I look up from my cooking, terrified. I hate the sound of breaking glass. It reminds me of the car crash I was a part of when I was twelve, where I lost my sister right in front of my eyes. I shake that memory away; not wanting to make my day any worse.
“I’m so sorry!” came a distant high- pitched squeal, followed by nervous, shuffling footsteps.
“What is it this time?” I ask, with a tinge of irritation in my voice, while continuing to stir the chicken soup. I’m used to this. My sixteen year old daughter, Kiara, is aptly nicknamed the ‘disaster- magnet’, given her ability to attract mishaps everywhere she went.
“Your blue mosaic flower vase, I’m so sorry. I was listening to music and my hand just whirled and…” babbled Kiara listlessly. She was a wonderful daughter, no doubt, but sometimes, her carelessness made everyone in the house angry.
“Can’t you go a day without messing something up, Kiara? Why is it so difficult for you to stay out of my way? You know very well that I’m not feeling well today. What was the need to dance around the house? You’re sixteen now, not six. It’s time you start acting like one.” I spurted, angrily. I was on the edge these days. Tomorrow was the day when, thirty years ago, the dreaded car incident took place. Everything I did reminded me of my sister.
I missed her. I missed her more than anyone will ever understand. I hoped Kiara would get it, the fact that her mother needed to be taken extra- seriously for a few days. But then, why would she? She didn’t have a sibling. She didn’t know what it felt like.
“I said I’m sorry, ma. I didn’t do it on purpose and you know it. I know you’re a little shaken up right now, given the date, and I want to see you happy.”
I sighed. She was a sweet girl, much like me in my teenage days. The same spark in her eyes, the same innocent face and the ability to love too easy.
“Just, stay out of my way today, alright? Go to the mall and buy some clothes for yourself. Watch a movie.” I was being selfish, I knew, but I wanted the house to myself today. I believe I deserved it.
“I’m really not in the mood to go out today, ma. Can’t I just stay in my room? I promise I’ll be really quiet. I won’t disturb you, not even in the slightest. Please?” Kiara never refuses the mall. Why would she do so today of all days? I could feel my temper rising.
“Don’t argue with me. When I say leave, you leave. You understand that, or not? You wanted to help me, didn’t you? This is how you help me. You leave me alone. Just for a day. Is that too much to ask? You deserve to be called something much worse than disaster magnet.”
I regretted the words the moment they came out of my mouth. Seeing hurt in Kiara’s eyes is something I can never handle. Reluctantly, she left the room. Minutes later, the door slammed. Suddenly, my heart caught up in panic. Something made me want to stop her, tell her to come back inside. I knew I was going paranoid, but for the first time I felt mother’s instinct take over. I picked up my phone and dialed her, but cut the call quickly. I didn’t want to explain to her why I wanted her back so suddenly. I couldn’t let little things bother me. I shrugged it away and focused on my cooking. Soon, I was absorbed and lost track of time.
I jumped suddenly as my phone rang. What time is it? It’s been three hours. Kiara should have been back by now. I rushed to answer my cell phone.
“Where are you?!” my husband’s panicky voice greeted me on the other line. That was so like him, not even bothering about greetings and jumping straight to the point.
“I’m at home, where else would I be?” I replied, my irritation growing. Something seemed amiss.
“Oh thank heavens. I’m relieved to hear this.”
“Why, what happened?” I wanted Kiara back home. My gut told me she has to be here with me, right now. Where was she?
“You don’t know? There were a couple of bomb explosions in our city, near the house. I don’t know much, but it’s all over the news.” My heart stopped. I couldn’t breathe. Explosions were common in our city, but somehow I felt this one meant something. Nothing ever goes right during this time of the year.
“I… I’ll check it out and talk to you… in a while. Bye.” I managed a shaky reply, and put down my phone. Kiara. I needed to find Kiara. My mind whirled with just one thought, her. I found the TV remote and switched it on, my head spinning. I heard the news anchor with bated breath.
“…the bigger of the two blasts has taken place at Shopper’s Paradise mall. The security has no idea how the bomb got in, and the damages are fatal. Unrecognizable bodies are being dragged out at an alarming rate; the whole city is currently in a state of turmoil…”
I felt myself sink to the floor. This can’t be happening. Finding my keys and purse, I rushed out to my car, leaving the door wide open. My hands felt weirdly steady as I whirred past all the traffic signals, passing cars and trying to get myself to not start bawling. I was responsible for this.
Turmoil would be an understatement, given the condition of the shopping mall. Smoke was everywhere. Police vans and ambulances whirred past, people crying and running around, trying to recognize something in the pile of blood and ash. A little kid stood in the midst of it all, crying and clutching his mother’s purse with all his might. A frantic old woman rushed about, yelling her loved one’s name in a native language. Everything was a mess.
I rushed out of the car and started looking. I didn’t know where to start, what to look for or who to talk to. I started crying as I ran about. It was over. I had lost her too. How can I go home, after this? How will I face everyone? Even worse, how will I face myself?
In the chaos of it all, I hadn’t noticed my phone ringing. It was Kiara’s number. Maybe someone had found her phone nearby.
“Uh… huh… hello?” I felt myself bracing for the blow.
“Ma. Where are you? I saw your missed call, and rushed home. Ma? The house was wide open and the TV was blaring something about bomb blasts at the mall. You haven’t gone to pick me up or something, have you? I’m scared. Please say something. Ma?”
I cried harder. I was on my knees now, clutching the pavement with one hand, my battered phone with the other. All my energy had drained out. All I wanted was for this to have never happened.
“I love you, Kiara. I’m coming home.”