As soon as I walked into the room, the smell of stale beer and week’s old garbage assaulted my nostrils. I didn’t have to look around to remember the ghastly vomit green wallpaper that peeled off from every edge, nor the splotch of black mold that still sat on the pale grey window sill. I swear it had been there for as long as I could remember. How could I ever forget the forgot the barely concealed hole in the wall?—the one Ma’s ex-lover had punched through in drunken fit of rage. I had to give it to her though; she at least tried to make the dump of an apartment “visually appealing”.
I couldn’t begin to comprehend where the woman had gotten her obvious lack of good taste from. As my eyes scoured the room I inwardly recoiled when I came upon her latest addition, a rather shoddy imitation of Van Gogh’s Starry Night, which hung limply from the wall barely held in place by an old nail. Every squalid detail of the room had remained etched in my memory. Except for her latest interior decorating fail, nothing had changed. Ah yes, mother was still tacky as ever.
I glanced over to my boyfriend Hadrian, handsome and immaculately dressed. He looked every bit the powerful lawyer he was known to be. His discomfort at being here was visible, yet he forced a smile pretending it was alright. I know him better than that; I know he was itching to leave. I was embarrassed to have him here, yet having him here with me in my broken childhood home gave me a sense of comfort. I quickly turned away from, pretending to study the broken mirror above the hole in the wall. My reflection mocked me. From where I stood, my scrawny, awkward looking former self stared back at me, the ill-fitting hand-me-down floral smock dress she wore hanging loosely off her lanky five foot seven frame. Her eyes held a bright mischievous twinkle.
Even at that age she’d been curious about the world and her place in it. I blinked, the girl in the mirror was replaced by a woman, impeccably dressed–the black body con dress she wore clinging greedily to every bit of her svelte curves. She looked every bit the successful woman she’d become. Her eyes still held that twinkle; but she’d grown to have a strong distrust of the world.
I blinked again, my reverie broken by the creak of the old floor board. I glanced around, this time even more acutely aware of the insignificant details of the dingy apartment, my half brother Tristan included.
“So are you going to take this crap hole or what? Ma willed it to you but I’m sure I need it more than you do”, he regarded me with disdain. “Look at you…you and your do-good boyfriend don’t need this”.
He was right. I was struck by his resentment for me; but I can’t say I was surprised by it. Tristan had always been like that to me. He’d never really played the role of a big brother; he’d never tried to save me when I was being bullied in grade school, never gave advice on how to handle boys, instead he’d laughed and helped spur the torture. I’d never understood why he’d hated me so much back then.
Looking at him now I could tell why. Unkempt dreadlocks splayed across his drawn face, three dirty-blonde strands rested ridiculously above his blood shot eyes. His full lips no longer looked pink, they were instead a sad dark purple and chapped. Tristan looked far more aged than his twenty five years. I saw no reflection of myself in him. I saw none of the ambition, self-worth and drive that had taken me out of this rat-hole.
“Tristan, we really don’t care to have anything to do with you or this place. You’ve already made your case for that”, the clatter of my stilettos echoed as I crossed the small floor space to stand by Hadrian. “I’m not sure what twisted game Ma was trying to play when she wrote me into this will, I made it quite clear that I’d never come back, but I guess at the end of the day she won. I came back.”
I observed him as he sat there on the thread bare futon. The glint of anger then hurt that flashed across his face once I mentioned her was unmistakable.
“You know, you killed her right?” The room fell dead silent. Just as quickly, the silence was broken by his course laughter, “yes bitch, you killed her! You know she always thought you’d come back for her? I don’t know why but she did! She always thought you’d come back and take her to your fancy place in Cali…do you know how it crushed her when you didn’t call for birthday? Do you know how hurt she was as she watched you acknowledge everyone who helped you win your election except for her? I bet you didn’t, you’ve always been such a selfish bitch!”
Instinctively I squeezed on Hadrian’s hand; he remained composed and wisely chose to stay out of our sibling confrontation. His words hurt, yet I knew they were true. I did leave this part of my life behind; I did walk away from my mother and brother at age eighteen. It was my mother who’d contributed her meager savings to get me through my first year of University, I’ve always acknowledged that, but the rest was purely me. I worked hard; three shitty waitressing jobs and a slew of scholarships were what I attributed my Bachelors and Masters in Political Science to, not her.
Even as his words scorched my conscience, I was planning my next great escape. “Look Tristan, I don’t want this pile of junk”, with a wave of my hand I motioned to the crappiness around us. “I simply came here to finally close this chapter of my life—for good. Ma is dead, and frankly after I leave here today you’ll be dead to me too”. I could tell he was taken aback by my response, never had I ever stood up for myself against him till now.
“I’d appreciate if you’d not drag things out; I came here to settle this thing. I don’t want any of this, so I’d appreciate if you kept the bitchin’ and moaning to a minimum. You see, Hadrian here my do- good boyfriend is a lawyer and he’s here to make sure we legally tie up all loose ends.”
I was exhilarated by my little outburst, I’d had all these pent up emotions to deal with for years, there’s no way I was going to deal with his guilt trip on top of it.
Hadrian, who’d been standing ready with a manila folder, handed it over to me. I took the pages out and handed them over to Tristan. I couldn’t hold the contempt from my voice as I passed the papers to him, “Please sign under the highlighted areas so we can get this god awful encounter over and done with. This place is filthy and I can’t stomach being here any longer”.
He snickered and grabbed the papers from my outstretched hands, signing without even reading. How typical of him.
After he’d finish signing he thrust the papers back at me, I daintily handed them over to Hadrian, and he quickly reviewed them and nodded his ok. I guess that was my cue to lay on the sass.
I clapped, my voice laced with sarcasm I began, “Congratulations asshole, you’re officially the proud owner of this dump and an added bonus, forty five thousand dollars worth of debt, good luck paying it off and have a nice life”. With that I marched out of the room, Hadrian in tow.
I didn’t wait to around to see the look of confusion plastered on his face. I didn’t have to. I didn’t care about anything else; just that I’d finally closed that chapter of my life. I couldn’t help the smile that spread across my face as I stepped out into the cool fall air of New England’s south shore. I was finally free. I was ready for my new beginning.