Part Four. Uncharted Depths of Loss.
On the Sunday of my flight from Melbourne, we were up early. Breakfast was quiet, and we’d begun to pack. Earlier, my aunt had given me her word — like a lifeline — that I would see my mother that afternoon to say goodbye. It was a promise that seemed almost holy; after the cold decree from my mother’s partner the day before, my place in their home was never to be.
He’d told me in words unvarnished and brutal: I was to be erased. His declaration lingered like an ache in my bones, turning me into a fugitive within my skin.
The night after, at the movies, my mother’s eyes met mine, but her partner’s words were a ghost between us, unspoken.
At about nine a.m.My grandmother called upon me, enlisting my help. “Dress warmly,” she’d said, “and put on solid shoes.”. With a container clutched in my hand, she directed me, “Take this sugar to your mother. She needs it. She’s just a stone’s throw away — end of the street, turn right, the house with a red roof. You can’t miss it.”
So, I ventured out toward a house I’d never seen to fulfill a duty that felt more like penance. With each step, my heart beat a rhythm of dread. My sister Jennifer greeted me at the door.
Her greeting, a lifeline thrown across the chasm that had grown between us, felt both alien and intimate. I stepped over the threshold and into chaos: a room stripped bare of any comfort save for the raucous energy of children. The living area had shed its purpose, now a stage for the tumultuous play, the air heavy with the sharp scent of kerosene, the kind that clings to your clothes and skin.
A blanket hung over a window, a poor man’s curtain that fluttered like a flag of surrender. The children were submerged in their play, little heads bobbing in a sea of distraction from the world’s weight.
Then came the roll call of new brothers — James and Stephen — their names crashing over me like the shocking waves of a cold sea, a baptism into a family remembered and forgotten in the same breath. It was a reunion and an introduction; I was the stranger at the door, the prodigal sister in the doorway, home but not home.
My mother surfaced in a haze of cigarette smoke, her dressing gown like a flag of domestic surrender. Her surprise turned to irritation at the sight of me and then the sugar I held, an unwelcome gift. “I didn’t ask for any sugar, Janice. Go back I’ll…