“That’s a stupid necklace,” she said.
Her fingers toyed with the glistening diamond resting on her chest.
“You know what it is, right?” she asked.
Her eyebrows rose condescendingly.
“Yes,” I replied. “My mum wears it to work.”
Her lips curled into a smirk.
“Did she lose her job and gave you that as a present?”
I dropped my gaze to the floor, contemplating on walking away.
“So, are you having dinner tonight?” she asked.
I stuffed my hands into my pockets, knowing what was coming next.
“Or are you too poor to even celebrate?”
She motioned for her posse before shouldering past me. And that was my day at school.
When the bell rang, I heaved a sigh of relief. I was eager to head home. I wanted to run from the chuckles and whispers, and see what my mother had planned. For days, I’d been looking forward to the celebration. Despite knowing it wouldn’t be as grand as my friends’, I was still excited. So I sprinted – my backpack bouncing on my shoulders, as I placed one foot before the other.
“There’s going to be food – lots – and lots – of food!” I told myself, stealing quick breaths in between. “Dad’s – going to be – home. And we’ll – have – the best – family dinner – ever!”
My shoes skidded against the gravel.
“Watch where you’re going, kid!” the driver of the black sedan shouted from the open window.
“Sorry!” I bowed and saluted apologetically, before continuing in my sprint. As dangerous as it was, I wasn’t stopping for anybody. I’d been waiting for this day since the letter slipped under the door. No matter how hazardous my route, I needed to get home as fast as I could.
When I finally reached my destination, I took a second to catch my breath. While I gulped the air, stained with a rancid stench, I pondered upon my entrance. Should I take the front door or the window? I decided on the window. I could peek into my mother’s surprise, and surprise her instead.
Jogging into the side alley, I climbed onto the rectangular garbage bin, and jumped for the ladder. Coated in rust, the bars screeched in their descent and I hesitated little as I hopped on. My home was on the third floor of the old, brick building. But the question of its structural integrity never came to mind, as I ascended two steps at a time. Once I reached my floor, I kneeled behind the half drawn kitchen sink curtains and peered cautiously.
My mother was not to be seen. The dining table stood barren, the flattened pillows on the couch remained scattered since morning, and the ceiling fan was frozen in the time I left. There was, however, a letter by the door. And the moment I spotted it, dread hit me like an unexpected tidal wave.
“No. Not again,” I muttered. “He promised.”
Grasping whatever hope I had left, I slipped into the kitchen and snatched the letter from the floor. This time, I hesitated. I wondered if it was worth the read. Was the discovery worth the ache in my thighs and my child-like ignorance? Just before I made up my mind, the front door clicked and swung open.
“You’re back already?” my mother asked. Then seeing the letter, she tugged it from my weakening grip, and added, “You shouldn’t read letters addressed to me.”
“But it’s not addressed to anyone,” I replied. “And I know who it’s from.”
The handwriting drew a memory of when my father held my hand, in attempts to teach me the alphabets.
“He’s not coming home again is he,” I said.
My mother nodded her head, but oddly, with a smile.
“Why are you smiling?”
“Well, if he’s not coming home, it means we’ll have more to eat tonight,” she said.
“But… I want him here. I’d rather have him here than more food. I want him home.”
Aware she was unable to fulfill my wish, my mother remained silent. She simply gave my forehead a peck, before placing the brown paper bags on the table. Then standing by the kitchen sink, she read the letter to herself.
“What did he say?” I asked.
“He’s not coming home.”
“Is he coming home next year?”
“Why? Did something happen?”
“No. He’s just not coming.”
The disappointment swallowed my hope in a single breath. Braving myself in the face of the many emotions stirring within, I fought against tears. Then, my mother repeated herself.
“But I’m glad.”
Frowning, I asked, “You’re glad? Because you want to eat more?” I was almost horrified at my mother’s response.
“No. I’m glad he still writes.”
“But he writes broken promises.”
“Yes, but he’s alive. And I’m thankful he still is.”
Now the one lost for words, I retreated to my room. I planted myself on my bed, staring at the ticking clock by the bedside. The urge to cry had vanished, as I thought over my mother’s words. It was only when she knocked on my door that I concluded she was right.
“Are you ready for our feast?” my mother asked in excitement.
“What are we having?”
“For starters, bagel. And in your favourite flavour!”
I smiled and wrapped my arms around her waist.
“What’s that for?” she asked.
“You’re right. I’m thankful he’s alive too.” Then looking up at her, I added, “And I’m thankful you’re alive, mummy. Happy thanksgiving!”
Bagel, rust, and lanyard were words given by Mr.Hematite. I went with the thanksgiving theme as coincidentally, today is thanksgiving! And despite thanksgiving not celebrated in my country, I thought it’s worth writing about. After all, it’s always good to remind oneself to be thankful.
Now, it’s your turn. I challenge you to use this same three words and write a piece of your own. If you don’t have a story, here’s another challenge: make a list of everything you’re grateful for this year. I’m sure, that from the list itself, there’s a story to tell.
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3 Words, 1 Story © 2016 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.
(Click HERE for a list of stories in this writing challenge.)