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"Still" by Mary Jo Garrido

“Joe, Joe!!!”

That’s mommy’s voice calling daddy. I was sleeping and it woke me up. My heart knocks on my chest. She sounds like when Melissa got lost in the mall.

Melissa is my big sister; she got lost because she didn’t stay near mommy or daddy as they told us. She’s eight and I am five since yesterday. I had a birthday party. My cousins, my sister and I had cake, pops and ice cream and I got presents. Julian couldn’t stay because he had to go.

There’s a bit of light outside the window but I know it’s not time to wake up. Melissa flips over her bed and opens her eyes; just a tiny bit, like when she doesn’t want to wake up for school. But there’s no school today.

“It’s Julian, Joe!” Mommy is crying. Daddy says something I cannot hear. She hushes but I think she’s still crying.

Is Julian here already? It’s too early.

“Julian, Julian…” mommy cries again and calls him.

I sit on my bed and look at Melissa; maybe she knows why mommy is calling Julian so early and why is she crying. Melissa knows many things because she’s a big girl. She jumps out of bed. Her eyes are wide open now.

“Stay here!” she says and walks outside our bedroom shutting the door behind her. She knows I don’t like the door shut! I get off my bed and open it a bit.

I am not sleepy anymore. On the big blue chair near the window I see my presents. I sat Kippi right next to them before going to bed. All my favourite things together. Kippi is still my favourite-favourite; mommy says he’s been with me since I was one. Gamma-Jo gave it to me and he’s special. He sleeps in my bed, but yesterday I left him on the chair taking care of my new toys.

There’s not a lot of light but it’s enough to play, so I sit on the floor and pull Kippi down from the blue chair. He’s white and pink, soft and fluffy. I love to hug him. He smells like mommy and Gamma-Jo and Aunt Janice and daddy, and Julian of course. Melissa says he doesn’t. I squeeze him and his chubby arms touch both my cheeks while his head warms my left shoulder. I place him on the floor right in front of me so he can see the new toys with me.

First, the tea set Aunt Janice gave me; four cups, four saucers, a teapot, a creamer and a sugar bowl. They all have pink, yellow and blue little flowers and butterflies.

Now the crayons and the colouring book my big cousin Julian bought for me. Julian is also special. He is the oldest of all my cousins; they live in the house beside ours. He couldn’t stay for my birthday party but he’ll come this afternoon and we’ll colour together. He asked me to choose the pictures we’ll do first.

“Huuum-p-ty Duuum-p-ty… Humpty Dumpty!” This one’s cool. I don’t have to read this other one, it’s Mary and her little lamb. Sooo cute, I like it a lot. Maybe I’ll do this one. Here’s the woman who lives in a shoe. Oh! Julian will like this one… “Jaa-ck and Jiii…”

“Oooh, mommyyy...!” That’s Melissa’s voice sneaking through the door. She’s crying too. A lot.

Did they scold her because she got up too early? I don’t think it’s that. She’s crying like something hurt her. I am a bit scared.

I put down the colouring book and listen. Low voices again; Mommy and Daddy’s. I don’t like how they sound. Something’s wrong.

I leave Kippi with the colouring book and go out my bedroom, pass the studio and walk through the dining room. I hear noises from across the fence, from my cousin’s house. They are all crying together. Some words I can understand others I cannot.

“Oh, my Julian!” that’s my Aunt Janice, but I hear also Sofie, Millie, Eddy, Rose, even Uncle Chuck. I don’t hear Julian. They are all calling him. Why isn’t he answering?

“We woke you up, my sweet Lola” I hear mommy say. Her nose is so red. Her eyes and cheek wet with tears.

“Did Julian got lost, mommy? Why is everybody calling him?” I ask.

Mommy bites her lip; her eyebrows wrinkle and more tears drip down her eyes. She hugs me; she cries and cries.

I guess he’s lost, like Melissa at the mall. But I’m confused, Julian is big like daddy, he’s allowed to drive a car; can he still get lost?

Daddy and Melissa come to us. Melissa is sobbing. Daddy lifts me up in his arms. He’s not crying but I see he’s sad, too.

“Daddy, why’s everybody calling Julian? He’ll come over this afternoon to colour with me.”

Daddy swallows something and looks at me. “Sweetie, Julian will not be coming over this afternoon”

“Yes, daddy, he told me yesterday. He couldn’t stay for my party but he’ll come by this afternoon to colour together.” I feel mommy’s arm around me; she’s also hugging dad.

“There was an accident. He passed away; he can’t come anymore”

“What’s passed away?”

“It means he won’t be around us anymore. He cannot walk or talk or breathe… He was killed in an accident.”

Killed. I understand that word.

Julian showed me the other day a birdie… it couldn’t move, it laid still on the brick fence where he was with his friend Fabio. Julian said Fabio ‘killed’ the bird. Fabio pulled up the birdie’s wing and it didn’t move; he dropped the wing, and the birdie didn’t move either. I was afraid. He laughed. I ran to my house.

I don’t like Fabio. I don’t like ‘killed’. I don’t want Julian to be like the birdie!

I don’t like birds anymore.

I still want to colour Mary and her little lamb with Julian this afternoon!

He promised.

14 comments

  • Beautifully written and great pacing. You’ve captured the mind of a child trying to understand what has happened especially when she says that she understands ‘killed’ and then ends with “he promised”. Looking forward to more!

    Lark
  • Liked it very much!! Congratulations!😘👍🏻

    Marcela
  • Beautifully written through the eyes of a child… the innocence broke my heart…

    Alison
  • Well done, Mary Jo!
    It’s beautifully written. It depicts that terrible moment when one’s childhood innocence gets stained by reality.
    I look forward to reading more!

    Ana Lia
  • This story could be an excellent ilustrated book. Keep going! You are doing so great!
    Waiting for more “great short stories” from you. Congrats!

    Mary Jo

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