I come into my house to find my mom still asleep in her bed. The door creaks as I push it open, causing me to cringe at the sound. Her covers are wrapped around her like a cocoon.
“Hey, Mom,” I say. I pad over to her bedside and shake her shoulder. “Mom, wake up. You said you had to work the night shift tonight.”
“Ugh,” she groans. She sits up on her elbows, her hair in a black, tangled mess. One of her hands raise up to the side of her head and rub it, like she has a headache.
“I’m fine, Julia,” she says. She turns and looks at the digital clock beside her bed, the neon numbers illuminating a small area around it. “Are you staying in tonight?”
“Yeah,” I say, sitting on the edge of her bed.
She nods, then reaches over and grabs her black-rimmed glasses off of the nightstand. I watch her, wishing I knew what it is that she’s thinking. I think she’s been depressed after Logan’s death, but I don’t know what to do about it. She lost her husband, her sister, and now one of her daughters, and I’m pretty sure every time she looks at me I remind her of Logan. She hasn’t done anything other than work in a while. I know that I’ve been keeping busy so I don’t end up stuck in my bed like she is, but maybe I need to stop doing so much all the time and just spend some time with her.
We spent so much time the past year watching home videos of Logan and I when we were younger, and an equal amount of time avoiding each other. Sometimes I didn’t see her for days at a time. I shouldn’t have let that happen. I know I was stuck in my own world, in my own misery, but I had already seen how Logan acted whenever she was depressed. She got distance, and acted a lot like how Mom is acting. Now that I’m as close to happiness as I’m ever going to get, after what happened, it’s time for me to do something about it.
“Hey, do you want to do something tomorrow?” I ask. “I don’t have to work and you’re off tomorrow night, right? Let's go do something together.”
“I don’t know, Julia–”
“C’mon, Mom. Please.” I rest my hand on her leg and she stares at me for a moment before nodding.
“Okay. Okay, we’ll figure out something. Now scoot your ass out of the way, I got places to be.” She waves me over with her hands and I move out of her way, heading into my own room. I go through my nightly routine: showering, getting dressed and ready for the next morning, going through all of my schoolwork, and making a list for what I need to do the next day. I’ve already made a list for what days and times everyone is going to be with Sarah for the next two weeks, and tomorrow it’s my turn from dawn until five. Maybe I’ll find a way to bring up what Elijah told me yesterday about her and Luke.
I sit down on my bed thinking about Sarah for a few minutes before I decide I need to do something. I don’t like having idle hands. When I sit still for too long, I start...seeing things. Well, not things: people. It started out with Marshall, Marcus, Tiffany, Logan, and the others that died that night. Now it’s worked it’s way down to just Logan. She’s like a ghost just following me around that I don’t notice until I’m alone. The first few times it freaked me out, to say the least. Over time I’ve learned to ignore it. I know it’s just me feeling guilty. I know. But I can’t make it go away. So, her and that stupid white dress she always has on continues to show up when I start thinking too much.
Go for a run, I tell myself. The punching bag has retired now that I’m no longer angry 24/7, but I still have to have something to do when my brain lingers on Logan for too long.
But I’ve already showered, I think. I can’t run now.
Instead, I decide to get out one of my paintings and work on that until I feel tired enough to sleep. As soon as I get all the supplies out and I’m about to get started, Mom walks in. Her hair has been combed, now having a bit of a wave to it, and she’s changed into her blue scrubs.
I stop what I’m doing and look up. “Yeah?”
“Um…” She steps further inside, leaving the door open behind her. “There’s something I need to tell you.” She waves me over so I set down my paintbrush and follow her to my bed. The soft covers feel cool against my legs.
“What is it?” I ask. The look of seriousness on her face has my temperature rising and I’m already stressing about what it is that she wants to tell me. She rests her hand on my knee, her eyes facing downward.
“Well, you know how I, um...how I told you that your father’s parents are dead? And that he didn’t have any siblings?”
My head pounds so loud I can barely hear her voice above the sound. “Yeah?”
“Well…” Her eyes flicker up to meet mine. “That wasn’t exactly true. I lied to you. You have grandparents. And Clark had two brothers and a sister growing up too. Both of his brothers are married and have kids of their own now, some of them your age. His sister never married. I got a phone call earlier today and...they’re going to be coming over to visit next week.”
I sit back for a moment, dumbfounded, and she hurries to continue though part of it gets lost in my thoughts.
“–time ago,” I catch her saying. “Your dad didn’t want you and Logan to know about them so he convinced me to lie to you about it. I should’ve told you sooner; I’m so sorry.”
Taking a deep breath to sooth my anxiety, I manage to bring my eyes up to meet hers. They appear frantic behind her glasses and she's removed her hand from my leg. “Why did he not want us to know about them?”
My own serenity must help appease her because she seems to relax a little. “Honestly, that’s something I’ve never completely understood myself, but he was always so stubborn about it that I eventually gave in and agreed. All I know is that they had some kind of falling out.” She pauses, watching for my reaction. “Are you mad?”
After a moment, I slowly begin to shake my head. “No, I’m not mad, just...shocked. And a little sad because of all the time I’ve missed out on with them, but….I’m–I’m more happy than anything. It’ll do us both some good to have family around.”
She stares at me for a few seconds. “You’re really not mad?” I shake my head and she sighs, visibly relaxed. I lean forward and give her a squeeze.
“Thanks for telling me,” I say before pulling back. Maybe I should be mad at her, but I’m just not. In fact, I normally would be, but in the moment I feel like it would be pointless. She kept this from me for a long time, sure, but she’s telling me now. She could’ve chosen to never tell me. Plus, I’ve seen how sad she’s been lately; I couldn’t be mad at her even if I wanted to. Which is weird for me.
Mom brushes the wet hair out of my face and peers at me, her hand lingering on my cheek. “Thank you for not being angry. I would be.” She drops her hand and stands up. “They’ll be in next Friday, on your birthday. I’m happy they’re coming too,” she adds, smiling. She tilts her head back a little as her hand rises to get a better look at her watch through her glasses. “I guess I better finish getting ready. I love you, Julia.”
“I love you too,” I say as she drifts out the door. That’s the first time she’s said that to me in awhile. It’s not that she doesn’t care; in fact, she cares a lot. No matter how often I’m gone, I always have to tell her where I’m going and who I’m with after what happened with Logan. We just haven’t been around much, but that’s about to change. She’s gotten mad at me quite a few times in the past when I couldn’t tell her where I was going because I was meeting with my pack.
The door closes and I sit there for a couple minutes, a smile ever so slowly creeping onto my face. I begin to laugh.
I have family. I have family.
The tears willingly wind down my face, dripping onto my black spandex shorts that I always wear to bed. It’s not just Mom and me anymore. I have cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents. Mom only had one sister, and that was the one that….well, the one that Logan killed. Her parents died when we were really young so I don’t remember them, but I’ve been told that they didn’t have a good relationship anyway. So after Dad, Logan, and Aunt Carol all died, it was just Mom and me. But not anymore.
My laugh-crying continues for another minute or two before I get a hold of myself.
I have family.