Maple Leaf

March 2, 2010
By , Shoreline, WA
Gina stared at the doctor. Her mind churned in confusion. How could she only have a week to live? The room around her began to change, contorting and hazing. She felt lightheaded and placed her hands on the soft chair to brace herself. She had always known she was different from everyone else, always know she would never fit in, always known there was something wrong with her. But not this. “Are you sure, Doctor? Are you positive it is…” She choked on the word that is so feared around the world. Cancer. Such a cruel and sinister word. But now it was her. The cancer was a part of her and there was nothing she could do about it. The doctor gave a slight nod of his head, consenting her worst fears. A painful knot grew in her stomach and without even realizing it, tears began to streak down her face.
She was an only child, to a mother who couldn’t find the time to love her, and to a father who came home every night drunk and disoriented. Pain and sorrow were not new feelings to her, but now there was an escape. And escape from the excuse of a life that was hers. She was all alone in the world, never had any friends, and never bothered to make any. Solemnly, she stood up and made her way to the door.
“Gina. There are treatments we can do, we can try to help you,” the doctor said.
“Don’t bother!” Gina retorted, as she ran down the hall, her dark hair whipping behind her. She sprinted around the corner and out the door, heading for the park. This park was the only happy place Gina had to relate with. When her father returned home in a fit and began to yell and beat her mother, Gina always snuck out her window and ran to the park. She sat down under the cover of a large maple tree, curled up tight in a ball. A small distorted maple leaf drifted down and came to a rest on her shoe. In the middle of the leaf was a hole, and from it, red dots covered the surface of the leaf.
Picking up the infected leaf, Gina drew her hand to her heart, embracing the frail tendrils. Looking up towards the canopy of branches, Gina watched as they swayed slightly in the wind, revealing glimpses of brilliant stars. Here, it was serene. Unlike at school, home, or even the doctors office. Here was her escape, her portal to another world, a world where she felt she belonged and that she could make sense of. Standing up, the tucked the small leaf into her pocket and walked across the deserted street to her small, dilapidated house. Opening the door, the sweet scent of fresh air was forced out of her lungs by the putrid odor of stale smoke. Her walls and ceiling were stained a sickly yellow, without even a trace of paint to cover them up.
Taking of her shoes, she passed the living room on her way towards the stairs. The harsh, coarse voice of her father wafted through the door, and cruelly forced its way into her ears. Back stepping, she poked her head around the corner and saw the image that her father had become; a large, overweight figure with a permanent scowl on his face and a cigarette in his hand. The room was dark, with only the flashing lights from the TV illuminating his dark body.
“Where have you been?” he said sinisterly.
“At the doctors” Gina replied, calmly, but with anger forcing its way into the foundation of her voice.
“And what did he say, you’re a fat, ugly, idiot of a girl?” he retorted with a laugh. Gina thought of ignoring him and climbing up the stairs to her room, but she had had enough.
“Actually no! He said I have cancer!” she screamed, tears rolling down her cheek.
“Figures, an ugly girl like you would have cancer.” He said calmly, his eyes focused on the TV. Then, in a moment of exasperation, he picked up the controller, threw it at the wall and yelled, “Darling! Where is my beer!”
As the small body of her mother entered the room, Gina ran up the stairs, slammed the door of her room, and dove under the covers of her bed. She lay there thinking. Thinking of what to do with her last week. Around 1:00 in the morning, still awake and staring at the ceiling, Gina heard her door creep open and the sweet scent of lavender drifted towards her.
“Mother?” Gina said. “Shush” her mother replied, rushing towards her bed and pulling the covers back. Her mother took her hand, stood her up, and got a coat from the floor for her to wear.
“Where are we going?” Gina whispered in confusion.
“Away from this miserable place. I have had enough of your father. We can get some help, you know… for your cancer.”
Tears started streaking down my face and with a cracked voice Gina whispered, “Thank you Mom.”
Pulling her into a hug, her mom said, “I just want you to know, I love you. I always have, and no matter what your father says, you are a smart, beautiful girl and I am proud to be your mother.” Stepping quietly down the steps, they made their way to the door, hand in hand, with a maple leaf in Gina’s pocket.

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