Zahara, like the Sahara.
That’s the rhyme her mom used when she was little to help her remember her name and to teach her how to spell it. It was her earliest memory. Even now, the singsongy echo of her mother’s voice singing the made-up tune made up only of her name was her bedtime lullaby, though it grew fainter with each passing year.
Everything about her mother was like an echo, not quite as vivid as the original. There were her eyes, brown like a rusty penny. There was her dimple, a left cheek dimple, none in the fat right cheek. There was her butternut-coloured skin and her thick, bushy, Brillo Pad-textured hair. She had vague memories of sitting between her mother’s knees to get her hair combed, her mother tugging and pulling, trying to tame the untamable while she cried and winced. When she looked in the mirror it was her mother – and yet not quite her mother – who stared back, like a bad artist’s impression or a faded watermark.
Sometimes she felt the disappointment of that in the way her grandmother looked at her. Granny Linda had raised her since the car accident that had killed her mother, the accident that had happened when she was still too little to understand what the loss of a mother meant, much less the loss of a daughter.
Granny Linda didn’t say “I wish she was here instead of you”. She probably didn’t even think that, or feel it; but it always sort of felt like she might, like, who would want a copy when the real thing was always better.
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