The television was on the highest volume when he walked into the condominium. It sounded like crying coming from the bathroom and Elijah quickened his pace. He yelled for his sister as he got closer to the door. Someone tapped his shoulder and he jumped. “What the…” he paused.
“Elijah, I was in the backyard.” His sister had some type of yellow flowers in her hands. She wandered over to the television in the kitchen and stared at the screen.
Elijah walked over to where his sister was standing with her flowers. “Are you going to turn that down? It was so loud when I came in the door. I heard crying and I thought it was you. I didn’t realize it was some woman on the news.”
“Where is Nate?” Elijah asked before glancing at his watch. “He has fifteen minutes to get here. We agreed to meet at 11:00 AM right?”
“Yes,” the sister said. She walked off without turning the television down. Elijah watched as his sister walked slowly to her bedroom.
The woman crying and the fire truck sirens were hurting his ears. The woman on the news was crying because her house caught on fire. Yet, she made her attempts at convincing the reporter it was all OK because she was alive. The thirty-something looking woman was able to escape safely with her son. Elijah squinted at the screen almost like his eyes hurt looking at her. He wasn’t sure if he had met her at one time. His sister walked out of her bedroom with a glass vase. She rushed past him to fill the vase with water and set it on the dining room table. “I love my flower garden,” she exhaled. Her face fell when she looked back at her brother. She took a moment switching her gaze between him and the slightly round, brown skin woman on the screen. “She’s wearing a wig. See, her wig is crooked. That lady is hiding from something and she’s insecure.”
“What is wrong with you, Jayla? What does her wig have to do with anything? She just lost her house. She doesn’t care her wig is crooked.” Elijah stared at the petite woman with braids that was his sister. Here was a 28 year-old man wanting to scream at his 24 year-old sister for her silliness. He had realized the contrast between them. She had darker skin than he did, she was chocolate and he was caramel. The last he remembered she had said she was 5 feet 2 inches compared to his six feet. She was afraid and he wasn’t. “This is crazy. Nate needs to be here!” he yelled.
“I’m turning it off,” Jayla whispered.
“Are you really?” Elijah spoke. “I’ve been trying to get you to turn it down since I got here.”
“It’s off. Happy?” Jayla’s eyes met her brothers and he held his head down.
“Jayla, you didn’t have to turn it off. Look, it’s a Saturday morning and I am here with you. Nate and I want to get through to you.”
Jayla heard a car engine outside. “He finally got here.” She looked out the door to see Nate stepping out of his car. She opened the door to let him in. Once inside the house he gave his sister a quick hug.
“You are late.” Elijah shook his head. He plopped down on the living room couch. “We said a certain time and you show up ten minutes late like we have all day. “
“You can’t try to run this family like you run your business. You won’t talk to me like that. I’m not getting paid to be here.” Nate sat in a chair across from him. “We can get started whenever Jayla is ready.”
Jayla felt her body shift under her sundress. It was August, but she thought a wind might have come in with Nate and she felt cool. “Iced tea?” She stood between the two of them.
“Sit down, Jayla. We should get started. I don’t want to waste too much of your Saturday.” Elijah sighed.
Jayla sat down next to Elijah on the couch. Her head hung low and she fidgeted with her dress. Then she closed her eyes. She heard her brothers talking but didn’t understand their words. She had placed herself back into her green 1996 Toyota Camry. It was four months ago and she was bleeding.
She remembered the blood and that was why she stayed scared. She stayed quiet and in the home. Jayla didn’t want the pain to spread to anyone else. It was the short, overweight lady with the wig on TV that she couldn’t escape. She was watching someone else and their pain. Tears tumbled steadily down her cheek. I’m so sorry, Alana. I’m so sorry. I wasn’t ready. She repeated it as if she could erase the past the more times the words came out.
Somewhere far away male voices were screaming her name, but she couldn’t recognize who they were. She just saw the faces of the doctors and the blood. Jayla started shaking. It was cool. A wind had come in with Nate. The air conditioner had not been turned on, so it had to be Nate. He was the oldest at 31. He cursed the most and drank the most. He was darker than her. She was milk chocolate and he was dark chocolate. Dark chocolate was supposedly a little bitter. Nate had to keep his little sister and brother on the right path. His little sister and brother had always done what they were supposed to do. And it was why caramel and milk chocolate were liked a little more. They satisfied people.
“Jayla…Jayla…” Nate shook her so hard. She was determined not to look at him. Her eyes were going to stay closed. “I know you’re angry. I know.” She cried.
“Stop shaking her like that, man” Elijah said softly.
“Damn it, Elijah. You see what happened. She is retreating again. She is in that fucking shell.”
Jayla heard their voices and that was enough. Her eyes weren’t ready for them yet. She needed to steady herself and not throw up. Elijah and Nate were always her support. But she needed to steady herself on her own now. They had been her crutches for four months and it needed to end.
“Nobody is mad anymore. You have to forgive yourself. No one is mad at you.” Elijah rubbed her shoulders.
“Why can’t you look at me? You can’t keep being scared. It’s all in the past, leave it there.” Nate was growing more frustrated by the lack of eye contact. “Look at me, damn it!”
“I can’t. I can’t see anymore. I can’t.” She continued to cry. Now she was sniffling and she heard some footsteps walk away. The next thing she knew a box of tissue was in her hands. It would have been Elijah. He was the sun and Nate was the wind. Sometimes she treated him like a storm cloud and he didn’t deserve it. He was responsible. Nate pushed people down with his wind, and Elijah picked them up again with his sun. But that was what Jayla loved because there was balance. But she was tipping over in the current.
“It’s over.” Nate said before coughing. “Mom and Dad are not mad anymore.”
“I planted the Hollyhock flowers that Mama always liked in my garden.” Renee spoke up. “The real pretty yellow flowers.”
“Do you want to take them to her?” Elijah asked. He lowered his head.
“What is it with the yellow flowers?” Nate shook his head.
“Only some of those type of flowers grow in the South. Mama always liked them. But she couldn’t make them grow. They usually need the really cold winters. But they are one of the few flowers she likes that do grow in Kentucky.” Renee wiped her eyes with the tissue. “I thought it would be nice to give her some and yellow is her favorite color. I thought she would forgive me if she saw the flowers. I want to take them to her and I want you two to come with me. I want to show her I can make things grow. I can make something beautiful.”
Nate and Elijah followed Renee to the backyard. They watched as she grabbed more yellow Hollyhock flowers to put in the vase to take to her mother. It was time. Renee grabbed the vase as her brothers got into the car. It was time to honor Alana and show her mother she didn’t forget and never would. She patted her stomach and whispered Alana, I’m sorry I let you go. But now I have another chance to prove I can let you grow. I will let you grow this time.”
-THE END –