Diamond Braxton

Restless Blues


Diamond Braxton is an Afro-Latinx magical realism writer from Houston, Texas. She attended the High School of Performing Arts and specialized in their Creative Writing Program. Then she went on to the University of Houston and graduated with a BA in Creative Writing. Her stories comment on race, sexuality, and culture with bits of magic intertwined. 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/diamond.creates/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/DiamondGBraxton


The Moore family’s rickety wooden house reflected its most recent death as it rested under the creeping moon’s light. A giant pecan tree shadowed the cabin-like frame, and lights would occasionally flicker on and off—usually when someone would leave their room to use the bathroom, and nothing more.

Tonight would be the third night in a row that Carla, now an only child, would suffer from sleep paralysis. The first two nights she would jump awake at exactly 3:53 am to a ghastly sight. Her dead brother Malcolm would hover over her shaking, mouse-like frame. He looked exactly as she remembered: dark skin, button nose, and glistening brown eyes; but his mouth hung open, agape, as if he was trying to tell her something, but he couldn’t get the words out.

Knowing she wouldn’t be able to sleep and face her brother again, Carla stared at the full moon glowering in the distance.

“I wish I could hug you again,” she said as she pressed her tiny palm against the crisp glass.

To her, Malcolm was the best lovable brother. Football star, wannabe rapper with sick beats, and okay grades. He was a good mix. It was a shock to everyone when he was found bleeding out in the street from a bullet wound. He was just leaving his weekly tutoring session in suburbia. But the neighborhood cop thought he was a burglar and shot him 4 times in the back.

Carla shuddered at the thought.

Footsteps echoed down the hall next to her bedroom. For the past two nights, her mother, Gina, would wander aimlessly into Malcolm’s room and quietly close the door, assuming that no one was awake.

Carla was dying to know what her mother was doing in there, but she was too nervous to ask. They hadn’t spoken to each other since the funeral five days ago. Gina was never around when she was grieving, which left Carla all alone without Malcolm to hold her while she cried. 

1:15 am was the time the alarm clock read.

Hesitating at first, Carla threw the velveteen comforter off of her body. When her father died two years ago, her mother was nowhere in sight. She didn’t want that to happen again. Her mother was her only family left, and Malcolm wasn’t here anymore to break the silence. What better time to break the silence than 2 in the morning?

Keeping warm in her thermal pajamas, Carla tiptoed to her bedroom door and opened it. To her left was the opening towards the kitchen and main living area. She went right to reach her brother’s room.

For a moment, Carla stood in front of his bedroom door, unable to move her hands to turn the doorknob. Right when she turned around to go back to her room, she took a deep breath and just opened the door.

 Gina was wearing an all-white nightgown and her tight-curled hair was kept back in two buns. Sitting cross-legged in the middle of the floor, it looked as if she was meditating.

The only thing that felt out of place was the frosty blue-colored drink that was placed in front of her. It was already halfway gone.

Gina opened her feathered brown eyes. It was evident that she hadn’t slept well for the past few nights. “Have you been seeing your brother too?”

Caught off guard by her mother’s question, Carla tiptoed into the room as she looked around. Even though she bravely walked in, she suddenly found herself too nervous to speak.


They met eyes. She didn’t even have to say anything. Carla eyed the blue drink in front of her mother.

Her mother followed her gaze and let out a small, but hearty laugh. She patted the floor right next to her, “Please, mija, come sit down.”

It was the weirdest night in Carla’s fifteen years of existence. The full moon shone on their sleepy brown faces as they sat next to each other’s in a ghost’s room. Textbooks littered the floor underneath the unmade full sized bed. School jerseys and dirty boxers hid near the closet. A faint smell of Obsession cologne still lingered in the air. For a passing moment, it felt as if Malcolm was there holding them both together. They let out a smile at the same time.

“Tell me, what do you dream about?”

Unclenching and clenching her toes, Carla finally confessed about the horrific nightmares she was having about Malcolm.

“And how do you feel right now?”

It took a moment for her to answer. How did she feel? Was it anger, sorrow, or just plain confusion? How could she tell her mother that sometimes she just wanted to burn down a building and the next moment she’d want to run for office to try to fix the system?

“I don’t know how I feel. I guess I’m just processing.”

“That’s good. Processing is good.” Her mother picked up the blue drink and took a small sip. “There is a way to stop the nightmares and the cloudiness you are feeling, but it comes at a cost.”

Carla was really listening now as she eyed the blue drink. “What is it?”

“This drink is what your grandmaw made for me when your father passed.”

“What’s in it?”

“Lemon, water, Himalayan salt, and a bit of magic.”

Carla waited for her mother to laugh but it never came. The air in the room seemed to get stuffier with every passing minute.

“What kind of magic does it do?”

Her mother leaned back and looked out the window. “It’s different for every person. But, you have to be somewhere where you can feel closest to the person you’ve lost for it to truly work. And you have to drink it three nights in a row for the fullest effect. If you don’t drink it every night, the nightmares will come back, the sleepless nights, well, you know what I mean.”

The pounding in Carla’s chest started to pick up.

“You drink it and the nightmares stop and you won’t even cry anymore.”

Carla looked back and forth between her mom and the drink. If what her mother said was true, then that would mean she would actually be free from this unbearable pain. Going through this with her father’s death was too much. She didn’t think her sanity could make it this time.

Now that she was really getting the chance to peer at her mother; she did look rested and calm. No one would’ve been able to tell that she lost her son to a murder last week. “What’s the catch?”

A sigh followed this question. “You lose a part of yourself. For every person it’s different. After your father died, I lost my ability to sing.”

It felt as if lightning just stuck Carla’s entire body. After her father’s car accident two years ago, her mother dropped out of the church choir. The beautiful hummingbird voice never filled the hallways again. Staleness and silence filled up the house. When Malcolm asked one day at breakfast why she stopped singing, Gina told him that she just couldn’t do it anymore. We would’ve never guessed that she meant literally.

“Mom, are you being serious?” Carla couldn’t help but wonder what piece of herself she would lose. Her favorite talents started to come to mind: writing, cooking, and reading. If she wouldn’t be able to write anymore, would she still feel happy? Writing was one of the pieces of herself that made her feel human. But if she couldn’t feel pain, then maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. Whatever she lost, it had to be better than how she felt right now. She just couldn’t take it anymore.

Her mother met her eyes and her stare didn’t waver. There was no lie hidden in that deep brown abyss. “Dead serious. I know it’s selfish of me to keep this to myself, and I’m sorry I’ve been so distant. It’s so difficult to bottle up secrets. They weigh you down.”

A heavy weight sat on Carla’s chest. It was starting to make sense. Her mother’s distance and lack of interest. This was the first time she felt this connected to her mother since her father’s death.                          

Her mother took a deep breath. “But now that you know, I still can’t let you drink it.”

Flames erupt in Carla’s chest and rise to her cheeks. She couldn’t even bring herself to understand her mother’s selfishness right now.“What do you mean? You don’t get to just save yourself from pain and have me experience it all. Do you even care about how I feel?”

Gina’s eyes start to waver, but no tears make their way out. “It’s because I care that I can’t let you drink it. You don’t understand what it’s like to lose a piece of yourself.”

Carla felt winded but she couldn’t give up. Her mother’s reasoning made sense but it didn’t matter. She needed that drink now more than ever. It was worth the risk. Before she could do what she wanted to do next, she had to tell her mother one last thing. “You will never know how much I understand what it’s like to lose a piece of yourself.” 

The next few moments passed like water rushing down the drain. Quickly grabbing the drink, crystal cold water went down Carla’s throat, and she fell into her mother’s arms.

Tears tried to come out but they would dry up instantly. Every time Carla would try to talk to her mother, the words just wouldn’t come. She chalked it up to stress and had faith that her voice would be back in the morning. They stayed holding each other in Malcolm’s room for a long time until Carla finally passed out. It was the best sleep she had ever gotten in her entire life.

© The Acentos Review 2020