Breaking through the doors, she burst into the hospital room, out of breath and full of courage, her face betraying not the slightest bit of fear or anxiety. As she stood there, having accomplished what she had come to that room to do, she watched the frail figure in the bed begin to wake, a revitalizing aura overtook the room, and where once was only seconds before the leeching emptiness of death, her mother stood, her bright brown eyes bathing her in kindness and unyielding unconditional love.
As she leaned on the wall in the hallway outside the room, the woman exhaled, trembling, and meditated on how silly that would have been, and how easy it would have made everything. For the a shortest second she savored the thought, but the spectral hands around her neck overcame her, and her sweet sanctuary was shattered by another wave of sobs as her body convulsed and tears surged to her eyes. She abstained from acting for a moment, and when she had composed herself, she drifted the short distance to the large pair of windows nearby. As she looked out through the window, a precious gem flew down from the sky. Then another, and another, and the jewels continued their journey, bolstered by something greater than themselves. The pavement darkened below, moist with the rain. She gazed out. Beneath the gray ash sky the dark, all-encompassing waters of Superior seemed to stretch out into eternity itself. She winced as memories began to surface from the murky depths, shedding their old layers of silt and mud, piled on from years of denial. She relived each one in excruciating detail. The seven-year-old girl, cringing as her mother carefully rubbed cool aloe on her sunburnt back after their trip to the beach. The time she had spent with her mother in the garden, pouring water on the parched vines of Morning Glory dangling down from the trellis like the most beautiful strands of hair you’ve ever seen. The teenager and her mother, swaddled up like babies in quilts and blankets, the steam from their mugs of hot tea, ethereal wisps of vapor meandering up towards the ceiling before the cracking fire in front of them. She remembered the homemade macaroni and cheese that sustained her during those long nights of exam studying, the warm cheese and noodles getting better with every bite. And then, like the Masque of the Red Death, an uninvited guest, the year she was 18. She loathed this memory. The year she wounded her mother. The year the adopted girl told her she had always thought of her as less of a mother, because they were not of the same flesh and blood, as if lashing out at the ones she loved most would help to fill the emptiness she was struggling so hard to sate at the time. She packed her suitcase that night, and ran away while her mother was asleep so that she could find her real, biological mother. However, even she could not believe this lie she had told herself. The real reason she had ran away was to get away from that woman, the one who she saw herself in every time she looked at her. She ran away so she could forget what a monster she was to that woman. A parasite. A murderer. An ingrate. She knew she did not deserve the eternal love of this saintly woman who had taken her into her home and loved her so much, ignorant of flesh and blood. She wandered the country, halfheartedly searching for her real mother, knowing deep inside she would never find her if she didn’t return to the house she had shunned that year she was eighteen.
It was many years later, after she had settled into a comfortingly superficial life in marketing that she received the phone call that lead her to where she was now. Her childhood friend was on the other line, and when she received the news that the old woman she had left behind when she was eighteen was in the hospital and due to die any day now, she knew what she had to do. Her crime had hurt her as well, and though they say time heals all wounds, this one festered and putrified, and tore her apart each day from the inside. She knew that if there was any hope of saving herself, she would have to go and see the woman again. She got into her car and drove the long distance to her childhood hometown, and when she finally arrived in the hospital rushed up the flights of stairs, as the complete importance of the situation greeted her, she stopped one footstep from the door, repulsed by some sort of invisible force. She tried to get up her courage to enter the room, but it was no use, and she just ended up crying and staring out the large double windows at the rain and the lake the solemnly sat outside the hospital. She tried to breathe in some of the might of the lake, in the hopes that its eternal depths somehow might have some courage for her. She took a sip of water and summoned herself to the doors of the hospital room. A trembling hand pushed open one of the doors and the woman walked in. She saw her mother lying on the bed, asleep or unconscious she didn’t know. She walked to the foot of the bed with some expense of will, every step an Everest, and stared at the woman in the bed. It was difficult at first, but once she got a few choked words out, they flowed unfettered and uncontrolled like a powerful river. She told the woman everything, but the more she said the more worried she became that the woman would never wake up. She carefully analyzed each second of the woman, anxiously pleading for signs of life, but found nothing. Then, at the last moment, the woman’s eyes wearily opened, and their light flooded the room, and absolution and forgiveness washed over her just in time for the harsh tone of the heart monitor to produce its final, solemn sound.
“For a split-second she savored the thought, but soon the spectral hands wrapped tightly around her neck overtook her. Her sweet sanctuary gave way to another surge of sobbing as her body convulsed and tears flowed from her eyes.”—