Goodbye's don't always mean Forever

Submitted into Contest #89 in response to: Write a story where one person is trying to say goodbye but keeps getting interrupted.... view prompt

3 comments

Sad

It was windy, like most days now.

Ma in the hospital, gray as the clouds that loomed above.

Her eye sockets were hollow, filled in deep with tear stains like a muddy puddle after a storm.

Everything was dark today.

Lightning crashes and the cat runs under the table.

She was still just a kitty, black fur of fluff with some white making a T on her face.

We called her Tee, as creative as we were at the time.

Barkley, our big old Ridgeback, can’t smell or quite hear anymore.

He’s an old dog but will still come up to cuddle you with his large, warm body.

He didn’t know there was a storm brewing, or that it had already started really.

He didn’t even blink open one of his eyes, not even slightly, how poorly unaware he was of the world around him now.

I watch as the rain comes pouring down, the droplets racing down the windows like they have somewhere else to be.

I have somewhere to be.

But I won’t go.

The doctors called my older sister and told her that we need to come down there as soon as possible. Ma wasn’t doing good and Mr. Kepler tells us she won’t last much longer. I still don’t believe him. Even after the fight I had with my sister about it the other day.

She was crying and I found her in a fetal position on the bed.

I crept in beside her, the bed creaking a little at my weight.

She looked me in the eyes and told me that we needed to have a talk.

So I made some tea, as I always do. Green for her, ginger for me. 

I set down her steaming cup as it was starting to burn my already calloused fingers.

She nodded a thank you and found my eyes once more.

“You know she’s gonna die, right?” 

I was startled at how brutal the words were to my bleeding ears. 

No.

She promised me she was going to be with us always. She promised to be there for my 13th birthday. She promised me she would attend my graduation when I was older and done with college, she said she’d be the loudest one there. She promised me she would be there for my every breakup, for my wedding day. She promised me that she would comfort me in all my times of desperate need. She promised...To be my mother forever. 

So Brandy’s words were not true, couldn’t be true.

“You’re lying,” I said. I had tried to sound confident and sure but my voice betrayed me as it cracked.

“Oliver.”

I didn’t answer.

“Oliver, look at me,” her voice was pleading, tears in her eyes.

“She’d never abandon us! HOW DARE YOU SAY SOMETHING LIKE THAT!,” I screamed, rage burning my throat like wildfire. I was crying too and in my fit of unstable emotion I leapt forward and grabbed her hair, pulling it. I might be only twelve, but I was still strong.

She shrieked and threw me off her.

“She’s NEVER COMING BACK!,” was Brandy’s reply as she stared at me. I was on the floor and she had stood up. Her face broke and she started crying. She put a hand over her mouth.

“I’m sorry,” and she left the room in a fit of tears.

I felt terrible after that and haven’t talked to her since, I’m so ashamed. 

She works a lot so it’s easy to avoid her. 

***

The phone starts ringing.

I get up from my perch beside the windowsill, looking back once at the pelting rain and the soothing sound it made.

Brandy was at work right now so I had to answer the phone.

“Yes, this is the Marsh’s house, how may I help you.”

I liked answering the phone. 

It made me feel sophisticated and mature.

“Oliver! Hurry and get dressed...I’m coming...to pick you up okay? You need to really be quick about this alright? I’m almost home...We need to...The hospital called...Gosh Oliver just be ready,” she hung up. It sounded as if she had been crying, breathing in between like she was losing air. 

I was ready when I heard the car honk outside.

***

My blue rain boots made a satisfying plonk on the pavement as we ran toward the hospital doors.

Brandy hadn’t even bothered with an umbrella so I knew something was wrong. Her hair was getting all dark and wet, curling at the edges.

In we went and Brandy looked frantically left and right like she didn’t know where to go.

She bent her head and pinched the space between her eyes that was located on her nose. When she finally got a hold of herself, she dropped her hand and grasped mine. Her nose was red from the pressure of her pinch.

I looked down at our clasped hands and then looked up to Brandy’s face.

She smiled at me, a closed mouth smile and it almost made me feel better.

I still don’t understand why she had us hurry so much to get here.

I realized we were headed to Ma’s room.

No.

I couldn’t go in there.

I didn’t want to.

I was scared.

Scared of my own mother and this realization made me contrite.

I kept my head low and we walked in.

“Good, you made it,” said Ms. Fallow, Ma’s nurse.

“I’ll leave you some privacy,” and she exited through the door.

Brandy knelt down to meet my face.

“Say goodbye, OK?,” her voice was high pitched, her lips wavering.

I finally lifted my head.

And there she was.

My mother.

My mother that had promised…

I was angry and didn’t look into her sunken eyes, like ships that had fallen victim to the ocean’s roughness.

Her hand was brittle, I hadn’t realized she had grabbed mine.

They were just bones, the skin so thin you could see the blue blood underneath. They were soft and light too, like a flower petal.

I mustered up the courage to look at her face.

Her pale, bald, kind face.

A mother’s face who had fought all she had left in her.

I was angry at her.

At cancer.

Couldn’t it tell that she’s had enough.

My mother is strong, she had to win.

Didn’t she?

“I…,” I began, but couldn’t finish it.

My goodbye was interrupted by my mind.

It showed me things. 

Things to hold on to.

Things most precious to me.

Memories.

***

The ground was mushy under my bare feet.

It had rained the previous day but that didn’t stop my mother from convincing Brandy and I to have a picnic.

“No one will be there. It’ll be just us,” she had said, all smiles and warmth. She even put on a fancy floral dress for the occasion.

And she was right.

A whole field, just to us.

It made me happy.

Brandy laid the checkered red and white mat down and sat on it as the wind threatened to have it claimed as its own.

Ma laughed as she twirled around with me on the grass.

Brandy just watched but I knew she was having a good time too.

“What if,” my mother bit her lip, “We all got ICE CREAM!”

I yelled back a glorious “yes” and danced around some more.

Brandy did the same, taking my hand and running towards the place we knew.

We went there frequently, Brandy always trying a new flavour, me, never getting a new one.

Moose Tracks, it was all I’d ever want, in terms of dessert of course.

Ma got Mint Chocolate Chip while Brandy got some unheard of concoction.

We were all content that afternoon, sticky hands and awful jokes shared.

And I sat in mother’s lap as she gave me kisses and traded secrets and sugar-coated promises.

I never wanted to let go.

***

I never want to let go, I can’t.

I was fighting the urge to let all my emotion out and doing so made my throat feel weird. Like someone was choking me.

“Oliver..,” My mother croaked, her gentle voice gone.

I had to let go.

I had to.

Did I really have to?

“I…,” I began again.

But my goodbye was interrupted a second time by my heart.

It made me feel things.

It made me feel love.

All the love she gave to me, all the love she gave to us.

All the love I could never let go.

I didn’t want to.

My heart pumped all her love and would soon run out, needing more of her endearment each and every day to survive. 

Love and devotion and adoration seeped inside of me, all of it that only a mother could give.

I didn’t ever want to run out.

But…

How could I stop it?

How could I keep her alive?

“Oliver...please...say something to me my dear,” Ma’s voice was hardly above a whisper, summoning a whimper from my tight lips.

“I…”

My soul didn’t want to say goodbye.

Every part of me never wanted her to end.

Everything I had inside me was talking over the words I knew I would have to say.

“Don’t. Don’t say the words to make it true! You don’t have to face this, she will live on. She has to!” they all cried inside of me. This can’t be happening. She promised, she promised to be my mother forever!

“Don’t. You can’t lose the memories that haven’t yet been made!,” my mind screamed.

“Don’t. You can’t afford to lose the love that keeps you warm inside!,” my heart cried.

“You can’t. She is your mother. Your everything. Life can’t go on without her! You can’t go on without her! Never let her GO!,” my soul raged.

Then….everything went silent.

“I…,” my voice now sounded like Ma’s, a speck of dust in the gale, hardly seen, hardly heard.

“It’s OK Ollie. You’ll never lose me. I’ll always be with you, with everything inside you. Never forget that. I promise you,” her breathing grew heavy.

She would never leave me…because she was my mother.

And that truth was the truest of them all.

“I love you mom,” I said, sealing the unsaid words into ones made. I had given her my goodbye, and with that, she had been able to go. But I knew, she would never ever be fully gone. And I knew that goodbye’s didn’t always mean forever.




April 12, 2021 23:39

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3 comments

Alayna Snedden
13:55 Apr 18, 2021

Wow, this made me tear up. I love how Oliver is a relatable character. I am so glad to see that he was able to tell his mom that he loved her before she passed. Great story!

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Chloe :)
21:19 Apr 20, 2021

Thank you for your feedback! I also read your bio, thank you for serving!

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Alayna Snedden
13:24 Apr 22, 2021

Of course, and thank you!

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