I had it all. A big and warm home and a mother who loved me more than anything in this world.

My father died of cancer two years after I was born. Despite her sadness, my mother never stopped taking care of me. She always wore her most beautiful smile and she hugged me tight with all the love she felt towards me.

She worked two different jobs, because she didn’t want me to miss out on anything. She was an orphan and my father’s parents had cut all forms of communication after his death. They’ve been accusing her for his illness, like she was the one who made him sick. They couldn’t be more wrong.

That damned year, I started going to High School. I wasn’t acquainted with any of the kids there and I felt like an outsider. They, too, didn’t seem to want to be my friends. I had already made my decision; I would spend the rest of my school years alone. There’s no way it would be that hard.

It’s easy to talk, when you don’t know. But, in reality, it wasn’t easy to watch the other girls smiling, telling jokes, helping each other and flirt with the boys. I was lucky I wasn’t bullied. We lived in a small society and none of the children would dare to tease another. They just chose to ignore me.

However, loneliness wasn’t enjoyable. I was all alone at school and, when I got back home, I felt even more lonely. My mother worked till late afternoon and she was never there to talk about my day at school or my tests and grades. When she got back from work, she’d take a bath and go to sleep. The little time that was left for us to spend together, I spent it by helping her cook some food for the next day. Sometimes, we would watch movies and others we would play board or card games.

With time, I became more and more nervous and demanding. I missed my mother’s presence at home and I always complained the days she was too tired to pay attention to me. I knew she was sad, but I was angry on the inside and I wanted someone to take it all out on.

*

Christmas Eve – a special day. I was out taking a walk, just before the night fell. Families with their children going ice-skating, mothers holding their daughter’s hands and buying them lollipops. And I? I was alone, because my mother had to work late that day. Why couldn’t she refuse? Why wouldn’t she come back home and pass some time with me? The anger that had been building up inside me, now had grown so much that I just couldn’t take it anymore.

I went back home annoyed, but my mother still wasn’t back. I took the phone in my hands and dialed her number. She didn’t pick up the first time. I called again. She picked up.

“Where are you?”

“Sweetie, I’m on my way, I’ll be back soon.”

“Mom, I’m tired of being alone and waiting for you! Couldn’t you take the day off today? Just once, so we could be together? I don’t understand why you’re always away. It would be better, if you weren’t my mom!” I shouted enraged.

She didn’t answer instantly, but it seemed to me that she was crying. And then, I heard the sound of aluminum being crumpled and destroyed and the sound of glass breaking.

“Mom?”

My voice cracked and my hands started trembling. My whole body was frozen and I remained motionless beside the phone. Many hours must have passed, but my mother didn’t seem to come back. Suddenly, the phone rang and I jolted, like I was just struck by lightning.

“Mom?” I asked, even though I didn’t know that number.

“Vera?” said a man, whose voice I didn’t recognize.

“Yes?”

“I’m calling from the police. There was a traffic accident today at nine in the evening. None of the drivers survived. Your mother was one of them. From what we already know, the other driver hit her with high speed.”

I stopped listening at that point. I didn’t want to hear anymore. I couldn’t bear it. I didn’t want to believe any of that.

“You’re making a mistake. My mother will be back in a bit.” I replied.

I couldn’t believe that all of this wasn’t just a nightmare.

“I’m so sorry.” insisted the policeman and this time, his voice showed that he might have been hardly trying to hold back his tears.

I hung up the phone and lay on the floor. I started sobbing and screaming her name with all the energy I had left. Like this would, somehow, bring her back to life. Just before midnight, I asked Santa to bring her back. I even broke one of the snow globes we had, since my mom would always say they brought good luck, once broken. This was my only wish. I didn’t want anything, anymore. Only my mother.

It didn’t take long for me to fall asleep there. I didn’t move a finger all night and, in the morning, I woke up at the exact same spot.

“It’s Christmas today, huh? How am I supposed to celebrate now?”

I opened my phone.

“24th December? What the-

I heard keys unlocking the front door and I run to see who it was. To my surprise, I encountered my mother. Tears of happiness streamed down my cheeks. I had a hard time believing that all of this was real. But even if it was a dream, I wished that I would never wake up.

“Why are you crying? Are you that happy to see me?”

“I wasn’t expecting you to come back so early. What happened?”

“My boss decided to give us the day off today, since it’s Christmas Eve. I thought we could go and do some shopping together, if you want to.”

She smiled at me.

How could I refuse? However, only at the thought of that evening, something inside me told me we shouldn’t go. But I really wanted to spend some time with her!

I nodded at her and she looked excited.

“Mom, what do you say we call grandma and grandpa and wish them Merry Christmas?”

She seemed skeptical for a while. Eventually, she took out her cellphone and looked for their phone number among her contacts. When she found it, she pressed the call icon with a hesitant move. After ringing thrice, a female voice answered.

“Hello?”

“It’s me, Mrs. Elena. Arete.”

The old woman didn’t reply.

“I didn’t mean to bother you. I just want to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.” she continued politely.

“Merry Christmas.” the old woman answered abruptly and hung up the phone.

Mom looked at me and smiled again, trying to hide her embarrassment and frustration.

I offered to help her with the housework and cooking, something that surprised her a lot. Usually it was she who asked me for help. I hugged her a lot and didn’t let her out of my sight. She sensed that something was wrong, but she never asked me. She only kept her smile, as if she knew what I was hiding, but she didn’t speak. She didn’t say anything.

It was already evening. We got a bit distracted playing table games and talking about my first Christmas, when my dad was still alive. It was almost nine.

“Let’s go, mom! The stores will close!” I shouted worried.

“You’re right, sweetie. Let’s go.” she answered me in her own peaceful voice and then, it seemed to me that she looked like an angel.

Maybe it was because of her golden hair.

We got inside the car and put on our seat belts. On the way to the market, I kept looking anxiously, once at the street and once at the clock. A few more minutes. Oh, if only time could stop for a while!

“Mom, I love you very much. I’ll miss you.” I told her and a tear escaped from my eyes.

“I love you, too, my baby. I’ll always be by your side and protect you.”

The car clock turned 21:00. Time was up.

A car suddenly appeared in front of us, but Mom didn’t avoid the collision. I felt my world falling apart, but I turned my head towards my mom. This time she was looking at me and smiling. She wasn’t crying anymore. I hadn’t hurt her. Then, I lost consciousness.

I woke up the next day. It was Christmas and I was in a hospital ward. The doctors next to me were talking to an old woman, explaining that I had no serious wounds, and I was saved by a miracle. They turned their gazes to me and seemed worried, but they looked at the old woman and left.

“I’m your grandmother, my child. Elena. I’m sorry I hadn’t visited you all these years. My heart was still broken from my son’s death. I couldn’t accept it. He was my only child.”

“What about mom?” I asked and saw her cry.

“Your mom didn’t make it. I’m so sorry.”

I hid my head in her warm embrace and cried until I fell asleep again. I didn’t feel regret this time. My heart felt light. I knew my mom was happy, when she died, with me by her side. She knew everything from the very start. She read my mind, like she always did, since the day I was born.

When I got discharged from the hospital, we went home with my grandma. I collected all my belongings and followed her to her house, which was located in the city. Grandpa was there, too, but he was ill and could barely walk.

Now, I was going to another school. This time I wasn’t alone. I started hanging out with a girl in my class from the first day. Over time, we became inseparable friends.

My grandma and grandpa looked after me, as if I was their own child. They did all they could to make up for the years we had lost and they showed me their love every day. Mom used to visit me in my dreams along with my dad. Every Christmas, they left a small, snow globe under our Christmas tree. I picked them up and put them on a shelf in my room.

Indeed, they were always by my side and they protected me. They never died, because I kept them deep in my heart.

 

 

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