I hadn’t wanted to get out of bed but I had no choice. I had a long day ahead of me.
My mother wanted snacks and food for the trip and as designated chef, it was my job to cook up a storm. Not that I was complaining exactly, I loved cooking, it was just the reasoning behind it that got me upset. So I spent the morning in the kitchen. It gave me a lot of time to think. And that wasn’t a good thing.
My whole life was going for a ball of shit. I couldn’t understand. What had I done to deserve what was happening?
After four hours in the kitchen with nothing but food, old music and my thoughts, I finished cleaning the last dish and turned in a circle savouring the last time I’d ever cook in the kitchen that my dad built.
I then went to my room to start packing.
I’d sent all my friends messages explaining to them what my mom had decided and all I’d received in return was cries of protest and outrage. It sucked that I wouldn’t actually be able to say a proper goodbye to any of them in person. They’d all gone away for their holidays. So now I was alone on my last day in Durban. All I wanted was for my dad to ruffle my hair, (which I used to hate), and tell me everything was going to be okay.
“Dad why did you have to leave me?”
My heart felt like it was being crushed.
The sadness was debilitating. All I wanted to do was climb into bed and forget. But I couldn’t. I started packing with tears in my eyes.
My mother came into my room at about right p.m. just after I’d packed my last box. The entire day had just slipped through my fingers. I’d been on auto pilot.
“Let’s get pizza tonight.” Mom said as she sat on the edge of my unmade bed. “We can get it from Antonia’s. You used to love that place, didn’t you?”
I smirked. My mom was trying to be sweet and all I was giving her was attitude. I knew I was being unreasonable, but she didn’t get it. She was taking me away from everything I’d ever loved. The place I grew up. The place dad lived. All the memories we’d made in the place were just going to disappear.
“I’d rather go to Jack’s actually. Then maybe you can explain to Uncle Simon why I won’t be starting work there in January.
Uncle Simon was my dad’s best friend, he also happened to own Jack’s, the pub that was my dad’s favourite haunt. Technically, because it was a pub, I wasn’t allowed to work there let alone eat or drink there, but because of my dad, Simon had said that he’d give me a job as long as I promised to never drink under his roof. I’d been so excited. I was going to save up to get myself a laptop. Poof, there goes that dream.
“Joss…” it looked like mom was going to argue but instead she sighed and said, “All right, grab your stuff. I need a drink anyway.”
For the first time since my dad died, I smiled. It wasn’t a grimace or a smirk, it was a genuine smile. My mom returned my smile but it didn’t reach her eyes. I could see she was tired.
The place was packed when we got there, but everyone greeted us like we were all one big family. My heart swelled.
My mom found us a table and ordered a cup of whiskey coffee, a favourite of my fathers, for herself and then a Smirnoff for me. I was shocked, to say the least.
“Mum?” I questioned.
“You’re going to start drinking eventually, I’d rather you do it with me. And what better place than your dad’s favourite pub.”
My jaw dropped.
I’d had alcohol before, I mean I was seventeen, but this gesture was not something I expected from my mom. It was a definite dad move. Maybe she was channelling a bit of him. The though made me grin.
Our drinks arrived and we ordered our food, both burgers and chips, and then my mom turned to me with another sigh.
“We can’t spend too much time here. I want to leave at two.”
“In the morning?” I almost choked on my drink.
“In the morning. We’ll skip all the traffic and be there by late morning.”
The lightness I’d been feeling disappeared. Heaviness fell on my chest again. My heart felt like it was in my stomach. Before I could come up with any sort of reply, Uncle Simon arrived carrying a tray with our food. He hugged us both as soon as he’d placed our food.
“I can’t believe you’re going.” He grabbed a chair from another table and joined us.
“Ben wanted Josephine to meet her grandmother.”
They started talking like I wasn’t sitting right there. I took advantage of their distraction and ordered myself another drink.
“Is Alistair still there?” Simon asked my mom.
Who was Alistair?
Mom scoffed. “Do you honestly think I’d ever let my daughter step foot in Joburg if that man was still alive? No. He’s been dead for about three years.”
“Just checking Mel. I’ve heard all the stories. I don’t want you guys in trouble.
“Glory, bless her, will be good to Joss.”
Once my second drink arrived, I spoke up. “You know I’m right here, right? I can hear every word you say. So what the hell are you two talking about?”
Simon looked away and my mother steeled her face.
“As I said yesterday. Your dad and I have complicated pasts. I don’t want to burden you with our history Joss.
I huffed and carried on eating. Ignoring them seemed like a good idea, but it wasn’t like I could block out their voices all together. I turned my full attention to savouring every bite of my food. I would miss Jack’s. their food wasn’t the greatest but I had such great memories from growing up around here. I made my first soufflé in Jack’s kitchen. I sang my first karaoke up on the makeshift stage. I had my first kiss behind the bar, with my first boyfriend. I grinned thinking about it.
I tuned into my mother’s conversation again when I heard my name being spoken. It was Simon.
“Help me take the plates to the kitchen.” He said to me.
I was about to protest, but something in the way he looked at me told me he wanted to talk. I grabbed my empty plate and my mother’s half eaten one, and Simon led me to the kitchen.
“You need to look after your mother.” He said to me as I put the plates down.
“Isn’t she supposed to look after me?” it was a terrible thing for me to say but at that moment it felt necessary to say.
“Joss, don’t be a brat. You lost your father but she lost the love of her life, her other half. They went through a lot to get here Joss. Joburg holds a lot of Bad memories for you mum. Just help her out when you can okay?”
“Why won’t anyone tell me what the hell happened?” Something terrible must have happened in the past for Simon to have taken me aside.
“It’s not my story to tell. You mum’ll tell you when she’s ready.
“What if she’s never ready?”
I leaned against one of the kitchen counters and got a dirty look from one of the cooks. Apparently we were disturbing them.
“She’ll be ready one day. Just give her time and help her out. Be there for her.”
I sighed. “Like I’d ever let my mum deal with this shit alone. She might irritate me sometimes but she’s still my mum. I love her.”
Simon smiled at my words. He nodded and then we left the kitchen.
As I got to the table, mom was getting ready to pay the bill. Simon just laughed at her and ripped up the bill.
“Last day gift.” He shrugged and smiled at us. My mom sighed but smiled back.
“Thanks Simon. It means a lot.”
We got up and said our final goodbyes.
I felt lost. I made a promise to myself that as soon as I could travel by myself, I’d come back. This place was my home.