In a return to form, I’ve got more flash fiction for you from Chuck Wendig’s regular prompts over at terribleminds. This one got away from me. By which I mean, this is not what I’d set out to write in the first place. It wasn’t what I’d expected, but I couldn’t stop writing it, and it felt right anyway. So here it is for you.
“Come on, get up.” Her hand reaches down, her fingers snake around mine, feeling like the strongest thing in the world. I latch on.
“Where does it hurt?” She looks into my eyes.
I’m not sure how to answer. There’s a burning in my knee. My hand feels wrong. There’s a rising knot in the back of my throat and it’s choking me while snot and tears pour down my face. I can taste them. They drip into my mouth when I take a fluttering breath in, sputter and spray when I sob.
Everything hurts. The pain is everywhere. I don’t even know how to say anything about it and it hurts and it won’t go away.
My chest aches.
“Come here.” Her arms fold around me and I’m encompassed. It’s warm, and I’m safe. I hurt. I even hurt where she hugs me.
But somehow it feels better.
“Come on, look at me.” Her face is right but wrong. Papery skin, so many wrinkles. I don’t know how she ever got so old. Her fingers in my hand feel like thinly painted bone.
She’s swallowed by her hospital bed.
I’m crying again.
“Come on,” I wish I couldn’t see, couldn’t feel the tremor in her fingertips as she brushes my cheek. I look at her again.
“How did this happen?” It blurts out between my lips, embarrassing. Like spittle. I wish I could wipe my words away so easily. It’s a stupid question.
She’s still smiling at me, a little sad now. “Honey, this always happens.” Even her voice quivers these days. “I’m lucky to have got so much time with you.”
I’m clutching her hand in both of mine. She rests her other hand on top and squeezes.
“Sooner or later we all say goodbye,” she smiles up at me, and I wonder what she sees. Me now? Me then? All the me’s in between?
I can’t be that different. I’m still crying. Still her baby.
“I love you Mom.” I get that much out.
“Oh I know.” The tug of her hands is gentle. I lean in and she hugs me. It’s not the same. It’s warm, but I have to weave my arms around the lines leading to her. I have to nestle them gently behind the bones of her back. I can feel every single one.
“Come here,” she whispers. Her arms squeeze me, ever so gently.
Somehow it feels better.
I’m holding her against me. She has the same name as her grandmother, the one she never met.
I hurt. I’m exhausted. But somehow holding her here against me, this warm little bundle, all I can think of are my mother’s arms around me.
“Come on, come here,” I whisper to her, gathering her up closer against my chest. I look at her fuzzy scalp, I look out the window, I close my eyes. “I love you.”