Dad and I had always been really close. I’m close to Mom too but Dad and I have always had a special relationship. Technically he had more in common with Lyra with the whole music thing. We didn’t have a lot of hobbies or interests in common either like he did with Kaleb. But somehow he and I shared a similar sensibility. He just got me and I got him.
It could be because he was a stay-at-home parent and by the time I was born Kaleb and Lyra were already in elementary school and Mom worked full time which made him the one I spent the most time with during my early years. Whatever the reason, Dad was like my best friend. Lyra kind of is too but Dad holds a slightly higher rank than her.
We could sit around for hours talking about the most mundane of topics and I would have such a good time being in his company. I honestly would rather hang out with Dad over my friends at school or even my siblings. Maybe it’s because he encourages me the most when it comes to the things I like. Mom does that too but sometimes she can be a bit overly enthusiastic. She still can’t stop bragging to her friends and colleagues at work about how I won the competition for the scholarship but Dad offers his encouragement in a more subtle way.
There was one time I got a really funny text from Tatiana while I was in the middle of kneading dough for a pie crust. I was texting her back and forth for almost ten minutes getting caught up in the latest gossip going around in her school.
“Hey baby girl,” Dad spoke as he entered the kitchen. “What you making there?”
“Um… just an apple pie.” I said, still reading the texts that were coming in from Tatiana.
“Apple pie huh?” He said. “You know that’s my favourite right?”
“Uh-huh, okay Dad.”
“My favourite part about apple pie is the flaky, buttery crust. Yours is the best I’ve ever had, in fact, I haven’t tasted an apple pie as good as yours since my mother’s.”
“Well, it should taste as good as grandma’s since it’s her recipe and all.” I smiled, looking up at him for the first time since the conversation started only because I was waiting for Tatiana to respond to my last message.
“That’s true.” He walked over to the dishwasher to put his plate in as he continued talking. “I remember you telling me that the key to a great apple pie crust is the cold butter. I hope the cold butter doesn’t thaw out in this warm kitchen while you’re chatting with your friend. It’ll be a shame if one of your pies turns out to be anything other than excellent.”
He was right. Cold butter and cold water are essential when making pie dough and the kitchen was warm since I just took out a hot loaf of bread from the oven. I had been baking up a storm since early morning on a whim so the kitchen was a lot warmer than usual which meant leaving my dough just sitting there in the warmth might end up warming up the cold bits of butter in the dough before it got to the oven. If that happened then my pie crust wouldn’t come out as flaky as usual.
“Oh crap. I better get on this then.” I said as I put my phone back into my pocket. He simply smiled and went on his way.
I liked how he remembered me talking about pie dough. Most people tune me out when I’m talking about food. They like when I cook food so they can eat it but not when I talk about it. Sometimes I thought he and Mom did that too but the fact that he actually listened to me and then helped save my dish really meant a lot.
Dad was always doing stuff like that. He was never pushy, always gentle and yet we knew he expected the best out of us.
It never occurred to me that Dad was a lot older than most of my friends’ parents.
It never occurred to me that I would soon have to prepare myself for when his time was up.
It never occurred to me that that conversation would be our last.
I heard Mom cry out one night. It was an indescribable scream, one I don’t even want to think about anymore and wish I would never have to hear again.
I rushed to their bedroom in a panic. I guess a part of me knew what was happening so that’s why I was so frightened once I grasped the door knob. Lyra was not too far behind me just as worried as I was.
As we walked in we saw him there on the floor, Mom crying over his lifeless body.
I knew it was inevitable but still…my Dad was gone! I’ve always been a pretty happy person so I’ve never had to cry over anything until then.
It was like a knife to the chest. I just stood there bawling feeling a mix of emotions from sadness to helplessness to anger.
Why did he have to go so soon? Why did he have to leave us? Why did he have to leave me?
Then I noticed Mom was quiet when Lyra and I were practically screaming. This was unlike her. I was more worried when I saw her blankly staring at the floor.
“Mom, talk to me…” I quietly begged.
“We…we were supposed to go to the arcade tomorrow.” She finally let out.
“He said he was going to finally beat my score… he said…we would go….now…now how can I go there without him? Maia, how am I going to do anything without him?”
“It’s okay Mom, it’ll be okay…”
“No! No! I can’t be without him. I love him so much…If he’s gone then that means I’m alone.”
“Mom, I’m here for you and Lyra is here for you too. We’re not going anywhere. You’re not alone. Do you understand?”
Lyra nodded in agreement behind me so I think it gave Mom some kind of relief for the moment.
After we carried Dad’s remains outside next to the other members of our family, we all went back to bed. I stayed with Mom for the rest of the night knowing that she needed the comfort of having someone else around. It must be tough to suddenly not have the love of your life to lie next to you at night. She tossed and turned a lot. She even reached out and put her arm around me a few times only to quickly pull it back as if she was reaching for him but then realised it was just me.
It was really hard on all of us for a while but then things started to get better. Kaleb came to stay with us for a few days as we grieved. I know Mom really appreciated having him here even if it was for a short time.
Kaleb’s visit came just in time for Lyra’s birthday. It sucks that Dad died just a couple of days before her birthday too. We had to cancel her birthday party because none of us was in any mood to entertain but I still made her a chocolate cake which I knew was her favourite. Even though we were all still sad we knew Dad would want us to help her celebrate her birthday regardless so we pulled out the confetti and balloons, topped that cake with some candles and awfully serenaded her with out of tune lyrics to the happy birthday song.
We sliced up the cake and ate together finally able to have a conversation about something that wasn’t about Dad’s death. It was nice and I especially needed it. It was hard keeping it together for the sake of my mother and sister. While they were crying in bed I was the one cooking to make sure they had a meal to eat and then practically forcing them to eat the food I just made so they wouldn’t go hungry. I did all the cleaning. I made sure the gardener stayed on schedule which was Dad’s job. I was also the one to call everybody he knew to let them know that he passed. I was the shoulder to cry on. And on top of all that, I still had to study and do homework.
It was exhausting and I didn’t want to complain because I know they needed me, I just wish I had some support too.
“I can’t believe you’re doing this now, Lyra!”
“The timing is bad, yes, but I need to make a move on this. You know I’ve always planned on moving there right after high school.” She just told me that she was planning on moving to San Myshuno in a few days. I knew that was always her plan. She had been anxious to move to San Myshuno for a long time just so she could get discovered by some hotshot record producer and become famous but after what happened with Dad, I would think she would want to be with us for a while. Not move to another city as soon as she became legal.
“Kaleb says that the apartment next door will probably be taken soon if I don’t make an offer.” She continued. “He’s able to hold off the landlord from letting other people see it but that won’t be for long. It’s a decent size with a great view in a good part of town. I can’t let this opportunity pass.”
“You don’t have to let the opportunity pass Lyra. Kaleb knows the apartment and he already said it’s in good shape. All you have to do is make the offer and pay the first week’s rent and security deposit and it’ll be yours. You don’t have to go to San Myshuno to secure the place. You can transfer the money to Kaleb and he will handle everything for you so there’s no real need for you to move right now. You know Mom needs us…” And I can’t do this alone.
“I know all of that. I just…” She sighed. “I need to get away for a while. It’s hard being here and being reminded of him all the time.”
“You think it’s not hard for me too?” He was my best friend!
“Look, I know it’s hard for you too and for Mom but….it’s like every time I look at that piano in the corner I remember all those lessons he gave me. And he would always come to every recital and listen to every new song I played… when I’m not here, when I go out even just for a walk I feel so much better but then I come back here and I feel…sad. Do you get what I’m saying?”
I did get what she was saying. I felt the same way too only I didn’t have the luxury of just leaving to go for a walk all the time because I had to do manage everything.
If I had the chance like her to get away from here for a while I would probably want to take it too but I just can’t leave Mom by herself. Not while she’s still coping with losing her husband.
“Fine. I get it. I’ll hold down the fort. You go and chase your dreams.” I genuinely meant what I said but I also felt so much resentment as I said it.
“Thanks Mai. I knew you would understand. Maybe by the time I get settled in Mom will be doing better so you can come out to visit me for a few days and get some time away for yourself?”
“Yeah, that sounds nice.”
She smiled, seeming relieved. I guess I just made the decision to go a lot easier for her now that I gave my blessing. “I’m gonna go upstairs and break the news to Mom. I hope she takes it as well as you did.”
“I’m sure she will.” I said, trying my best to look happy about this.
I guess I knew this day would come but I didn’t think it would happen so fast and under these circumstances. Being the heiress I knew I would be the one to live here for the rest of my life and that my brother and sister would eventually get to go out on their own. Maybe that’s why I feel so responsible for the household and for taking care of Mom and why Lyra and Kaleb can do whatever they want without a care.
It’s my duty as the heiress to take care of everyone, not theirs. I ought to start getting used to that now.