The cool wind that touched the bare skin of my arms made me aware of how badly I needed a jacket or a shawl or any warm clothes to prevent myself from freezing in this cold night.
Thankfully I reached the clinic before I froze myself to death. The warm interiors felt so good compared to the death like cold outside.
“Hey, mom.” I was so happy see the smile on my mom’s face when I pushed the door open and walked in.
Her fragile frame lay on the bed. She could barely lift her head to see me. Her once long beautiful black hair was now dull and barely there on her head.
My mom had been suffering from bone cancer. It was a very disturbing event in our families life. Mom struggled all her life to raise me and my sister. Our dad, mom’s beloved husband, may his soul rest in peace, passed away from a heart disease four years back. Our lives haven’t been the same since.
Her name was a whisper on my lips but she heard me. Her balding head lifted up by a mere inch to look at me. She looked so pale now. Her face was also wrinkling. But when she smiled seeing me, she had the most beautiful smile I’d ever seen.
I laid my head near her arm and she lightly patted my head.
“You look so tired. Have you been working late at night?” She asked me.
“Our rent is overdue for three months and the landlord is sending notices everyday. But don’t worry, I just cleared the dues today.”
It wasn’t a complete lie. Mom’s treatment had been successful and she was healing but recently she experienced some issues and the doctors had to do some additional tests. I was working two shifts for the past week to pay for the expenses.
“I’m so sorry, kid. If I was alright you wouldn’t have to...”
“Mom, don’t blame yourself. We’re all in this. Don’t worry, I’ll manage everything. It will be alright. You’re going to be healthy and walking soon. And we’re going to have the world tour you wanted.”
Dad had promised Mom that he’d take her to a world tour when he retired from work. But he left this world too early. I was young back then and had made a resolution to fulfil that wish of my Mom.
“I’d rather you go to college with that money.” I was about to argue when she placed a finger on my lips silencing me.
“How’s Em? She doesn’t come visit me often.” Em is my sister.
“She wanted to come but she has exams tomorrow so I told her to stay back. She’ll come tomorrow.”
“Okay, tell her to study well.”
“Now go back home and take some rest. Poor kid, you look so tired. My baby.” I kissed mom on the cheek and helped her take her medicines. Tucking her in she joked about how I was being a mom to her.
A nurse came in asking me to meet up the doctors.
I followed her to the doctor’s cabin where Dr. Clark sat with what seemed like x-ray reports.
“Ms. Lake, have a sit.”
“Is everything alright, Doctor? Did mom’s report arrive? There’s nothing to worry, right?”
“Yes, yes the reports are here with me.” He pointed towards the said reports. “I’m afraid everything is not fine, Ms. Lake.” The expression on Dr. Clark’s face made the nervousness in my belly bloom.
“We found tumor in Mrs. Lake’s body but nothing could be said for sure so we did biopsy and found recurrence of cancer in her body.”
“What? But I thought it was cured. We did the treatment and you said that she was fine. How can it come back?” I couldn’t believe the words I was hearing. My mother, my poor mother... She had suffered enough.
“I did say and yes we had taken out the cancer spreading tumor out of her body but in certain cases it can lead to another cancer. We’ll have to treat her soon or else there’s no hope...”
“No, don’t say that. You’re the doctor. You save people’s life. You can’t give up hope. My mother can’t die.”
“She’s not dying. But only if we start the treatment immediately. I’m really sorry, Ms. Lake. I know it’s difficult for you to manage everything. I’ll speak with the hospital trust funds if they can help.”
I exited the cabin and felt so lost in the corridors. Never in my life had I ever felt so lonely. We had spent whatever little savings we had on Dad’s treatment. But Dad didn’t make it.
We were barely surviving Dad’s demise and my highschool. My Dad had high dreams for me and my sister. But after him it all turned to ashes. I was glad that at least Em got to go to college even though I could never make it.
Mom’s sickness was a tough time for us in our lives. We sold off our home to pay her bills because her insurance was not enough.
Now we had nothing left.
I fetched a picture of my parents out of my jeans. It was the last time I ever saw them together. Dad was lying on the hospital bed and mom was holding his hand, supporting him.
We never had plenty of money but it was never an issue for us. We were happy. Mom always said that money can’t buy happiness.
She was wrong.
If I had money I could save her.
If I had money I wouldn’t have to sacrifice college and start working this shitty job cleaning people’s dishes and living off the tips they threw our way like some dogs begging for a scrap of bread.
And what sucked even more was to see your mom die in front of you because you didn’t have enough money to save her life.
Fück my life!
“Geez! Calm down. What are you doing here?” I hadn’t realized that I had cursed until Em showed up.
“Me? Tell me what you’re doing here? You have exams tomorrow.”
“I finished studies and I missed Mom.”
“I’ll be with her for a while. You can go home, I made dinner.”
My little sister, Em, Emily was three years younger than me and studying in college right now. While I had the looks of my father she had the face of our mother and the intelligence of our Dad. I didn’t know how intelligent I was but right now I definitely felt like the dumbest person on Earth.
“I met Dr. Clark. He told me about the recurrence.”
“He told you? Why?”
“He’s my friend’s Dad, remember?” That explains.
Suddenly Em hugged me tight. “What happened?”
“Mom’s not going to die, right?”
“Shhh! Nothing is going to happen to her. She’s gonna be alright and healthy soon.”
“How? You know our finances are short. You’re already doing so much with her current hospital bills and rent. I wish I could help.”
“Don’t worry. I’ll do something.” I wasn’t sure whom I was trying to convince, her or me. Both of us knew that this was dead end for our mom.
“I wish there was an old fat ugly guy with big belly and an even bigger bank balance so that I’d marry him and take his money.”
Em laughed seeming visibly relaxed.
Someone bumped into me from behind and I quickly mumbled an apology. It was one of the hospital nurse. Me and Em helped her to pick up all the equipments fallen down.
When I handed her the last item of her tray she heldy eyes for a moment longer and left.
We sat by our Mom’s side and talked silly until she fell asleep.
“Are you coming home with me?” Em asked when it was time to leave.
“I have to speak with Dr. Clark. I’ll come later.” She waved a bye and left. I headed for Dr. Clark’s cabin and met the same nurse who bumped into me earlier on the way. She stopped me and gestured me to come near. I was suddenly feeling very suspicious of her.
“You’re with that woman who’s Dr. Clark’s patient, right?”
“I’m her daughter, Sienna Lake.”
“Sienna, it’s sad to hear about your mother’s condition. I lost my father to the sickness too. I can share your grief.”
“My mom’s not dead. She’s alive and there’s hope.” I replied a bit too harshly. She didn’t flinch. Only she smiled.
“You’re right. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you. I hope she recovers soon.”
Suddenly I felt like an ass. This woman was my mom’s age probably a few years younger.
“I’m sorry, I had a tough day. I’m just not in the brightest mood today.”
“I can tell. Do you know how you’re going to pay the medical bills?” I nodded a no. God! Did everyone know I was poor? Or maybe it’s just written on your face.
Poor Sienna and her tragic story.
Shut up, you bïtch!
I scolded my inner voice.
“No, not yet. But I’ll figure out something.”
“I heard you saying that you wanted to marry an old fat ugly guy with big belly and an even bigger bank balance to make money.”
I laughed. “That was just a stupid joke...” She didn’t smile with me. That gave me creeps.
“You don’t have to get married to make money. But you certainly will need to pay a price for it.” She couldn’t be serious.
“It was a joke. Besides I have nothing left to pay the price. I’ve already sold out everything we owned.”
She eyed me from head to toe.
“You have enough.”
“What do you mean?”
With a lightning speed she fetched something from her blouse pocket and pressed it in my hand.
“Wha..... Excuse me....”
I stood in the middle of the hospital corridors gaping at her retreating back. What in the hell was that!
I didn’t understand what the nurse meant. What did she mean that I had enough. Enough what? And why did she say that?
I was so confused.
The small piece of card paper was my only clue.
It was all black. And it looked like a business card.
The word ‘phoenix’ inscribed in gold, firm and clear.
• • •