Searching for Sylvie Lee

Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok

Book: Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jean Kwok
a statement that you had less than three months to live.
    Lukas went on, “We thought about moving her to a hospice. There is a beautiful one close by, almost completely volunteer-run, where they would cook her anything she wanted, wait on her day and night. But she prefers to stay here.”
    “Of course. Did she make any other arrangements?” I knew from my many discussions with the Dutch students in college how different the options were here for the dying.
    “She has been approved for euthanasia if she should request it.”
    Euthanasia. Three months or less. My dear grandma, she had been invincible when I left her. I leaned my head against the wall for a moment and closed my eyes. I felt a tear trickle down my cheek. “Has all hope already sailed?”
    He nodded. The deep lines around his mouth betrayed his grief. “She is too weak. Old age comes with defects. You know Grandma has swallowed high blood pressure pills for years and now her heart and lungs cannot keep up with the demands of her body.”
    Then we heard the front door open and we exchanged a look. I rubbed my aching forehead and composed myself before going downstairs to greet Helena and Willem.
     
    H elena’s eyes, cold and calculating, watched as we descended the stairs. I felt dizzy; a sudden wave of jet lag, depression, and grief swept over me and I swayed for a moment, holding on to the railing to stay upright. I recovered and straightened, making sure I descended with the dignity of the former queen Beatrix. This woman before me was the Helena I had known, and she was not. She was older than I had expected. It was like I was seeing her for the first time. What was an adult to a child—a head in the distance, a voice, a force for kindness or cruelty. She had cut her hair, which used to lie halfway down her back. I had loved to hold it between my palms in the small moments of peace we had shared.
    The years had begun to reveal the truth of her face, as they did to all of us. The superficial prettiness I remembered had yielded to something stiff and unrelenting in the set of her lips, the frown between her eyes. I had grown into a woman in the years I had been gone, and she—what had Helena become? Her fair skin had turned mask-like, and harsh grooves lined the sides of her nose. She wore an outdated Dolce & Gabbana tuxedo jacket that did her hips no favors over an ankle-length leopard-print fringe pencil skirt. Trying to look younger than she was and failing miserably with chunky Van Cleef & Arpels jewelry that only emphasized her short neck and arms. Even if an ape wore a golden ring, it was and remained an ugly thing.
    I felt a surge of triumph that as she had grown less, I had come into my own. Her eyes drifted up my Loro Piana outfit, from the pressed cream slacks to the white cap-sleeve blouse to the silk floral-print stole knotted around my neck. Then she checked out the Hermès Kelly bag I had tossed onto the chair in the hallway, and eyed my reversible cashmere coat in pearl blue and silver myrtle, which hung from her coat rack. Ah, she spoke my language; I loved it. I had suspected she would. Finally, we were legible to each other. My designer clothing had always been invisible to Amy and Ma. Amy and I had often fought when we were younger because she did things like tromp around the room playing cowgirl in the three-hundred-dollar Yves Saint Laurent suede ankle boots I had found at a sample sale. Even paying discount prices, I had worked and scrimped for months for each purchase. Now I saw the silent assessment in Helena’s eyes, the hatred kindling once again.
    As always, Helena eclipsed Willem, who was staring up at me with the secret affection he had always shown me that had turned into something hungrier over the years. As a child I’d needed it, but now I despised him for it, for his ravenous eyes, for his fear of Helena. His love for me had always bowed to her will, like a plant grown within the confines of a box. If he truly cared

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