From Opposite Sides

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Chapter 29

The house has never felt so empty. The first thing I do is take care of the pills on the table. I chuck them in the bin, along with the bottle.

Then I step in the shower and release everything. I am crying so hard, that it’s difficult to distinguish my tears from the water pouring over me.

Images of my mother lying there in my arms, unresponsive, keep playing in my mind. I thought she was going to die.

What would I have done if she had?

I would have been carrying the guilt of believing it was my fault that she tried to kill herself and that’s not fair.

I get dressed into clean clothes and pack some spare outfits to take to the hospital and some things for mum. Tears blur my eyes.

How is anyone meant to get past seeing someone they love go to the extreme of trying to end their life?

I need to ask her why she did it, without sounding bitter or angry.

My thoughts are quick to remind me about the college project and that if I don’t manage to finish by the deadline, I’m going to fail and there’s no way we’re going to get it done by the end of next week - not under these circumstances.

I’ve got to accept that what I want isn’t part of the equation anymore. I have a responsibility to care for my mother. I’ve always cared for her anyway, but this is different. Now I can’t trust that she’s safe to be left alone at all. Everything has changed.

There’s a loud knock at the door so I go to unlock it. Someone is carrying a large bunch of flowers, but I can’t see above the mass of petals. A man’s head finally peeps at me from behind the bouquet.

“Can I help you?” I ask him.

He takes a small step back. “Sorry... my name is Ted. I heard about what happened to your mother. I wanted to pay my respect by bringing some flowers.”

So, this is Ted.

He’s not a looker, let’s just put it that way and he’s definitely a lot older than my mother. He’s a short, stocky looking man with barely any hair and the clothes he’s wearing look like they’ve been slept in.

I take the flowers. “Thanks Ted. I’ll be sure to give them to her when she wakes up.”

“How is she doing?”

“Not great, but the doctors have said she could start responding at any time now.”

He nods. “Tell her I was thinking about her, would you?”

I grip the flowers tightly. “Sure thing.”

“Bye then.”

“Bye.”

I place the flowers down on the table and grab mum’s bus ticket. I’ve spent enough time here. I’ve got to go back and face the music.

|||

I’m allowed to sit with mum again when the doctors are finished with their observation. Michelle tells me she has to go before it gets dark, so it’s just me and my mother left in the room. Some of the colour has returned to her face and she’s looking a lot better.

I sit on the visitor’s chair and lean against the hard leather, watching her breathe in and out. The heaviness weighs down on my own eyelids and I realize how tired I am. When I can no longer keep them open, I’m pulled into a memory.

I’m five years old. Mummy is going out again. A different man is waiting at the door this time. He’s scary looking, tall and large in stature. I hide behind mummy’s leg, as he fills the doorway, smiling down at me and showcasing a fine line of crooked teeth.

I wish mummy was staying with me and not going somewhere with this scary man. I cry when she’s gone and keep peeping through the letterbox, hoping she’ll come back soon. The babysitter is mostly doing her own thing. She’s watching a show on TV and couldn’t care less about what I’m doing.

My eyes are sore towards the end of the night, from so many tears. I curl into a ball on the floor and shut my eyes, letting my imagination wander.

I imagine I’m in a castle and that mummy is there. She remains at my side and never fails to let me down. When the evil warlocks come to destroy the castle, mummy protects me.

When I open my eyes, she’s still not there and her promise has been broken once again. No matter how much I try to imagine I’m somewhere else, it’s not working anymore. A glimmer of hope is lost amongst the despair. Not even my imagination can save me now.

A soft, yet forceful command brings me out of my slumber. The pain evaporates and with it, a pair of familiar almond shaped green eyes come into view. It takes several seconds for my brain to work out where I am.

My cheeks are on fire once I discover that Rory is the person kneeling in front of me, hand resting on my forehead. “Hey, you’ve got a bit of a temperature. Have you had any food today?”

I totally forgot about food. I haven’t had much of an appetite. Now that Rory has mentioned ‘food’ to me though, my stomach gurgles – indicating that if I don’t eat something soon, I’m going to be the next person in a hospital bed.

Rory leaves the room and returns with a handful of snacks. I waste no time devouring everything I set my sights on as he sits back and watches me scoff my face with cake and chocolate. He must think I’m a pig.

I start making grunting noises when the taste of chocolate hits the tip of my tongue. I didn’t realize how hungry I was.

I glance at Rory. He’s reading a book. “What are you reading?” I ask, watching his head whip in my direction.

“Oh, it’s a...” he briefly looks at the title on the front and I chuckle. He doesn’t even know what book it is. “It’s called, The Note.”

“What’s it about?”

“Uh, well, that’s the thing... it’s complicated. There are a lot of words.”

“What’s the main character’s name?”

“G - Gertrude.”

I raise an eyebrow, quizzically. “Gertrude?” He nods. “That’s funny, because on the synopsis at the back, it says the girls name is Leah.” He checks for himself and meets my stare with a guilty smile. “You’ve been pretending to read that this entire time, haven’t you?”

His shoulders unwind at the revelation. “Yup. I had no idea it was going to be a chick lit number or whatever it’s called. They’re not my favourites.” He places the book on the cabinet and follows my gaze to mum’s bed. “Do you know what you’re going to say to her when she wakes up?”

“I’ve thought about it. But I have no idea. There’s so much that I want to say and so much that I don’t know how to say. Do you get what I mean?”

Rory lowers his head. “Yeah. Expressing how you feel, can be one of the hardest things to do, especially when the words won’t come.”

I let that soak in. “Do you believe in God?” I ask, watching his eyes go a little wide.

“Um, I don’t know. Why?”

“It was a miracle that my mum survived and that I found her when I did. Any later and she might not have made it. It was the perfect timing.”

“I guess I do believe that all of us were placed here for a purpose,” Rory says, adjusting his position on the chair. “But the idea of God seems so far away. If God exists, why do bad things happen to good people?”

“I don’t know.”

“There are too many what ifs,” he mutters, softly. Rory clenches his jaw. “I just struggle to understand how God works, that’s all.”

“I’ve wondered that too, especially when I was younger and bad things were happening. I used to wonder why they were happening to me and what I could have done to deserve it.”

Rory clears his throat. “I admire your strength Skye,” he says, delivering me into complete silence. “The way that you care for your mum is inspiring.”

I blink away the tears that pool in my eyes, shocked that they are forming so easily. I thought I’d already released my emotions.

Apparently not.

Rory takes a step forward and rests his hand on my forearm. He gives me time to heal, never once letting me go.

“I didn’t mean to make you cry,” he says, into my hair. “It was meant to be a compliment.”

I bury my head into his shoulder. “I know. It’s just... nobody’s ever said that to me before.”

“Well, it’s the truth. You’re always putting other people before yourself and that’s rare.”

It’s strange hearing him say this.

“You haven’t been dealt an easy ride yourself Rory. I find you equally inspiring. You’ve shown great strength caring for your nan and sister over the years.”

Our eyes meet, and the breath catches in my throat. Rory gets to his feet and it looks like he’s about to leave. “I should get going,” he says, glancing away.

I force a smile on my face and try to hide the disappointment. “Yeah, you probably should.” He throws me a sympathetic look and I walk him to the door. “Thanks for coming. It means a lot.”

He turns back to me suddenly. “That’s what friends are for, right?”

There he goes again dropping the F bomb. I’m really starting to hate that word. “Right.”

Rory’s eyes drop to the floor. He bites the inside of his cheek, avoiding looking at me. I stare at him, unblinking. Then he rushes out of the room and doesn’t turn back.

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