If I stared at my reflection long enough, I could see my mother’s face in my own. The way her
eyes crinkled when she smiled, the width of her lips, the curve of her nose, and the twitch in the corner of her mouth when she was uncomfortable.
My mouth was twitching too, smiling had been a struggle for me. As I traced the tip of my
nose, Mum’s face faded away. All that was left was my wet body wrapped in a towel, as droplets of water dripped from my hair down the ridges of my spine.
I curled up by the heating vent on the floor and waited for a knock. I couldn’t find the energy to live through today. My stomach gurgled beneath the towel, then jolted up to my heart as knuckles hammered against the bathroom door.
“Ivy?” his voice was deep but soft. “You right, kiddo?”
“Fine,” I spoke into my knees.
Kiddo was Mum’s name for me. Eamonn had no place, he was hardly my father before
today. It felt so fake and forced.
“It’s half-nine,” he mumbled. “We’ve got to leave in ten.”
I glanced up at the long dark dress hanging on the door handle. Leaving my dripping
strands of hair to their own devices, I held my breath and pulled the dress up over my curves. It
was too tight and wasn’t nearly as black as I felt. Over worn and over used from attending
funerals for all of Mum’s family members.
Eamonn wouldn’t understand.
His family was alive.
I snuck another peek at my reflection again, silently wishing for Mum to appear before I
opened the bathroom door.
On the other side, Eamonn’s wife, Lucy, had both the twins on either side of her slender
hips. Kieran and Cooper were freckly, adorable and too kind for seven year old boys. Their
marble eyes always seemed to explode with excitement whenever they saw me.
“You can use my hair dryer,” Lucy offered, stroking Kieran’s smooth golden locks.
“My hair doesn’t work that way.”
There was silence as I pulled my coat off the kitchen table and threaded my arms through it.
Eamonn and Lucy had no idea how I worked or how I lived. That was their own doing. Mum
tried. I would have made more of an effort, except Mum told me that no one was worth my
tears. Not even family.
Remembering her strength, I felt my eyes welling up, clouding with pain.
“Well?” I broke the silence. “I’m ready.”
“But you’ll get sick!” Cooper pointed at my hair, a confused frown appearing in his freckles.
“I’m stronger than that,” I walked down the long, narrow hallway and out the front door.