“Mom, don’t cry, please? I know it’s hard that we’re going to be apart again, but you know I have to leave, right?” I hold her face between my palms then brush her tears away. “Elman, can you take care of everything for me? Can I count on you?” I ask him as the eldest.

Elman sniffs back his tears and wipes his nose with his shirt. “Yes, Laynie.”

They are all crying like there’s no tomorrow. It breaks my heart every time I leave home.

“Oh, Alayna.” Mom envelops her arms around me. She can’t stop crying. “Can you call me face-to-face when you return to New York?”

“Yes, I will, of course.”

“Laynie,” Cassius calls, using my nickname. “Everything’s packed. We’ll leave whenever you’re ready.” He closes the cab’s trunk after settling our things inside.

“Your boyfriend.” Mom looks into my eyes. “He’s a good man. You better be good to him.” She sniffles again. “No one’s going to check my blood pressure every morning now,” she adds, a final attempt to get us to stay.

I chuckle between te
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