Written by Miriam Fernandez
Art by Madison Inouye
“Will you still hold my hand when we’re older?” I ask my sister, laughing as we cross the street and pass by the bustling crowds.
“Only if you hold mine,” she chortles, her hazel eyes gleaming in the sunlight, two mirrors that only reveal grace and tranquility. Once we step foot again on the sidewalk, she lets go, but I know she’d never let go of me. Not today. Not tomorrow.
There are only a couple of hours left until the day is over and yet, I am in no hurry for it to end. The summer air is calm, breezing through trees draped in green.
We pass the second to last lamppost before home, the one near Betty’s Bakery and a couple of clothing stores. The smell of baked goods fills the air with a wonderful aroma, one that envelops everything in its way like a gentle embrace.
“It always smells good, doesn’t it?” my sister says, breathing the air as if it were her last.
“Always,” I murmur with my eyes closed as I inhale the scent of freshly baked bread. A wave of melancholy hits me unexpectedly and forces me to open my eyes once more.
Smells like home, doesn’t it darling?
“Are you okay?”
My sister’s voice brings me back to reality and for a moment, I wish she hadn’t.
“I’m fine, just wondering if you’re thinking what I’m thinking,” I say, raising my eyebrows as I face the bakery.
“Mantecadas!” we both effuse, smiling. She beats me by the second, her youth present as she arrives there with no difficulty breathing after a sprint. I, on the other hand, cannot breathe properly and bend down to catch my breath as she chuckles at my “old age”.
“Next time,” I wheeze, “I’ll beat you.”
“You wish,” she replies, laughing. There it is again. That look in her face that makes all my memories come flooding back.
You will never be alone, darling.
For a brief moment, I freeze, my mind rewinding to simpler times. But I won’t ruin this just because I think too much about the past.
“Go on,” I tell my sister, “Pick the one you want.” She gives me a quick smile and goes to pick up a tray. The smell of bread penetrates everything, heightening the memories in my head into reality.
My mother’s words, her heartbeat pounding. It’s like I can see her again. Alive and well. Her memory, hands full of bread and our little hands, waits by the front door of the bakery like she did when we were younger. She’d always tell us that sisterhood was something she always wanted to experience but never could. That’s why she was adamant in us getting along, for she wanted us to realize that we had a bond she could never have.
Her dark hair flowing down her back, her gentle eyes and unwavering spirit. She fought to live, always did. She wanted us to live.
“Are you ready? I picked one out for you.”
My sister stands at the cash register, her face a replica of my mother’s. She doesn’t remember her as much as I do, but she is a memory of the lives we’ve led, the times we’ve known and forgotten.
I nod quickly, wiping a few tears that have sprung. I head to the cash register, appearing by my sister’s side as I pay for the bread she’s selected.
Always four pieces, always the same four pieces.
We head out of the bakery and silently walk.
Past the lamppost that highlights the end of this block.
Past the clothing stores my mother used to shop at.
Past the aging trees, the ones that guarded the neighborhood from danger.
We walk until it is dark and the night is cool. We walk home and fall asleep, our hands intertwined for the briefest of seconds, humming the lullaby our mother used to sing.