.VIII.

He nodded his head awkwardly. I just looked down at my feet. Why had I lied? It wasn't as if The Hideout was a secret. We drifted off and I made my way around the room, looking at other artwork. Though the convention hadn't started, I wanted to get an idea of what I was dealing with.

There were many unique watercolors, paintings, sketches, pastels and other types of art around the room. Soon, I'd made it halfway back to my place. I kept walking.

One painting caught my eye as I meandered around the room. I strolled over to look at it. It reminded me of something. A memory on a bitter October night.

It's evening, Mom and I walking down the quiet street. Mom is humming to herself and I'm thinking about life. Best friends who aren't themselves. It's autumn, and the breeze flows easily around the neighborhood. Suddenly, Mom turns to me and asks, "What's on your mind? You're so quiet."

I turn and look into her eyes. "April," I reply.

I see a flash of sympathy on my mother's face that quickly turns into concern. "What's up?"

"She's hiding something," is all I reply with. Mom replies with a quiet nod, but there's nothing much she can do about it. When I was little, she used to give me blue raspberry lollipops to make me feel better. For an instant, I wanted that again. Then she says, "Let's sing."

"What?" I ask. Then, hesitating slightly, Mom starts to sing the words to our favorite song. Soon, we're belting it out at the top of our lungs, not remembering the neighbors or the walk or best friends. 

By the time we reach home, all worries for April have vanished.

Remembering. Remembering was what hurt most. It brought too many questions to my mind -- ones that wouldn't ever be answered. How could Mom have left me alone? Why was she gone? Did she not care anymore?

I kept staring at the picture -- a lone street in the fall, with two people walking, the moon full. It captured the memory perfectly. I glanced at the price tag and winced. Maybe the artist would long for my piece as much as I longed for hers.

It was an impossible thought. But that picture could heal me, at least for some time. If only she knew what I was going through now.

The End

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