“Mom. I’m okay. Really,” I swung my backpack over my shoulder and closed the car door. The cold, morning mist clung to my pale skin. I could see my breath come out of my mouth. My mother’s face looked sad and tired through the car window.
“Okay, honey. Remember, when you come home, I’m still going to be at work. Either Sarah or Matt will be home,” she said. My older brother and sister both went to the community college and they had the day off. It wasn’t fair that I had to come to school.
“Fine. Bye, Mom. Love you,” I waved at her through the window and walked through the dew covered grass and through the doors to my school. The halls buzzed with the excitement of the last day of school before Christmas break. I arrived at my locker just as the bell rang. I stuffed my jacket in and took out my books for first period. The kids in the hall were beginning to disperse as they rushed to class, not wanting to be late. I ran down the hall and straight into my ninth grade Geometry class. Everyone stared as I walked in, and as soon as they saw it was me, they continued their conversations. Nobody gave me a second look.
The day went by slow. By the time it was lunch, I felt sick. I felt like throwing up and my head hurt. Deciding to ignore it, hoping it would go away, I ate my lunch in the library alone. I took out my phone and checked my email. They library was warm and cozy. The chair I sat in was hard, and the table was scratched and scuffed from years of being used. Being surrounded by shelves and shelves of books was comforting. I didn’t have any friends and I didn’t mind. Ever since we moved to Washington from Florida, I had been miserable. We lived in a suburban home, and the neighborhood was supposed to be really nice, but in reality, it was dirty.
As I sat in History, I felt sicker than I had in the morning. I couldn’t pay attention to anything the teacher was saying, no matter how hard I tried. I stared out of the window, daydreaming, when the loudspeaker buzzed with static.
“Gabriel Thomas. Please report the main office at once. Gabriel Thomas. Report to the main office at once.” The entire class turned to look at me. I stood up, collected my things, and the teacher ushered me out. I ran to the office. My head hurt worse than before. I opened the door and walked in. There, talking to the principal stood two policemen. My father sat in a chair and my sister in another. My dad stared at the floor, and my sister was sobbing into his shoulder. As soon as my father saw me, he stood up and embraced me in a tight hug.
“Dad, what’s going on? What happened?” I asked. He let go of me and looked into my eyes.
“Gabe. Please sit down.” I took a seat next to my sister. She wouldn’t look at me. The policemen and the principal came over. One of the policeman knelt down next to me.
“I’m sorry, Gabriel,” he said. He looked as if he hadn’t shaved in a couple of days and he smelled like coffee.
“What happened? Please, someone tell me!” I was frustrated.
“I’m so sorry. Your mother,” His voice broke. He coughed and tried again. I looked at my dad, his eyes were welled with tears, and he looked like he was trying not to cry.
“Your mother has died. I am so sorry,” The policeman stood up and slowly backed away. What had he just said? My heart raced, and I felt dizzy. This couldn’t be. But then, the realization struck. They all looked serious. They weren’t kidding. I didn’t notice until after I had begun to cry. I sobbed and hiccupped as my sister held me. Slowly, I slid down my seat and onto the floor.
“Gabriel, kid. I know. I know,” My father lifted me up and held me. I was gradually blacking out. The last words I heard were: “We don’t know. All we found was the body, but there was something. A slip of paper.”
My mother died in a river. They found her body. The morning they found her, it was cold and dreary. No wonder I had felt sick the moment I left my mom. I felt sick the moment she left me. The moment she left the world. Nobody knows what happened. The investigators thought it might have been suicide. I didn’t know what to think myself.
When they found her, a piece of paper was wedged under her tongue. When they found it, they immediately contacted my family to see if we knew what it meant. The words written on the paper in my mother’s small scrawl were barely legible, but I could tell what it said. It read:
“The beginning of the end.”
Still, three years later, I haven’t totally found out what she meant by that. I have formed bits and pieces of what I think it could mean. When I put them together, they don’t make sense. But, I will not stop until I figure out what the last thoughts of my mother were, before her last breath. I will not cease. I will only stop at the end of the end.
—Leonardo Valdez Ordoñez, BFR Staff