~~The first rays of light beginning the day shone through the windows and awakened the world with warmth. The still morning air held a quiet silence, lingering throughout the Greene household. She sat properly on the couch folding towels and placing them neatly beside her, her swollen stomach making the simple task difficult. This time of morning was her favorite. The morning brought a new day and put the past behind them, leaving memories in their place. Soft lips pressed against her cheek; she instantly knew who had made the sweet gesture. “Good morning, Hailo,” a deep raspy voice spoke out.
“Good morning, Ivan,” Hailo said cheerfully, turning to glance towards her husband, “Sleep well?”
“Yes,” he responded.
“I made coffee. It’s in the pot, as usual,” she stated.
Hailo watched as her husband straightened and made his way to the kitchen. The living room in which she sat was quite spacious with a bulky white leather couch, two white side chairs to match, a dark red rug, and decorative paintings on the walls. A few children’s toys lay about the room to be picked up later. She heard Ivan shuffle back into the living room.
Ivan was a rather scrawny, clean-cut man with dark brown hair and green eyes, to whom their daughter looks exactly like. He wore his blue robe over his grey sweat pants and white T-shirt. He sat down beside her, tipping his coffee cup up and taking a drink. The steaming hot beverage stung his lips slightly as he drank. Silence passed between the two; mornings were for thinking over the day and making plans on what to do. “Mom called,” Hailo spoke up in an attempt to break the silence.
“Oh?” Ivan mumbled, half listening to what she said, “What for?”
“She thinks….she found Cypher again, on Facebook.”
Ivan let out an exhausted sigh and pinched the bridge of his nose, “Hailo, this needs to stop. The constant searching is getting out of hand, especially now. I understand she’s your sister, but it has been twenty-seven years. Don’t you think she should try to enjoy the life she has left?”
“It means a lot to her. I don’t have the heart to tell her something like that. She’s a grieving mother. I’d be the same if Elizabeth were taken from us,” Hailo argued.
“Speaking of Elizabeth, you might want to go wake her up,” Ivan chuckled.
Hailo looked at him. She gasped dramatically and hit Ivan in the knee with a wash-cloth, laughing softly. “I’ll go wake her,” she said.
Hailo stood and stepped over her neatly folded stack of towels, heading for the short hallway. Elizabeth’s room was at the other end. Family pictures and drawings lined the walls being displayed as if awards for building such a nice family. Elizabeth’s door had her name painted on it in accented purple letters with small butterfly stickers placed around her name. Hailo pushed past the door. Purple walls complimented with white and pink decorations, toys and books littered the small room, and a tiny white bed in which a little girl lay sleeping. Hailo shook Elizabeth lightly and smiled. “Wake up, Sleeping Beauty,” she whispered lovingly.
The young girl groaned, grabbing her blanket and trying to pull it over her head. Hailo sat down on the bed next to her daughter and rubbed her back. “Time to get up,” she said. Elizabeth rolled over and looked up at her mother with her familiar green eyes glazed over with morning drowsiness. “Momma, I don’t want to get up.”
“You have to,” Hailo laughed. She couldn’t stop her smile from widening as Elizabeth sat up and rubbed her eyes. “Very good. Now, get dressed and go eat breakfast. Daddy will be ready to take you to school soon,” Hailo added and got up. She left the door ajar and returned to the living room area where Ivan was finishing up his coffee.
He looked up at her and smiled, “She awake?”
“Yes, she’s awake.”
Hailo walked over to Ivan and held out her hand to receive his coffee cup in order to wash it. He placed it in her hand and stood up, leaning over and pecking her on the lips. Without fail, Hailo’s cheeks turned a light rosy shade of pink. She walked to the kitchen and placed the cup in the sink, retrieved a bowl from the cabinet, and poured a bowl of cereal for Elizabeth. “Eli, your cereal is ready. Hurry before it gets soggy,” she called out to her daughter.
By the end of the morning, Hailo was left alone in the house. Ivan had dropped Elizabeth off at school and he had gone to work. She turned her attention to the shelf in the corner of the room. It seemed to stand there alone, untouched in so long and had collected a rather thick amount of dust. Photo albums from her and Ivan’s childhood filled the shelves along with their family photos taken from the very beginning. The shelf was hardly noticeable amongst the array of furniture. She pulled a red photo album, one filled with her old family photos. Hailo opened it, her mouth instantly spread into a smile upon seeing the old pictures. One from her trip to the Grand Canyon, another from her eighth birthday party, and another of her mother in the hospital the day she was born. Page after page, she flipped through her oldest memories until she froze. In the book was a picture…a picture of a little girl with long smooth brown hair and big round chocolate brown eyes, Cypher, Hailo’s older sister. She traced her finger around the edge of the picture with a sad smile. In a small bag beside the photo was a puzzle piece necklace. The engraving on the necklace read ‘ily’, the puzzle piece being only half of a whole.
Hailo picked up the bag and closed the photo album, and then placed it back where it once had been. She walked over to the couch, sat down, and opened the bag. She fished out the necklace. The cold metal chilled her hand as she ran her thumb over the engraving. Hailo’s mother, Clara, had given her the necklace when she was seven years old. The necklace had been custom made to be given to Cypher and Hailo.
The heat rose to her face and tears began to sting her eyes, threatening to spill over her cheeks. “As much as I needed you when I was little, I just hope you are okay,” Hailo thought to herself. It was not often that she thought of the sister she never knew; however, when she did, it made her heart sink at the thought of how much her mother has given to find her older sister, how much her family has suffered at the loss of Cypher. Hailo parted her hand from the treasured piece of jewelry and wiped the heavy tears from her eyes with a shaky hand before they could streak down her cheeks. She set it down on the table whilst she stood and walked into the kitchen to wash the dishes, to get her mind off of the photos and the necklace.
It was 5:24 PM by the time Ivan and Elizabeth had come home. She skipped excitedly over to her mother with a white piece of paper held tightly in her grasp. Elizabeth held it up to Hailo and wiped her best begging face onto her expression. “Please, momma. I want to get a yearbook from school,” Elizabeth squeaked. Hailo took the paper from her daughter and looked it over. “I think we can manage to get a yearbook. I certainly would love to see it,” Hailo said with a kind smile.
“Really? You mean I can get one?”
“Yes,” she repeated herself, “I’ll give you the money in the morning. Go wash up for dinner.”
Elizabeth ran upstairs with the paper in hand to do just as her mother instructed. Hailo turned on her heels and made her way to the kitchen where dinner was cooking. Steam rose from the cover pot that held broccoli and the smell of a well-made home cooked meal wafted through the house. She stirred the boiling pasta with a wooden spoon and stopped when a pair of arms snaked around her. Ivan’s hands came to rest on Hailo’s pregnant stomach. He rested his head in the crook of her neck and grinned up at her. “I do not think you could look any more beautiful than you are right now,” he whispered.
She smiled at his comment and turned her head, glancing down at him. He lifted his head up and connected his lips with hers, a sweet kiss shared between the two. Hailo could never express how much he meant to her, but she would try her best for the rest of their lives. Hailo smiled against his lips and turned her attention back towards her cooking. Ivan placed his head on her shoulder and trailed soft kisses up her neck. Hailo bit her tongue. “Ivan, stop,” she giggled.
“Oh, but I don’t want to,” he said, a husky tone shading his natural voice. He tucked Hailo’s brown curly hair back behind her ear and kissed the end of her jawline. Hailo erupted with giggles and attempted to shrug Ivan away from her neck. “Stop,” Hailo squeaked between her laughter, “I have to finish making dinner or you won’t have anything to eat.” She popped him on the top of his head with her wooden spoon gently.
Ivan let his arms fall from her waist back down to his side and he pulled a chair up next to the stove. “You know you have to drive Elizabeth to school in the morning. I have to be at work early in the morning,” Ivan stated.
“That is not a problem. I’ll drive her.” Hailo gave a cheeky grin. She opened the cabinet door next to the stove and reached for the strainer; her face suddenly twisted into a pain expression. Ivan shot up from his chair to aid his wife. She hunched over and held her stomach while breathing out slowly. He took her hand into his and squeezed, “Are you alright, Hailo?”
“Yeah, I am alright. Don’t worry,” she huffed out. It took Hailo a moment before she could straighten herself out. “I am fine,” she repeated.
“We’ll have no more of that. Next time, please ask for help, sweetheart.”
Ivan walked Hailo over to the chair where he once was seated and sat her down. He reached into the cabinet, grabbing the strainer and placing it in the sink. Hailo reposed her elbow onto the counter and rested her chin upon her hand as she watched Ivan finish cooking dinner. He tipped the boiling pot of water containing the freshly cooked pasta over the strainer, letting the water flow out into the sink. Steam suddenly clouded the air around Ivan and hit the ceiling. He threw his head back to avoid the heated steam. “I’ll go get Elizabeth,” she announced and stood from her chair.
Hailo strode through the living room and down the hallway to Elizabeth’s room. Her bedroom door was ajar. She peaked into her daughter’s room to find Elizabeth reading. Hailo smiled to herself and pushed passed the door. “Elizabeth, honey, dinner is almost ready. Come to the kitchen and help me set the table,” she beckoned her to her daughter, nodding her head towards the hall. “Okay, momma,” Elizabeth said and leapt from her bed to follow her mother to the kitchen. As they walked, Elizabeth glanced up to her mother. “Momma, can you sign the permission slip so I can get a yearbook after dinner?”
“Yes, if you’ll remind me. I also have a surprise for you after dinner,” Hailo said.
“Really?” Elizabeth squealed, her word bouncing with utter enthusiasm. Her mother nodded.
Both Hailo and Elizabeth laid out the plates, silverware, and cups on the table. Hailo called out words to Elizabeth for her spelling class as practice, which they did every evening before dinner. “Tyrant,” Hailo called out.
“T-y-r-a-n-t, tyrant,” Elizabeth recited out while she laid out a fork.
“Family,” Hailo called out another.
“Alright, that’s enough. It’s time to eat,” Ivan interrupted before Elizabeth could spell out the word.
They sat down at the table, each plate filled with food. Hailo looked at Elizabeth. Silence washed over all three of them, no one spoke. No one had anything to say. They sat in silence, eating their dinner. “There’s a girl with no hair at school,” Elizabeth said with a mouth full of food, “Everyone picks on her. Why does she have no hair?”
“Don’t talk with your mouth full,” Hailo corrected Elizabeth.
“Maybe she is sick, sweetheart,” Ivan answered, “I hope you don’t pick on her like the other kids.”
“No, I don’t. She is nice to me. Her name is Selene,” Elizabeth explained.
“Momma will be driving you to school in the morning. I have to be at work early, okay?” Ivan added.
“I am going to go by mom’s after I drop her off in the morning. I want to go see her.” Hailo looked up at Ivan.