Genevieve awoke bright and early, stretching as she briefly sat up in bed. Lying back against her pillows, there was one thing and one thing only on her mind.
It was THE day; the one day of the year she allowed herself to feel anything other than intense stress over her writing assignments and deadlines. The one day she dreaded because she knew it’d take her into a full day of deep depression. The one day she hated because it took her mind straight to a bevy of ‘What If’ and “I Wish I Had’ moments that she tried desperately to get over.
After all, it’d been twenty-one years and she wasn’t even old enough, at the time of the occurrence, to have a right to be upset today. Not so many years later, not when she was told and forced to understand at such a young age. She had no right to be upset, and pout, and cry; that’s what she told herself. She had no right.
She couldn’t even bring herself to pay a visit, so what right did she had to gripe and cry and speak on how unfair ‘life’ had treated her?
Climbing out of bed slowly, she dragged her feet as she made her way to the bathroom. Seven a.m. on the dot, and already she was tired. Physically drained and defeated. Nothing had been done, she hadn’t set foot in an office or out of her home, but she was exhausted. It was natural, lock clockwork; every year, on December 7th. Every year since she was eight years old. Now, at twenty-four, she felt she should be past this stage in her life. Over it, after fully accepting that this one thing was something she would never have or experience in her life.
It wasn’t as if she was the only girl in the world that had grown up without a mother; what right did she have to cry when so many others didn’t, hadn’t, and probably wouldn’t? She had a wonderful father, a supportive grandmother who raised her. Truthfully, she hadn’t grown up without or missed out on anything. All the love she could imagine, she had. And more.
Still, she found herself wondering what exactly that motherly love had felt like. Sitting back some nights, getting bits and pieces and catching glimpses of the way her stepmother acted towards her and her step-siblings; it left her yearning for more, for her own, rather than satiating and healing the broken heart she didn’t even know she had. “It’s so unfair.”
She quickly pushed the thought out of her mind, stripping out of her clunky pajamas and climbing into the shower once it’d warmed up enough. Letting her hair down, she stepped under the water and took several deep breaths. Letting the piping hot water beat down against her body, she said a quick prayer and asked for strength to get through the day. Choosing to get her grief out of the way early, she did the one thing she never allowed herself to do in front of others.
Genevieve cried. And cried. With a slight difference from the lyrics of her favorite song, the drops of water from the shower would have to hide, and wash away, her teardrops so no one would know that she’d been crying when she stepped outside. After ten minutes, she pulled herself together and proceeded to clean her body, needing to get through her daily routine as quickly as possible.
Using the spare key he’d been given in case of emergencies, Timothy walked into his step-sister’s home. Closing and locking the door behind him, he looked around. It was cold, well below fifty degrees, and he could faintly hear a depressing song playing from one of the upstairs bedrooms. He knew the day, and he knew exactly what it meant to Genevieve, the reason he decided to pop in and check on her bright and early.
If need be, he would take the entire day off just to watch over her. Being the only person she confided in, her deepest and darkest secrets, Timothy knew that she’d contemplated harming herself multiple times. He knew she’d attempted twice, and it was something that he never wanted to walk in on. It was most definitely something he never wanted to explain to their father. “Gen!”
Although it was a beautiful Sunday morning, he made a quick stop into her kitchen and grabbed a bottle of her favorite wine and two glasses before heading up to her bedroom. If wine was the thing to calm her down, he would drink with her in moderation until she felt better. “Gen, I’m walking in, are you decent?”
He knocked three times before slowly opening the door, peeking in to see that she wasn’t even in there. He did however hear her shower running. “She’s awake. She’s alive. That’s two off the checklist.” Once the shower shut off, Timothy knocked lightly on her bathroom door and announced himself. “Gen, just letting you know I’m in here Sis. Don’t, you know, walk out butt naked and scare the crap out of me.”
Staring at herself in her mirror, Genevieve could only laugh. “Thanks for the warning, Tim.” She dried herself off and lotioned her body before putting her robe on. Towel drying her hair, she quickly patted her curly strands before wrapping her head. She kept her house cold and the last thing she needed was to get sick. Spotting the wine he’d set on her dresser first, Genevieve looked at her step-brother cautiously before accepting and returning his hug. “What’s up with the wine? You sinning on this Sunday, Jr. Pastor Burke? Or do you have wafers too so that we can take communion?”
“Aye, don’t make fun of me when you don’t even attempt to attend church. I just, I know you Sis. And if you’re going to do something to self-medicate, I’m not going to let you do it alone or get out of control. Are you okay?”
Genevieve smiled, admitting that she was extremely thankful for Timothy. Although she was the oldest, and they’d only met one another when she was seven and he was five, they were the closest anyone could be; especially two kids in a blended family. When her father adopted Timothy as his own, Timothy made it his mission to always be there for and look after his second sister, even if he were struggling himself. Their bond came from him not having his real father, and her not having a mother. In sharing the parents they did have, they fought for attention before finally realizing they weren’t losing out on anything, instead gaining a lot.
“Yeah Tim, I’m fine. You know I usually allow myself to lie in bed, crying all day long but you know, I’m too old for that now.”
“Yes. I’m twenty-four. It happened when I was three and I don’t even remember it. I-I barely remember her. How can I be upset?”
Timothy shrugged, sitting down on the edge of her bed. “It’s very easy. This doesn’t even compare to your situation, but hear me out.” Genevieve nodded, sitting down next to him. “I know my real dad, but he was never really in my life. While it was his choice to act as if I wasn’t his, even when I made the effort to see him as a kid, I was upset. And I would ask myself the same thing, what right do I have to be mad at this person or this situation when I was so young the day he basically left my life? After all this time, I still get mad, even though your dad stepped up and showed me love. I think that it’s wondering what your life would be like if things turned out different. Yes, you were three years old and you don’t remember her well, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t have emotions or can’t feel hurt or pain.”
“But after all of this time, I should be over it, right?”
He shrugged again. “Somebody might say yes. I wouldn’t say that you should be over it. In your situation, that’s something that is never easy to get over no matter how much time has passed, no matter how old you are. It’s not like she walked away, she passed away. You feel cheated, and that’s understandable. You went through bad things and you felt maybe it’d be different if she were still here, and that’s understandable. I can never imagine what that pain feels like, and I wish there was some way that you could find a little relief, even if it were temporary, but there’s no reason that you can’t have your day. There’s no need to feel bad about being upset, or thinking of and missing her.”
“I do think of her. I miss her so much. But I want to know why I can’t wake up on this day, December 7th, of whatever year and say something like ‘hmm, it’s the 7th. Another day’. Why? I just want to go through this day without crying and breaking down at random times when this rush of emotion hits me.”
Timothy cleared his throat. “I don’t know Gen.” They sat quietly for a few moments before he finally asked the one question that’d always been on his mind. “Have you ever come to terms with the fact that she’s gone?”
“What do you mean?”
“I remember you telling me that you always knew your mom wasn’t around, but you didn’t sit down and think about it, and comprehend why she wasn’t around until you were eight. Did you come to terms with why, or has it always been something that just sat on your heart and mind? Something you carry with you year after year?”
Genevieve thought about it for a second. Of course she came to terms, she had no choice but to come to terms with it. It wasn’t as if her mother would suddenly walk in, no matter how hard she wished and prayed for her life to change. “If I hadn’t, wouldn’t my depression day be the day someone sat me down and said ‘your mom died’?”
“Perhaps. But you blocked that out, like you blocked out the majority of your childhood before that point. At least, that’s what you told me. Honestly, have you come to terms with it?”
“Have you visited her? Talked to her? Told her how you feel and how you felt all this time? Just as God listens, angels listen too.”
Genevieve shook her head feverishly. She got up and walked into her closet, grabbing something warm to put on. “I can’t visit her Tim. I just can’t.”
“And why not? Obviously, even though it will be hard, that is something that could make you feel better. There’s so much you could get off your chest just by sitting there and talking. Or even sitting there quietly.”
Timothy sighed, knowing for a fact this was something his step-sister needed, whether she thought so or not. Of course, it wouldn’t cure everything. It wouldn’t change the outcome of the last twenty-one years, but it wouldn’t certainly give Genevieve some type of relief from whatever guilt or bad energy she was holding on to.
One visit could turn into another, and before long she could be well on her way to healing. “What if I go with you? We’ll stop, get some beautiful flowers, I’ll drive you down there, and I’ll wait for you while you visit your mom.”
“No, I’m okay. And I have things to do.”
“Gen, it’s Sunday. You don’t go to church, you’re single, and you don’t have a pressing deadline today. There is nothing you need to do that you can’t even take five or ten minutes to do something that will help you.”
She came out of her closet dressed in jeans, a t-shirt, and a sweatshirt. Carrying her boots in her hand, Genevieve stared into her step-brother’s eyes before smirking. “And just how will staring down at a grave help me?”
“I don’t know. But I’ve got a feeling that it’s the one thing you’ve never done on this day, ever, and it’s about time that you go through with it. If you’re scared, I’ll be there with you.” He smiled warmly and clasped his hands together. “Ever thought that maybe you find it so hard to move on and get through the day while feeling at peace because you haven’t made peace with where she is?”
Genevieve looked down at her feet, mumbling to herself. “I’m sorry, what’d you say Sister Thompson?”
“I said I hate that you slip into Jr. pastor mode and subtly preach to me like I’m one of the kids in your Sunday school class.”
“Eh. It’s what I do. Listen, you’re my big sister. And you always spend so much time making sure I’m okay, or that everybody else is okay, but never yourself. So let me make sure you’re okay for a change.” Genevieve nodded slowly, thanking him. “You’re welcome. Dry your hair, I’ll be waiting in the car.”
After more than an hour of stalling and attempting to change her mind, Genevieve and Timothy sat in the parking lot of one of the main churches in her hometown. “Tim, I don’t wanna do this anymore.”
“I just don’t.”
He shook his head. “Not good enough. Why don’t you want to do it?”
Genevieve groaned, quickly wiping away the one tear that fell. “Because… that day will replay in my mind. I was a baby, but I remember her laying there. I remember calling her name and people grabbing me to keep me from walking up to the casket. I’ll look down at her headstone but I will see an image of her in that casket as clear as ever and I’ll break. I don’t want to break down anymore.”
Taking her hand in his, Timothy squeezed gently. “Maybe you need this one final breakdown. Say whatever comes to mind, or stand there quietly. But this is something that you’ve never done, something you never had the courage to do, and I honestly believe that you need to. I believe it will help you.”
Although she’d yelled, he kept his voice low and even. “I don’t know. But it will.”
He got out and closed his door, walking to Genevieve’s side. Opening her door, he pulled her out of the passenger seat and into a tight hug before urging her to make her way. “I will be right here waiting. If it gets to be too much, scream and I will come and stand beside you.”
And with that, she found herself walking alone. Intentionally stalling, she stopped at her grandfather’s grave first and looked down, finding that a lot easier than the task ahead. It’d been eleven years, and although she never got the chance to say goodbye to him either, she felt some type of closure because they’d spoken some time before he passed. She knew where they stood, and she knew that he loved his Baby Doll. Her mother, just a few steps away.
She paused in her steps, counting to five over and over before she finally felt something pushing her. Placing the beautiful roses she’d bought down on her mother’s grave, Genevieve took one deep breath as she stood up straight. She tried looking forward, thinking that would make it easier but it didn’t work.
Looking off to the side and in different direction only made her feel guilty, and when she finally looked down, reading her mother’s full name, her date of birth and the day she passed… that was it.
Genevieve burst into tears, a huge amount of pressure weighing down on her chest. Oh, there was no stopping the tears or the way they flowed or how heavily they flowed.
“How can I miss you so much, how can this hurt so much?” I don’t remember anything, she thought to herself as she tried to pull herself together. She thanked God that there was no one around, and none of the nosy country folks driving up and down the road trying to figure out what was going on. “I don’t remember your voice, your face or what you look like. I don’t remember your scent, your accent, or your choice of words. I don’t remember your laugh, your touch or your embrace. I don’t remember anything, Mommy, but it hurts so much knowing that I can never have you.” She rubbed her temples. “To wake up everyday, wondering what I did wrong to deserve to lose you. Getting smacked around and wishing you could save me, but knowing you’ll never come. To, to see the relationships between others and their mothers and never know what THAT type of love feels like. This damn pain, Mommy, why doesn’t the pain go away?! I don’t even remember you.”
Timothy watched quietly, wiping his own tears away. It was something he didn’t understand, and silently he prayed he’d never have to understand. At least, not any time soon.
Genevieve wiped her face, remembering where she was as she told herself to keep her voice lowered. “Let me not question God. I still don’t fully understand His ways, let me not say anything to upset Him, not when I truly need Him.” She cleared her throat, controlling her emotions and forcing herself to speak evenly so that she didn’t start hyperventilating. “You don’t know him but my step-brother, Tim, said that I needed to do this. I bet you do know that I haven’t been out here in like ten years. Maybe eleven, or twelve. I lost count. Not that the one time counts anyway because I was too scared to even get out of the car. I-I should be okay with this now. I should.”
She was certain she looked crazy, like she was talking to herself. “But I’m not. I’ve been thinking of you so much, Mommy. Wondering what you’d be like now, what our relationship would be like. I find myself believing that you and I would be as close as ever and you’d be so proud of me, inspite of my choices. But, then again, if you were here I’d have probably gone to college. And I’d probably be successful at something. Living my own dream and doing things the way I envision, rather than working out someone else’s vision. I stay thinking about you; all hours of the day, night. When I’m alone, when I’m with and around people. Wondering things like, have I lived up to whatever expectations you had of me. Am I all that you wanted me to be, something and someone you can be proud of. If you’re watching over me, like I believe, are you proud of me?”
Genevieve twiddled her thumbs, shifting her weight between each leg. The talking had yet to ease her nervousness, or her fear.
“Do you miss me like I miss you?” That’s stupid, she thought to herself. “I miss you so much. It’s like, nobody understands why I’m always so sad. Oh, I’ve got this going for me and I’ve got that, and I’ve done this and I’ve done that… but it’s not enough. It’s never enough because I don’t have you. And I don’t know how you feel, and I don’t know if you’re proud or if you like what I’m doing. I just, you know, if you could give me signs to let me know I’m doing okay, that might help me.” Stop tripping Gen, this makes no sense. That’s what she told herself. “I stay thinking of you, Mommy. I promise, I’m trying so hard to make you proud. I hope I am. I love you, and I miss you.”
She sighed, touching the headstone as she walked away. Genevieve doubted that this would change anything, the depression wouldn’t magically go away. But, strangely, she was glad Timothy made her do it.
She was halfway back to his car when she felt something brush past her. It was no longer windy, and the sun was shining brightly. It had warmed up considerably in a matter of minutes, typical Louisiana weather.
Still, there was a distinct breeze brushing past her, blowing through her hair and tickling her ears. “Tim, did you just feel a gush of air?”
He looked at her and shook his head. “No. Why?”
Genevieve turned and looked behind her. Thinking about something her grandmother told her as a child. Whenever her youngest brother, a disabled child, would laugh randomly or mention a breeze in an otherwise warm or hot room… it meant angels were near. Genevieve had gone through too much in her young life to still hold on to that childish type of innocence, the belief in seeing and talking to angels. But, if that’s what would get her through the day, she’d believe that those separate breezes were her mother and grandfather letting her know everything, in that moment, was just fine.
“Gen, why’d you ask about a gush of air?”
“Uh, never mind. I know what it was.”
“Yeah. Um, pain didn’t ease up much but I definitely feel like I got a lot off my chest. Thank you for insisting that I come out here, and thank you for waiting for me.”
“Aye, that’s what siblings are for. Are you sure that you’re good?”
She shook her head, opening the passenger door. “I will be, eventually.”
“Alright. What do you wanna do for the rest of the day? I’ll sit with you if you want. Quality sibling time since we never see each other.”
“Maybe tomorrow Tim. Today, today I just wanna sit around and write. And think about my mom. This time when I’m crying, they won’t all be sad tears.” He smiled, nodding his head as he got in on his side.
Genevieve opened his glove compartment and searched through his CDs until she found the one, with the one song that she knew would sum all of her feelings up without making her overly emotional.
Once they were off church grounds, she rode with her step-brother in a comfortable silence as Lenny Kravitz’s Thinking Of You played on repeat. It was just what she needed.