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It was a quiet day, not one for daring explorations or a blood pressure raising car crash. The sound of the wind was a disturbance, ruffling the feathers of any living thing. So she sat, her legs thrown carelessly over the back of her kitchen chair. With a steady pulse she kicked the counter, causing flour to fly into the air.
“Are they ready?” A harsh croak echoed from the musty living room.
“Soon.” She growled, kicking the table with more force. In front of her was the grimy oven, in which a tray of cookies. They rose slowly in a muggy 325 degrees.
“Are they ready?” Another croak, like a bullfrog trapped in a plastic covered prison.
“Soon, mama” She sided brushing wisps of hair behind her punctured ears. While glancing at the timer, her foot hit the counter offbeat. 10 minutes.
“Are they ready?” It sounded as if the wind couldn't wait to leave the scarred lungs. Her toes slammed against the marble counter, preceding a string of curses. She pushed herself to standing and hobbled towards the bathroom, passing the lump on the couch in the process.
“What did you do?” She ignored the question, peeling off her socks and revealing purpling toenails and bleeding toes.
“Are they ready?”
“F***, mother. No.” The box of band aides tumbled to the floor, hypoallergenic packets fluttering in the air. With burnt fingertips, she peeled open the packages, letting the peels dance to the floor. The heart meter let out an obnoxious series of beeps, sending the lump into coughing fit. The coughs racked her body and drops of mucus spewed onto the TV guide in her lap, smudging the face of cheery celebrities.
“You alright mum?” The coughing continued, the woman's lungs having little to no mercy on the frail body. Biting her lip gently, she waddled on her heels towards her mother.
“Mum, do I need to call the doctor?” Grabbing a tissue from the box on the table, she held it out for her mother to cough into. The Kleenex was soon soaked with blood and finally the fit seemed to subside. Leaning towards her daughter, the woman seemed to collapse, her eyes fluttering shut as her head hit the back of the couch.
“Mom?” She shook the woman.
“MOM!” Quickly, she dialed the three numbers she hated most.
“911 Emergency, how may I help you?”
“Hello, my mother has emphysema and I think she just went into shock or something. We need an ambulance now!”
“Calm down miss, has this happened before?”
“She's had god damn coughing fits before but she hasn't gone unconscious after one. Please, hurry!”
“435 Spear. The maroon house on the right.”
“The ambulance is on its way.”
She stood, wrapping her arms tightly around her frail frame. Looking into her mother's face, she could barely recognize the woman she grew up with. Where were the summers that her mother actually deserved the title? When did God decide to play this practical joke?
The siren could be heard from far off and she quickly began to pick up around the woman. The TV guide landed on the kitchen island, the bloody Kleenex was flung towards the bathroom. She glanced up and caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror. Disheveled, dirty and mousey brown strands mixed with bags under her pale green eyes was not an uncommon sight, but caused a sigh from the girl.
The sirens grew closer as she slipped on a pair of flip-flops, her purpling toes still sore from their marble enemy. With a soft tug on the knob of the door it flung open, bouncing off the hallway's wall. There was the ambulance, an all too common sight in her life.
“She's in the living room, she's been unresponsive since I called.” The EMT's nodded and proceeded to transfer her mother to a gurney and checked her vitals.
The ambulance was cramped, and she had to pull her knees to her chest. Her eyes were glued to her mother's serene face, trying to find even a glimmer of life. But the machine chugged on, the sirens wailing as they passed hundreds of cars on their way to the hospital. She rung her hands, rubbing the bits of cookie dough off of her fingertips and from between her fingers. The EMTs attempted to make conversation with her but she was lost in the canyons of her mother's wrinkles.
Saint Peter's hospital pierced the sky, dwarfing the buildings around it. The ambulance turned into the parking lot, and she soon spilled out of the back with her mother. She hurried to the nurse’s station and filled out the required paperwork. It was muscle memory for her as she filled out the forms; she had done it so many times. Her mother's maiden name, her social security number, her insurance policy, all easily reachable in the corners of her mind. After handing a nurse the required paperwork, she collapsed in a highly uncomfortable chair. Her feet curled under her as she waited, her body trying to be as still as possible as anxiety tortured her nerves. Each doctor that ignored her and each patient that walked out healthy dwindled the odds that her mother would be all right. Mum's the 1 out of 100 that doesn't make it was a constant thought as she tugged at the fuzz in her jacket.
She looked up, and an exhausted looking nurse made eye contact with her. “Your mother's awake.”
The hospital bed had awful pea green sheets that brightly reflected off of her mother's skin, making her look even sicker than she was.
“Hey mom.” The woman rolled over on to her back and looked up at her daughter with empty eyes.
“Are they ready?”
“Oh s***.” Melanie whispered, her hands balling up into fists. She had left the oven on! And it had to have been an hour.
“Are they ready?”
“No mother! They aren't!” She turned about frantically, looking for a doctor to assist her.
“Mum, I'll be right back” Leaning forward, she pecked her mother on the cheek and ran out of the emergency room and waiting room, and headed towards her house. Her flip-flops pounded against the concrete as she ran, making her wish she had a car or bike, something. She reached her neighborhood, no flames visible. Her street and still no flames. She breathed a sigh of relief as she finally turned down her drive way. The door was still open—she had forgotten to lock it.
As she crossed the threshold she immediately began to cough. Thick black smoke filled the air above her, obviously emanating from the kitchen as the fire alarms shrieked. While covering her mouth she made her way into the kitchen, making sure to open as many windows as possible on her way. Carefully, she reached towards the oven and turned off both to shrill timer and the temperature. With little hesitation she tugged open the heavy door, making darker smoke immediately fill the kitchen. She saw no flames and while not thinking too thoroughly, grabbed the TV guide off the counter. Using it in place of an oven mitt, she pulled the tray out from the center of the oven. On the blackened tray laid the ashes of once delicious cookies.
“F*** my life.” She muttered, tossing the tray into the sink. Pulling the oven door up, she began to loose her balance. While sliding backward, she fell back on the floor and hit the back of her head hard on the marble counter. Everything went black.
What seemed like eons later, Melanie woke with a start. The room she was kept in was fluorescently bright, filled with the sounds of coughing surrounding her. She glanced at her arms, needles and electrodes where coming out of her every which way and attaching to the monitors on either side of her. After watching her vitals momentarily she glanced towards the bed next to her, and her eyes fell on her mother. The woman was asleep, her frail chest raising and lowering with each breath.
A nurse approached Melanie's bed.
“Nice to see you awake.”
“What happened to me?”
“When you went home her cracked your head on the counter. Also you inhaled massive amounts of smoke from the cookies you burnt. Don't worry; you only received a minor concussion and no lung damage. You and your mother are going to have to stay a few days for supervision.”
Melanie stayed speechless and the nurse nodded and walked away to tend other patients. Broadly, Melanie began to rub her fingers, balling pieces of cookie dough on top of her skin.
“Melanie?” Her mother was stirring and Melanie watched as the woman's eyes opened and fell on her daughter.
“Are they ready yet?”