Echo of Chaos: Ch. 6

Saturday, July 06, 2019


I returned home earlier than usual that night. Something in Felix’s words had felt like a threat, and I was shaken and confused when I met Forrest at our usual post-work spot outside The Belly. 

“Good night,” I said as I walked past him, my eyes straight ahead.

It was our signal that he shouldn’t follow me home this time. I wanted to tell him what happened with Felix in the locker room, but now that my mother wasn’t working and my brother was living in limbo between alive and waiting to die, it was going to be harder to find time alone together. And after Felix's confrontation earlier, I was wary to even try.

Despite my warning, I heard Forrest’s footsteps behind me the whole way home. As I stopped to type in the code of my door, I felt him graze his fingertips along my lower back as he passed by. I allowed myself I quick glance in his direction as I stepped through the door, turning my head just in time to catch him smiling back at me for the briefest of moments. It was enough to make my heart pound with longing, and I had to resist the urge to run back out the door and into his arms. 

But as I stepped inside, my attention shifted as Max squealed in delight, immediately rushing up to hug me.

“Echo! You’re home! Finally! I’ve been waiting for you forever!” Max said. He tugged on my hand and began pulling me toward the kitchen. “Come see, come see! Look what I made with Mommy!”

Spread out on the kitchen table was a completed puzzle. The image was a series of buildings set against a horizon of blue ocean and pink-purple sky. A snow capped mountain could be seen in the distance on the right hand side of the image, above and behind the series of buildings. I noticed the tallest building on the left hand side of the image was skinnier than the rest with a saucer-like top that had what appeared to be a needle sticking out of it.

“Wow,” I said, gazing at the puzzle, “That’s interesting. What is it?”

“Seattle, Washington,” my mother answered. “It’s where I was born.”

She was sitting in the chair in front of the puzzle, her chin in her hands as she gazed at the image before her. She smiled weakly as her hazelnut eyes turned in my direction. 

“How was work?”

“Fine,” I said.

I debated whether or not to tell her about Felix, but decided against it. I didn’t want her to worry anymore than I already knew she was. She had more than enough to handle right now.

“Mommy, mommy! Can we do another one?” Max asked, tugging on the sleeve of my mother’s robe.

“Of course. Why don’t you go pick one out?”

Max ran off to the living room cabinet where my parents kept the leisure items they were allowed to bring with them from Earth. Mostly books and puzzles.

“Your brother is very excited about this break. It’s been a while since I’ve seen him this happy.”

“I think he’s naturally happier than most of us, though.”

“Yes, he is, isn’t he?”

She watched my brother for a moment, a small smile on her face, though sadness still glinted in her eyes. I wondered what she must be thinking. I wished I could ask her.

“Do you want me to help you with dinner?” I asked, snapping my mother out of her quiet thoughts.

“You must be hungry today.”

“A little.”

“I need to check the meal plan. I think the Captain is supposed to join us tonight. He tends to have a certain preference.”

She got up and walked to the kitchen right as Maxi returned with a cardboard box stuffed with puzzle pieces. He opened the box and dumped the pieces onto a clear spot on the table.

“Where’s Mommy?” he asked.

“Making dinner.”

“Oh, okay. So you’re helping then?”

“Yes, but we have to make this one really fast, okay?”

“Okay!”

The puzzle was another city I didn’t recognize. This one had even more buildings set against a night sky, the lights from the buildings glittering like stars.

“New York City,” my mother said, standing over me as I worked on the puzzle. “It’s where I met your father.”

She helped us finish up the puzzle, and then told Max to go wash up before dinner while I cleaned up the puzzle mess. Before I put them away, I stood for a moment and looked down at the two puzzles, side-by-side. Memories were made in these two cities I would never see, memories I may never know the depth of.

But at least I knew they existed.

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