Copyright is held by the author.
I NEVER liked my English class much. I found it difficult to write essays and I could never finish any books we were assigned to read because they were boring and illogical. Once we had to read this play about a prince whose father’s ghost told him to avenge his death. I thought it was weird that he had been listening to his father’s ghost in the first place. I wouldn’t listen to my dad’s ghost if he told me to do something. Even if that meant I had the opportunity to see him again.
Growing up in a large town there was a mall and a movie theatre in a plaza close by, but I normally didn’t hang around there. All the kids from my school hung out there on Friday nights, but I didn’t like talking to them. This one blonde girl from my phys Ed class always used to talk about the new frozen yogurt place and how the Cotton Candy Carnival was her favourite flavour. That didn’t sound too appetizing to me. Cotton candy was too sticky and dissolved too quickly in your mouth. I liked to savour my food and not have it instantly disappear when it hit my tongue. Instead my Friday nights consisted of me staying home and drinking hot cocoa with my mum because I knew she needed someone to talk to about her week. My mum worked at the bank and her job consisted of calling random phone numbers trying to convince people to buy into the bank’s promotions. This one time she told me that a customer got so mad at her for calling that he threatened to sue the company for excessive personal disruption because he apparently had received hundreds of phone calls from various banks that same week and the call from mum had put him over the edge. Mum was so nervous that she almost told her boss, but decided to vent to me instead.
“I wish I could tell him, Kate,” she said. “But he’ll think I’m crazy, I know it. Do you think he’ll believe me?” She went back to work the following Monday and decided not to tell anyone at work that they may have a potential lawsuit on their hands. She was afraid that she might get fired or that this would give her coworkers an excuse to call her crazy again. She couldn’t risk it.
This one Friday I came home from school and found mum sitting in the dining room with a steak knife in her hand. There were bloody etchings on her right forearm, and a large gash on her left. She wasn’t supposed to be home until eight that night and it was only three in the afternoon.
“Did your shift end early mum? Do you need me to call Doctor Lassing?”
Doctor Lassing was mum’s therapist. He had been ever since dad died. Mum had found dad hanging in the linen closet after work three years ago and ever since then she had started cutting. No one had noticed it, not even me, until one day the police showed up at my door and told me that mum had been admitted to the hospital because “she wasn’t feeling well.” They told me that she accidentally cut her hands on the razor blades at the drug store, after trying to open the package. While mum was in the hospital, this woman stayed with me for the night and even took me to school and made me a turkey sandwich. When I came home that day, she was in the kitchen drinking hot cocoa and mum was with her. Mum looked tired and her hands were in bandages, but she gave me a kiss on the head and told me to finish my homework. For the next few days, this woman visited mum and drank hot cocoa with her in the living room. Then she stopped coming and that’s when Doctor Lassing started to call.
“Good evening Kate, how are you?” He always said that to me every time he called. Sometimes I didn’t even have to say anything when I answered, because he knew that it was me on the other line. I liked that about him. Even though I had never met him, I pictured him as being a tall man with glasses and dark hair in his mid 60s. His voice was deep, but not so deep that you couldn’t understand what he was saying, but perfectly in tuned like when the little dial on the radio is perfectly lined up to your favourite station so that you can’t hear any static or fuzz. You can guess a lot about how a person looks, just based on what they sound like. I was sure that my mental description of him was right.
“Mum is in the washroom now Doctor Lassing. Do you want me to take a message for you?”
“Oh no that’s quite all right, I’ll give her a call later. Take care, Kate.”
This had been the first time in months that mum had started cutting again. I had been getting used to these occasional episodes and normally I would just bandage up her hands, but this time things were different. I had never seen her bleed so much before and the colour was redder than normal. Her face was as white as a ghost and her dark hair was stringy, but she always managed to look so pretty. Everyone said that I looked like her, but I didn’t see it. My hair was short and my nose was much wider than hers, but I liked being compared to her. I wanted to be just like her when I grew up.
I didn’t wait for her to answer my question, so I took the phone from the kitchen and dialed Doctor Lassing’s office number. I had it memorized, but there was no answer. I tried his cell number this time but all I got was the voicemail.
“Hello. You have reached the cell number of Doctor Robert Lassing. I am not able to take your call, but if this is an emergency please dial 911. Thank you.”
The 911 operator told me her name was Susan and that help was going to arrive soon.
“Just apply pressure to your mom’s hands with a cloth, Kate. This will help to stop the bleeding. I’ve sent for help. They should be there soon.”
I did what Susan asked me and already I had begun to notice a change. The bleeding had stopped and mum’s face had started to gain colour, but she had an expressionless look on her face and was staring right at me with her big, blue eyes. Like large drops of blue paint scattered against a white canvas. They were bold and beautiful, but mostly chaotic and wet.
“Mum help is coming, I promise. Someone is coming.”
“Kate. I’m sorry. I couldn’t save him. I’m sorry, Kate.”
“It’s okay mum, you’re going to be all right. I’m always here, forever and always.”
The last gift that dad bought for mum was for their 20th wedding anniversary. It was a heart -shaped locket with a picture of the three of us inside, and engraved on the back was “forever and always” in a cursive font. Mum loved that necklace because it reminded her of their relationship together. The relationship that now existed in the past and not the present or the future. She still wore that necklace because she wanted to hold on to the past. I suddenly realized that she didn’t want me to save her, which is why she never told me about the cutting. I thought she was stronger but she didn’t even want a future with me. She didn’t want me.
I let go of her hands and placed the cloth on the table.
I didn’t even turn around as I ran out the front door. She never loved me, I thought. All she cared about was him and all he did was leave her alone in this world. He didn’t even tell her what was making him sad, but sometimes people can’t. Sometimes they keep it all bottled up inside of them for so long that they reach a breaking point and for that split second they aren’t even thinking of what or who they are leaving behind. Maybe in the end the best thing to do is leave them struggle with their own emotions and do whatever they feel is necessary to deal, even if that means ending their own life. I realized that I had to stop helping mum and give her the peace that she had been longing for. I didn’t feel bad for leaving her because I knew that this was what she wanted and I had to let her go. I only wished that the last thing I had said to her wasn’t that I would be there forever and always, because I knew that wasn’t true. I couldn’t give her forever and always and I wished I hadn’t lied to her by saying that. I wished I could’ve changed things.
As I was walking down the forest path behind my house, I noticed how beautiful the trees were and how green the grass was. I had never noticed these things before when I would come for walks with dad, but now I was able to see them in a new perspective. There was this one tree that was so large that it looked like it filled up half of the forest and the leaves on it were a shade of green that I had never seen before. It was a dark shade, but not dark enough to be black. Then there were these flowers that were so yellow that I never even knew that particular shade could exist. I picked one up and the inside was filled with a gold powder that was shiny on my finger tips and when I sprinkled it on the leaves, they shimmered.
The old cemetery had marked the end of the forest path. There must have been hundreds of tombstones because I always lost count when I tried to add them up. I weaved my way in and out looking at the various names and year dates written on them. When I reached the other side I stopped and looked out at the horizon of tombstones, until the ones farthest from me were nothing more than little bumps in the ground. I wondered what the last thing the little bumps said to their mums was.