I am lying down on my bed staring at my room’s plain sky blue ceiling. I turned on the lampshade on my nightstand instead of my actual room light because I think it reflects my mood more right now. My right leg is over my left leg and my hands are interlocked together holding my phone down against my chest. As per usual, I have my headphones on, listening to ‘Set Fire To The Rain’ by Adele, on repeat. I tend to just pick one or two songs and I would want to listen to them over and over again because they mean something to me at that point. I listen to songs based more on their lyrics rather than the actual tune. At the moment, I feel emotional but also quite intense, hence the song choice.
I think about the pair of black court shoes Mrs Paul was wearing today. I genuinely did like them. I don’t have loads of fancy shoes myself because I don’t have the confidence to wear them and I don’t think I have the personality to actually do carry them gracefully either. But I do admire shoes, and one day, I would like to have my own brand of shoes and clothes. I am not an artist. I don’t have the gifted talent to sketch the most beautiful designs of dresses and shoes to present on the runway in fashion week. What I do have is the imagination and ideas of all the designs I desire.
“Fuck that,” I loudly say to myself while swiftly removing my headphones, throwing my phone on the bed, and look for my sketchpad I haven’t touched in years. I used to sketch a little, but I had to stop because I cannot manage to get out any idea off my head. I kneel down to search for it under the bed. “Where is it?” I frustratingly say while I move all the boxes aside. “Ah! There it is.” I grab it with my right hand, dragging almost all of the dust with it from under the bed. “Jesus, we’ve only been here for a few weeks and the space under my bed is already creeping with dust. I would have to start cleaning.”
I feel with my hands and look with my eyes quite intently the thick black landscape sketchpad with a ring binder at the left-hand side. I open it to see the first page with the word ‘CHRISTINA’ massively written in the middle in cursive. The faded shade of black pen clouding the outline of every letter of the word reminds me even more of the length of time I have disregarded this pad. I smile and recollect the memories of this word. It is what I want the name of my shoe and clothing line would be. It was the name of the most important and loving person in my life, my mother.
Me, my father, and my mother were living in Southampton. My father met my mother at university, where they built up their relationship with each other and eventually got married three years after they graduated. They had me the same year of their wedding. My mother used to always tell me how she would lie on her back and lift me up in the air on top of her and pretend I was wonder woman and she’s the villain I would have to defeat. I remember how we would all go to the park together as a family and how my mum and dad would hold hands while watching me extremely happy swinging back and forth by myself. The best times were in winter when my father would light up the fireplace and all three of us would snuggle just right in front of it with the lights of the family room off and the mugs of eggnog keeping our hands and stomach perfectly warm.
My mother and father had some arguments, like normal couples, here and there. Mum would like to go back to work when I was still about six years old, but dad would insist that she just stays home and takes care of me. That would have normally started the argument because my mum wanted to continue her career as a corporate lawyer and not just be the typical housewife dad expected her to be. Mum would tell dad how she could balance work and family together just as much as he can. My dad would continue to say that him working is already enough for the family and the next thing my dad would know is that mum had taken his pillows outside the room, indicating that he’d have to sleep on the couch. They would usually reconcile in the morning, where my dad would make my mum breakfast and say how foolish it was for him to dictate what she has to do. Men. Why can’t they realise they’re screwing up at the time to save them the energy and time apologising and admitting that they were wrong.
My mother was also always on top of my studies. I remember when I was in primary school how she would make me spell out words, like ‘enthusiastic’, ‘privilege’, ‘necessary’, and more, which until now I get really confused on. I also remember how she would make notes of the topics we have done that day in school in a yellow sheet of paper that I actually found really helpful when revising for a test or something. It is, however, my dad’s job to flick through the cards of the multiplication table, as he is the one who has expertise in numbers. I would sit on the beanbag chair in the living room while my dad would kneel in front of me, flicking the cards quickly as I answer the problems swiftly. My mum, though, would just sit on the sofa cheering for every correct answer I made, which was basically everything. Both my parents had made sure that they spent the same amount of time with me so that I would feel the proper sense of having a family. They absolutely did not fail me on that.
Two years ago, when I was 16, my mother was diagnosed with a grade three malignant brain tumour. I can clearly remember, like it was yesterday, how the three of us were having a lovely dinner at a restaurant, where my mum had a seizure as she was walking back to our table from the loo. The image of her shaking rapidly and uncontrollably still lurks in my head until now and never do I think will it ever go. It felt like I had it, too, when I saw her convulse before me and my dad. It was the scariest moment of my life. She immediately deteriorated few weeks after the diagnosis and resisted treatment at first because she said she would rather spend the short time she had left with us than in a hospital bed.
“Christina, you’ve got to get treatment,” my dad told mum very emotionally. “You cannot to this to Celine. You cannot do this to me, Christina,” my dad continued as tears poured down his glittering eyes. “I love you so much. I’m willing to do anything to keep you with us and I expect you to do the same.”
“Oh, Robert,” my mum murmured while she was crying too. “You and Christina are the love of my life. I know there is nothing more we can do to treat my cancer. I can feel it in my body, Robert. I want to be with the two of you before I go and not with the nurses and doctors in the hospital.”
“No, Christina,” my dad insisted. “You are going to be fine and everything will go back to how it was. I would make sure that when you recover we would travel the world. Everywhere we can go.”
I couldn’t help but approach the two of them as they talked. I lied down the bed next to my mum, hugging her dearly. I said, “Please accept treatment, mum. Me and dad would be right by your side the whole time.” We all cuddled together as our eyes release all the tears that represent every bit of our love for each other.
“Listen to me, Celine,” mum said as she lifted my head to look at her in the eyes. “There is nothing more important in this world than seeing my baby girl gradually grow to a woman that she is now. I would love to see you fulfil your dreams, Celine. God knows that. I would always be by your side, baby. Just think of me when you feel everything is getting really tough; I’ll be there for you.”
My mum accepted treatment right after. My dad was with her on every chemotherapy and radiotherapy sessions. Dad chose to quit his job as the managing director of the same bank he is working for now because they can’t give him any more leave of absence and he wanted to be with my mother every single minute of every day. In our hearts we believed that mum would recover, but we knew, in our minds, that she wouldn’t make it. All that my dad wanted was to fight for her, with her, and not regret that he did not do anything he could have to save her.
Mum passed away a year after the diagnosis. She departed peacefully on her and dad’s room the night after her 27th chemotherapy session. I felt that day would be different than the other days. The atmosphere of the house was just different. A few hours when they got back home from the hospital, I just heard dad crying my mum’s name in their room, “Christina, oh I love you so much.”
I was in my room sitting against the door sobbing, hugging both my knees against my chest, because I knew that was the time mum finally died. She deserved a rest. As far as I am concerned, she lived contently with me as her daughter and dad as her exceptionally loving husband.
Few months after my mum had passed, dad decided to accept the job offer of the same bank he worked for before, but we would have to move to Norwich. Both of us thought it would be a nice idea to move on with our lives without the living presence of my mum, but we would always treasure the memories we have of her. We sold the detached 5-bedroom house mum and dad both worked for over the years, including all the furniture that is in the house. The only things we kept are our personal belongings, including mum’s.
“Is that everything, Celine?” Dad asked me in the car, ready to depart to Norwich.
“Yes, dad,” I tried to murmur.
“It is now time to say goodbye to the house,” my dad said as he looked through the window of the car. “The house your mother and I built a life together with you, our baby,” he continued while I tried to contain my tears. “We will always remember our memories in there. Our memories with your mum. With Christina.”
Next thing I know, we are here in the detached three-bedroom 1930s house with the signature bay windows in front of it. The house technically has four bedrooms if we count the loft, but due to ‘height restrictions’, it cannot be categorised as one of the bedrooms. Dad and I still decorated the whole loft as an actual room, though. I think it is one of my favourite rooms of the house, actually. The single rectangular window, angled to face the sky, is a lovely view, particularly when it is raining, as the drops of water touch the glass then slide down to the ground.
There are drops of clear water on the first page of the sketchpad. “Shit.” I find myself crying over the memories of my late mother. This is why I haven’t sketched in years. I stopped when my mother was diagnosed with cancer and I haven’t touched it since then. She was my inspiration. I would show her my sketches and god do I know they were not done with the best quality. “They are beautiful, Celine. I can see your vision for this design,” I would remember mum saying carefully to not overly compliment my work but also not to undermine it.
I look through the pages and find out that I was able to sketch 8 high-heeled and flat shoes together, although predominantly they are designed with about 5.5 inches of heel height. One of the shoes stands out from the rest as it is designed to form a high-heeled structure, but without the heel to support itself. It is thoughtfully designed for the front part of the platform to have the ability to support the weight of the person wearing the shoes and not fall off. I want it to be embellished with a luxurious silver leather upper lining and royal blue wooden sole and platform.
“I miss being able to sketch my ideas in my head. I wish, one day, I would see them come to life, on the shelves of my first store,” I say and dream out loud.
My designs are not the only things I want to come to life. If it is as easy as imagining what you desire and it coming to life, I would already have the guy in my dream wearing a blue shirt in front of me. The feelings I had for him when I was in the dream were an immediate reaction to the sense of love I felt in him. The sort of feeling I had for Kyle in Geography class. “Holy shit, he is back in my head,” I shockingly say while briskly grabbing my school bag in search for my timetable.
“Oh god, do I have Geography tomorrow?” I don’t know if I am going to be excited or not to the idea of having that lesson tomorrow. I want to see him, but I also kind of don’t because of my humiliating awkwardness in class today. I should not be having these feelings, really.
“Yes, I do have Geography!” I shout ecstatically when I find that I have Geography third lesson in the same room, 29N, with Mrs McAllen, and of course Kyle.
“Celine, it’s dinner time,” my dad’s voice resonates as he shouts from down the staircase.
“Coming dad!” I shout back as I cannot hold my excitement, not for food, but for tomorrow.
I slam my bedroom door behind me and walk down the carpeted staircase with a fine rhythm as I head to the dining room. We have a huge rectangular dining table for eight. I don’t know why, I mean it is just me and my dad. Oh actually, he hosts quite a bit of dinner parties when our relatives and his friends come over.
“So what’s for dinner, dad,” I ask.
He looks at me as if I said something very shocking. “You sound and look so excited for dinner tonight. You are not normally like this,” he says smiling while bringing out two plates of roast chicken, roast potatoes, mixed vegetables, and stuffing all covered with gravy.
“Was first day alright?” He asks as he sits down with me in front of the table.
“Yeah, it was great, I think, for a first day. My teachers and classmates were nice and I have a school buddy to help me familiarise myself with the school and help me introduce myself to the other students,” I utter as I stuff my mouth with the delicious chicken my dad made. “How was your day, dad?”
“It was good as well, actually,” he says. “I only sorted out paperwork today so it wasn’t too stressful. That is why I had the time to make this dinner for us. You did not eat anything at breakfast and I just know you only ate a little in school.”
“Thanks for dinner, dad,” I say with sincerity. “I am so hungry right now and I think I could have another plate.”
“Don’t get too stuffed, though. I bought a New York style cheesecake in a local bakery near my office,” dad says.
“No you did not,” I say with shock and enthusiasm.
He goes to the kitchen and comes back on the table carrying the whole cake, two dessert plates, two forks, and a cake slicer. “Here we go,” he says as he places everything down.
I immediately grab the slicer and start getting my big share of cheesecake. Have I been more excited in my life? “Dad, you have no idea how much I love you right now,” I tell him as I place the slice I made into the plate.
“I thought that should get you motivated to go to school at least for this week,” he says jokingly as he gets his own slice.
“If you keep buying me nice desserts, I probably will want to go to school even when I am feeling ill,” I murmur with a bit of cheesecake still in my mouth.
“Oh, Celine,” he says as we both laugh. “Make sure you finish that huge slice of cake you got, though.”
“Trust me, dad, you could not stop me even if you wanted to.”
I am having the best dinner of my life tonight. I don’t know if it is just because I was incredibly hungry or I genuinely love these foods. Either way, my dad totally rules. Not only that, school also became more exciting because on my first day I noticed a guy who is very mysterious in a way that I can’t just stop thinking about him. Don’t get me wrong, I am not in love with Kyle or anything. He just gives me the vibe that a woman would normally feel for a man. He is not the type of man who automatically flirts with anyone just for the sake of getting laid. Just like what Connor said, he is a virgin, perhaps. And so am I.