The autumn leaves crunched under their feet as they continued down the walkway, rapidly approaching the school yard. Mother and daughter holding hands on the brisk Monday morning as Flora slightly tilted her head to look her matriarch in the eyes, “momma, I’m scared to start school this year. I don’t know anybody here.”
Her brunette guardian gazed down upon her creation, taking in all of the traits that she had passed on to her. Flora was like her mirror, she inherited the green eyes, the brunette locks and a soul older than the ancestors who preceded her.
The clouds resembled popcorn, evenly spread throughout the blue backdrop high above. The trees shook with grace, gently shedding the leaves that were ready to sacrifice themselves for another season. Squirrels ran amok, gathering and hiding essentials for the upcoming shift to colder temperatures. Flora’s mother was about to give her daughter the age old speech about how school was nothing to be scared of, but she thought better of it.
“You know, Flora, I know this situation has been a rough adjustment for you,” she said to the girl, knowing full well that she was wise beyond her years, “so I’m going to go against my better judgment and keep you home with me today.”
Flora’s eyes lit up for a split second, but her wisdom came with a price, as she knew almost immediately that this was too good to be true. As she calculated every possible scenario, and still feeling baffled, she stopped dead in her tracks and broke the grip between herself and her mother.
“What’s the catch?”
Her mother chuckled and looked to the ground, littered with crispy brown and red leaves from the rows of trees up ahead. The brisk wind tossed their hair in front of their face, forcing them to put it back in place simultaneously.
“No catch, kiddo. We don’t spend too much time together these days. Ever since your dad left us, it’s been hard to connect with anybody, and I know that’s no excuse, but I think we deserve a day, don’t you? I’m sure they’ll understand. We’ve been through a lot.”
Flora shook her head in agreement, turned the other way and began the trek back home. She again reached out to bond with her mother, hand and hand once more before reaching the steps of the stucco apartment building. Walking up the stone steps, her mother unlocked the door and ushered her inside and up the stairs, and eventually into their second floor unit.
“Do you want some breakfast, Flora?”
“Yes please,” she replied with a smirk, swiping the remote and plopping in front of the TV before even removing her pale yellow fleece jacket. Her mother didn’t think that it the color fit her personality as much as say, a bright and vibrant pink or purple. She loved that her daughter was so independently minded, and didn’t give lend much credence to criticisms that she received from people whom she didn’t love.
As her mother cracked the eggs and tossed some bacon in an opposite pan, she peered over the white painted kitchen island and watched as Flora navigated her way through the channels. The TV wasn’t as big as the one they used to have, but Flora never complained about anything, as difficult as times got. The eggs began to take shape as she reached into her purse for a small set of keys that she kept inside of her half empty pack of cigarettes.
Flipping the eggs without popping the yolk and setting the spatula on the counter to the right of her, she grabbed the set of keys to open a drawer that housed a silver .357 glock handgun. She stared at it for a moment, and then placed it in her hand. She clearly wasn’t prepared for this moment, and it showed in the way the gun shook in her purple glitter paint-tipped fingers.
Without incident, she placed the gun on the counter top to flip the bacon and turn off the burner that was frying the eggs.
“Flora, go get in your pajamas, we’re not going anywhere today.”
Flora grabbed her jacket and ran off to her room, skipping down the beige carpeted hallway while humming the tune to a song she had heard on the radio. Upon her return, there was a plate with the food making up a smiling face. The two eggs were the eyes, a slice of bacon for the mouth, and one for a hairpiece, along with one slice of toast cut in half, to make up the ears. A glass of apple juice rested next to the plate.
She refused to let her fork grace the porcelain dish until she found something suitable to watch on TV. After a minute of flipping through the channels, she settled on a day time talk show that centered on paternity tests results. This show always made her laugh because the people on it were unlike anybody she’d ever encountered. She’d never seen a grown man dance around because he was not the father, and couldn’t for the life of her understand why that would be cause for celebration. She’d always wanted a sibling, but realized that being an only child was a gift, because she could pick her brothers and sisters.
Flora began cutting and chewing, as her mother remained in the kitchen, staring at the handgun that made her tremble. Gripping it once more, she now knew the feel of it. The way the smooth, cold steel caressed her palm felt like dry ice, one touch sent her a chill from the tips of her toes to the follicles of her longest strand of hair.
She began to tear up, and placed the gun back inside the drawer, locking it once and for all, as she tossed the keys down the garbage disposal and turned it on. As she reached on top of the fridge, she clutched a six inch piece of paper and told her daughter she’d be right back, as she walked the same path that Flora did mere moments ago.
She sat on the bed, Indian style, as she finally had the courage to read the obituary published three weeks ago, detailing the life of the man who took his life for what he thought was the greater good of both of them. She wanted to tell him just how wrong he was, but couldn’t. So she whispered it as her eyes teared up, and counted to five before heading back out to the living room. Wiping her tears away as she returned down the hall, Flora remarked that breakfast was really good.
“Aw thanks, baby girl.”
She joined Flora on the couch and cuddled up to her, knowing that she was the only piece of the life left behind.