The Mimosa Tree

When I started writing fiction, I had no idea that prologues were a fiction death-wish. I cut my prologue and got a deal. But, I think she has some merit. It’s first person POV, but definitely reads as memoir. Anyway, maybe you enjoy. So here you go.

The Mimosa Tree

Dad only made gumbo on good days and Mom only drank on bad ones. So, when Levi and I burst into the kitchen, and I smelled the familiar nutty aroma of the roux and saw Mom opening a bottle of wine—the scene broke all the rules I knew about my parents.

“How was the fishin’?” Dad picked up a cutting board full of diced peppers, onions, and okra and slid the Holy Trinity into the stockpot.

“I caught three brim, but Angela made me toss them back.” Levi tattled.

“It’s not like you were going to eat them.” My job was to look after my baby brother and save tiny fish.

Mom wasted no time sharing her disgust at us being lake dirty. “Go scrub up and change clothes for supper.” Then to me only. “Make sure your brother properly washes up.”

“Yes, ma’am.” I muttered through gritted teeth.

After Levi and I properly washed our hands and changed out of our lake dirty clothes, we took our places at the dinner table. My stomach rumbled.

Dad said a quick blessing, and I dove into my favorite dish.

“How do you kids like the gumbo?” Dad crunched a saltine into his bowl.

Levi answered around a mouthful of the seafood stew. “Delicious. Are these the shrimp we caught?”

“Levi, please don’t speak with food in your mouth.” Manners mattered to my mother.

“Yes, sir, they are. This is what I call All the Way Filet Gumbo.” Dad held a spoon close to his mouth. A slimy blob spilled over its edge. He spoke directly to it. “These oysters—if they aren’t from the muddy bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, they don’t go in my gumbo.” His neck bulged as the oyster slid down his throat.

I dug out a blue crab claw and snapped it in two. “I want you to make it just like this for my birthday.” It’s what I asked for every year.

“Got some sassafras branches drying in the pantry. Fresh filet powder for that birthday gumbo.” After Dad emptied his bowl, he pushed it in front of him and clasped his hands. His eyes met Mom’s.

She nodded, then poured another glass of wine—much larger than the one before.

“Kids, your mom and I have some exciting news.”

“Are we getting a pool?” Levi asked. We’d begged for one for years.

Dad chuckled. “Not exactly, but how does a beach sound?”

I stopped digging the crab meat out of the tiny claw. “We goin’ on vacation?”

“You could kinda look at it that way because we’re moving to the vacation capital of the world. We’re moving to Florida.”

Levi cheered.

My brow furrowed. “What? Why?”

Dad unclasped his hands and brushed fingers through thick, dark hair. “My job as supervisor at the chemical plant—it’s dangerous. One of the reasons they don’t allow visitors. When I was gone a few weeks ago—it was to apply for a job down in Florida at Sunshine Citrus, and today I found out I got it.”

Mom loosened the death grip from the stem of her wine glass and patted my hand. “It’s gonna be wonderful. We’ll be close to Disney and the most beautiful beaches.”

She had a point. All my friends would be jealous I was moving to Florida. The friends I’d never see again. “It sounds fun. I’ll just miss my friends.” I dropped the claw into the bowl, no longer interested in all that work for such little reward.

“Me, too. But we’ll both make new ones.” Although she punctuated the statement with a smile, her eyes hinted there was more to read between the lines. She emptied her wine glass. “I’ll be right back. I think Amber’s crying.”

Levi slurped his last bite, put his bowl in the sink, and headed outside to play.

“Listen, Number One.” Dad only called me that when it was just the two of us. “I wouldn’t be moving our family to Florida if I didn’t think it was for the best.”

The kitchen table sat nestled near a bay window. Right outside it grew the mimosa tree I’d climbed more times than I could remember. Levi’s sinewy arms appeared and effortlessly yanked him up a low-hanging, leafy branch heavy with pink flowers.

“Angela, honey, do you trust me?”

Trust him? I trusted him so much that last September, I followed him outside in the middle of the eye of a hurricane—Frederick it was called. Mom wasn’t happy about it. We crept around in the pitch dark, surveying the damage, mostly downed trees.

Holding a flashlight for him in that eerie quiet, knowing the howling winds and violent tornados would soon make an ugly return, I wasn’t scared. Not one bit.

I locked eyes with my father. “I trust you.” And I did trust him. But how did he know this was for the best? And the best for whom?

Because it was in full bloom, the canopy of the mimosa hid my little brother in floral fluffy, pink clouds. “Can I be excused?”

“Sure. We’ll talk more about the move later.”

I stood and he made one final comment. “Number One, living in Florida; it’s something most people only ever dream about.”

“Yeah, I’m sure it’ll be great.” But as I said the words, a foreboding washed over me, like the deceitful calm during the eye of that hurricane.

I joined Levi in the mimosa. Straddling my favorite branch and leaning back to brace myself, I floated with my brother in the pink clouds.

I closed my eyes and tried to imagine living in Florida. I saw myself in Mickey ears, then splashing in the ocean and building sandcastles.

But the reality would turn out nothing like the dreamy images in my ten-year-old brain. No, this move would play out more like a nightmare.

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