"Bellisima - beautiful Mali," stated Gram every time I walked in the door with my family on visits, long ago. Bellisima, how can that term be used for me? My grandmother, Gram, always said something like this when I walked in the door of her old bungalow home. You would think that she was Italian... she looked Italian; black hair, fairly slender, but she had a very fair complexion.
Personally, I think that I should have been called "weird." Being fifteen years old, I guess I was at that awkward stage in my development. I wasn’t tall yet (my mom always said I would be 5'7" – almost there), but, thankfully, I wasn’t short either. I've been told that I look just like my mother did at this age and that I will only grow prettier like she did. I had no idea what I will look like when I am older, as my mom passed away a few months ago. I guess that's why I feel "weird" about my looks... sorrow can do that to a girl.
But now, every day when I walked in the door at Gram's house, I heard, "How was your day, Bella?" Usually, I’d shrug my shoulders and head off to my room. A typical day would be to stop in the kitchen to say hi to my grandmother and grab a piece of fruit. Today, however, I just went straight up to my room. I didn’t feel like sharing about my day just yet.
I was asked to join the Cheer Squad today. Jessica, the head cheerleader, was the one to ask me. We had gymnastics team try-outs today. Not only did I get a spot on the gymnastics team, I was personally asked by the head cheerleader to become a Cheer Zombie. Don’t get me wrong. It would be so cool to be a popular kid for once. I have always been on the outside of The Circle, even in grade school. I’ve always been a little bit too quirky for most people.
I walked over to my mirror by my bathroom because I wanted to see if I looked any different. I felt different today, because someone actually noticed me today. This was unusual for me, being noticed. I have walked around in an invisibility fog for so many years, and to have someone popular speak to me, seemed a bit unreal. Well, I was used to being spoken to, but not kind words. And to have HIM talk to me as well, I had to see if I had sprouted horns or something that called attention to me.
As I looked in the mirror, I saw the same old Mallory. A slightly pale, smooth face with piercing green eyes and thick, wavy, jet black hair stared back at me. The form isn't anything to sneeze at, I guess. I wasn’t too skinny, like so many of the girls at my school, but I don't have to worry about making it around the track in PE like Becky Steinhope did. I guess you could call me striking. I was definitely different than the standard girl who went to Horizon High, maybe because I was "Black Irish." When people think of the Irish, the image that pops into most thoughts is that of auburn hair, green eyes and freckles, and usually bad teeth. Bad teeth were more of a British thing. Some say that the black hair is a remnant from the shipwrecked Spaniards from the Spanish Armada days. Others believe that the Black Irish came from gypsies. My family hailed from a long line of Black Irish. We had the temper, the super fair skin and green eyes, but we had black hair instead of brown or auburn. Despite these unique qualities, I have always felt AVERAGE! Until today, that is.
"Mallory Flynn, what ARE you doing up there? I need help with dinner," shouted Gram up the stairs. I glanced at the clock and realized that an hour of daydreaming goes by... Could reliving the past be called daydreaming? I was wondering what life would be like, now that my mom was gone. My dad wasn’t in the picture, and hasn’t been for several years. Mom said that he went to war in the Gulf and didn't come back "right in the head." She loved him, even though he messed things up by getting arrested and thrown into jail.
He said that it wasn’t his fault; simply that he was at the wrong place at the wrong time. He also had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. It was common knowledge that many of soldiers that came back from Iraq had PTSD; but I don’t know what led my dad to do something so stupid. Maybe that’s why he ran from a store that got robbed. Something about gun fire and freaking out, and then mixing up scenes from Iraq with a convenience store robbery. But the jury didn’t believe it, and he has been cooling his heels down at the prison in Florence. He would be up for parole in a few months, though.
May 15th will be a day that I would always remember. It was the day we were told that our mom would never be able to come home again. When it happened, I focused more on the things that I saw than on the emotions that I felt. As I opened our front door, the image of two police officers in very crisp uniforms, and shiny name tags would be one that would stay with me. That afternoon changed our lives. We found out from the police officers that Mom had an accident in the Superstition Mountains, an accident that took her life. The meeting in our living room seemed to take forever, as we waited for our grandparents to drive up to our house.
Every Sunday evening, Gram and Gramps came over for dinner after their bridge game. We waited in silence for a short period of time, since the officers seemed hesitant to tell us anything until our grandparents showed up. I remember that the three of us kids went into the kitchen to make up some refreshments, so we didn’t have to sit there alone with the officers. There was one light moment on that dark day, when Paddy, my little brother, was looking for cookies. Hearing Paddy rummage around in the pantry in search of a secret cookie stash, he came out of the pantry in triumph but with a perplexed look, wondering if police officers also liked cookies.
I shook my head to clear it as I realized that I slipped into another daydream… a remembrance, really. I figured that I should gather myself together before I headed down to the kitchen to help Gram with dinner. I know she will ask about my day, and I wondered what I would tell her about this day in particular.