By Maria Hossain, age 20.
The funeral was finally over.
“Take care now, Clarissa.” Jules lightly patted on her mournful sister’s shoulder, who was still shocked. Jules sighed and left the graveyard, her sister still mourning. One by one, everyone left, only Clarissa lingered around, her eyes covered with tears.
“Your order, ma’am, one Reuben sandwich and one red velvet cupcake.” The blonde waitress from the takeout counter smiled politely at Clarissa.
“Thank you.” Clarissa left, not reciprocating the smile. She walked and walked, till she reached the playground.
It was desolate, since it was about two in the afternoon. Clarissa sat down on a swing and unwrapped the brown bag. A bite into her favorite sandwich reminded her how she hadn’t had a meal since last night, when…when…
She couldn’t bring herself to remember. She kept taking bites after bites of her lunch, till she accidentally bit her tongue.
“Darn it!” Tears rolled down her cheeks. She sobbed, when she felt a chill and heard the low screech of metal nearby. The seesaw had just landed on the ground all thanks to the wind. She remembered how much Maisie used to like riding the seesaw.
Every Sunday morning, after the brunch, Maisie would come to the playground with her dad and play baseball. Overalls and sneakers were her constant outfit, until she turned thirteen. That was when she abandoned her childhood and began wearing tanktops with spaghetti straps or halter necks and shorts and espadrilles. Makeup replaced mittens and cellphone replaced video games.
After finishing her lunch by herself- her best friends and siblings offered to stay with her but she just declined- Clarissa started for her house.
“You have three new messages…”
Clarissa entered the bathroom, leaving the answering machine on. She took off her clothes and dipped her body in the warm water of the bathtub.
“Hey, Clarie. It’s me, Anita. I was, um, I was just checking…you know, to make sure you’re okay. Okay, so, call me.” Anita’s message ended.
Second message was from Lyn, Clarissa’s sister in-law.
“Clarissa. It’s me, Lynn. I was calling to make sure you’ve reached home. Gordon’s worried, because…because of the way you were crying. I hope you’re okay. Call me whenever you need us. Don’t hesitate, okay, hun? Take care.”
Clarissa leaned back on the tub’s edges and closed her eyes. Just then, she heard it.
“Mom? Are you there? Listen, I need you to do something for me, okay? So, I’ve done something. It’s in the drawer of your night stand. Read it, or don’t. I don’t know. I’m still confused about it.”
Clarissa heard Maisie’s giggles then, but she couldn’t move an inch. A shock of electricity ran down her spine, as she heard her daughter’s voice.
Her dead daughter.
“Anyway, I’m doing it out of sheer stupidity, I guess. Well, do as I say, ASAP, and um, I love you.”
The ending beep brought Clarissa out of her shock. She stumbled her way to her bedroom.
“Maisie? Maisie?” Hysteric, she called out, sprinted towards the phone.
Clarissa played the message again. She heard her daughter’s giggle for the eighteenth time. That was how old Maisie was, when she died.
“Oh, Maisie!” Clarissa’s voice trembled, as she kept listening to the message.
“….Okay, so, I’ve done something. It’s in the drawer of your night stand. Read it, or don’t. I don’t know. I’m still confused about it…” Those words finally made sense to her.
She hurried down towards her night stand and quickly opened the drawer.
And there it was.
Hi! I guess by now, I’ve already pushed the daisies. Maisie…pushing the daisies. Anyway, I’m writing to you, not to joke around, but to tell you something. To confess something to you. A secret that might shock you. And the secret is…
I love you.
There. I’ve said it. You must be thinking, ‘OMG! What?’
I’m sorry, Mom. For bugging you. No, really. I am. Seriously. For all the times I’ve said ‘I hate you’ to you. For all the times I’ve gone against you and not listened to you. I guess it’s my stupid teenage hormones that made me do it.
I’m sorry that I’d gone against you and dated “Kirk the jerk” back in seventh grade.
I’m sorry that I’d stolen 110 bucks to buy that hip hugger jeans at the mall.
I’m sorry that I broke the tail light of your car.
I’m sorry that I’d made you pay for all my speeding and parking tickets.
I’m sorry that I sneaked out to see a Maroon 5 concert despite being grounded.
I’m sorry that I’d cheated on the calculus test and got detention for a week.
I’m sorry, Mom, for every awful thing I’d ever done, everything that was hurtful. But in a way, I’m glad that I didn’t turn out to be a total rotten egg.
I’m glad that I got to be the prom queen.
I’m glad that I learned how to make apple pie from you.
I’m glad that I got to be the cheer-leading captain.
I’m glad that I got my driver’s license.
I’m glad that I shared my first hangover with you.
I’m glad that you taught me how to tackle tears and pain, without letting it be seen.
I’m glad that I had stage four liver cancer.
Because if that had not happened, I never would’ve realized how proud and happy I am, to be your daughter, to be my Mom’s daughter, to be Melissa Justine Henson.
I love you, Mom.
Always had, always will.
P.S. Please start dating Mr. McCarthy. For crying out loud, Mom, he has a crush on you for three years! He was there when daddy couldn’t be. He’s perfect for you. Please. Okay, I love you.
Clarissa wiped out her tears and went to finish her bath. Then she paid a visit to Maisie’s room to clean it up, dust off the floor and furniture, fold her clothes into the drawers, make her bed, put fresh canna lilies on the night stand’s vase. As she came out of the room to fetch the vacuum cleaner, she heard the phone ring in her room.
“Ms. Henson? It’s me, Mr. McCarthy. I was calling you to make sure you’re okay. Are you okay?” He sounded nervous and hesitant. Was Maisie’s wild and crazy assumption right then? About Maisie’s high school history teacher liking her like this?
“I’m okay, thank you for calling. I was just cleaning up Maisie’s bedroom. Now, I’m getting ready for bed.” Clarissa tried to sound normal.
“But it’s only seven in the evening. Did you have your dinner?”
“I’m not really hungry.” But she was, famished almost.
“That’s BS. I’m coming over with Chinese. Don’t fall asleep now, okay? Okay.” He hung up before Clarissa could speak up. That man. How he supported them through Maisie’s chemo!
Clarissa sighed, as she put the phone down. She looked at herself in the mirror. Her hair was still dripping wet, unkempt, bags under her eyes. Then her eyes went to Maisie’s photo hanging from the wall beside.
“Fine. I’ll dress up,” she muttered. It almost sent her to the edges. But she choked back her tears and caressed the photo. In the closet, she looked for something more decent to wear than the blouse and slacks she was in.
Six years old Maisie from the photo, in a messy ponytail and dirty overall and mittens, was grinning, her eyes bright.