His Burden

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Chapter Thirteen

The reality of the situation hadn’t yet dawned on me. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t accept that my mum was dead. She couldn’t be. It had to be a mistake. She wouldn’t leave us. Not like this.

“Mr. Turner? Would you like to see your wife now?”

The family waiting area at the care home was nice enough in deco, yet did very little to initiate comfort. Cream-coloured walls were subtle in their statement of, ‘We’re sorry for your loss’ and the many self-help leaflets dotting the area acted as a brutal reminder to our shit situation.

“Yes, please,” managed Dad, addressing one of Mum’s many carers.

Having arrived shortly after hearing the news, we were told to hang tight while police conducted their usual checks. Authorities had to make sure nothing suspicious surrounded her death and only once given the all clear were we able to see her. Apparently, that was now.

“Once again, I’m really sorry for your loss.” The sorrow-filled blonde offered all three of us her warmest smile and landed a gentle hand on my upper arm. “If there’s anything I can do…”

“Thanks,” I smiled, taking huge gratification from her friendly touch. “You’ll thank everyone on our behalf, won’t you?”

“Of course.”

With that, she left us alone and in doing so, prompted unbearable silence.

“Would you like a moment alone with her, Dad?” I offered, sensing his need to do things at his own pace.

“That would be lovely, petal. Thank you.”

Sam and I watched as he hesitantly made his way towards the door and shared a fleeting look upon it closing. My brother said nothing as he reached for my hand and held it tightly in his own. He hadn’t said much since arriving, yet failed to maintain said silence as quiet cries left his mouth. Like an ice-cold blade, his sobs tore through me with suchsweater intensity. In the end, it caused a head-to-head race with myself and the bin. Thankfully, I made it there just in time before vomiting.

“Shit, Jessie!” expressed Sam, coming to my aid.

He kindly held back my hair as I gifted the bin the entire contents of my stomach and rubbed at my back in soothing motions. Eventually, the nauseating feeling passed but I remained firmly in position, just in case.

“Are you okay?” he asked, handing me some kitchen roll.

My eyes briefly travelled to where he was stood and I noticed a rather small kitchenette housing a sink, a kettle and a toaster.

“I’m okay. Sorry,” I replied, wiping at my mouth. “I shouldn’t have drunk so much wine.”

“I think it’s the shock,” he suggested, caressing my long locks in that brotherly way he used to do when we were kids and I wasn’t well.

He would always insist on looking after me, even if what I had was highly contagious. He was kind like that and didn’t seem to mind that I never returned the favour. If he was ill, I’d run a mile.

“I don’t know what to think, Sam,” I whispered, seeking his embrace like a desperate child.

I required some comfort.

“I know. Me neither.”

Before I knew it, I was wrapped up in his arms with nothing but his beating heart to keep me company, not that it did much in the grand scheme of things. I still felt lost. Numb. Dead.

“You need to call Spencer,” he stated, pulling back an inch.

“No, I don’t,” I insisted, rejecting his statement. “He can’t find out about this.”

He frowned. “He’s your boyfriend, he’ll want to be here for you.”

“Exactly! I can’t have him risking everything for me. You said it yourself. As long as we stick to the six months, everything will be fine.”

“Jessica…”

“Please, Sam! Please don’t tell him.”

He stared at me a moment, truly lost in thought before offering me a reluctant nod. I know I was being unreasonable but had everyone’s best interests at heart. Spencer would drop everything to be with me, endangering his access rights to Leila in the process. I couldn’t/ wouldn’t let that happen. Not when this was my fault to begin with.

“I think you’re making a mistake,” he warned, pulling on my waist. “You shouldn’t have to go through this alone.”

“I’m not alone. I have you and Dad.”

“Spencer has a right to know,” he scorned, though remained light in his doing so.

I sighed and rested my forehead against his, keen to emphasise my point.

“If I cost Spencer his right to bring up Leila, I’ll never forgive myself, Sam. Never.”

“But…”

Never!” I repeated.

He said nothing and I knew that meant he was finally in agreement.

“Fine,” he exhaled, landing a brief kiss to my head. “I’ll tell Beth not to mention anything to Rosalie or Lucy.”

“Thanks.”

He gifted my body another tight squeeze, likely attempting comfort. It didn’t offer me much, though did act as a reminder to what I had. I may have been without Spencer and his lovable ways but I still had Sam and Dad. Together, they had the means get me through anything and I had all the faith they would.

“I want to offer you some insightful words but I’ve no fucking idea how we’re going to get through this,” he admitted, utterly defeated. “It’s been less than three hours and I’m already at a loss. I feel so broken.”

“We’ll get through it together, Sam. All three of us. We always do.”

At that exact moment, Dad came shuffling in, gaze lowered.

“I can’t do it by myself,” he shared, sounding like a man truly lost. “I need you both with me.”

No words uttered, Sam and I each took to Dad’s side and together, we made our way towards mum’s room for one final visit. It was exactly how it always was, only now there was the lingering dread of having to see a dead body. I’d never seen one before. When Charlotte died, her parents had asked if I’d wanted to see her and although tempting, I refused. I didn’t feel I held that right. At her funeral, I sat at the back and when asked who I was, I replied with a simple, “A friend of the family’s.” Now, looking at Mum’s lifeless form and paling skin, I was pleased with my decision back then. I didn’t understand how it was supposed to be comforting. I felt like I was watching a horror movie, only my own mother was the scary monster and instead of terrified, I was heartbroken. Completely heartbroken.

In some ways, she had been dead for years. Her brain didn’t work in the way it was supposed to and because of that, we were forced to deny our grief. If felt wrong to morn her when she was alive and now that she was gone, it felt long overdue. None of us knew how to react because our feelings were such a mess. On one hand, I wanted to process it all and finally move on, yet on the other, I wasn’t ready. None of us were.

“They say it was a stroke,” stated Dad, sounding strained. “I caught one of the nurses in the corridor.”

“At least it happened in her sleep,” commented Sam, attempting optimism.

I struggled to see what comfort that would bring. Whether it happened in her sleep or not made no difference. She was still dead. Gone. Never to return.

“You okay, Jessica?”

Dad’s concerned tone reached my ears and before I could lie, a small sob sounded from the back of my throat.

“I don’t want to see her like this. Would you mind if I wait for you outside?” I asked, turning my gaze away from Mum.

“Do you want me to come with you?” asked dad, tugging on my elbow.

“No, you stay with Mum. I’ll just be outside.”

Before either of them could offer their objections, I escaped the tight confines of the room and settled nicely into a cushioned chair just outside. The last thing I wanted was to interfere with their final moments with Mum. Some took comfort in seeing loved ones after. Me? Not so much. I’d rather remember the good times with her.

“Jessica?” Rosie, one of mum’s carers, approached my seat and sat down next to me. “I’ve just been told,” she whispered, sad in her revelation.

“I’m still in shock,” I admitted, finally meeting her gaze. “I threw up in your bin.”

She hid the small smirk playing on her lips but soon let it go once I started to laugh.

“I’ll clean it up before anyone notices,” she ensured, nudging my arm.

For a while, she waited with me and I came to rather enjoy the established silence. I often took comfort from the peace and quiet, finding it my safe haven. My time to reflect. I never did enjoy the company of others and saw myself as independent because of it. Comfortable in my own skin. Until loneliness crept in. Before Spencer, I thought I was happy to be alone. I was wrong.

“It doesn’t get easier but you learn to deal with it,” offered Rosie, cutting through my thoughts.

One glance at her face told me she recognised my pain and had I not already known about her situation, her expression would have said it all.

“Your dad?” I asked, looking straight at her.

I’d read about it in the newspaper but didn’t like to say. A famous singer had killed her father in a car accident last year and as if that wasn’t dramatic enough, she’d only gone and fallen for the rock sensation. Not that I was judging her.

The heart wants what the heart wants.

“Hmm. I miss him every day but it no longer consumes my every thought,” she shared, keeping her tone light. “You have a wonderful family surrounding you and I’m sure that lovely boyfriend of yours will make sure you’re looked after.”

I laughed, bitterly. “Thank you.”

I decided to spare her of my personal issues. She had work to be getting on with and burdening her with my problems was not helpful in the slightest.

“You take care of yourself,” she soothed, preparing her departure. “And if there’s anything I can do, I’m a phone call away.”

“Oh?” I didn’t want to seem selfish but had hoped she’d stay with me a while longer. The thought of being alone was unbearable. “Thanks, Rosie,” I smiled, in a bit of a haze. “I never told you this but you were always my favourite. Out of all of Mum’s carers, you were the only one who gave me biscuits with my tea.”

My statement was met with a huge grin and nothing else. Rosie was a kind soul and went out of her way to make a person feel extra special. I appreciated that and found the moment she walked away, I missed her company. Thankfully, I wasn’t left alone for long before Sam and Dad reappeared, looking about as shit as I felt.

“You both okay?” I questioned, standing from my chair.

“We’ve said our goodbye’s,” replied Dad, pulling me in for a hug. “Ready for home now.”

“Can I come with you?” I half asked, half pleaded.

The thought of returning to my empty flat was terrifying.

“Of course, petal. Bethany is at Sam’s, so he’ll drop us off on the way.”

Sam shot me a heartfelt smile and fought his way inside our hug, making our shared embrace a three-way exchange. There, we remained for quite some time, expressing all that needed to be said through the use of body language alone. Eventually we parted ways and once we did, I felt just as lost as I did when we first learned of Mum’s diagnosis. I was back to being that frightened little girl, only this time it was worse because she was gone. Really gone.

And I wasn’t ready to say goodbye.

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