1. Too Many Boxes

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The medieval-looking wine goblet, with its talons holding the glass vessel, gleamed as Elle slid it into a far corner of the cupboard with a shiver. "Trust Uncle Steve to give such a gift," she mumbled. She wanted to throw them out, or give them away, but she knew her uncle. It was just a matter of time before he'd ask for wine in those very things. She unwrapped the last of them and slid it next to the other three. They would sit in that dark corner till Elle erased them from memory.

Hopping off the step ladder, she eyed the disaster zone. Piles of cardboard boxes and countless crinkled newspaper littered the floor. There were still two more boxes labeled 'Kitchenware' standing to the side and at the rate she was going, it would take days to finish unpacking. The house was teeming with boxes of various shapes and sizes. For the first time since the move, Elle wished she'd taken up her mother's offer to come and help. It was one hour to midnight and she'd been working in the kitchen for hours straight.

"Should you or shouldn't you, Elle?" She eyed the two untouched boxes and sighed, pulling one to her. "Only two to go."

An hour later, she didn't care that the glasses were misaligned, indiscriminate in their line-up. Tall glasses and short glasses mingled. Any other night, this would bother her immensely till she'd sort them by size and shape, but not tonight. Tonight she stepped off the ladder, dusted her hands on her shorts and crunched her way through the piles of newspaper, heading to her bedroom buggered as hell.

Elle relished the silence, standing before the closed door to her bedroom. The silence she'd forgotten was part of people's lives. There wasn't a dog next door barking at every little thing in the night, nor traffic whizzing past on the highway close by. She'd no longer hear the sirens blaring past in frenzy as if a banshee's call. She'd no longer wonder if Blake was in one of them. Nor would there be any phone calls in the middle of the night to make her blood run cold.

The faint ringing of her cell phone rattled her to the fact that she stood to face a closed door. She scrambled into the room, stumbling over bags in the dark, and diving next to the bed in search till her hand touched the strap of her handbag. "What is wrong with you?" she whispered viciously pressing the mobile phone to her ear and eyeing the figure on the bed who continued to sleep undisturbed.

"You hadn't called so I was worried." Trish asked.

"It's almost midnight."

"So you see why I was beginning to panic?" her mother interrupted. "I wanted to see if both of you have settled in okay?"

Elle tiptoed out of the room, pulling the door close behind. "I was still unpacking."

"You wouldn't have all that unpacking to do if you hadn't moved." Trish fired sarcastically. "Is Maya in bed yet?"

"Of course she's already in bed asleep. At least I hope she still is."

"Why didn't you say so in the first place? I would call tomorrow instead."

Elle leaned against the wall. "That would be better, Mum."

"Well, get some sleep then. You're probably tired. You know, your dad and I still think you shouldn't have moved."

Elle slid all the way to the floor and massaged her temples. "We've been over this already, Mum."

"Moving her across the world from her family with no one to look after her..." her mother continued.

"An hour away is hardly across the world!" Elle clenched her jaws. "Now, will you hang up, or do I have to sit here listening to you rant for another hour about the same things? I'm tired and dirty and I want to go to bed."

"Fine, do whatever you want as always."

"I'm only a widow, for God's sake, not dying of an incurable disease and leaving my child to fend for herself." The dial tone beeped in Elle's ear.

She knew the argument was far from over and wanted to hurl the phone across the hallway just to watch it shatter to pieces. No phone, no one to bug you with constant calls of paranoia and concern. She pushed off the floor and walked back into the bedroom, relieved to hear the soft rumble of Maya's breathing. She peeled off her dirty clothes, grabbed a towel and a shirt from her overnight bag, and walked to the bathroom.

She stood in front of the mirror. Her hair dripping, her eyes sunk, her lips a pale pink. The only thing Elle liked was the shirt which was several sizes too big for her. She wrapped her arms around herself, trying to imagine Blake's strong arms instead, smelling of pine and musk. She'd always liked how he'd smelt. She pulled the sleeve down over her palms and cupped them to her face, breathing in the scent of him.

"Mummy?"

"Yeah, hun?" She flicked off the bathroom light, plunging the entire room into darkness before feeling her way to the bed and sliding in.

"Mummy," Maya stirred under the cover.

"I'm here, honey. I'm here."

"I want Daddy."

Elle blinked back the sudden tears and kissed Maya's soft curls. "I want him too, baby, but you know daddy can't be here right now. We talked about this." She whispered. "Now, get some sleep. It's late."





(Photo by Daria Obymaha from Pexels: https://www.pexels.com/photo/mother-and-daughter-on-grass-1683975/)

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