Sharon has my father’s fine black hair and cocoa eyes. Her link to my mother is expressed through the almond tilt of her eyes, the angle of bone beneath glowing ivory skin. Ignoring their conversation, I study them, these two women I love, but so different from me, from each other. We are the bones of a family. The three in this room and my older brother, Paul, a physician in Kenya, are all that’s left.
My brother works at an Episcopal mission fighting obscure tropical diseases. He loves his work and rarely visits the states. I don’t think we’ll see Paul in this decade, unless we go to him. His latest photograph smiles at everyone from the mantle. He is a tall, sunburnt man with bristling red hair. Paul poses with an African child, all brilliant white teeth, smiling on his shoulders. My sister smiles serenely beautiful in a frame next to him. There are no current pictures of me over the fire.
My mother’s house never changes. Shiny wood floors are warmed by delicately-patterned oriental rugs that have been in my family for years. The thing I disliked most about suburban Florida was the newness, everything streamlined. I grew up in a house full of dark wood and private corners.
I notice a vase, cerulean and full of week-old white roses, flawlessly mirrored by the mahogany table that supports it. The presence of this vase, something I made, is a gesture from my mother, a silent welcome. I touch the outer petals of a rose open too-wide. A petal falls into my palm. I crush the fragile smoothness in my fist.