A and D (34)

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I was determined . . .

Good . . .

And ready.

“Are you sure you’re ready?” Coach made sure, eyeing me.

“Coach,” I paused to look at him straight in the eye, “I wouldn’t be here if I’m not.”

Coach stared at me some more, and then nodded. I caught Luke and Ethan exchange glances. But I ignored them.

It was the Quarterfinals tonight. It was time for things to get back to normal – at least, as normal as it could get. I realized that Mom wouldn’t want me to be sulking around the house for days.

I wouldn’t go into details because the last couple of weeks were the worst and darkest days of my life. Simply telling it in words weren’t enough to express how I felt.

We had a private little ceremony. Dad and I knew how much Mom loved the ocean. So we decided to get her cremated. We were sure that she would have preferred that. We went to the East Hamptons, since we had a rest house there. Though, we barely used it. That was where we withdrew the ashes of Mom.

Luke and Ethan came along the weekend with us. The Evans family was, of course, there as well. Nathan and Logan arrived and stayed for a few days. They made sure that Dad and I were okay. Mom’s parents were gone. She had only two brothers left, Nathan and Logan’s fathers. They stayed overnight.

Dakota was with me through it all. She gave me time to be alone for a couple of days at the beach. But she couldn’t help but check on me from time to time. That made me smile.

Dad was fine now. He was quiet all the time during those days. I never knew what was going on in his mind. After that phase, I noticed that it was as though he felt like it was his duty to act both as my Mom and Dad.

To be honest, I was touched. I told him that I would cooperate. Deep down, I knew that he would never replace Mom. But I truly appreciated his effort.

Mom’s . . . goodbye was so sudden that it came as a shock to all of us. I didn’t feel like she was gone at all. I could still feel her presence . . . just unseen. I guessed that that was enough for me. Yeah, I’d miss her – so damn much.

If I could just talk to her one last time, I’d tell her everything that I regretted not telling her. But I knew where she was. And someday, I was sure that we would meet again.

God, she's in your hands. Please take care of her. I prayed.

My Mom’s last gift to me would always remind me of her. I was sorry that I wouldn’t have the chance to thank her for it now.

I’d just thank her by expressing it . . . by making it last . . . and by making happy memories from it.

I felt a sudden pat on my shoulder. I turned to see a grinning Ethan.

“Welcome back, man,” he said.

Luke nodded to me in greeting.

I smiled. This was one of the many reasons why I considered them my closest friends. They never asked stupid questions. They just gave a warm welcome without judgments or weird looks.

I quickly changed into my jerseys. After that, the three of us followed the rest of the team to the gym.

I was confident that we’d win tonight. I hadn’t been in practice for two weeks, but I was quite sure that I could do this.

As I’ve said, Mom wouldn’t want me to mope. She would want me to stand on my feet and let the depression go. She would want me to play at my best and win the game.

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