The house felt odd, a palpable emptiness, their father gone in an instant, the laughter, his voice, leaving the family desperately clinging to memories. The physical presence of man was evident, his life remained, an outsider could mistake those items as belonging to Rylan. Months rolled by, Jose’s possessions, clothes, disappeared, until few mementoes remained to show he existed. Ziva delved into the mysterious world of her father’s books, hoping she could re-imagine the days when he read them. Her studies had slipped after her father’s death, the grief gave way to poor excuses, short halfhearted essays and late attendances, her new norm and one that may sabotage the future. Regretting her lack of focus, Ziva picked up her coursework, rewriting the whole assignment, including citations and diagrams. This might still be a grade C, but maybe with determination, she could turn this academic year around, claw her way back to being an A grade student. Putting her studies aside, Ziva assisted Aria with housework, requesting she played chess whilst waiting for the cookies to bake. It amazed Aria how intelligent her daughter was, and how she won those chess games with ease, it was a shame those same logistics skills were absent in the kitchen, but Aria remembered her failings in that area.
From Rylan’s perspective, the world was against him, his mother and sister carrying on with life as though Jose was unimportant. School assigned numerous essays and projects, overwhelmed, he tried to bury it under his bed, the school locker or leaving it on a bench walking home. His mood fluctuated the best time for everyone were the moody silences, dragging his feet, or huffing when asked to do anything, grunting or groaning with every effort. Harsh uncontrolled anger erupted in the worst scenarios, doors feared him, clinging to their hinges slamming shut, blunt comments. How could Aria move on? Why keep going to her club meetings? Aria’s protests and reasoned arguments lost, aching heart shattered further, unable to reach her son, his frustration questioning her loyalty to Jose. Ziva found herself as Rylan’s light relief, she faced an unpleasant punishment for picking up the pieces of her life. Regardless of mood, Rylan flicked food, scribbled over coursework and books, hid shoes, teasing focussed on her looks – nerd status and accusations she lived as if unaffected by Jose’s death.
Although advised against sudden changes when grieving, Aria needed to find a way to communicate with Rylan. Jose had put some money aside for decorating the twin’s bedrooms, rocketships and fairies perhaps inspired their dreams but clashed with teenage aspirations. Ziva’s room was soft lilacs, rich purples and black accents, a desk, new double bed and rugs brought the space together, seeing her daughter’s eyes light up when she entered made the effort worthwhile. Rylan grumbled over dinner, seeing his sister the clear favourite, life was so unfair. Aria smiled, having already bought a new bed and red wallpaper for his room, he shrugged when she asked him to help. Throwing his fork, Rylan proclaimed, he would do it himself, the remaining money his to spend on whatever he needed. Pushing over an envelope of cash with his father’s writing, “Rylan’s Room”, Rylan traced the letters. Mumbling a thank you, unable to lift his head, fearing the tears swelling in his eyes tumbled down faster than he could run. Ziva bit her lips together, glancing at Aria and Rylan, a moment of peace as his hand reached over, Aria squeezed gently, snatching his hand back, dinner continued in relative silence.