12 comments

General

     A steady stream of rain tapped against the window. My left eye twitched to the beat. It was only a matter of time now. I sucked in a breath. “Would I survive this? Would she? Is it too late to learn to pray?"


People in colorful uniforms whizzed by with purpose. Some pushed carts, others held charts. Fumes from pungent disinfectant forced a fit of sneezing while I sat on the bench holding my cousin. An elderly man in a mask across from us glared, then stood and moved quickly away.


Code 99, ICU


I jerked my head in the direction of the speaker. “No. Please. Not yet,” I whispered.


A team in scrubs flew past us. My cousin, Mary, touched my sleeve. Her small fingers trembled. My heart sank. I tried for a reassuring smile.


Code 99, ICU STAT


People flew from every direction. Mary’s lip quivered. Her dark eyes rounded in fear. I bit back the rising bile while more medical personnel rushed into my Aunt’s ICU room. Tubes and machines covered her entire body.


 “Why had she left? She knew better.” I tried to get angry with her but sighed instead. My Aunt was the only adult female who had ever cared about me. Imagining life without her… A slight tug on my sleeve reminded me my cousin waited for reassurance.


Before I could respond, an older woman with a pinched face walked in our direction. The echo of her heels announced her arrival.


“Crap,” I thought. I recognized her kind. They had visited my home before. It was never a good thing.”


“My name is Miss Thomas,” she began. The gray-haired woman sat down beside my cousin and reached for her hand. Mary moved it away, snuggling closer to me.


Miss Thomas frowned. “I’m from the department of social services, dear,” she said with a forced smile. “I’m going to need you and your cousin to come with me until your mother gets better,” she said standing.


“But… my mom,” Mary started.


“Your mother is exactly where she needs to be. She's getting the best medical care in the tri-state area,” Miss Thomas condescended, puffing her chest out. “There is nothing you can do for her right now, dear.”


I grit my teeth and put my arm around Mary’s slender shoulders, shielding her from DSS lady. She began to sob so terribly that her whole body shakes.


“Do not punch Miss Thomas in the face,” I repeated to myself several times while giving her a nasty glare. I raised my head and looked her straight in the eye. “We are not going anywhere until we find out what’s happening in there.” I turned toward Mary and hugged her tighter.


More alarms blared. My Aunt’s room burst with activity. Machines went in, people came running out. Mary and I rushed toward the door.


“This isn’t the place for her,” Miss Thomas hissed near my ear. “Is this the last memory you want her to have of her mother?” She took a step closer, eyes narrowing, “You are the last person in the world who should be interfering.” She looked down her nose at me as she continued, “My notes indicate your mother is the reason Mary is in this situation to begin with.”


I blanched as heat flooded my face. "Way to shove the knife straight through my heart." I closed my eyes and took a breath, trying to swallow past the lump lodged in my throat. I turned back to Mary, meeting her troubled gaze.


“What do you want to do?” I asked her.


“I want to… need to stay,” she whimpered.


I opened my mouth to speak when two serious looking uniformed officers marched into the ICU waiting room.


“Really?” I groaned when they started in our direction. DSS lady smirked and moved closer to Mary.


“Which one of you is Angel Reed?” The officer on my right asked. He was a tall, slim man with piercing blue eyes. The female officer stayed back, scanning the activity in Mary’s mother’s room and then in the area around the hallway.


I sighed. “I’m Angel.”


“I need you to ask you a few questions,” he said, motioning to the other side of the hallway.


I walked over to Mary. “If you want to stay, stay. You should be allowed to be here.” DSS lady glared at me. “I’ll be right back,” I hugged Mary and went across the hall to the waiting officers.


“I’m sorry about your mother,” he started.


“Thank you,” I nodded.


“Can you tell us anything about the shooting?” he asked, whipping a notepad from his front pocket.


“My mom’s been missing for over a week," I started. It's nothing unusual. She wanders off sometimes."


"How did your Aunt get involved?" He asked.


"She sent Mary and I to the movies, to try take my mind off things," I said. "When we came back, a neighbor told us she had been involved in some sort of shooting. He told us my mother died on the way to the hospital.” Tears began to stream down my face.


The female officer put a hand on my shoulder, thinking I was crying for the loss of my mother. I shook my head. “I stopped crying for her a long time ago.” I wiped my tears on my shirt. “My Aunt doesn’t deserve this, neither does Mary.”


The officers looked at each other. “Any idea what might have happened?” The male officer asked.


I shrugged. “My mother used drugs; lived on the streets most of the time. She went from one man to the next. She owed people money. It could have been any scenario,” I answered. “I honestly don’t know. I’d help you if I could.”


“How have you survived?” The female officer asked, shaking her head.


“My Aunt helps me a lot." Fresh tears welled in my eyes. I fought to push them back. “I work two jobs and we live in the low-income apartments. If I pay the rent on time, DSS only pokes around occasionally.”


“Are you safe?” The lady officer asked, flicking through her notes.


“I can take care of myself,” I said.


She nodded. “What will you do now?”


I shrugged, “I’ll figure it out.”


An agonized wail split the air. Ten-year-old Mary fell to her knees and screamed, “No Mommy, no. Please don't leave me."


My heart sank as I watched the nursing staff try to comfort her. DSS lady tried to pull her by the arm.


“Angel,” she screamed my name.


I ran to my cousin and picked her up from the ground. Holding her limp, shaking form, I tried to comfort her. It wasn’t my specialty. Thank God she didn’t seem to notice. I held her tighter, stroking her long brown braids while she clung to my neck and sobbed deeply.


My heart shatters into pieces when I'm forced to say goodbye to my little cousin. DSS lady sent her to live with a foster family several towns away. They sign off on me. My eighteenth birthday is only two months away. I know what I need to do. There were debts I needed to pay. Mine and my mother’s.


Several months later…


The school bus bumps and grinds to a halt. Brakes screeching. My left eye begins a snappy twitch until the irritating sound stops. Noise will always be a trigger for me. I’m working through it. Waiting… to heal.


A group of laughing children begin to rise in anticipation of a long holiday weekend. I stand in line with all the other parents… waiting.


A smile bursts inside when I see her. A dark-haired beauty with braids and a mischievous twinkle in her brown eyes. She jumps down from the last step and launches herself into my arms. The ice around my heart begins to thaw.


Mary reaches for my hand as we walk home. She puts her small hand into mine and squeezes. A fierce protectiveness overwhelms me. I know will walk through the bowls of hell itself to keep this girl safe. To give her the life I never had. Waiting… for her to have the chance to change the world.

July 09, 2020 06:14

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

12 comments

Ophoke Leonard
09:04 Jul 15, 2020

oh, this story touched me. From hope to hell and finally, confidence sustained her and thanks for been there for her. Patience is a difficult virtue but keep it up it pays. waiting for more from you. Kudos

Reply

Show 0 replies
Blane Britt
11:42 Jul 12, 2020

I like it as dumb and dumber would say a lot!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Lynn Penny
21:50 Jul 09, 2020

This was a great piece, it hits hard on the emotions and that worked wonders for the plot. I felt bad for Mary and connected with the main character. You did an awesome job making it feel real.

Reply

Show 0 replies
19:16 Jul 17, 2020

Your characters are unbelievably human and relatable. I immediately felt for Angel and her, "crap," statement at the approaching DSS lady hit home like a ton of bricks. It was just honest and familiar. Great story!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Cheri Jalbert
16:40 Jul 16, 2020

Thanks so much for reading and for the critique! I'm always open to advice, it helps me grow. Yeah, lol, I may have made her a villian of sorts in Jade`s view due to her prior experience, but I could tone it down. Thank you again for sharing your thoughts.

Reply

Show 0 replies
J Lindsay
06:26 Jul 16, 2020

I really enjoyed this one (maybe enjoyed isn't the right word...) It was really well written, and takes the reader on an emotional journey, and you pause at just the right moments. Like talking about how your main character isn't great at emotional support, but her cousin doesn't notice. I'm trying to leave a little constructive criticism in all feedback (hopefully it's appreciated, sorry if it's not) - maybe be a little careful with the DSS woman; she sometimes gets a little close to being an 'evil' caricature. Other than that, one ...

Reply

Show 0 replies
J Lindsay
06:25 Jul 16, 2020

I really enjoyed this one (maybe enjoyed isn't the right word...) It was really well written, and takes the reader on an emotional journey, and you pause at just the right moments. Like talking about how your main character isn't great at emotional support, but her cousin doesn't notice. I'm trying to leave a little constructive criticism in all feedback (hopefully it's appreciated, sorry if it's not) - maybe be a little careful with the DSS woman; she sometimes gets a little close to being an 'evil' caricature. Other than that, one ...

Reply

Show 0 replies
Cheri Jalbert
18:29 Jul 15, 2020

I appreciate your kind words. It means a lot!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Cheri Jalbert
18:28 Jul 15, 2020

Thank you so much for taking the time to read. I'm glad you enjoyed!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Shivani Manocha
15:55 Jul 15, 2020

Simple yet extremely powerful emotions! I just feel that death is the most simplest yet the hardest pain, affliction life can bring to us. Well-written!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Cheri Jalbert
00:18 Jul 10, 2020

Thanks so much for reading and leaving feedback. It means a lot to get such wonderful feedback!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Roshna Rusiniya
11:18 Jul 09, 2020

This is a beautiful story. I loved it especially the last paragraph. Mary is a lucky girl!

Reply

Show 0 replies