A Last Wish

January 12, 2009
By Ashley Anderson, Louisville, KY

He didn’t look anything like she expected. As she flipped the picture over in her frail, little fingers, she read the date written in smudged blue ink on the back. May 14, 1984. She looked at the picture again, studying every little detail. Tall, around 6’3 she guessed. Muscular build, she could tell he must have been a hunk. He had a plain, black hoodie on with straight leg jeans and cowboy boots. She wondered if he ever took those dirty, brown and worn out boots off. His bright blue eyes made her smile, realizing that she did have his best features. He smiled huge to show his pride in the biggest fish she had ever seen that was hanging from his right hand. His dark brown hair was all over the place, whipping in the wind as he held his fishing pole in one hand, and prized fish in the other. Dark tan skin, she noticed and felt a surge of happiness come over her again, another feature she had of her fathers. She never wanted to stop staring at it. It was her only picture of her father she owned and it was her most prized possession, her favorite thing. She was just about to put it back underneath her pillow when she heard her mother yelling.

“Kayla! You are about to be late for school, do you know what time it is?!”

“Coming!” Kayla yelled down the stairs. She knew her mother would be furious if she knew that she was staring absent-mindedly at that same picture…again. Her mother always said it wasn’t good for her to be so attached to a photograph. Kayla can remember the words her mother always chose to cut her with when she caught her staring at his picture. “He isn’t coming back ya know. He left you and me a looong time ago and look, we can make it without him. Don’t need ‘em. You’ll learn that someday.” She shook her head, trying desperately to get the sharp cutting thoughts out her mind. Grabbing her coat and her toboggan, Kayla ran down the stairs and met her mother in the kitchen. She was making toast and had already prepared Kayla’s breakfast for her but she wasn’t hungry this morning. In fact, she hadn’t been hungry much at all this week. But she didn’t let her mother know, because if she did, that would only mean more trips to the hospital and more of the crinkly white bed sheets and embarrassing hospital gowns. The thought of the fluorescent, buzzing lights and disgusting smell of bleach and vinegar made Kayla feel even sicker. So Kayla forced down her toast and orange juice, hating every bite of it, but hating the hospital trips even more. But when she finished, Kayla ran to the bathroom and barely made it to the toilet before she threw up her breakfast and the last thing she felt was the cold tile floor on her bare skin.

When Kayla woke up, the first thing she noticed was the five different IVs sticking out of her arms and when she went to turn her head, the sheets crinkled, the bleach smell stained her nose and suddenly she knew where she was. Why is this happening again? I thought the doctor said it was getting better, no more hospital visits. This place is torture. And why do I feel so weak? Must be the medicine. Kayla’s mind was racing but it came to a screeching halt when she realized that her entire family was scattered about the hospital room. They all looked exhausted, as if they had been sitting around waiting on her to wake up for a really long time. Hardly anyone had noticed that she finally had woken up. But then Dr. Spencer came strutting in and looked exhausted. Kayla’s mother quickly jumped up at his very presence and at the same time, noticed Kayla was awake.

“Kayla, honey. I am so sorry you are sick again. You about scared me to death. Jesus. I thought you were gone, I thought…”

“Mom, stop it.” Kayla cut her off.

“Well, your mom is right.” Dr. Spencer replied to Kayla.

“What, what do you mean?” Kayla’s mother looked at him with pleading eyes. Kayla slowly turned her face towards Dr. Spencer.

“It seems as if the cancer is getting worse. Its multiplying at an unprecedented rate and, and…” His voice trailed off.

“No!” Her mother said, her voice strong and her teeth gritted together. Tears began to well up in her eyes. Kayla squeezed her mother’s hand tightly, and shook her head. Please, she thought. Please no. Kayla closed her tear filled eyes and felt her mother’s hand slip through her icy fingers. She opened her eyes to an empty hospital room and strained to hear the hushed voices of Dr. Spencer and her mother just outside of her door.

“You might wanna contact the father, she-”

“No, absolutely not. He left as soon as he found out Kayla was diagnosed. He wants nothing to do with her. And I don’t want him in her life; she doesn’t realize how much of a disappointment he is. I can’t have her disappointed at a time like this.”

“Well, it’s your choice. You are her mother. I just think you should focus on what Kayla wants.”

“I’m her mother, I know what’s best for her.”
There was silence as Kayla tried to block the words her mother just said. She closed her eyes quickly and darkness began to take over her frail body once again, and this time she didn’t try fighting it.
Kayla’s mind went blank and the last thing she remembered before blacking out was the piercing sound of her mother’s scream.

When Kayla awoke, she was in her bedroom and it was nighttime. A small lamp was on beside her bed and she ran her small hand over her bald head. Nope, not a dream. She thought. Her mother walked in the room and looked awful. Her face was red and her eyes were so sunken into her face that Kayla had to look away to keep from wincing. Realizing that she didn’t have much time to begin with, Kayla knew that brain cancer wasn’t something people made it out of alive. She knew had already outlived the time that the doctors had given her when she was diagnosed at age three. They said she would have 2 years and here she was at age thirteen. No older though. Thirteen was it, over. Recollecting all of these thoughts, Kayla realized that she was going finally going to have to tell her mother her dying wish. It would anger her mom, but it was all Kayla ever wanted to begin with.

“Mom, I know what I want before I die. I know you won’t like it, but please. It’s all I want. Kayla stammered out. She couldn’t bear to see her mother like this.

“Anything, baby. Anything.” Her mother choked out through the silent tears. Kayla grabbed her mother’s hand, it was freezing.

“I want to see daddy. I deserve to see him in person. You never let me have a relationship with him and I know he’s out there, I know it. You always act as if he doesn’t exist but I know he does. I just want to see him. That’s it. Just for a few minutes. Please. It’s all I want. Nothing else.” Kayla said the words she had been trying to say for the longest time. She just knew how much it would devastate her mother. But she couldn’t help that she longed to know her own father.
Not even know him, just see him. Not in a photograph, in real life. She wanted to touch him, to know that he was real. Her mother closed her eyes and there was a painful silence. Kayla squeezed her mother’s ice-cold hand and she nodded her head yes.

“Thank you.” Kayla choked. And then exhaustion attacked Kayla’s frail little body and she was at once, asleep.

It was when Kayla opened her eyes and noticed that it was morning that she realized that she had made it through another day. But then she quickly noticed that there was a hand on top of hers, a big hand. And when she looked up she saw his bright blue eyes, his dark brown hair, and tanned face staring down at her. He wasn’t anything like she had expected. But better. And she squeezed his hand with all the strength she had left in her and took a deep breath and whispered,

“Daddy.” And then closed her eyes.

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