Aftershocks BY: Andrea Akinola

“Sebi, can you hurry up? My shift starts in twenty minutes and I still need to-”

Before Maya could even finish, Sebi rolled her eyes for the sixth time since they had begun their walk home, “I’m moving as fast as physically possible! So don’t start with me right now. If being on time was so important to you, we’d be driving”

For a while, the only thing that could be heard was the swift clacking of their boots against the pavement. Maya looked up at the sun and breathed in the crisp air that she craved so much. She felt the warm rays reverberate against her face. These were her favorite days, the day after the rain, it reminded her of Oregon and Oregon reminded her of her mother.

“So are we not going to talk about your trip?.” Sebi said, interrupting Maya’s moment. Sebi’s voice was softer now, more gentle. That was the thing about Sebi, she could go from hostile to loving in a matter of seconds. Sebi was explosive, she was all or nothing.

Maya didn’t respond, she was too deep in thought. She opened her mouth to speak, only to close it again slowly.

“It was good…. it felt good to be back,” said Maya.

Sebi paused for a while, waiting for more details, but they never came.

“Maya, I know this is hard for you and I’ve been trying to give you time but…you know this is important to me too… like for the past two years, all we’ve been doing is planning this trip and now you’re shutting me out…


“And you know, yesterday you completely ditched me, you left without even telling me-”

“—Seb”, Maya stopped walking. She turned and wrapped her arms around her best friend. The two girls melted into each other; it was never long before they made up.

Maya tried again for the sake of her best friend, “Um you know that I really hate talking about this but okay so...” Maya’s voice wobbled and tightened as though walking a tight rope. She desperately wanted to be in control of her emotions, but what was she to do when there were so many of them and only one of her. She kept her arms wrapped around her best friend in fear that at this point, with the weight of her feelings pulling her down, she wouldn’t be able to stand on her own. She felt sad and scared and hopeful and angry and bitter and with so many emotions swirling around in her heart, working their way up to her head, clouding her thoughts, she lost the cool, calm demeanor she tried so hard to maintain.

The smell of the glossy magazines that she would read while sitting on her mother’s lap, laughing about the ridiculous high-fashion outfits and bad love advice. The way she would sing the same song softly to herself whenever she was having a good day. How she would always crack Maya’s knuckles for her or braid the ends of her hair while they were lying down watching TV.

Maya held onto each memory like her life depended on it. The few memories she had of her mother were her treasures, but no matter how many she gained, they would never be enough.

“I went back because I wanted to remember things you know, like I felt like I was forgetting so much and...” her voice broke again, “...and I thought it would hurt less if I had more to hold on to... But like, now I have more and it just hurts so much more.” As much as she hated crying, she could not hold it back anymore, “She’s gone, like really gone, and I can’t get her back... And... and… and I just want her to be here again.. And I want to see her. I can’t do this anymore, I can’t do not having a mom… and forgetting whether or not her ears were pierced… and I know that this all really stupid and trivial and I’m supposed to be able to handle all of this because I’m not a kid anymore but I can’t and I just really don’t want to do this without her”

Sebi grabbed Maya’s hand and squeezed it. There was so much she wanted to say to comfort her, but Maya kept so much bottled up inside.

Now the floodgates were open, “but like everyone else has moved on and of course I want them to be happy and all,” her chest heaved up and down as she tried and failed to steady her breathing “but like dad got remarried like five minutes after she died and Noah pretty much thinks Naomi is his real mom and it’s just me now, trying to hold on to all of these memories that seem to just keep slipping through my fingers.”

The girls approached Maya’s townhouse. Exhausted, hearts heavy, they wiped their eyes only to stain their cheeks with dark gray streaks of muddied eyeliner. They looked up at each other and laughed at how bad they looked. Maya glanced at the clock on her phone, and remembered where she was supposed to be—who she was supposed to be. She was supposed to be the strong one, the one who never cried and made it through life on her own. She had responsibilities and for the first time in a long time, she was late for her shift. So with one deep breath, she pushed back all of her pain and brokenness, piecing her walls back together brick by brick to shield herself from the world.

“It’s ok. I’m ok. I’ll be fine,” she said. And she raced out the door, trying to outrun her grief.

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