Coming of Age

 

The ceremony took place on a cold winter day. Everyone, from their cousins to her dadÕs coworkers at the quarry, came dressed in thick layers of black. They mourned him, prayed for his peaceful rest, and bid their goodbyes to the two children he left behind.

The drive to their new home was quiet. Even Max, the younger, more boisterous of the two, sat still in the back of the car. Their fatherÕs death came suddenly--heÕd ignored the pain in his chest, so the clot in his lungs was only found after it was already too late. The son missed his father dearly. Their mom died in a car accident when Max was only two, so his dad was the only parent heÕd ever known. The gaping hole left by them both was far more than the six-year-old could handle alone. Thankfully he wasnÕt.

MaxÕs eighteen-year-old sister Rina sat right next to him. She held his hand in a tight grip and in silent assurance. Everything will be okay. Staring out the window, her mind couldnÕt seem to shake off the memories and regret. Was it her teenage rebellious phase, when snide, moody remarks were her main contribution to family conversations? Was it the afternoons her dad spent after work meeting her teachers and discussing her heap of detentions? Or was it the day she blurted out to him that she thought their momÕs death was partly his fault? What ran through RinaÕs mind may never be known, but the guilt and anguish she felt was clear. Her apologies, sadly, would never be heard by the person who needed them most.

The car stopped in front of a large house. It was a wonder that Gemma, the two childrenÕs paternal aunt and new guardian, chose to live in such a huge place. Unmarried and notoriously work-oriented, the house always appeared to be too quiet, too big, and too empty, until today.

Gemma looked over her shoulder, and saw the two with their heads laid against one anotherÕs. Shaking the two awake, she softly called to the eldest. ÒWeÕre here.Ó

Rina nodded at her aunt, tugged at her brother, and, when he didnÕt budge from his seat, helped her aunt carry all of their belongings from the trunk to the house. After settling their stuff down in their new rooms, Rina returned to her brother. He was still in his seat, unmoving. Once she made her way to him, about to demand why he wouldnÕt get out already, the young boy burst into tears. Gemma, hearing him, rushed out of the house, but soon stopped in her tracks in pleasant surprise.

It seemed as if Rina resolved to shed the pain and angst she felt throughout her childhood- guilt was a little harder to let go. She had Max engulfed in a hug, rubbing circles in his back and hushing his cries. The siblings stayed like that, until Rina felt his sobs finally cease. IÕll make sure youÕll be okay.

 

© Roseanne De Guzman

BIO: Growing up with one parent working halfway across the globe, Roseanne De Guzman learned exactly how technology can connect two worlds. Though she is often found speaking Tagalog to her feisty grandmother, Roseanne can be seen tackling German with just her phone and the Duolingo app. She enjoys learning about cultures different from her own, even if it means relying on subtitles to watch her favorite Korean drama and tuning into FC BarcelonaÕs latest soccer match.