I want to see her again so I go to her house down by the shore, the one with the stained glass windows and the crooning wind chimes. I put on the eyes she likes the most, brown like the earth that grows her magnolias and crinkling at the corners. The hands I pick are of a sturdy firstborn daughter, thick-fingered and made for duty. Big for my bony wrists, but sometimes she makes me knead the dough for her bread and my real hands are too small, too faltering.
I follow the path of not-dust on the hardwood floor of her foyer into her lime-green kitchen. I always find her sitting there, waiting among the invading wildflowers that creep through the cracks in her stone walls. One day, I’ll see cornflowers and daisies bloom in the wrinkles of her face, but not today.
The smell of coffee greets me before she does, so strong I can almost taste the bitterness on my tongue. (It’s not the tongue she likes. This one is heavy and often refuses to speak.) On the bottom of the small, ceramic cup rests my fate. I come to her for this, and she gives it to me time and time again, though it never changes.
“Welcome,” she says, and it sounds like I missed you. It must be lonely out here.
I sit across from her and trace the lacey edge of the doily that’s spread over the table with my thumb. If she notices the nervous gesture, she doesn’t say it. She’s kind like that. Instead, she pushes the coffee cup towards me, and I take its little handle between two fingers. I drain it.
Today, it tastes like secrets, like things better left unspoken. It goes down my throat like tar.
She covers the cup with the saucer and turns it upside down. She lets the sludge drip and the scum sit, trace images on the white of the cup. When she flips it again, she tells me of the day I will step into this house and sit where she sits. She tells me of the moment the wildflowers will shroud my body, bloom in my throat, and burst out of my mouth. She tells me of my past as though I’m meant to remember it.
This again. This always.
I want to ask her what to do with all this sadness that nests in my guts. I want to say what did you do with it when you were left here? Where did you put it when you needed to rest? But she deals in prophecies, not truths.
When I am tired of listening to my fortune, she speaks about her own. When she is tired of that, she speaks about my mother as her sister, her sister as my mother, the destiny that she carries.
“So different from your own,” she says. It’s a good thing. I think.
We sit until the sun goes down and the wildflowers drown the room in cloying fragrance. I hold her gaze with the eyes she likes. I make her tea with my sturdy hands. My tongue is stubborn and doesn’t speak, but she forgives me.
I leave her only to come back tomorrow.
Elia Karra (she/they) is an author and filmmaker from Athens, Greece with an MFA in Creative Writing from Lindenwood University. You can find her words in HAD, The Daily Drunk, Okay Donkey, and others. She lurks around eliakarra.com and on Twitter at @eliakarra.
photo by Anna Avilova (via pexels)