“Brooke loved it up here,” he said perched from the edge of the door. “I think this was her personal sanctuary.” He swept his gaze around the room before landing on me. His eyes looked wet, though I hadn’t seen him show any emotion other than anger since he showed up at my house and dragged me here. “She’d come up here for hours when she was upset.” Jared crossed to the small table in the ring of bean bags. He picked up a black book and brought it over to me. He set the book in my lap then turned back to the stairs. Just before his head disappeared into the hole I caught him swipe at his marsh green eyes.
The book was nothing special. It was a black photo album with white stars hand painted on both sides. On the bottom of the front was the word “Sista’s” in white block letters. I expected to open the book and see the gleam of Brooke and her friend’s teeth staring back at me. I didn’t expect the first picture to be Brooke and I arm in arm in front of our San Francisco apartment before mom and Jared separated.
I turned the page and there were more pictures of the two of us than I knew existed. Brooke rocking me in a tiny wooden rocking chair when I was a baby; her four year old buck toothed grin peered down at my tiny fingers. There was one of us in the park behind our place tossing leaves into the air. Mom was crouched beside me sprinkling red maple leaves into my curls. Brooke had a handful of yellow leaves frozen above her head ready to lob at us. All of our eyes seemed to glow.
I didn’t remember any of these earlier pictures, but I do remember feeling that excitement and joy. Mom hasn’t had laughing lines like that since we’ve been on our own. Those years before Brooke was gone were the best memories I had of mom, but I could barely recall them. The entire album was full of memories I had forgotten. Brooke saved every picture we took together as kid, and even added the ones we took after she found us in South Tucson.