us even heard the door open.
He sat down on the chaise by the window and took a deep, solemn breath before speaking. “This day sucks doesn’t it?”
His choice of words brought a small smile to our faces. “It does.”
“I spent the morning delivering the news to all of your mother’s relatives. They have offered their condolences to us.”
“Did you speak to anyone at SASA, Dad?” I asked.
“Yes. They’re very sorry for our loss too.”
“I don’t care about that. I want to know why she was on that ship in the first place and why it crashed!”
“They don’t know…”
“Why don’t they know? They must have sent her on some last minute mission, I mean, why would she just up and leave like that without informing any of us that she was going? And why did they let her go without sending techs to inspect the ship before she left?”
“They didn’t send her on any mission. They didn’t greenlight any kind of trip.” He said.
“They’re lying. They probably realised how bad they screwed up and are trying to sweep it under the rug.”
“I don’t think so. An organisation like SASA will not risk sending a civilian into space without proper precautions and procedures being followed first to ensure a safe flight. Your mother went into space, for whatever reason, of her own accord. And based on the wreckage they don’t think it was a malfunction, they think the rocket was struck by something which damaged the landing stabilizers. A space rock or something like it, I dunno.”
“Well…why would she go on her own? Mum was a practical person. She wouldn’t go joy riding in a rocket ship for kicks. I just… this is very confusing.”
“I know sweetie.” He said. “I’m confused as well. I don’t know what possessed her to get into that thing just like that. But SASA has concluded it was an accident. Because the landing stabilizers were damaged and because the rocket was offline since it was not an approved mission she couldn’t get any assistance in landing the rocket safely.”
Izzy got up and sat next to the window looking out as Dad moved to comfort me on the bed.
“I guess we’ll never know what really happened yesterday, huh?” I asked.
“I guess not. But let’s not focus on why she went out there or why this happened because we’ll end up driving ourselves crazy. Let’s focus on the good memories we have of her because that’s ultimately what’s most important.”
“Why is everyone in here?” Jo whined as she rushed into the room. “You guys left me all by myself.”
“You said you wanted to be alone in your room.” Izzy answered.
“Yeah but not for the whole day, just a little while.”
“We were talking about Mum.” I said, about to tell her what Dad had learned. “Dad says that SASA thinks she was hit by a…”
“Daddy I feel so awful!” she cried making Dad get up from sitting next to me to talk to her.
“I know sweetheart, but we’ll just have to take this one day at a time.”
“I miss her so much already! I just got her back and now she’s gone again, only this time, it’s for good. It’s not fair!”
“I know it isn’t but just know she loved you all very much and you girls meant the world to her. And even though it hurts to lose your mother, you still have me and I’m not going anywhere anytime soon, okay?”
“Thanks Dad. I feel a little better.” She said.
“Come here…” Dad gave her a hug and I could tell it made her feel better but I wanted to roll my eyes at how much of a needy drama queen she is. I love Jo but she always has to be the centre of everyone’s attention. Dad’s talking with me so of course she has to interrupt so she can get comfort.
Gabriel started crying so I went to check on him since Dad was busy. Poor little guy doesn’t even know what’s going on. Mum was never maternal in any way towards him since he was born but I always thought that would change with time. She wasn’t happy about Dad’s decision to keep him but who wouldn’t fall in love with him eventually?
He’s so adorable!
I know he’s not genetically my brother but he’s still my brother and no one can tell me otherwise. And like a good big sister I know I have to do my duty and look out for him, be his friend, his advisor, and whatever else he needs me to be because he’s gonna have a hard enough time as it is being different from everyone else around him.
I hoped one day I could travel to Sixam not just for collecting and research but to learn more about his people and their culture so that I could help him feel a sense of belonging in knowing his origins. That will never happen now. Or is there another way? The thought of getting onto any rocket ship scares me right now but maybe one day that will change.
I’ll never know why Mum wanted to go into space yesterday. Could it be that she went to Sixam, where Gabriel is from? But then for what reason? Maybe she went to find out more about Sixamian babies. Maybe she wanted to learn more about their kind for his benefit because she was going to accept him as a member of our family.
Dad is right. It’s no use focusing on why now. She’s gone now and I’ll miss her a great deal but everyone else that I love is here right now so right now is where my focus has to be.