She looked asleep, soft white hair tied back. Her green eyes closed, and a hint of the blush gave her cheeks some warmth. A blouse buttoned to the neck and paired with a peach waistcoat and skirt. Vicky always loved her skirts. Milly added a boutonniere made from wildflowers she had found near the bay. Eliza squeezed Milly’s hand; things were going to change.
Milly busied herself in the kitchen. Vicky laughed, nuzzling the cat, teasing how Libby may be in for a fishy treat. It was not the first time Milly wanted to cook dinner. Her early efforts consisted of grilled cheese or rubbery eggs and burnt bacon. That evening the challenge was to recreate one of her favourite dishes, Fish Tacos. The contrast of spicy white fish against the crunch of the hard shell, the cool crisp lettuce. It made her mouth water, thinking of it. She placed a small dish on the end of the counter; Libby wriggled in Vicky’s arms, eager to get her share of the fish. It was pointless wrestling with a cat.
They sat in front of the TV; to enjoy a successful effort. Milly chatted excited; she and her cousins were going bowling at the weekend. If luck was on her side, Milly planned to beat her previous score of seventeen over three frames. Vicky frowned, hoping they would spend some time together. Her daughter laughed, there would, of course, be time for their usual brunch. An unhealthy dose of food from a restaurant they chose from one of Ziva’s old hats. Milly never minded where they went; she wanted her usual BLT and orange juice. These days with Vicky were important. Milly felt the imminent reminder that her mother would not be around much longer. Part of her wanted to ignore it. The other hugged herself every time Vicky sounded disappointed. Milly felt increasing guilt for wanting to go out with friends.
Milly was in school; she waited for the bell, desperate to get home. She was getting straight As. It was amazing, Vicky would remind her how proud she was and how impressed Ziva would have been. Milly ran into the house shouting, not seeing her mum downstairs, she ran to the bedroom. Milly tripped over Libby sleeping on the seventh step, the cat wailed, then curled again. The air seemed to get sucked from the room, the energy drained, and Milly’s face turned pale. She stood frozen for a moment; the paper floated to the floor. A voice croaked; it did not sound like her; the tears stung her eyes. Milly shook Vicky begging her to wake up. Dropping to the floor, she called Eliza. Her cousin spoke, but Milly struggled to reply; she stared at the phone, resting it on the bedside table. Eliza’s concerned voice crackled through. Milly drew in her knees and rested her head, sobbing.