the weight of the world was pressed down on to your shoulders the moment you reached your twenties.
it wasn't her fault. you couldn't blame her for leaving you.
but how you wished that things were different. you wished that she had never died.
you had not been ready for this.
and you probably never will be.
'tina' she would always, always tell you when she was done giving you tips about your designs. you were busy being groomed as the eldest, to take over the waters' fashion business when she retired. you were all up for it from the very beginning, excited to continue her legacy. none of your other sisters' seemed very interested in the buisness, and it gave you more time to spend with athena.
as the eldest, you were the first light of the union between athena & triton, so it was natural that you would often hear these words from her.
'take care of your sisters, okay?'
and yet, despite how much you loved your crazy siblings, you could never bear to put a leash on them, and attempt to act like your mother.
because you will never be her.
you will never be athena.
(the worst part was that your name sounded exactly like hers)
but you could look out for them, all six little munchkins, just like the oldest sister would do. look after them, make sure that they were never led astray, too far to the point that you could never call them back.
and that was the best you could do.
a knock on the door, resounding thuds that resonated within your heart.
you had been lounged on the couch, casually flipping through a vogue magazine. the littler waters kids were off doing whatever babies did, and you knew that they would be fine.
the truth was, there were other more imperative matters on your mind.
she was not back yet.
your father was crossing the hall, looking worried as well, and you followed him, fingers trapped within the pages of the magazine. you stood behind his shoulder anxiously as he opened the door, and the sight that met you was something that you had not wanted to see.
'...your wife was involved in a terrible accident.'
you never knew how your father had managed to stay upright during the talk, but the moment he closed the door and turned to you, you felt your heart break further.
you weren't crying yet, but you were stunned, as shocked as he was.
he gazes at you, helpless and lost, looking almost terrified. the strong willful composure that had made him him had dissipated, leaving an empty shell of a man.
he wasn't your father.
'what do i do now?' he whispers. he takes your hands. 'what do i do now?'
and then a helpless glance towards the stairs.
'how do i tell them?'
he staggers into a kitchen, and takes a plate.
(plates he used to watch her clean lovingly, making sure that they sparkled, and that they shone like mirrors)
and you watch as he smashes it down.
your siblings appear, one by one, and he breaks it to them, while he continued breaking everything that he saw.
indirectly breaking their own hearts further.
little ariel scampers forward, and he stops.
you remember her embrace, and those nights when you would talk to each other, excitedly going on and on about designs. it was beautiful bond, and you were a team, also working together to make sure that your sisters, and her daughters were looked after. you knew that your mother had her husband for that as well, but he was busy bringing home the bacon, and did not have that special, loving bond between mother and daughters. you knew though, that he loved her very much regardless, despite how busy that she was. athena would always try and make time for her beloved offspring, and you were not ready at that time to help her ease her workload.
but the other side of your bed was empty now, where you two used to lie down together and talk for a little while before she retired to join your father.
the bed was cold. and there would be no one coming to talk to you tonight.
why did you have to go?
you huddled up underneath the blankets, picked up a pillow, and screamed into it.
take care of them, she says.
i'm only twenty.
there wasn't a single maternal bone in your body, just yet. you were still in university, pursuing a career in fashion design naturally, in your sophomore year.
you glanced down at your latest assignment, halfway done. it was a dress you had thought of making for your mother one day, frilly and bright blue. it was a lovely sketch, waiting to be coloured in, and filled out completely.
you swept it off the table, and hung your head in your hands.
you are a failure.
you were a jack of all trades. you could dance, and sing, but your main passion would always be art.
you looked at your empty easel, and the colourful paintings beside it.
you were about to rip it apart when there was a loud explosion from downstairs, and you ran down, praying that there was no other accident.
the ceiling of the kitchen was splattered with brown.
'again, della?' you sigh with exasperation, and fetched a ladder.
but on the inside, you were smiling.
you were apparently the mother of the house now, at the ripe age of your early twenties. while you tottered after your late mother's footsteps, trying to prove to your father that you indeed can take over her legacy, you were busy running around after your sisters. your father was currently incapable of doing shit, too locked up in his misery to do anything, but you did not blame him.
it was difficult for you to not start resenting your siblings.
when marina got fired, your workload doubled, and it was all up to you. you found yourself driving your sisters up and down to places that they wanted/had to go, occasionally packing their lunches, and attending whatever parent/teacher conference that occurred in school. you occasionally kicked aquata, and arista to help you out, but most of the work was on you. there was also the fact that you had to juggle your schoolwork, and when you finally graduated, you laid down an ultimatum for your father.
i will take over what she has done, and i will make it better.
you glared at him, the youth that was once attina waters, that had wanted to live her life slowly, enjoy her time, and shirk all her responsibilities until the day that she had to, was no longer there.
she was all pursued lips and quiet anger, relentless and serious.
the young woman was gone.
i won't disappoint her.
would you rather it be me, or someone else incapable?
at this point, you were all prepared to even walk out, and leave everything that athena waters had worked for to ruin.
it has to be me.
your father had given you a long look, one of the longest that you had ever seen, and felt in your entire lifetime.
and then you saw it, a spark of life igniting once again in his eyes, sparks that ariel had been working hard to flare up again, and she was doing an excellent job because she was the favourite.
and probably she resembled her the most, more than you.
after what seemed like a lifetime, he nods.
you're now 21, and busy, done with studying, and now really working.
you were in a plane to portland, oregon, flying over there to meet up with one of the executives of mama waters' company. apparently they had been discussing about opening up a boutique in the city before she died, and it was your task to now oversee it.
you sipped at your proffered wine in contemplation, going over the details. you barely lasted five minutes before you closed your laptop, tired of going through email after email.
and contemplated your losing youth.
he was all muscle from his time in the army, and tanned as well. there had been a rough, weather-worn look to him that had previously suggested no-nonsense. your friends, or uh, your mother's friends, or now your employees were giggling and nudging you, after seeing the way you look at him.
you tried unsuccessfully to tear your gaze away from him, but your love life was empty, and you were okay, a little desperate. there had been nothing for you, never anything particularly serious, even in university.
that was because you had been laden by grief.
time had not healed you, but you were not going to allow yourself to be dragged down forever by something that can never be changed.
your heart skipped.
before you knew it, you were rising from your seat, and walking over to the man. he looked to be a few years older than you, but you didn't mind. you just wanted one night of sex, that was all.
and then you'll forget about him.
'i'm attina,' you remember yourself introducing yourself, and smiling. 'may i buy you your next drink?'
he looked up, and that goofy grin that appeared on his face compelled you to smile wider, this time with more emotion.
it was real.
you were all smiles and laughter after the first night of sex, busy giggling at the joke that he had just cracked. you glance at the clock, reluctantly noting that your flight home was in three hours, and that you probably should be leaving. you were about to slide out of the bed, satisfied with the lay, but you should have resisted when his arm shoots out, and his lips move to murmur a word that would set you off on an adventure that again ends with death.
you should never have taken his hand.
you prolonged your stay in portland, unwilling to go home. your work was done, but you continued paying for your hotel bills anyway, since you could afford it. your funds were not going to last forever, and you were going to have to board a plane home to san diego anyway, nevertheless, since the headquarters of mama waters' company - your company - was there.
you worked from portland, and whenever the man you now called your boyfriend was free from army duties, he would always come and visit you. you already had half a foot in oregon, and you were planning to move here, just to be with him.
you needed him to keep you sane.
and he made you happy.
that was all that mattered.
you started to alternate between san diego and portland naturally. you even told your father about the man, kevin valentin, and he was iffy. you reassured him that he was fine, and he treated you well, and he would definitely get to meet him when his time in the army was done.
he never finished.
you did however, had the opportunity to meet his own family when they dropped by to visit him.
you didn't want to see him because you felt awful, and you were probably going to get snot all over his shirt.
you were hunched over all the designs, staring at them, more focused on trying not to cry than finishing them. they were due tomorrow, and you couldn't do it, too afraid to pick up the pencil and fail your dead mother.
you're a failure, attina waters.
three insistent, sharp knocks alerted you to reality.
you ran over, wrenched it over, and collapsed in a sobbing heap in his arms.
'i'm a failure.'
'you're not a failure,' he kisses your hair. 'you're perfectly fine.'
three years later, he gets down on one knee, and holds out a ring.
(it was still around your fourth finger until this very day)
'attina isadora waters, will you marry me?'
you said yes.
it was the final day of his service, and when he was done, the two of you would return to san diego, tell papa waters of the engagement, and receive your father's blessing. you were giddy, and you were sitting by the phone, waiting to hear that he had returned.
the call came, but it wasn't him. you picked it up anyway.
'...killed in action...'
your blood ran cold, and you slithered to the ground, dropping the device.
you started to laugh hysterically before eventually screaming.
(four years of stitching up those wounds had been for nothing)
just like at your mother's funeral, you did not shed a tear.
the casket had been covered with an american flag, and was carried by soldiers to his waiting grave. kevin had been given an honourable send-off for his service, and he would now rest with the other men who had given their own lives for their country.
but what about you?
where was your grave?
you went back to san diego with a heavy heart, this time with the full intention to stay there for good. the first place you went to was your father's house, and you had already told him the heartbreaking news.
he was already waiting for you when you rang the doorbell, opening his arms the moment he pulled the door open.
you kicked the door shut and you finally broke down again.
eight years have passed, but you had never forgotten. no matter what you did, his face would always linger in your mind, and the only solace you found was in your work. you threw yourself in it, attending meeting after meeting, chucking designs at eager tailors, and overseeing the opening of new boutiques here and there. you strutted down the catwalk in your own dazzling creation, and lifted your chin up at the cameras, the personification of elegant and poise.
the ring that he had given you would always be present.
a keepsake, a memory. of things that could have been.
and never once had it failed to break your heart.
you were seated at your dressing table, making yourself up for another night. you glanced down at your well-manicured fingers out of habit to see if they needed a touch-up as well, and the silver, metal band that was wrapped around your fourth finger looked back at you.
('will you marry me?' he says, looking at you hopefully, love and adoration in his eyes.)
you gently pulled off the ring, and held it up to the light. it glints back at you, diamond in its center twinkling daintily, as though it was imploring you to put it back on.
'where's your ring?'
you smiled at your anxious secretary, and shook your head.
'i don't need a ring to remember.'
you didn't need anything to know that they will live on inside you.
forever and always.[/font]