Everything You Love

January 8, 2010
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“Do you like this one?” Harley asked, trying it on, her long brown hair pouring out from under the pea green hat.

“Eww, no! It makes your head look like an egg,” Emily laughed.

“Alright,” Harley said picking up another. “How about this one?”

“I love it, get it. She’ll look great in it.”

“Mhm…she will,” Harley said as the smile on her face faded and her stomach clenched.

“Oh, Har,” Emily murmured as she pulled her in for a hug.

“I’m sorry,” Harley sputtered between sobs.

“Don’t worry. You can cry all you want. Let it out,” Emily said as she rubbed Harley’s back. After a few minutes, Harley pulled away, wiped under her dark brown eyes and took the hat to cash register, while Emily looked around the store.

“You ready, Em?” Harley called.

“Coming. I’ll meet you at the car,” Emily called back.
Harley pulled her keys out of her purse and walked to the car. She climbed in the leather driver’s side and turned the radio to her favorite station. She sat there for a moment just listening to the music. She wondered how much longer her mom would be around. The treatments had helped at first but now the cancer had spread to some near by organs. As another tear rolled down her cheek she caught sight of Emily out of the corner of her eye. She quickly wiped away the tear and pretended nothing was wrong.

“Hey,” Emily said as she slid in and buckled up.

“Did you find anything?” Harley asked as she started the car, placing her right hand on the back of Emily’s head rest and twisting around so she could see as she backed up. There was a huge truck that had done a poor job parking right behind them so she had to be careful.

“Umm, yeah I got a hat too,” Emily said as she held up a polka dotted sun hat.

“Oh...it’s cute,” Harley said, turning back around as she fought back tears.

“Oh my god, Har…I’m sorry. Do you want to talk about it? How are you doing?”

“It’s not your fault. I just keep having these breakdowns whenever something about Mom comes up, you know? It’s just getting to me. She’s the only parent I’ve got left and I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like without her. We just spend so much time together with the horses that she’s become more of a friend over the years than a mom,” Harley explained, sniffling.

“Yeah, I know what you mean. You guys tell each other everything; unlike my mom who is knows absolutely nothing about my life. I’ve always been jealous of you for that,” Emily said, her blue eyes staring into Harley’s.

“It’s so just hard, really hard to keep watching her suffer. Want me to drop you off at your house?” Harley asked, quickly changing the subject.

“Sure, that’d be great.” They rode in silence the rest of the way, just listening to the radio. Harley dropped Emily off and then drove home.

“Hey, Mom,” Harley called as she walked in the front door. She set the bag with the new hat down on the overflowing bench next to the coat rack. It was funny how such a small bench could collect so many things.

“Hi, honey,” Harley’s mom, Abigail moaned from the couch.

“How are you?” Harley asked, walking into the living room and coming over to the chair where her mother sat and rested her hand on Abigail’s arm.

“Not so good. My stomach hurts and I’ve puked about three times today,” she said as she ran her fingers through her light blond, frizzy hair, which was way out of control.

“Mom, I’m so sorry,” Harley whispered as she squatted down to look at her mom. Her eyes filled with tears again and she reached for Abigail’s hand. Her tan hand with chipped purple nail polish, rough from working in the barn were quite a contrast to her mother’s pale, fragile one. “I wish this wasn’t happening.”

“I know honey, me too,” Abigail murmured. They clung to each other for a moment until finally Harley stood up.

“I’m going to make dinner. Do you want anything?” she asked.

“No, thanks,” Abigail said. Harley whipped up an egg and toast, her favorite when she was feeling sad, and sat down at the kitchen table alone. She ate quietly, then set her plate in the sink and decided to visit Boo in the barn.
She had gotten Boo, short for Peak a Boo, on her sweet sixteen from her mom. Harley had always been into horses, even as a little girl because of her. Her dad left them when Harley was two, and hadn’t been heard from since. Her mom was Abigail Sox, the Abigail Sox who was a five time Kentucky Rolex winner on her horse Bouncing Bean in the years 1998, 1999, 2001, 2003 and 2004. Harley grew up watching them compete together. She loved watching them because they knew each other so well. They were such an amazing pair. He was partly the reason Harley became such a good rider, because from the time she was seven, her mom would let her take ¬¬¬¬Bean for trail rides. And sometimes, if Harley was lucky, her mom would give her a lesson on him. But then Abigail retired him and now he spends his days grazing in the pasture and just being a horse. Harley had always thought her mom would get another horse, probably a young one to train and eventually bring to the top, but then she was diagnosed with cancer. Stage three pancreatic cancer and she is only expected to live for another year or so.
Harley opened the barn door and the smell of horses wafted over her. She inhaled a deep breath of the comforting aroma. She flicked on the light and they all greeted her with soft nickers. “Hey guys,” Harley’s soothing voice spoke. “Want some hay?” There were more nickers, and Boo pounded his leg against his gate. “Who am I kidding? Of course you do,” Harley said smiling. She walked to the end of the barn and grabbed an arm full of hay and proceeded down the aisle. She went along, tossing each horse a flake or two of hay before moving on to the next. She had to make several trips back to the hay stall to get more hay, but finally she had one flake left to give. “Boo,” she whispered in his muzzle before tossing the hay over the gate. He bent his head down and started munching. Harley unlatched the gate and stepped in next to him. She moved to his neck where she rubbed back and forth massaging him. Boo turned his head and began to wiggle his top lip on Harley’s hip, returning the favor. “Oh, I love you,” Harley said with a smile as she scooped up his big head in her arms and gave him a kiss. She then went over to the pile of hay and sat down. Boo returned to his munching while Harley just watched. There was something so comforting and familiar about the munching sound. Harley’s eyes began to fill tears as she watched him eat. She made sniffling noises as she wiped her eyes and nose. Boo’s ears perked and he moved his head over to her, noticing there was something wrong. She reached her arm up and stroked his furry brown face. She sat like this for a while longer and then got up and brushed herself off. She gave Boo one last kiss before reaching into her pant pocket to unwrap a peppermint to give him. Those were his favorite. She turned off the light and walked back to the house with a clear head for the time being.
“Mom, I’m in from the barn. Do you need anything before I go up to bed?” Harley asked as she took of her sweatshirt and hung it on the hook.
“No, honey. I’m fine,” Abigail sniffled from the chair where she had been before.
“Are you crying? What’s wrong?’ Harley said rushing over to her mother.
“It’s just…it’s just,” Abigail stuttered between sobs, “I put the farm up for sale today,” she finally said at last, fully breaking down.
“Oh,” was all Harley could manage to say. She knew this was extremely difficult for her mom and she needed someone to be there but she couldn’t help it. “What does this mean?” her shaky voice asked.
“I think it’s time they move me to the hospital.”
“No, you can’t leave. I want you to stay and let me take care of you,” Harley begged, tears streaming down her face.
“I can’t let you do that, sweetheart. You’re young and you need to be experiencing life, not taking care of your dying mother. That’s what the people at the hospital are for,” Abigail said adding a chuckle to soften the blow. She pulled Harley close and rubbed her back. Harley looked up at her, wishing that everything would just go back to the way it was before. “Come on, help me to my room and then you need to go to sleep,” Abigail said, pulling Harley up from the floor.
Harley lay awake in her bed, the covers pulled up to her chin, and wondered about what it would be like after her mom died. There would be nobody to ask how her day was when she walked in the door in the evening. Nobody who would stay up late at night waiting for her to come home safely from an outing with friends. Nobody to spend long hours at night in the barn with. Nobody to just be there. Thinking about all of this brought tears to her eyes. She would burst out in sobs that would eventually quiet until she finally just lay awake staring at the ceiling.

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