Awkward Silence

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic
A young woman's sister dies, leaving her with a child she has never met. She begins to understand how unfilled her life is compared to what she thought.

Submitted: January 05, 2008

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Submitted: January 05, 2008

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Awkward silence. It’s such a strange thing, but in a way it’s necessary. If you talk too much, you’ll run out of things to say. So to break that up, you get awkward silence. That way you can collect your thoughts and hopefully think of something to start up another conversation. And other times it’s a good way to end a conversation so that you can be on your way.

But today, the awkward silence doesn’t break.

She sits there, across the room, on the opposite couch. Her hands are folded in her lap—her teddy bear tucked firmly beneath them. The puffiness of her coat engulfs her, and all I can see is her face, with her hair spilling over the top. The Hello-Kitty backpack sat next to the couch on the floor. It was quite cute—I used to have one just like it. The good old Hello-Kitty days…

She sneezes.

"Here, have a tissue." I hand her the box of Kleenex.

She doesn’t look up, but grabs one and wipes her nose ferociously. It’s funny how kids do that. It’s like if they don’t get it out now they’re going to die.

Folding it nicely and putting it on the table, she looks up at me with quiet stare. I look back at her, collecting my thoughts. Well, not quite…I’ve been collecting my thoughts for the last half-hour. Istudy her face—she looks just like her mother. The same amber eyes, the same curly brown hair, and even the same perfect smile. Freckles dust her nose, making her cuter than anything you’ve ever seen.

Her mother, Cindy, was my sister. My big sister. She was older by 5 years—but that didn’t keep us from being close most of our lives. But then she moved away and I went into college, and we grew apart somewhat. We still chatted every day, but it wasn’t the same. The last time I saw her was at my college graduation, which she had flown in for the day to see, all the way from Washington. I was so surprised. It felt just like old times.

That day she had also told me she was pregnant. I was so excited to be an auntie. Words can never express the joy I felt. But that joy quickly evaporated a few months later. Her husband and high school sweet heart, Jordan, died in a work accident. She was devastated. Not only did she loose her soul mate—she realized that her child would never know her father. And that hurt her the most.

She gave birth to the most beautiful baby girl I had ever seen. The one sitting in front of me now. I only saw pictures though. I was never given the chance to visit, to hold the little one, to watch her grow up. I was so preoccupied with my own life. Iguess, tobe frank, I had never TAKENthe chance to visit. Nor do I think I would have. We still kept in touch. I usually got the occasional "Here’s what’s been happening in our lives" emails.

But one day, I got a phone call. It was my mother. She said that Cindy had gotten into a car crash and was in a coma. She died later that night of numerous injuries and internal bleeding. That was a week ago. My mother also told me some surprising news—Cindy had left everything to me in her will—including her daughter, Gracie.

I was stunned. Stunned that her whole estate went to me, thus making me a very wealthy woman (her husband’s life insurance gave her well over $500,000, and her own insurance only added to that)—and stunned that she would give me Gracie, her prize possession. The money meant nothing to me. It was just a nice side thing. Like getting a sweater at Christmas that was pretty, though you knew you weren’t going to wear it that often.

But Gracie…she was like the toy that you wanted all year, and you finally get it--knowing you’ll keep it forever because it meant that much to you.

The only thing was…this toy didn’t come with a manual. There were no instructions. And I knew she wouldn’t be like a pet. I was solely responsible for raising this little girl now. But how could I? I’d never so much as babysat. I didn’t know what to do with kids! I made a mental note: Call mom and ask for anything and everything about kids.

I left my thoughts, looking at the clock.

6:42 PM.

I looked back at Gracie. She was playing with the button nose on her teddy bear. My stomach rumbled. Whenever I get stressed, I get hungry. I would usually fight it, but today, I was fully ready and willing to give into it. I patted my knee and took in a deep breath, leaning forward.

"Gracie?"

Her head shot up. Her eyes connected with mine. My stomach rumbled again.

"Are you hungry?"

She nodded her head. Good. I stood up and walked into the kitchen, searching through the cabinets, looking for something; more soanything that she would eat. Sad to say, I didn’t have much. A few Ritz crackers, some cake, and a box of Kudos bars. I knew she wouldn’t eat Brussels sprouts or broccoli—which was basically the extent of my fridge. I sighed, looking in my wallet. I had plenty of cash. I turned around and went back into the living room. She was still sitting there awkwardly, as if the couch she was sitting on might suddenly crumble under her weight.

"Would you mind going out to eat somewhere? I don’t have much in the kitchen," I said. She nodded. She stood up and followed me to the front door, where I grabbed my jacket and purse. I looked down at her.

"Where would you like to go? You can choose. I’ll eat anything." I joked. A smile faltered on her face. I knew she was uncomfortable. Who wouldn’t be? One minute you’re with your mom and the next you’re living with an aunt you’ve never met before. I figured I’d let her pick the place, you know, give her some kind of security…man, I gotta stop reading those stupid psyche books about raising kids (I'd bought them only yesterday, pouring over them for the littlest kind of reassurance)…

She put a finger to her lips—a contemplative look spread over her face. We stood there in the entry way for a full minute. My stomach rumbled again. I didn’t want to rush her…but I was getting seriously hungry.

Suddenly she stuck her finger in the air, a smile on her face. That was the first time she’d smiled since she arrived! A smile appeared on my face purely out of joy.

"A McDonald’s with a Playground!" she exclaimed. I opened the door and motioned for her to go outside to the car.

"Well, then, McDonald’s it is!" I sang, closing the door behind me.

Five minutes later we were back to the awkward silence. It made me sad, but at the same time, I understood. So I racked my brain even harder for things to say. Things that might make her happy and take her mind off everything. I thought of my previous kitchen scavenger hunts for kid foods. LIGHTBULB!

"We’ll go grocery shopping tomorrow and you can pick out any foods you want. Cereals, snacks, drinks, stuff like that. But," I said, holding my finger hold, smiling over at her as I drove, "You have to pick out some healthy things too."

Gracie just gazed at me. I shrugged to myself. I knew she’d appreciate it later.

Another thought popped into my head.

"Hey, I haven’t gotten you a bed yet either. So maybe tomorrow, or Saturday, we’ll go shopping for a bed. You can have any bed in the whole store," I threw my arms through the air, "And then we’ll go look for some cool blankets and stuff."

She gave me smile. I beamed at her.

"You know what? Maybe we should just give you a room makeover! You’ll be getting my exercise room, of course, seeing as how I never exercise," I laughed, mostly to myself, "And we could paint the walls to match your bed and get you some cool posters and stuff."

I sneaked a peek at Gracie out of the corner of my eye. She was staring down at her bear, but I could see a giant smiling playing across her face. I put on a smug smile. Guess I knew something about kids after all. Especially little girls; they loved shopping as much as the older girls!

We reached McD’s a few minutes later. Now we were standing at the counter, pondering what we should eat. I think I had it narrowed down to either a Crispy Chicken or a Caesar Salad…

Gracie had her finger on her lip again, and she was reading the menu. At least, I think she was reading the menu…I didn't really know if she could read at all...I chuckled to myself.

"Do you know what you want, Hun?" I asked her. She squinted her eyes at the menu—her finger tapping on her bottom lip contemplatively.

"Hmm…I think I’ll get some McNuggets. And make sure you get the girl toy!" She added in, her finger pointing at me as if I could actually think she was a boy. I chuckled again.

We got our food and walked out into the playground room. The only booth open was in the corner on the other side of the room. So we ran to it as fast as we could. Gracie gobbled her food down as fast as she could and then took off for the playground. Me, I ate slower…I let each bite soak in…I’d forgotten how good McD’s was…

I looked out the window and saw a small group of protesters, holding signs that had the McD’s clown with a slash through it. One of the signs said, "Food that goes straight to your thighs!"

I stopped chewing and looked down at my sandwich in my hands. Oh yea…that’s why I don’t eat here often…

I put down my sandwich. Suddenly my appetite had gone away. That’s okay though, I’ll just eat something healthier later…

The noise in that room was full of shrieks, screams, cries, and laughter. It gave me a headache, as it all seemed to echo off the walls. There was so much pounding overhead as the kids ran through the tubes. I’d always been afraid to go in the tubes when I was younger. The thought of going in something that was over ten feet in the air and hoping it wouldn’t come crashing down was too much to bear. But Cindy would grab my hand and force me to, never me letting go. She would tell me that it was alright, that she had me, that she would never leave me. Then we’d wander in the tubes, go into the ball pits, and slide down the slides. And in the end, I’d always be glad she made me go in.

Funny how you remember thestrangest things at the silliest moments. I haven’t thought about that for years. I'm surprised I could remember that much.

There was a quick pounding above me. I looked up, only to see Gracie in the hanging car, waving through the window. I plastered on a smile and waved back. The moment she looked away, I let my smile drop. I was only beginning to realize it, but I missed my sister so much. I looked back out the window. I wasn’t looking at anything in particular. I just wanted to let my eyes wander while my brain did. My sister and I missed out on so much. If only I had stayed in touch with her. If only I had gone to visit her. If only. I had never gotten the chance to say goodbye, to tell her I’m sorry for not being there. For letting go of her hand when she needed me…

Gracie plopped herself down at the booth, taking a sip of her soda. I looked down and her shoes were on. I picked up all our trash and stacked it on the tray.

"You done, Gracie?" I asked. She nodded as she put on her coat. Wow, I thought, this kid isn’t too hard to please! We’ve only been here for ten minutes!

But who am I to complain? This room was giving me a headache. Too many primary colors…

She followed me, teddy bear and new "girl" toy in hand, to the garbage and then out the door. As we were walking across the parking lot, her hand slipped into mine, startling me at first. I looked down at her, surprised to find her smiling at me.

"What?" I asked. I know it’s dumb, but I’ve never had a kid want to hold my hand before. So I was curious as to why. Shoot me.

"Thank you. I had fun," was all she said. My heart flipped. She had fun! I thought she was going to end up hating me!

"Well, you’re quite welcome!" I answered. She danced around to her side of the car and opened the passenger door, hopping into it.

I stood there for a moment, still in awe, but quickly slipped back into reality. I remembered all the suitcases and boxes at home that we were going to have to unpack into a dresser, which I did not have. I had always hated unpacking. I guess I’ll just have to put her clothes into piles on the floor for now. Make it somewhat orderly.

As I drove out of the parking lot,I sighed at the "fun" waiting at home.


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