A single candle burned in the room.

It was before sunrise and I woke up to the sound of the piano steadily pacing back and forth. Like a stranger lurking, I watched.

She was singing in a fizzy whisper and had her eyes closed the entire time as if she was talking to herself in her sleep. Oh, I’ve finally decided my future lies beyond the yellow brick road.

In the glare of the burning candle, she looked enchanting. Alongside the melody, her voice was hypnotizing.

It was a moment so sacred that I was too afraid to even breathe, fearing that I might break the spell. In a way, I felt like a thief because I was robbing her of her solitude.

Awestruck and guilt-ridden, I went back to bed.

There was a hint of sadness in her voice as if she really was saying goodbye to yellow brick road.

Maybe she was.

*

It was Sunday.

We were sitting by the lake. She was reading out loud from Through The Looking Glass. It was the part towards the end, where Alice was wondering about who dreamed the dream she was in.

The midday sun was directly above us and the light it emitted seemed to radiate from every surface. It was the kind of light that was so strikingly bright; it made the world go quiet.

“Still she haunts me, phantomwise,

Alice moving under skies

Never seen by waking eyes.

Children yet, the tale to hear,

Eager eye and willing ear,

Lovingly shall nestle near.”

She paused. Then she looked at me and smiled. My mother had a glow about her. Her incandescence was a beautiful distraction.

Then, in an almost whisper, she continued:

“In a Wonderland they lie,

Dreaming as the days go by,

Dreaming as the summers die:

Ever drifting down the stream—

Lingering in the golden gleam—

Life, what is it but a dream?”

There was a long pause and an uncomfortable silence that followed. “What’s wrong, Mama?” I asked, worried. She wore that same face when she was singing earlier this morning.

She looked glum for a minute; then the tempest broke and sunshine returned to her face.

She asked me to pick wildflowers.

For a while, I didn’t think that there was anything wrong.

*

When I came back, the door to the bathroom wasn’t open but I could hear the water running. With my eyes closed and my heart in my throat, I pushed the door gently. Without looking up, I opened my eyes. There were tiny red circles on the floor as if a tube of red paint went berserk. I was still a child but I knew what it was and it wasn’t paint. It was blood. There were drops of blood on the floor like breadcrumbs leading me home.

And there she was – my beautiful mother, naked and lifeless in the bathtub.

I wanted so bad to climb into the tub and join her because I didn’t want her to be alone. Instead, I threw the flowers into the water and placed them around her.

She looked hauntingly beautiful.

I sank to the floor and cried for my mother, whose future lay beyond the yellow brick road.