Drama LGBTQ+ Fiction

****TW: Scenes of terminal illness****

“Are you there God? It’s me, Olivia. Please give me strength, my Mum is dying!” I shout into the windy Autumn day.

My girlfriend Brie and I are outside Wellington hospital, watching as twilight breaks across the sky, in magenta, orange and gold. She wraps me in one of her infamous cuddles – my safe place.

“Olivia,” she gently pushes me away, looking me in the eyes. “Honey, we knew this day would come.”

“I know,” I reply, “but it doesn’t make it any easier. It is happening too fast.”

After receiving some much-needed fresh air, we make our way back inside the hospital. As we travel the long stark white corridors towards Mum’s ward, our fingers are intertwined. Sure, people always gawk when we show even a sprinkle of PDA, but we never pay them any attention, we are used to it. At the door to her room, I struggle to hold in my emotions. We have been here for three days, and it looks as if the end will be coming sooner than we thought.

When we enter, Dad is sitting next to Mum, holding her hand and singing ‘Amazing Grace.’ Dad is a great singer, when I was growing up he was in the choir at our local church. I stopped going when I turned thirteen. My parents didn’t mind, in fact they encouraged me to find my own path when it comes to spirituality. But I have to admit, ever since Mum was diagnosed with a rear blood cancer four months ago, I’ve been reaching out to God whenever I can.

“How’s she doing?” I ask my brother Kody, who is sitting next to the door, hunched over, tapping away on his cellphone.

“She woke before and asked where you were,” he replies, without looking up.

Brie sits in a Lazy Boy chair, she looks exhausted. Her hair is a tangled mess, and she has dark circles under her eyes. She’s been my rock. I know this has been hard for her seeing me go through this.

“Mum, I’m here,” I say, as I sit down beside her and gather one of her hands in mine.

I can feel her bones – her hand seems so small compared to mine. Tears are gathering in my eyes. These are the hands that bathed me when I was a baby. These loving hands mended my wounds, patted my back to sleep after nightmares, and wiped away the tears when my heart was broken for the first time.

“Olivia, did you finish your assignment? You know you’ll be late for school if you don’t hurry, I packed your lunch it’s on the bench.”

She’s been doing this lately, living in the past as if it were still happening. I pat her hand and bring it to my lips to kiss – the faint smell of sickness lingers.

“Mum, I don’t go to school remember? I’m twenty-five now, and I have a job and my own flat,” tears are falling, making the scene blurry.

“Who’s your friend? Where is Louise?”

“Mum, this is my girlfriend Brie, remember? Louise was my best friend at school, she lives in England now.”

“Hello Brie, lovely to meet you. How long have you been friends? Are you in the same class?”

“Ummm…No Kathy, we don’t go to the same school,” Brie replies, looking puzzled.

I intercept to change the subject.

“Mum, did Dad tell you that Kody got an A+ for his exam? We are very proud of him, aren’t we Dad?”

I look at Kody; he pierces me with ice blue eyes. This has been hard on my younger brother. Him and Mum have a special bond, perhaps due to the fact he is the youngest. He got spoilt a lot. I love my brother and I hate seeing him go through this. I hear him sometimes, screaming in his sleep. Since Mum’s been ill, Brie and I often have him stay over at our place in the weekends, when he isn’t studying at University. He wants to become a Veterinarian, he loves animals, always has. The number of animals he fostered, and the strays he brought home when we were growing up, I can’t count, there were so many.

“Dad, tell Mum what happened at work the other day, she’ll love it,” I say wiping away the tears from my cheeks.

“Now’s not the right time,” he simply states, kissing Mum’s tiny hand.

“Alex, did you put the rubbish out on the curb? It comes tomorrow morning, remember?” she asks as if this is a perfectly normal conversation.

“Yes dear, I did. Now you get some rest, you look tired,” Dad says – I can tell he is barely holding it together.

“I’m not tired, we have that dinner party at the Lancaster’s tonight, I have to get ready. I don’t even know what I’m going to wear!”

“Darling, remember they cancelled?” Dad is trying to stop the conversation, I can tell he can’t take much more of this, so I intervene.

“Mum, perhaps you should have a rest before dinner? Then we can get doled up and dance the night away,” I say, deceiving her with my words, playing along with her delusion.

“Perhaps you are right,” she yawns. “I am rather sleepy after our walk along the beach this morning. Do you remember the ferry coming into the harbour and those people waving at us? It was so funny when that little boy pulled the fingers – naughty little man. I couldn’t stop laughing,” she laughs, then they turn into a horrid coughing fit – uncontrollable to the point I hit the call button for the nurse.

As we wait, I remember, I was about twelve years old when this memory happened. She has gone right back into the past; we are no longer able to reach her. The nurse comes in quietly and approaches the devices spread around the room. She regards them, then turns to Mum.

“Mrs Johnson, would you like something for the pain?”

“Yes, please. For some reason my head hurts.”

She closes her eyes and I hold my breath. When she opens them again, I let it out. We are here because the doctors said it will happen soon. Her organs are not functioning, and the fact her memory has gone can be an indication it has spread to her brain. We have stayed by her side, but Kody has come and gone a few times. Brie has popped out while we’ve been here, to get us food and clean clothes. They put us in this special suite for families, I am thankful we don’t have to share a room with other people. Mum has progressively deteriorated over the days we’ve been here; tonight is the worse she has been. There was a clock on the wall, but the ticking disturbed me, a constant reminder that time was counting down to the end, so I had a nurse take it out. Other than bathroom breaks, Dad has been sitting next to her the entire time: reading her some of her favourite books, singing her songs and catching up on the daily newspaper. He massages her feet and brushes her hair. These are intimate moments between them, so I leave the room when they need privacy.

I snap out of my reverie when the nurse re-enters the room.

“Here you go Mrs Johnson.”

I know it is morphine as she puts the needle into the drip. Whatever pain she had has now gone. She looks peaceful.

“Okay Mrs Johnson, I’m going to check your blood pressure and empty your bag,” she says, walking around the room, grabbing this and that from the containers on the wall.

After she has finished dealing with Mum, she leaves us there in a silence so thick it is palpable. Suddenly, there are so many things I want to tell her before she falls asleep. I’m about to say something, when an alarm screams from one of the monitors; I jump up and reach for the call button. I don’t know what is going on, I am scared. I’m about to call for a nurse, when dad grabs my hand and flicks it away.

“Dad what are you doing?” I ask, confused.

“If she wants to go, let her go,” he says, as little crystals form in the corner of his eyes – not until now have I ever seen my Dad brought to tears.

“No! It’s not her time, I’m not ready,” I practically scream, reaching for the call button again, this time I have it in my hand and Dad yanks it from me.

“Ollie, stop it, please calm down. Let her go.”

“Dad, you can’t do this!”

The nurse runs back in, obviously hearing the alarm from her station, and switches it off. She looks Mum over and tells us it is time. She leaves us saying she is calling for the doctor.

“Olivia, would you like some time with Mum? We can leave the room. Then Kody can say goodbye,” Dad asks, but as he says this, Kody throws his cellphone to the floor where it cracks, and he runs from the room.

“Yes, Dad. I would like that please.”

“I’ll be back soon,” he says, and takes off after my brother, with Brie following him out.

When they have left, I stand next to her and take her hand in mine. This time she doesn’t respond to my touch. I pat her arm and kiss her hair – she used to smell like granny smith apples.

“Mum, there are things I need to tell you,” I begin, “but I don’t know where to start.”

Her eyes are dancing behind her eyelids – she must be dreaming; I wonder what she dreams about?

“I want to thank you for everything you have ever done for me,” sobs are trying to escape but I hold them back, I need to say this before it’s too late. “You helped me and loved me when others turned their backs. When you discovered that I was hiding the truth about my sexuality, you didn’t get mad, you supported my choice. The time I was in that car accident when I was a teenager, and I was in a coma, you stayed at my bedside for two weeks. I know you don’t realise that I knew that. I could hear you, even though I couldn’t respond. Mum, I knew you were there.

When Melody moved away, it broke my heart, but you took me to that resort up north for the weekend, remember? You helped me through the breakup, comforted me from my pain and grief. I will be forever grateful for that. I never remember you being angry with us, just loving. Always open to a hug and an ear to vent,” I choke back my pain. This is getting hard. “Mum, if you need to leave us now, that is okay. You have been through so much in such a short time. I…I really love you. I hope you can hear me…you are the best mum in the world…be at peace my beautiful Mum,” I kiss her cheeks, and the sobs release as I flee the room.

I run and although I can hear Brie yelling behind me, trying to catch up, I run until I am outside, it is raining and in that rain I break – falling to my knees on solid concrete.

“God! Please help me!” I wail through the pitch-black night.

Then the memories hit me hard…Mum and Dad arriving home after tests at the doctors, they told Kody and I that Mum was very sick, then two weeks later finding out she has a rear blood cancer. The day I came home from school, Mum presented me with a love letter she discovered in my room when she was collecting my dirty laundry, asking me about Melody and me telling her the truth, that I was in love with a girl from my class, and she had just broken up with me. I cried as Mum held me, saying it’ll be okay. I was worried how Dad would react to the news of my love life, but Mum reassured me, Dad would understand; and he did. Kody on the other hand kept giving me shit about it, but eventually he stopped, when he actually met Brie. They all fell for her from the beginning – that was three years ago.

My head hurts, so I stop the memories before they sweep me up and drown me. Brie pulls me to my feet.

“Come on, let’s get back,” she says, wrapping an arm around my shoulder.

We find Kody sitting on a chair outside the room.

“Kody, did you say goodbye?” I ask, but he doesn’t answer. “You need to say goodbye.”

“I don’t want to say goodbye, I don’t want her to go! You can’t make me!” and he gets up and is about to bolt again, but I swiftly grab him and pull him into my arms.

In my arms he breaks, and I hold him as he shatters. Giant sobs take him, but I keep him safe, rubbing his back, telling him he will be okay. After a while his sobs turn to cries, and slowly they dissipate.

“Kody, you need to say goodbye. I will come in with you if you want.”

The nurse returns with a doctor in toe, but I stop them before they have a chance to enter the room.

“My Dad is in there, and we need more time!”

“Of course, I just wanted to check on her, but I will come back. Just let the nurse know when you are ready. Take your time,” the doctor softly says.

Together we all enter the room. Dad is standing over Mum, talking to her in whispers only she can hear. He takes her face gently in the palm of his hands, and lightly kisses her forehead, then her lips. Their final kiss, as he drenches her cheeks with his tears.

Dad sits, his body trembling. I take one of Kody’s hands and gently guide him over to Mum.

“Kody, hold Mum’s hand.”

Just then I realise, he hasn’t touched her the entire time we have been here – how did I miss that?

“Do you want to be alone with her?”

“No, please can you all stay with me? I don’t want to be alone,” he replies, looking defeated.

So we stay. Dad, Brie and I sit in the chairs around the bed, and Kody finally takes her hand.

“Mum, I want to tell you something,” he startles when her eyes open. We gasp in unison. “Mum, I love you. Remember that day I fell out of the tree and broke my arm? I swore at you, told you I hated you. I didn’t mean it, none of it. I have felt like crap ever since. I guess that is why I play up, because I still remember the hurt in your eyes, when you were only trying to help. I’ve been an ungrateful son for a while now. I wish…I wish I had have known then what I know now. I would have listened more, instead all I did was cause you problems. You always stood by me, and now it’s too late. I should have told you when you were well, how much I love you,” he says, the tears flowing freely; Mum is looking him right in the eyes – they are identical.

“Kody, I love you and I know you didn’t mean those things you said. Let it go my Son, I am so very proud of you,” she reaches up slowly and wipes away his tears.

He leans in and kisses her cheeks. The moment is so sad I burst out crying. Mum is now coherent, so we rush to her. She looks us all individually in the eyes and says how much she loves us. We have enough time to say we love her too, then she closes her eyes. Her arms go limp, she lets go of Dad’s hand, then mine. We hear her final breath, and we know that she has gone.

After a while we call in the doctor. He checks her vitals, then pronounces the time she died, and tells us to stay as long as we need. I brush her hair, wipe her face with a warm flannel, and we stay until the nurse comes to tell us it is time to leave her be. Dad stays, saying he will make the necessary arrangements and that we should go home and get some sleep. As Brie, Kody and I leave the room, I hear Dad talking to her as if she is alive and everything is normal. People grieve in different ways. It isn’t going to get harder from here, I have to believe it will get better, consoled by the fact Mum is now at peace.

Together we walk outside, into the breaking dawn, bursts of orange and red spread their fingers across the sky. The rain has finally stopped. We emerge into a hum of activity, starting out on the street. We are grieving; my Mum is dead – yet the world keeps turning. I will remember this day as long as I live. I’m in a bewildered state, waiting for it to fully hit. I’ll wait until we are safely home before I let it take me under. Silently, I thank God for making Mum’s ending peaceful. I ask Him to take care of her, until we meet again.


Copyright © Gibson, Del 2022

February 10, 2022 22:09

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