Writing by Connie Tran // Illustration by Nova Segreti
We meet where the edge of the sea playfully strokes the dampened sand. You are radiant, golden, tanned from the sun, while my cheeks are flushed and pink. The smell of the sea reminds me of you, as does a triple scoop of chocolate ice cream, or those terribly endearing plaid bathing shorts. You consume my days and nights until they merge into a summer-filled whirlwind.
Fast forward and it is now a warm Thursday afternoon. We’re lying in the grass on our backs next to each other, shaded by an overgrown oak tree, hidden away in the small patch of woods behind my grandparent’s house. You threaten to tickle me and in protest I gently smack you across the face with the daisy I’ve been absentmindedly twirling. You laugh, swatting the daisy away. The sunlight that filters down between the canopy of leaves above dances across your face, gets caught in your hair. I could stay in this moment forever.
I’m curled up, sitting in your lap, the both of us nestled in the worn out single seater armchair that belonged to my great aunt. It’s the first night in our new home. Boxes of miscellaneous items are stacked against the wall. The kitchen is only half stocked but we’ve decided to call it a day. A woolen blanket is wrapped around the both of us whilst the leaves outside dance circles in the breeze gently tapping at the window. My vision merges into hues of brown, orange, and burgundy as I fall asleep, your arms wrapped around me and my hands over my lower stomach.
The smell of oatmeal has always reminded me of home. I stir the mixture twice more, then let the contents simmer. My youngest sister sits at the dining table, excitedly recounting her proposal for the umpteenth time in three days. I feign interest, she, too absorbed in her tale to notice my vacant stare. My sister pauses to gaze adoringly at the ring on her finger, continues her rambling but immediately stops at the realization of mentioning a certain “b” word. Her eyes drop down to my now empty navel and guiltily glances away. At the reminder the heavy shadows that have attached themselves to my soul grip tighter. It had been four years but the wound still felt new. I momentarily struggle to breathe but mask it behind a well-practiced smile. I reassure and encourage her to continue her story, pushing aside the thought that the cot upstairs that I could not bear to throw out would never hold a child of my own.
He approaches me bashfully, his three year old body exhibiting all signs of shyness. Head down, glancing up only every few steps. Arms glued to his body, a book bound tightly to his chest. I pretend not to see him until I feel the faintest of tugs on my skirt. I look down, and am greeted by his imploring eyes, book held out towards me in a silent request. With a smile I happily oblige and sit down, pulling him into my lap in one smooth motion. As I begin to read, the few children within our proximity gradually make their way over until I have attracted a small crowd. Eventually you join us as well, sit beside me, the bolder ones of the group clambering onto your lap. I can feel the pride and joy radiating from you, and I too share in this feeling, at the establishment we have built—the orphanage that we and 17 other children call home. Though I still mourn, the shadows no longer loom menacingly over my shoulder. Rather, they resemble a faint whisper of an extremely bad dream. In a somewhat contrasting manner, the children and I share and understand each others pain. We may have lost our child and these children their parents, but at least now that we have each other.[share]