I was four different people to my mother the night before the morning she died.
That night, she was sitting next to the fireplace with a maroon velvet quilt on her shoulders, her dark brown eyes turning crimson from the reflection of the fire. I watched her eyes blink slowly with reminiscent sadness from the kitchen. I picked up my fresh, warm cup of coffee and went to take a seat on the couch next to her.
“Mom, you’re sure you don’t want anything warm to drink? It’s getting chilly,” I asked her.
“I’m sure,” she replied, flashing a faint smile towards me. She continued to stare at the fireplace.
I wasn’t Janine. I listened.
“I hope when Alise is born, she’ll be exactly like you. Steadfast and a heartbreaker.” She began to giggle quietly.
“Mom, it’s me, Alise.”
“You think that’ll be her first sentence?” She giggled even more.
I looked at her and smiled, the way her high school friend Janine would smile. “When is your due date again?”
“Two more months.”
“They’ll go by before you know it,” I remarked.
“Two months until her fifth birthday! George is thinking of getting her a Barbie themed cake, but I’m not big on the idea. What do you think, Anna?”
I wasn’t Anna.
“I think Barbie’s okay. I mean she’s only five.”
“You sound like George now.”
“What were you thinking of doing then?”
“I was actually going to buy her a book. A children’s story. Something she can always go back to. Her first book.” She grinned.
“Do you have anything in mind?”
“I think we need to sell her books before she goes off to college. Sonia, how old is your youngest? I think we have books for ages five to sixteen.”
I wasn’t Sonia.
“My youngest is-”
“She’s nine now, right? Amal.”
“I’ll have George and Alise drop them off at your house.”
I nodded. “Perfect.”
“I can’t believe Alise is graduating high school. She doesn’t know what she wants to do, you know? It’s bothering her. She thinks she has to have it all figured out.”
“I’m sure she has interests.”
“She does, but nothing practical in today’s world. She wants to act and direct. Medical school would be a better investment for her. Look how it turned out for me.”
“The best physician out there,” I replied, trying to hide the tears behind a smile. I was always proud of my mother.
“No, I still have a long way to go, Sonia. I’m not the best. Not yet.” She went back to staring at the fire. She had her hand to her mouth, the way writers do when they’re thinking where to take their character – their written child – next.
I heard the front door open. It was my father.
“It’s a bit chilly out there. Early December looks like a cold December,” he walked in saying. He saw my mother and I sitting in the living room together in front of the fireplace.
“Are my girls having late night talks without me?” He said, taking his hat off. He put his hand on my shoulder and kissed my mother on her forehead.
“Oh, George, Alise and I were just talking about you.”
“Were you?” My father looked at me, with a gentle smile.
“This is our life, George. You, me, and Alise.”
“This is our life, indeed.” He turned to look at the fire, wiping something off his cheek.
We were there, and for a moment, for a last moment, she knew.