This was written as a prologue to my now defunct novel.
I ran my fingers over the faces in the pictures lying on my kitchen table, printed copies of newspaper front pages from almost 30 years ago. Emotions I had buried rose up within me – betrayal, loss, and an ever binding love.
“Thank you for helping with my journalism project, Aunt Anna.” Monica’s voice brought me back to the present. The oldest of my nieces and nephews, her’s was the only birth I had missed, and I had missed it in part because of the people in the picture. For that reason, I knew I needed to answer her questions.
I smiled, not trying to keep the bit of sadness that had washed over me out of my face. Honest reactions only with Miss Monica. She would know if I were hiding something. “I’m happy to help, Mina.”
She frowned at my use of her childhood nickname. At 22, in her last year of university, she was no longer a child but still young enough to bristle at any indication that she might be.
I could not repress my chuckle. “Sit down.” I pulled out one of the blue draped chairs that surrounded my little white kitchen table. “Would you like anything to drink.”
I watched her pretend to consider the question. “Do you have any strawberry lemonade?”
I pulled out two tall glasses and the pitcher of lemonade that I’d made just that morning. “So who are these guys, Aunt Anna?”
I set the glasses and pitchers down. My eyes fell on the pictures again. Their names – Toby, Jeremiah, Kevin, Carlos, and EGO – ran through my mind as I sank into a chair. “They were the friends of my youth. People I loved more than anything else in the world.” I looked at her, sitting across the small white table from me, so full of youth and innocence not yet ready to be lost. I had protected her more than I should have, perhaps, when she had first come to University, and moved in with us after one miserably homesick semester in the dorms. “At least until you came along.” Protected her against having friends like those in the pictures scattered in front of me. “I would have died for them.”
I could see her struggling with the statement, trying to reconcile it with what she knew of the timeline of her birth and my marriage. Her confusion filled the space between us. “But none of them is Uncle Trevor…”
I reached out and took her hand across the table, needing her to understand the difference. “No dear, for your Uncle, I choose to live.”
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