I'M AFRAID I MIGHT SHRIVEL UP AND DIE...LIKE YOU.
Lilia grew lonely in Maria’s absence. Despite their years of emotional strain and distance, she feared her mother would never return to how she once was.
Hours passed. Lilia prepared the tray once again with fresh bread and a bowl of soup, the color of Maria’s vegetable garden.
“Mamina?” No reply. It was mid-afternoon, and the shutters were pulled tight—Maria took comfort in the coldness of the darkly-lit room, which mirrored the vast emptiness in her heart.
Lilia placed the tray on the dresser and opened the window to let in the sun’s warmth and fresh air. The sight of her mother was horrific as the sunlight fell upon her face. Maria’s eyes were glazed over and seemingly dead. Lilia watched her mother stare through her as though she were invisible, and anything Lilia said seemed to pass through Maria’s mind like a meaningless breeze. Her body was lifeless like the scattering of dead leaves—it was as if her mother’s soul had departed.
Lilia gazed out into the courtyard, thinking, Even the leaves twirl in the occasional waft of wind. Maria made no effort to acknowledge her daughter’s presence. How can a powerful woman, so fiercely alive and in control, now disappear from life, give up on our family?
“Mama, the soup is hot. Please try to eat something.” Lilia waited for some sign of movement. “Papa and the boys need you…I need you.”
The weight of Maria’s silence felt like a vice on Lilia’s heart. She saw Little Rose perched up high on the dresser, making her world seem even more cold and empty. Feelings of abandonment ate her up inside, swallowing any hope for happiness—she was alone. Lilia bowed her head as she shuffled to the door, but when she turned to look at her mother, pity, and courage inflated her little body. “I miss him too, you know. My stomach tangles in knots every night before I go to bed. I miss telling him things. Arturo was the only one who saw me for who I was…I hope I can still be that girl for him, but right now, I’m afraid I might shrivel up and die…like you.” Lilia looked up, still hopeful for a word, anything. Her mother faced the window and didn’t flinch. Lilia pulled the door closed as a single tear trickled down Maria’s cheek.