I held tightly onto the book I was reading, a romantic novel with a horrific twist. I bit my lip as the main character was thrust into a pit of injustice and their lover was trapped in another, both unable to save the other. I stopped reading. My heart was beating fast. I started to think about how I had met the love of my life. I slipped deep into thought and could not pull myself out.
An ordinary day with an unordinary twist.
I pulled into the parking lot behind the small gym and headed inside. Harlem stood (still in his suit) next to the entrance, holding the door for me and ushering me inside. "What shall we do first, Mrs. Kariah?"
"Oh, you don't have to do anything. But, I think I'll begin on the treadmill," I answered, as formally as possible as I made my way to the lower body section of the gym. He followed me and took the treadmill next to mine.
As I ran, I thought of my father. 'He won the olympic gold medal twice in discus and, now, it is my turn to be a winner.'
I turned off the treadmill and moved over to pushups, where I finished my contemplation.
'I remember going to the park with my dad when I was eight. It was one of the few times I saw him. He threw frisbees to my sister and I. We both ran after each and wrestled when we got a frisbee. My father had chastised us a lot that day but, it didn't help: we continued to wrestle.'
On my drive home that night, I thought of my children. 'Two year old TJ and little fourteen-month-old Alyson. They were my pride and joy. My husband, Tyler, was deployed and is in Iran. Thankfully, my mother was able to move in and watch the children.'
I turned left into my neighborhood.
'My sister had wanted to watch them but, because of the accident...'
I pushed the thought away and rolled into my driveway.
My mother smiled when she saw me. She's an ordinary looking woman with big, brown eyes and curly brown hair that is barely graying. "Kariah!" She dusts her hands on her apron and hugs me, tight. "The children are watching TV," she turns back to her cooking and gestures to the living room. I slide past her and greet TJ; Alyson was asleep on the couch. Then, I run up to my room, where I shower and change into an oversized christmas sweater and leggings. Whenever I dress like this, I feel like a teen again.
I remember a scene from my thirteenth birthday: 'I was sitting at the dinner table, the only light was thirteen dancing flames that seemed to taunt me. I extinguished them in a single, tiresome breath. My mother clapped like a baby and my father took pictures as my sister eagerly blew out her thirteen candles. As my father sliced and distributed cake, my mother handed us perfectly packaged gifts. Mine had a wide silver string keeping it in a bundle over galaxy-themed wrapping paper. I had torn into my gift, quickly, unlike my sister, who daintily untied her thin, gold string over simple, neon-pink wrapping paper.'
I skipped down the steps. My mother's cooking had a sweet, warm smell that rose up the steps and filled my lungs. "Mom, what did you make? It smells delicious," I commented, once I had made my way into the kitchen. She grinned and held up a tray full of what looked like a lightly browned loaf of bread. "Chicken-pot-pie. Here, take this and help me set the table," she jutted the tray forward.
During dinner, I watched as my mother fed Alyson. Alyson was still very small with reddish locks, like her father. 'She hasn't learned what loss is, she will, in time,' I thought. 'But, at this age, she remains ignorant.'
'I learned it when I was only five. My brother was always sick and you could see it coming. I never was close with him because, even so young, I anticipated that someday he would go to the hospital and never come back.'
"Kariah! Why are you ignoring me?" She looked more concerned than hurt. "Sorry, mom. I got all caught up in my thoughts," I felt redness burn, just under the skin, on my cheeks. "Pass me the salt, will you? I didn't add any to the mashed potatoes. It's healthy," She glanced down at my empty plate. I nodded and fulfilled the favor. "I'm not all that hungry. I enjoyed a big lunch, today. I do appreciate the concern," I reassured my mother, who was now dumping salt onto her food.