This is the first installment of a serialized fiction piece. A new portion of the story will be published every week, stay tuned!
Facing the mirror as she brushed through her hair, she couldn’t help but notice that the grey strands were beginning to outnumber the black ones. She tugged at a couple, pulling them from her scalp and letting them fall to the ground before rubbing her head almost apologetically and turning away from the mirror.
She eventually willed herself to leave her bedroom and, with a long day stretched out before her, resolved to pull out a book and get some reading done while the house was quiet. She sat for a while with the book open on her lap, too wrapped up in her own thoughts to even begin to try to process the words on the page, when her daughter called.
Immediately, her spirits were lifted — nothing cheered her up more than the sound of her daughter’s innocent voice, her daily musings, her lively disposition. She hadn’t realized how much of her world revolved around her daughter until just recently, when it was time for her to leave for university. She had spent these past couple of weeks missing her more than she thought herself capable of missing anything.
The phone didn’t ring for more than a second before she answered and was instantly flooded with news of exciting first-class lectures, ambiguous feelings about potential friends and different clubs she desperately wanted to join. When her daughter finally stopped to take a breath, she told her to slow down and start from the beginning. Finally able to hear beyond the jumble of information being thrown her way, she began to notice the slightest change in her daughter’s voice, just barely enough of a shift to think something may be amiss. Behind the frenzy, behind the excitement, she could tell her daughter was truly, and understandably, nervous.
Her voice had taken on this same tenor when she went on a trip alone for the first time in the fourth grade, and when she was asked to a high school dance her freshman year by the boy she liked at the time. She had listened hard for it in the days before she left for college, sure her daughter must be feeling at least a little bit unsettled at the prospect of what was to come these next four years, but this was the first time she had detected it since her arrival on campus.
She thought back to her own first few weeks of college, which were filled with as many nights spent staying out late experiencing new people and forging new connections as nights spent lying awake in bed trying to push from her mind overwhelming feelings of anxious homesickness. She felt a wave of empathy toward her daughter, knowing all too well the weight of the feelings she must be grappling with.
When her daughter finished talking, she did her best to validate her daughter’s emotions by voicing her own experiences — experiences struggling to gain proper footing the first few weeks of college, experiences feeling lost in a new place that isn’t quite home yet. As their conversation came to an end, she took comfort in realizing that the strain in her daughter’s voice was becoming less apparent.
As she hung up the phone, she was surprised to find the smallest of smiles beginning to tug at her lips. She had faith this year was going to be a good one for her daughter, even though she herself hadn’t realized it yet. As she recalled her daughter’s persistent excitement to learn despite the nerves she was experiencing, she opened the book that had been previously set aside with new energy and determination. Maybe this year was going to be a good one for her, too.