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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

A mother moves to Melbourne with her two daughters who struggle to understand her grief.

Submitted: August 12, 2018

A A A | A A A

Submitted: August 12, 2018



Lori kept bouncing in the back, singing and chattering in a voice that sounded very much like a squeaky toy while we were on the road, and when she did fall asleep, she would be sprawled everywhere on the seat with her head on my lap and her hand squashing my face. Her snores were louder than her singing, so loud that they could probably be heard from miles away. Now, she was awake and her foot was kicking the back of the driver’s seat hard.

I told her to quit it but Mum looked over her shoulder and said, you be good to your sissy now, Laura.

Lori stuck out her little pink tongue and went back to kicking the seat.

I realized Mum wasn’t looking at me or Lori but rather the car behind us. She was furrowing her eyebrows and chewing her bottom lip like it was gum.

Another car honked at us and Mum swerved to the left to avoid a fatal side-collision.

The driver rolled down his window and yelled ‘Oi!’ with his fist in the air as he drove past us. Mum waved at him apologetically though her eyes were fixed on the rear-view mirror.

You’re gonna catch flies, Laura, she said and I kept my mouth shut for the rest of the trip.

We stayed overnight at a run-down motel. Our room had a TV with a broken screen, a mini fridge and two twin beds to sleep on. Mum took the bed near the window while Lori and I argued over who should sleep on the floor.

Laura, you let your sissy sleep on the bed now or you’ll be spending the night outside, Mum snapped. Lori blew a raspberry at me and bounced on the bed so hard, I thought the floor would break.

I couldn’t sleep, of course, and the floor kept creaking each time I rolled onto my side. Then I realized the room was lit and looked up to find the curtains drawn back which shouldn’t be cause Mum always had the curtains drawn. And yet, she was bathed in the moonlight, just staring out the window, looking lost like she didn’t know what to do anymore.  

The next morning, my whole body was sore and my eyes were tearing from the dust that had collected over the years. Tell your sissy to get up now, Laura, Mum said and I did only to get kicked in the face. Lori giggled and I would’ve scolded her if Mum hadn’t told me to quit fooling around and start packing. 

By eight o’clock sharp, we checked out of the motel and hit the road. Mum was going ten miles over the speed limit and I told her to slow down but she kept on speeding and looking back at the same time like we were in a car chase or something. At least watch the road, Mum, I said and she swiveled her head round to do just that.

Suddenly, Mum pulled over to the side of the road and slammed the brakes until the car came to a screeching halt.

Lori was only half-asleep and mumbling if we were there yet.

Mum got out of the car and I followed her. We stood near the edge of the cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, listening to the waves crashing against the rocks below. The car broke down that day when I met him here, she muttered, her hands gripping the rail so hard her knuckles turned white, and I looked at her but she wouldn’t say anything more.

We stood there for a while before Mum finally headed back to the car and so did I.

As we drove further away from the cliff, Mum said, you were supposed to watch your sissy back there, Laura.

Fortunately, Lori had been smart enough to lock the doors or God knew what would happen if she didn’t. As we continued cruising at a hundred miles per hour, Mum muttered something about me catching flies and I was silent again.

We drove all through the night till dawn just as the faint city skyline came into view at the horizon. You see that, girls, Mum said, stirring both of us from our sleep, that’s Melbourne right over there. And I didn’t know what to feel at that moment or if I should be feeling anything at all.

It’s gonna be alright, she kept saying though her hands were gripping the steering wheel hard and her forehead was creased in folds, making her look older than she really was.

We made it to the city by evening and pulled in to Berkeley Street where we stopped in front of a flat with the number 751 stenciled on the glass door. By then, Lori and I were wide awake and Mum was telling us to get out of the car. We were on the ninth floor and our apartment was No. 901 in which it was fully furnished with two bedrooms, a bathroom, a kitchen and a lounge room with a balcony overlooking the city. Lori and I had no choice but to share a bedroom and we fought over who got the bed near the window.

Mum was yelling at me to be good now though her attention wasn’t on me or Lori but rather the front door like she was expecting an unwelcomed visitor anytime soon. No one’s coming, Mum, I said and she yelled at me again to shut up and quit acting smart like I knew what I was talking about. And so, she stayed by the door, looking through the peephole, and Lori wouldn’t quit asking me if Mum was sick and needed to see a doctor.

As I listened to Lori’s massive snores, Mum’s pitiful sobs and the blares of the car horns outside later that night, I couldn’t help but wonder if it got something to do with Dad or the smashed bottle of beer on the carpet back in Brisbane, or the mad car chase or the cliff or even Lori, but whatever it was, it was bad.

© Copyright 2020 Jjkk. All rights reserved.

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