“Mom, what are you doing?” Lani asked as she poked down on her mother’s straight back, which donned a beige-colored tank top.
London rose from child’s pose to lock eyes with her curious five-year-old daughter. She thought she was the only one awake at 6am on a Saturday and always took this time to set her intentions for the day. She gave Lani a half, but genuine smile and scooped her up on her lap, crossing her legs for comfort.
“Well, I just finished my meditation and I always end with a little stretch. You wanna try?” she patted down on her blue yoga mat as the first bits of sunshine started to sneak through their oversized window.
London never did ‘baby talk’; she was always as transparent as possible with her daughter. Not because she wanted her to grow up quickly, but rather, she wanted her daughter to be educated; she wanted her to feel confident in the world around her.
“Yeah!” she shouted and jumped down, eager to learn.
“Okay then, but we have to keep quiet while daddy’s still asleep.”
She brought her knees back in and sat on her heels, telling Lani to do the same, then stretching her hands out in front while her head touched down on the mat.
“Comfy, right?” she looked over at her daughter who displayed the pose perfectly. Not that it was hard, but still, she couldn’t help but be impressed.
“Okay, now whisper something you’re grateful for.”
Without hesitation, Lani whispered, “my mommy.”
Allowing the single tear to fall, London gave her daughter a little squeeze on her side and told her they would make this their Saturday tradition, which they did, for the next nine years, minus a few sleepovers or trips away for work.
“Mom, seriously, where the hell are my Vans? I have to wear them with this outfit. Find them or I’m not going to school!”
At 14, Lani discovered her teenage angst. She discovered boys, the power of social media, how to avoid doing homework, and she really mastered the art of talking back.
“Lani, please, you know we don’t like that tone in this household. If you need my help with something, please ask politely and I’ll do what I can,” she always remained a calm presence despite the attitude and the yelling from her daughter. After five minutes of Lani’s screaming, London found the perfectly destroyed black Vans under their coffee table.
“Ugh, finally. Thanks, now let’s go. I have to meet the girls for a photo before class starts. Speaking of… the new iPhone is coming out soon so can you talk to dad about getting it for me?” she didn’t wait for the answer as she grabbed her green Fjallraven backpack and headed towards the garage.
“Where did you get that backpack, Lani? We didn’t get that for you.”
“It’s Brooklynn’s. We switched. Is that okay with you?” she snapped. These days, everything was a battle.
London didn’t have the energy to fight. Not today. She’d slept a combined twelve hours over the last four nights as she’d been working on splicing together the next movie trailer for Paramount Pictures. She had to get it back to them no later than 3pm.
Once her daughter was out of the BMW X2, it was time to put on Wayne Dyer’s meditation sounds. It always lifted her spirits and she needed to be in the right headspace to finish and be proud of this trailer. Sure, there’s no way to make Zendaya look bad, but the music still wasn’t right and the suspense didn’t match what you feel in the movie.
With an oat milk latte next to the keyboard, London went to work. She’s considered one of the best in the business, despite only starting seven years ago.
One bathroom break, two lattes and three shots of espresso later, she had her masterpiece, coming in at 1 minute, 50 seconds. She sent it over, with an hour to spare, even. John would be so pleased.
She phoned her husband, Jacob. “Hey, hun, I just finished the trailer and I’m exhausted. I’m hoping you can pick Lani up from school?” she practically nodded off while finishing her question.
“Sure, babe. I’ll grab her at 3:30. Want me to order any food to the house for dinner?”
He was always so gracious and helpful, and their parenting style almost fully aligned. Neither of them wanted to hire a driver to chauffeur Lani around, despite her countless pleas since her “friends all have one.” They refused to let their wealth result in a child with no respect or work ethic… this was proving to be a tall order.
As they sat for dinner, they didn’t say grace, but London wanted everyone to thank their food for the nutrients, and before digging in, express gratitude for at least one thing they experienced in the day.
“I am thankful I was able to work hard to finish something I’m proud of.” London smiled and nodded to Jacob, telling him with her eyes, ‘it’s your turn’.
“Right. I’m thankful I was able to spend some extra time with my daughter today,” he looked at Lani who was either texting or commenting on social media.
“Excuse me, Lani, did you hear your father? Put your phone down, please. You know this is family time. Can you please tell us one thing you’re grateful for?”
She rolled her eyes and put her phone down inches away from her plate. “I’m grateful that dad’s gonna get me a new iPhone.”
With a collective sigh, they started digging into Zempall’s, the vegetarian restaurant nearby. They typically did one or two days a week without meat.
. . .
“Hey, honey, just checking in. Wanted to make sure you’re settling in okay. Can you please call back or send me a text? I’d love to come take you to lunch soon. Okay, I love you.”
This was the third voicemail she’d left her daughter. She would be freaking out, if she hadn’t seen her posting to her social media proving she’s alive.
“Give it a few more weeks, babe. Let her settle into college life for a bit, and let her miss us.” Jacob ran his fingers through London’s hair, wishing his daughter would think about anyone but herself.
Despite Lani’s perpetual state of dismissiveness, London still saw her as a loving little girl. The little girl that would go with her for Reiki sessions and practice gratitude out on the deck every Saturday. She knew college would be the missing ingredient. It would make her miss being home, having warm meals every night, and allowing her mom to braid her hair while watching The Bachelor.
But, weeks turned into months and calls continued to go unanswered. Lani didn’t show up for Thanksgiving and all signs showed the same would be the case for Christmas. She had a new boyfriend that took her down a dark path and her interest in her family seemed to have completely dissipated. London kept leaving voicemails and she would send out something thoughtful every now and then, but her heart was broken.
She didn’t believe in God, but one night she started praying. Praying for her daughter to be saved. To be relieved from the pain and anger that sat inside her for years. Her prayers would be answered, but as is often the case, the result wasn’t what anyone could’ve seen coming.
London would pass in her sleep. The autopsy showed her heart just stopped.
. . .
Lani sat in the front row at her mom’s funeral. She refused to talk as she was ashamed. Ashamed of her actions over the last… well, too long to count. She ended it with her boyfriend the same day her dad called delivering the news – he represented everything Lani hated about herself and plus, she was in no space to be in a romantic relationship after losing her mom. Her best friend. London was the person she loved most in the world; the person she pushed away most, because really, she was jealous. Her mom seemed to have it all – the wonderful job, the loving husband, great friends, and a positive attitude – always. She assumed she could never measure up, and resentment started to eat away at her day after day.
“Lani, are you ready to go?” her father asked once everyone started clearing out. “We’re meeting everyone back at the house, remember?” he placed his hand on her back.
She was quickly reminded of her five year old self, when she tapped her mom’s back, wanting so badly to do whatever she did. She allowed herself to cry. She told her dad she would get an Uber home and shooed him away with her right hand, covering her eyes with her left. He reluctantly agreed, telling her to be back no later than 2:30.
London was now a pile of ash, held by a silver urn. ‘Mom always preferred silver,’ she thought. And then her crying turned into sobbing, and whimpering, and back to crying as she took a deep breath.
“Mom, I’m so sorry,” she stared at the tin longingly, allowing her tears to fall on the engraved letters. “I can’t do this without you. I’m sorry. Please don’t leave me. I’ll be better, I promise. I didn’t mean to hurt you. I always wanted to be just like you and I failed. I can’t…” her voice cracked and her breathing deepened. “I need you. I’ve always needed you. What am I supposed to do now?” she held her mom tight, squeezing her eyes shut.
The wind picked up suddenly and a dandelion fell on her lap. They would pick dandelions when Lani was younger and make a wish for another person. Her tears were heavier now, but she forced a small smile, because she knew her mom was with her.
She held the dandelion out and wiped her face… “I wish to live a life that would make my mom proud.”
Committed To Curiosity