When Amanda made her latest return home from her trip to the capital, the mood inside the cottage was unusual, to say the least. Surprisingly, there was no shouting contest to be had between her and her father. As a matter of fact, Mr. Toffer was nowhere in sight. More uncustomary, all of the lights inside the house were off, and the only form of illumination was coming from a plethora of lit candles inside of her parents’ bedroom. Curious as to what was going on, Amanda began making her way down the hall to their sleeping quarters at tortoise’s speed, moving as carefully as she possibly could in an effort to avoid bringing the senescent wooden flooring to life with creaks and groans. As she got closer to their room, she could hear her father crying lightly and begging her mother for forgiveness for things he had regretfully done in his past. The troubled teen also overheard him promise her mother that he would never give up on trying to “expunge that evil Fred out of Amanda’s thoughts and completely blot him out of her life.” Then, just when she had made it close enough to their door to peek her head inside of the room, one of her feet made an erroneous step, sending a disquieting, prolonged groan down the entire length of the hallway. Startled, Mr. Toffer, who was kneeling down beside his wife’s dying bed and clasping one of her hands in between his, spun his head around and found himself glaring directly into his daughter’s terrified eyes.
“I always told you that this time was nigh, didn’t I?” her father said to her with an evident tone of ire in his voice. “Now you decide to show up when it’s much too late.”
“I told you months ago to let me see my mother, you wicked man. You should be the one taking your last breaths of air in that bed,” Amanda yelled back disrespectfully with tears streaming down her pale face and her body trembling with rage.
“You just wait until I get-”
“Graham, Amanda, you two need to cut this nonsense out right now!” the dying Mrs. Toffer shouted out, breaking up the two’s untimely tiff. “Amanda, come nearer to me, my child.” Mrs. Toffer’s bosom, which had reached an abnormal proportion due to her ailment, was moving up and down at an alarming rate. It had pained her heart to witness such dissension between her husband and her daughter. Well aware that she would be leaving them behind in short order, she wanted to make amends between them before her soul made its emigration to a better place. Once Amanda had arrived at her mother’s side, Mrs. Toffer requested a hug and a kiss.
“Oh, how I’ve missed my little girl so much,” the dying woman expressed while holding on tightly to her daughter, an embrace that lasted close to five minutes. “Every single day that I’ve been restricted to this bed, all I’ve been doing is thinking about you. My bedsores, my bodily aches and pains, my illness, all of these things have taken second, third, and fourth place to your overall well-being.” Tears of both sadness and elation began falling from Amanda’s eyes as she pondered on just how much her mother loved and cared for her despite her mother’s unfathomable decision to communicate with her through her father for the past several months. “As you know, your father has been telling me a whole lot about this influential man who’s made his way into your life and has completely possessed you. From the very start I’ve made it known that I wasn’t too fond of the relationship. I obviously haven’t gotten through to you, though. Your unwillingness to stop seeing this Fred gentleman left me no other choice than to virtually cut you off. Hopefully now I can convince you to change your life around with my last breaths. The relationship between you two isn’t a healthy one, Amanda. Let that man go. He is not the one for you. I’m looking at you right now, and you’re just as gaunt as I am. You used to be a hale, beautiful young girl, and you’ve allowed somebody to destroy you. You gave somebody the power to choose your destiny, a sure shot way to live in misery until the day you die.” Ironically, after mentioning the word die, Mrs. Toffer began making strained breaths and her eyelids flickered rapidly, prompting a frightened Amanda to violently shake her mother’s fragile body in an attempt to stabilize her vitals.
“No! You can’t leave me now! You won’t leave me now! Give me a little time! I’m going to run into town this very second to fetch some meds for you!” Amanda cried shrilly.
Her urging paid off. Her mother’s breathing slowed down considerably and she was once again responsive - though just barely.
“Hang on, mom, I’m going to rush out to pick up some medications for you.”
“No, my child, there’s no time for that. Stay put. There’s no saving me now. I’m going to die tonight. Amanda, before I go, I need you to heed my words.” Mrs. Toffer was now struggling to speak through a spate of harsh, blood-producing coughs. “Based on what your father’s been telling me and looking at you right now, I’d be surprised if you live to see another year. I can assure you that that man you’re seeing is going to kill you. Very shortly I’m going to be looking down on you from Heaven, and I would love nothing more than to see you grow up and get happily married and bring forth a brood of beautiful children in wedlock. In the time being, I need you to keep your legs closed and give yourself some more time to grow before you even think about settling down in a relationship. Can you do that for me?”
“Of course, mother. I will do whatever you ask of me.”
“Well, there’s just one other thing that I need you to do for me, even though I know that this may be a little harder for you to live up to. Turn and face your father while I make these next few statements to you.” Once Amanda had reluctantly locked eyes with Mr. Toffer, her mother carried on. “Amanda, your father loves you very, very much. In fact, he loves you and cares for you just as much as I do. He’s cared for you all his life; but right now he’s in need of your assistance. For the past several months you’ve catered to my needs sporadically. I need you to promise me right now that you won’t neglect your father’s needs at all from here on in. I need you to be here for him full time. So, I need to hear you tell him that you are going to make provisions to be in place to look after his every need until he decides to come home to Heaven with me.”
“Dad, I promise that I’m going to help you with everything you need until the day that you croak.” Amanda had made her statement so hastily that her mother hadn’t registered the snide shot at the end of her pledge.
“Now give him a big hug and kiss for me.” Amanda couldn’t hide her discomfort following her mother’s latest request, but there was no way that she could shirk her dying mother’s final wishes. As she squirmed closer to her father, she broke eye contact with him and placed her focus on her mother’s face. Mrs. Toffer’s eyes had by now drooped to a semi-open level and appeared cloudy. Amanda was just about to place her arms around her father’s body when she observed her mother’s last breath of air leave her body. Spurning the dead woman’s last wishes, Amanda stood up without hugging or kissing her father, looked him square in the eyes, and announced to him that he would be joining her mother sooner than he thought.