Photo by Denise Scicluna

My mother is dying.

I think she started dying when we got to Malta, but I’m not too sure. I don’t know how to ask this to my father and brother: “How long has Mummy been dying?” It feels silly, like the time it takes for her to die is part of my homework or something.

I’m not even supposed to know. I just heard dad saying on the phone, to my auntie, tears in his eyes: “Estella is dying.”

We don’t do much. It’s summer and we’re in a very old-looking town, older than anything back home. Everything is yellow here, and the sun makes it even more yellow. But inside the house we’re renting, it feels cool. The house big, but everything’s flaky: the walls are dirty, and whenever I put my hands to the wall, I get white on my fingers.

I go to my mum’s bed. She looks thinner every day.

“How’s my little boy?” she asks, sweaty and panting. I say that I’m fine, but I’m not even sure why we’re here, or why a doctor hasn’t arrived yet.

The sun outside is starting to annoy me. There is something stupid about it, the way it just won’t stop.

I go for a walk down the street – they haven’t found a school for me yet so I have lots of time to waste, and no friends. There are no children outside, only old ladies, washing their front doorstep. When one stops, it’s like another one wants to do hers straight afterwards. They wash their bit of the pavement too. I’m sure they’re very nice old ladies. One of them smiles at me as I walk past.

I decide to follow the church – it’s the only thing that I can see other than the flat yellow rooftops, and I want to chase and capture it. It’s like a game of tag, without any friends.

When I get to the church, people are pouring out. A lot of old ladies, again.

I go in anyway. It is dark, and the smell draws me in.

“I don’t even know why we came here,” my dad says to my auntie on the phone.

My brother is next to him. He sees me spying, and shoos me away with his eyes.

I go to the church again the next day, and I decide to pray for my mum. I copy what the other people are doing, but in my mind I just say what I want to say.


On the day my mum dies, the streets are as quiet as they’ve always been. The old ladies come out to clean, and the sun still shines stupidly, making everyone tired, and mixing sweat with my dad’s tears.

I go into the balcony while my brother consoles my dad. The old ladies outside have stopped cleaning and are now all talking to each other. One of them, the one who smiled at me, looks up and, embarrassed, I walk back inside.

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