The music for this chapter: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/0CrryZsOYu7LAAZxnzJ42o?si=570c28f413b64c8e
( I put a copy pastable version in the comments)
I heard the door close. Aunt Christina had left. I was still focused on Sara’s message.
“Hey! It’s nice to finally have a friend to message. Doing anything fun?”
After thinking and thinking about what to answer, I decided to just say what was happening rather than to come up with something original. It would be easier that way and she would probably stop messaging sooner if my answers were rather banal.
“Nothing special. Practicing. My Aunt has gone out on a date, so I will have to make my dinner myself tonight.”
“Oh, I love cooking! What are you making?”
I got up and walked to the kitchen to check what Aunt Christina had prepared for me to heat up. I found a pasta bowl with a plate on top with a lasagna inside. There was a little post-it on top of it with the words “Microwave 4 minutes like this with the plate on top!”
I answered Sara “Lasagna” in a text. While I put the plate inside the microwave.
Only a few seconds later my phone pinged again.
“Wow, you are putting in quite the effort! I would most likely make something quick when I am alone.”
She was completely misunderstanding. I couldn’t cook. Like at all… There was a reason for that post-it. I once let the microwave and my lasagna burn to a crisp because I had not removed it from the aluminum package. How was I to know that there was a difference between a microwave and a regular oven? The instructions on the package said to put it just like I did 30 minutes inside the oven. I thought microwaves were just modern ovens. Like how an HD tv and a plasma tv are both used in the same way…
When I noticed my mistake, I had been worried and in order to cover my mistake up, I had cleaned everything up and eaten the carbonized lasagna anyway. But that had been a serious mistake. I had been afflicted with stomach aches the entire night and ended up having to spill the beans to Aunt Christina who had to take me to the doctor and apparently even had to replace her microwave. I am pretty sure I wasn’t the first to make that mistake though... But ever since that event, when I had to take care of my own dinner, I found detailed notes on what I needed to do to warm up my food.
“I am just heating it up. Aunt Christina made it.” I immediately corrected the misunderstanding in a message to Sara. Well, to be honest, she did not “make” it. She opened the package, put it in the bowl, and added some cream because she did not trust that I would be able to do that myself or would just skip meals otherwise… Well, she was right there was a pretty high chance that I would just not eat if I considered it too much effort. After all, it was just for me, and it is not like I would die from skipping a meal.
I started eating while continuing to reply to Sara’s message barrage. How did I end up in this social mess? I thought my banal responses would have stopped her, but instead, she found a way to turn the banalest of things into a conversation topic. Well, I had to admit that it felt better to talk to someone while eating than just sitting here in silence.
When I had finished my lasagna, my eye fell on the gift-wrapped box on the table with my name on it. All that messaging had taken my mind off Aunt Christina’s words right before she left.
My curiosity took over and I destroyed the wrappings in 2 seconds to find a bundle of orchestra scores. These were all pretty famous works, but my eye fell immediately on Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite. I felt tears well up in my eyes. When I was a kid, my mom used to sing Solveig’s song as a bedtime song to me. I leafed through the thick book until I found the scores to the song in question. The notes transported me back in time and I could almost hear my mother sing. I quickly made a few notes in pencil of a few quirks I remembered in my mother’s song that did not seem to correspond with the scores.
Then, I took the books with me and walked to my room. Once there, I put the score on my music stand. I tried to play the main theme on my cello. I closed my eyes while reminiscing my childhood memories with my mother. I visualized the way she used to tuck me in before bed while singing this song when I was small. I could never have thought that the day I would never be able to hear her song again would come so soon. I had really thought she would always be there for me.
While playing I got engulfed completely in my emotions and my memories. I remembered my mother’s scent; I could smell it almost like she was in the room with me. As a matter of fact, the longer I played this song, the more it felt like she was really here with me. I continued the song putting the accents just like mom used to sing them, I could swear I heard her voice singing the notes with me. When I played the final note, suddenly I felt enveloped in a warm embrace. I would recognize this embrace anywhere.
Then, I heard the words “Thank you Fleure, it’s beautiful.” breaking my musical trance.
I was a bit taken aback. I opened my eyes and saw my mother next to me. She was partially transparent. Like she was here, and yet she wasn’t. I felt a bit scared, but I wasn’t about to let this chance go.
“I miss you,” I said, “It’s not fair.”
She hugged me again and then said “I know dear. I watched you suffer so much. I wanted to give you this hug for such a long time. I am glad you noticed my sign. It took a lot of effort to set it up.”
Then she looked up and nodded toward someone or something I could not see. “I can’t stay long. It is time for me to leave for good, but I am happy I got the chance to say goodbye. Please forgive your dad. Search your memories. You know it was an accident. You know he wasn’t at fault.” I wanted to protest, but she put a finger on my lips. “There is no time honey, so let me speak my last words. Goodbye, my dear daughter. Please give my sister a final hug for me. Tell her she is doing a fantastic job in my stead. I am proud of you both.” Her voice was fading away as she tried to say one more thing. I thought I could make up the words “For Lise” but unfortunately, I could no longer make anything of the rest she was trying to say.
“Mom, please stay…” Tears were running down my eyes. I just wanted everything to be back like before. Why couldn’t everything go back to the way it used to be?
I could hear that Aunt Christina had returned in the meantime. My mom’s last request resounded in my head. I realized I had to go to her. I instantly made my way to the living room, the tears still fresh in my eyes.
Aunt Christina was laying on the sofa. She was clearly happy about something. When Aunt Christina noticed me standing, she seemed a bit embarrassed, like I caught her doing something. I wiped away the tears from my eyes again and looked her in the eye.
She noticed I had been crying and wanted to say something, but I interrupted her, saying “Please let me speak first.”
I gathered my courage and gave her a big hug. Just like mom asked me to.
Aunt Christina looked completely baffled. I could see she was having trouble deciding if she was awake or not. Then I told her mom’s message: “Thank you for everything. You are doing a fantastic job in mom’s stead.”
“W-Where is this coming from?”
“I just felt like I needed to tell you this now, after playing mom’s song. I feel like it’s what she would have said if she was here.” I could not tell her the truth. For one, she would never believe me, and I am pretty sure I would only end up with a lot worse than more sessions at Ms. Vanderstuck’s office if I told her I had spoken to mom’s ghost.
Aunt Christina hugged me back and petted my head. This time I let her. I could see she had a little tear in her eye. But then she asked, “And what would Fleure say?” I looked a bit surprised into her eyes and after considering my words for a second, I replied: “I am grateful that you are the one that took me in.”
My own words seemed to have had a way bigger emotional effect than mom’s words and Aunt Christina hugged me a little intenser before giving me a kiss on my forehead like she used to do when I was in elementary school.
The realization that mom had used her last words to bring the two of us closer together brought me again to tears. “Thank you, mom,” I whispered silently under my breath.