Anna moaned tiredly as her hand flailed in search of the alarm clock that was telling her it was time to wake up.
Bleary eyed, she looked at the face and saw that it was 5:30 in the morning.
"Another beautiful day in hell," she mumbled to herself, finally slapping the off switch.
Stretching like a cat, she slowly swung her legs over the edge of her mattress and pushed herself up.
Sighing, she stood and began her morning routine of getting showered and dressed in an over-sized sweater that had seen better days, leggings and a pair of worn boots.
Making sure her homework was finished and packed in her bag, she carried it to the kitchen of her small studio apartment so she wouldn't forget it when she left.
Checking the clock on the stove, Anna saw that she only had enough time to grab a breakfast bar if she was going to have time to visit her mom before she went to her classes.
Pouring herself a travel mug of black coffee, Anna added three scoops of sugar. It wasn't the greatest breakfast, but the sugar did add calories she wouldn't get otherwise.
"Morning mom," she said, stepping into her mom's nursing home room seeing the frail looking woman staring blankly out the window. "How are you feeling this morning?"
Even though she knew her mother was too sick to answer, Anna still asked the question like she did every morning.
Most people would probably find it silly to talk to someone who couldn't respond, but Anna found it helpful to pretend her mother understood her and would respond if she could.
"I took my biology midterm," she said cheerfully, pressing the button on the beds remote to raise her mom into a sitting position. "I think I got an A.
"Here we go," she crooned, adjusting blankets that had slipped down.
After making sure they were secure, Anna picked up the cup of water on her mom's bedside table. With practiced hands, she dipped a sponge-tipped stick, similar to a lollipop, into the clear liquid and ran it across her mother's dry lips.
"Anna?" a voice said behind her.
"I'm here Jennifer," she replied to the nurse who'd just stepped into the room.
"Here," Jennifer said, setting down the clipboard in her hand and motioning for the water cup, "let me help you with that.
"How were your midterms?" the nurse asked, dabbing more water on her patients pallid lips.
"I think I did okay," Anna replied, picking up a comb to run it through her mother's brittle hair. "I think I got an A in biology."
"Good for you," Jennifer replied genuinely happy for the young woman.
Looking at her watch, Anna gasped.
"Shit!!" she said, "I'm gonna be late for my history midterm."
Kissing her mom tenderly on the forehead, she hurried towards the door.
"Also," she sighed, stopping at the door when she remembering something, "I'm working late tonight, so if you can make sure and let Laura know I won't be in tonight, I will be forever grateful."
"I will," Jennifer replied, already setting to work to get her mother ready for breakfast. "Get going."
With a sad, tired smile, Anna took one last look at her mom before closing the door and hurrying across the frost covered parking lot to her car.
It wasn't much, just a two door, twenty year old Honda Civic that got her from point A to B as long as she made sure it had oil in the engine, but it was hers.
Pulling into traffic, Anna did her best to ignore the gnawing hunger deep in her stomach, hoping that her coffee would make the ache go away. She didn't have the extra money to hit the drive thru today... Any day really.
Since her mom got sick, every penny she earned went to pay for round the clock care in the nursing home. She'd had to sell the house, her mom's car, and basically anything that was of value to make sure the only person left in the world that she loved was taken care of.
All Anna had kept was her old bed, a beat up overstuffed chair that was too worn out to sell, a desk and lamp, kitchen supplies, and a few boxes of memorabilia. These she'd moved into her shitty little apartment.
Thankfully she'd managed to earn a full ride scholarship to college based on her grades in high school, because without them she'd have no hope of a better future.
Turning into the parking lot, Anna took the closest space she could find to the history building.
Looking at herself in the rear view mirror, she saw just how dark the circles under her eyes were and how pale and sickly she'd gotten since her mom got sick.
No matter how hard she pinched her cheeks, it did nothing to add color to her pale reflection.
Sighing at the uselessness and futility of vanity, Anna grabbed her bag and stepped out of her car shivering as the cold winter air cut through her sweater.
Tucking her keys into the side pocket of her bag, she lowered her head against the wind and tried to hurry across the lot to her first class.
Halfway across the road, Anna heard the screeching of tires and the blaring of a horn as a car came racing through the lot aiming straight for her.
Dodging out of the way, she felt the heat from the vehicles engine as it came to a stop right over the place she'd been standing only two seconds before as she stumbled to her knees.
"Get out of the way stupid!!" the driver called, flicking his cigarette out the passenger window at her.
Revving the car, he shifted it back into gear and drove off not even bothering to make sure Anna was okay.
"Fuck you Stephen," Anna called after the Mustang as it turned into the next aisle.
"What a dick," she breathed, brushing dirt from her knees as she pushed herself back to her feet.