My mother stirred her coffee absentimdedly; her focus was on the blurry picture of us in her hands.
It was a terrible photo: my hair was knotty, frizzy, sticking in all directions and her face was all scrunched up in a weird smile. But there was something different about this one.
It was true happiness. It wasn’t posed like so many of our other photographs with the hideous backgrounds. You know, the one she had to drag me to Walmart to take? This one captured the moment, the peace, one of the rare times our laughter wasn’t forced. I forget why we were so hysterical. Something stupid, I’m sure.
Mom rubbed her thumb over my cheek and took a deep breath, like she was about to slip under water. “God. Why? Why did you have to take her?” she whispered. A tear dropped from her eye. “Oh, Gigi. My baby girl. Can I love no one without having them taken away?” she screamed at no one.
The tears were streaming down her face now. This killed me. Why did this have to happen? Our lives were two big sob stories. I was almost happy to get out. But I’d stay for her. Everything Mom ever had was taken from her. I should have kept fighting. I shouldn’t have let myself die. But I did.
Annabeth stood next to me. I could tell she was fighting back tears. She barely knew me, and didn’t know my mother at all, but she was so sad for us. I was grateful for Annabeth. Without her… Well I don’t know where I’d be.
Annabeth reached out and put her hand on my shoulder. “You do not have to stay here,” she said tonelessly. “This won’t help you.” I knew she was right. But I had to watch over my mother, like she always promised to do to me. She assumed her time would come before mine.
“Annabeth, I can’t leave her like this.”
“There’s nothing you can do to help her anyway,” she whispered. Annabeth was such a blonde sometimes, but when she needed to, she came through. I loved her for it. I thought about Jo. Was she really even a friend? She was a bad influence, that’s for sure. I wondered what it would be like if we never became friends. Would I have wanted to go to that party so badly? Would I have died?
I sighed. Why was I blaming Jo? She’d been incarcerated for the past three months. But, honestly, Jo was terrrible.
“I know,” I mumbled.
“We should go,” Annabeth warned. “This isn’t going to make you feel any better.”
“Then we should leave.”
She sighed and grabbed my wrist. “Let’s go.”