My mother used to hold me when it rained. I used to be scared of thunder, you see. It terrified me. She had the most loving heart, that she didn’t mind holding me when I was twelve, which was when I was faking being scared, just so she would hold me close in her warm, soft, loving arms, smothering me like a blanket. My father abandoned her when she was pregnant with me.
She was the strongest woman I had heard of, and not “strong” like the ladies you read about at school, like Joan of Arc, Amelia Earhart, Sally Ride, all of those girls. She was a different kind of strong. She wasn’t the kind of lady that fought for women’s rights, for her country, or for science. No, nothing like that. She believed in me. She had the strength to care for a little delinquent. She worked to feed me. To clothe me. To raise me. She worked in a factory. She was hardly ever home, or was home really late. I often had to make my own dinner, and I never got help on my homework. But she made sure to be home so that we could watch cartoons before I had to go to bed. That was what made her strong, in my opinion. She tried so hard to raise me.
One night, it was really late. It was dark, and I was sitting in my room waiting for my mother to come home. I was reading a book, The Jungle Book, to be precise. My mother had given it to me for my birthday in December. It was rainy, and cold in the house, because the AC had stopped working. I remember that I couldn’t focus on my book, because all I could hear was the pitter patter of the rain on my window. I went to grab my iPod and headphones to clear out the noise. That was when there was a knock on the door.
I stomped down the stairs at a fast pace. Maybe she couldn’t find her keys. I ripped open the locks to find a police officer on the doorstep.
“Is this the Marcus residence?” he asked me. I nodded at him.
“Yes sir, it is. Can I help you?” he looked at me with a forlorn expression.
“Are you the only one here, miss?” I nodded.
“Your mother is Jane Caroline Marcus, correct?” he waited for me to respond. I nodded my head again. I didn’t like where this was going.
“She was leaving work this evening. There was another car, and it ran a red light and it hit her. The car went flying. She-your mother-broke her spine. She broke her arm and her collarbone as well. She’s lost a lot of blood, you see. She got some pretty good cuts, she did. There’s very little the paramedics can do, but I was asked to escort you to the hospital to see her. The doctors don’t know how much longer she has to live.” I felt like my heart was being wrenched out of my chest, it was beating so fast. She couldn’t die. Not my mother. She was all that I had left that I wanted to love. Tears welled in my eyes. A broken spine. No. It wasn’t possible. I was only twelve years old, after all.
The police officer grabbed me by my arm gently and pulled me to his car. He sat me in the front seat beside him, so I didn’t feel like a criminal. There was static coming from the radio. That was how my brain was. Static. So much static that I couldn’t focus on what was happening. I didn’t want to listen to anything, see anything, or think about anything. What would happen to me if she didn’t make it? I didn’t want to think about the possibilities.
The officer stopped the car at the hospital. He grabbed me by the arm and led me in carefully, his hands gentle and sympathetic. He led me into the hospital room, but left into the hallway so I could stay with my mother alone.
Her eyes were closed, but I had a feeling she was awake. She had an oxygen tank flowing through her nose. Her hair was frizzy and matted against the pile of pillows and her full body cast.
“Hey, Mom.” I whispered. She opened her eyes gently.
“Hey, pumpkin.” Her voice was hoarse and quiet. I longed to hear it, really. She smiled. I looked at the heart monitor. Her pulse was very low. I grimaced. She couldn’t go. I wouldn’t stand for it.
“I love you, Christina,” she told me. I took a deep breath of air.
“I love you, too.” I replied. She looked at me with a despairing twinkle in her eye. They shone like emeralds. She couldn’t move anything. She started to breathe very shallowly. She couldn’t breathe. The heart monitor was beeping like mad.
“No, Mom! Don’t die, please!” I cried. This was horrible. I ran out of the room, screaming for a doctor. When I returned with one, the line on the heart monitor was dead. Flat. She was gone.
I felt so many emotions that day. I was twelve, and I had never lost anybody that close to me before. I thought about how I would never be able to see her loving face, her holding my hands, or her gentle cuddle on the couch when it rained. The idea of her passing broke my heart. Where would I go after this? I didn’t know. I sat in a chair in the waiting room. It was empty, and had the odd smell of a doctor’s hands.
"Are you okay, hun? Can I get you somethin'?" the receptionist asked. I shook my head, tears streaming down my face.
"No." It was a bold and blank answer. Plain. Straightforward.
"Alright, then. Let me know if you do," she replied. She smiled sweetly at me, sympathetically. I jerked my head back, trying to sleep until I knew what to do next.
"Christina, I have some big news for you," someone said in a rushed whisper. I opened my eyes.
TO BE CONTINUED...