By Maya Petzoldt, TIWP Student
This story is many things. It is filled with love, sadness, and possibly, confusion. To clear that confusion, I am going to tell you a secret. In the beginning of this story, you are reading from the perspective of one Chrysanthi Del Reyes. She is a black lawyer, and a stay-at-home mom. She has two children, and one loving husband. Her husband is white, something they struggled with when in the early stages of their marriage. Her oldest child is Charlotte, a seventeen-year-old girl. Her second is Samuel, and he is eleven years old.
The second person’s perspective in this story is Charlie Romero, an up-and-coming young writer, who is married to Crysanthi’s best friend, Esperanza Romero. They live in England most of the time, but move around a little as Esperanza is a biologist who works for National Geographic. Charlie has two loving parents, or did anyway, as they did not agree with her being a lesbian, much less marrying a woman. They talk still, but rarely, and mainly just to keep up the pretense of a healthy relationship. This story tells you how they deal with fear, love, and sorrow.
“And, like seriously, he just said….”
I smile a little to myself, even as I drown her out. It’s always been like this, for me, and for Esperanza. I have nearly nothing happen in my life, and Esperanza has everything. We talk every week, and each time, we have to spill the tea. My cup is barely full, and she has at least a dozen cups, all overflowing. I suppose that’s what happens when you know someone for your entire life.
We were born in the same hospital, two hours apart. I am the older one, and I hold that over her as much as humanly possible. We grew up on the same street, one house apart. We always made it a game of who could surprise the other at the other’s house, and we actually played in the lawn of the house between ours, it was owned by a really nice lady. We went to the same schools, all the way until college. That was when we split ways.
That was when we decided never to forget. Never to forget all the times we played together, laughed together, and all the birthday parties we shared. Never to forget that time we dated the same boy; oh, the smack down we gave him when we found out, was terrifying in retrospect. Never to forget all the Starbucks drinks we shared, selfies and all. Never to forget all the times we had to coax each other to get out of the house. The times she had to drag me to school parties, and all the after school clubs I had to drag her too.
When we parted ways, and she crossed an ocean to go study in Europe, while I crossed a continent to study in California, we promised never to forget our friendship. And boy, am I glad we made that promise. I could not count all the times I leaned on her, or vice versa, even if it sometimes had to be over the phone.
When she stood up for me in PE class, saying I didn’t need to be the fastest, even if she was. The times she cried on my shoulder when another girl broke her heart. The times she supported me, when it felt that law school weighed me down too much. The times I helped her study over Facetime, when her big tests to become a biologist were stressing her out. The time I asked her to be my Maid of Honor, and when she asked me to be hers. The best times of our lives, we shared together, even if we were thousands of miles apart.
“…. Can you believe it?”
“No, no I can’t.”
I respond automatically, when she calls for my verbal presence. Before she can talk again, I jump in, because I can see the school coming into view.
“Hey Anza, I’m gonna have to let you go. I’m pulling into the school soon, gotta pick up Sammy.”
“Kay, love you, bye!”
“Love you too, bye!”
I smile as I go on, ignoring the click of Esperanza hanging up. I drive slower as I enter the loop and get in line with all the other cars. My smile widens as I hear the door open, and I look back and smile again as my son gets into the car. I turn down the radio, which had turned on when Esperanza hung up, and began to drive out of the school neighborhood. With a small, fond smirk, and begin to interrogate, as my daughter calls it, my son about his day.
He leans forward, with his seat belt buckled of course, and starts to talk rapidly.
“Momma! You won’t believe what just happened today…”
Sometimes, I think that if I had not pushed this little boy out of me myself, that he might actually be Esperanza’s child. They act so alike sometimes. He talks just like her, when he tells me about his day or any other time. The only difference is that he calls me Momma, instead of Anthi.
I converse with my son all the way to getting on the freeway, at which point he asks me if we can call Daddy, who is picking up Lottie right now.
“Sure thing,” I say, and we sit quietly through the ringtone. My son face lights up as my husband’s voice comes over the small device.
“Who is this?”
I snort a little, because I know I called the right number, and evidently, my son does, too. I smile and stay silent.
“It’s Sam and Mom!”
“Sam? I don’t believe I know a Sam.”
“Yes you do! You know me! I’m a Sam!”
“Lottie? Do we know a Sam?”
“I don’t think so, Dad.”
I smirk, as it seems my teenage daughter, Charlotte, or Lottie as we call her, is playing this game as well. I take a glance back at my son, seeing him smiling a little. With a fond look, I turn back to the road. The next thing I see is a sporadically moving red, and then I hear a crack, possibly from my own skull, and things go black.
“Crysanthi Lorenza Del Reyes, was a truly remarkable woman to all who knew her. She was a kind mother, a loving wife, a beautiful daughter, a caring friend, and an amazing lawyer. It is truly a new kind of sadness, that her life would end in such a way…”
As the celebrant goes on, I hold my sobbing wife closer to me. I know how much Crysanthi meant to her, and by the looks of it, still does. I feel a pang in my chest, as Esperanza cries more and more, and all I can do is hug her tighter. As I look back to the man giving this speech, I reflect a little on what I knew about Crysanthi.
I admit, that the first time I met her, I was a little jealous. Esperanza and I had just started dating, and she had told me so much about her childhood friend. So when she finally introduced us, over Facetime, I knew some things about her, but not a lot. I knew her as Esperanza’s really close friend from back in the US, but not her as Crysanthi Romero, mother of two and wife to one.
What I first saw, was a really pretty woman. Dreadlocks done up in a neat bun, copper skin that was smooth, much better than my own freckled, pale one (at least in my perspective), with large ringed glasses sitting atop a button nose. My first thoughts were, “Really, what the hell? How am I dating Esperanza and this one isn’t?” This one is a gorgeous woman that my own beauty has known all her life, and I’m just some British ginger she met at Oxford.
Esperanza has the smoothest tan skin, with soft flowing locks of mahogany ringlets, with emerald eyes, and naturally dark lips. What do I have? Some frizzy red, and I mean red, hair that fluffs up weirdly when I brush it. A trillion freckles, everywhere, and pale lips with grey eyes. I was no match for these two, and I was seriously wondering how I got to be the girlfriend of Esperanza when she had such options in front of her.
But my jealousy, not my insecurity, had been cleared up when a small bundle of joy had run up to the woman in the camera, and a brown haired man sat down next to her. She was straight. So I really had no need to be jealous, but by the looks of it, definitely insecure.
Even after that first meeting, we never really became friends. I knew her, and she knew me, and we liked each other enough for it not to be a problem. She approved of me and Esperanza, and seeing as she lived across an ocean from us, I never really made an effort to become her friend. But that changed soon enough.
I knew Esperanza was Catholic, and that if I wanted to do right by her, I had to do right by her religious roots. But her father was dead, and her mother and her weren’t on speaking terms. So now, if I wanted to marry her, who did I ask for her hand? We had been visiting Crysanthi and her family at the time, welcoming a newborn Sammy into the world, also at the time, when it hit me. Who did Esperanza love and trust most? Crysanthi.
So my first, real interaction with the woman had been asking her if I could marry her best friend. And I am very lucky for her to have said yes. So, all in all, I did not really know the woman, not other than that she was a great friend, and a loving mother. But, as I look around, I see she was so much more.
Next to me is her husband, I believe his name is Roger, crying endless silent tears. They trek down his face in what seems to be a never ending flow. He holds his two children tightly, and I feel another pang of sadness in my chest at the sight of them.
Crysanthi’s daughter, Charlotte, looks much like Esperanza does now, balling her eyes out and holding her face in her hands as she nestles into her father’s side. Roger has his arm around her, holding her steadfast. Crysanthi’s son, Samuel, is sitting on his father’s lap, crying the same, silent tears into his chest, with a few hiccups here and there. Roger’s other arm is wrapping tightly around him, and holding him just as tightly as he is holding his daughter.
The sight of them makes my eyes watery, and I don’t think anything I can say will attest to the pain they feel right now. I look to my other side, over my wife’s head. I see an old man, his dark skin filled with wrinkles and wet with tears. His white is as curly as it gets, and I recognize this man as Crysanthi’s father. He is alone in his tears, his wife having left long ago. If I remember correctly, Crysanthi’s mom died during childbirth, and this man raised her alone.
If the sight of her husband and children crying wasn’t enough to bring me to tears, this certainly is. I few, quiet tears, escape my eyes, and I close them. I place a kiss on Esperanza’s head, to wash away the feelings of my own tears, and rub her back slowly.
I crack my eyes open, and stare at Crysanthi’s coffin. Everything seems to be silent as I take in the sight of it. And the silence is a deafening one. Her coffin is closed, and is as white as it gets. There is a long, black, see through swath of fabric over the entire coffin, and drapes down to the floor. Over the middle of the coffin, acting almost as a belt of sorts, is a long strip of light, shiny blue fabric that also reaches the floor. It is only about a foot wide, but it is very pretty, acting as a stark contrast to the other fabric’s black.
Piled on top of these fabrics covering the coffin, are piles and piles of flowers. Every color, covering every inch of space. Red, blue, green, yellow, purple, black, white, and every color in between. It takes me a second, but I recognize the type of flower they all are. Japanese Chrysanthemums, Crysanthi’s flower of namesake.
I close my eyes again, as I feel more tears coming.
Dear Crysanthi, I knew you not as a friend, but as a friend of a friend. I knew you as the woman who let me marry the love of my life, and yet I never truly realized the love you had in your own life. Yes, you loved many, but I wonder if you ever realized how many loved you. Surly, if you can see this now, you do know. As every pew in this old, crumbling church is filled, filled to the brim.