“Mia,” Dad’s voice streamed into my ears as I turned the volume up a few notches, wanting nothing more than to block out the sound. “Mia!” His voice was louder this time, the impatience growing. I ignored it once more. “AMELIA!” I had no choice. I hit the pause button and made my way down the stairs, exaggerated heart balloons being shoved into my face the second I stepped into the room. “Hold these dear, now, what do you say?”
“Happy Birthday Emma.” My tone was blank, matching the expression on my face. I could feel Dad’s gaze poring through me, hints of anger flashing in his eyes. I forced my lips into a fake smile and handed her the balloons.
“Happy Birthday Em,” he leaned forwards, planting a sickening kiss onto her lips. “Now come on, open it.” Her evil eyes lit up as she ripped open the wrapping paper. I’d wanted to scribble “Wicked Step-mum” on the front, but I had quickly decided against it, for Dad’s sake. Not that I had forgiven him for marrying her. Not that I would ever forgive him. I watched her nimble fingers lift the lid and felt my heart tear as the gem reflected the morning sunlight that poured through the window.
“They’re beautiful,” she said. She held up the box, as if purposely trying to hurt me, using the delicate sapphire earrings to stab a hole into my heart. A single tear fell from my eyes as I held onto the memory of her, her glowing rosy cheeks and her auburn curls falling into her face just as mine do now. My mother.
“Don’t look Mia,” her palms felt warm against my skin as she covered my eyes, gently pushing me along as she led me through the house. It was the night before my graduation, just over a month before the incident. Her breath heated the back of my neck, almost protecting me, keeping me safe. “Just a few more steps... now open your eyes.”
I gasped as all my breath got stolen away from me, my eyes mirroring the dazzle of the ocean blue jewels as I admired the earrings. I turned to her. She beamed, her eyes filling with tears. “I’m so proud of you darling.” Her arms wrapped around me, shielding me from all the harm in the world. Nothing could ever compare to that moment.
I wrapped my arms around her, wanting to treasure the moment, desperate not to let go. My tears soaked the frosted white sheets of the hospital bed. Her skin was intensely pale, she blended into her surroundings. All the rosiness had left her cheeks. Her hair lay flat on the pillow. The only part of her remaining was the twinkle in her eye as I told her about my day, reciting my test results, mumbling the words through my sobs.
“I’m so proud of you darling.” The words stung.