Wardiru was eating them from the tin. He’d never had them before and the happiness in his face gave me great pleasure. Santo reduced us to giggles with impressions of his school teachers, banishing from our remembrance that this was a night of goodbyes.
Matt, Jannah, Mami Di, Pak Niel, Wardiru, Santo, and I talked until the late hours became early and we parted for the penultimate time. I don’t remember what we spoke of, only lying awake, dreading the morning, savouring the sweetness which lingered still upon my tongue.
* * *
I stood at the window staring out. He offered me a bowl.
“They’re fine from the tin thanks.”
“What’s with peaches anyway?”
“Because I like them. They fill the cracks of the heart.”
The syrup choked me throat, suppressing the bitter taste of sorrow and bringing tears to my eyes. I did not understand what had happened. The stroke had been so sudden and so final.
And Steven had been so young.
* * *
It didn’t make sense and I would never know. Deliberate, accident, or ‘accident’? Did it matter? No. But deep down I desperately needed to know because I could not believe it of her.
She was thunder and sunshine all at once but she only ever wanted to live.
I was no longer sure.
I peered into the cupboard, seeking out the blue-labelled tin that would remind me of better times. A time in which we were happy.
A time before the goodbyes.
* * *
It was late when I came into the kitchen. The sight of the blue wallpaper and uncomfortable chairs, and the table which had always been covered in cloth, stopped me momentarily.
We had sat there once. Many times in fact but this particular once he had been winding us up. He told us that most people had no idea how their cutlery was actually meant to be used and proceeded to eat his pudding from an upside down spoon.
My younger brother tried to copy him but succeeded only in annoying him by dripping syrup and ice cream down the day-cloth and onto the floor.
I smiled at the memory as I took the black dress from the bag on the side and laid it out for the morning.
* * *
It was the most horrible text that I had ever sent and the waiting was killing me. I guess I knew the answer and did not want to but did need to hear it whether it was true or not.
So I took a fork and a tin and wrapped myself in a blanket, anticipating the goodbye of tomorrow, softening the suspense with the simple comfort of peaches chilled in syrup.
* * *
Frustration, pain, confusion, bewilderment all crowded in on me and I couldn’t work it out. Had I done wrong or hadn’t I? Couldn’t they see how hard I was trying to stop everything blowing apart? Why was it never enough?
What was expected of me? What am I supposed to do?
My mother looked at me and knew and handed me a bowl.
* * *
It was a balmy night and we were all together. We talked long and deep about everything and nothing, unconcerned by our fleeting troubles.
I smiled, savouring the moment as I nursed a tin of peaches.