I waited for what seemed like days but was only hours, curled up in the hospital chair with my knees to my chest and tears streaming down my face. Mom sounded so defeated, like she didn’t even want to live anymore. And, honestly, I didn’t blame her. Life had dealt her a shitty hand, from Dad to two consecutive aneurysms. If I was her, I’d think the same way.
Sometime during the day, Michael walked over to me and crouched by my side, asking me if I was okay or if I wanted something to eat. But I couldn’t even look him in the eye. Melissa sat across from me, swinging her legs back and forth and staring aimlessly at the ground. I didn’t even know why she was here. It was clear from the last time I saw her that she didn’t want anything to do with me.
Someone walked into the waiting room, and my heart skipped a beat. I didn’t want to know if I wanted to know the outcome of Mom’s surgery just yet. But I stood up anyway and tried my hardest to push back the tears.
But instead of seeing a doctor, a man walked into the room with a walker. He pushed the silver bars across the white tilted floor and smiled at me. “Mia,” he said, his voice shaky and gruff. “Has your mother gone into surgery yet?”
I furrowed my brows at him, then my eyes widened. “James?”
He gave me a weak smile and nodded his head, sitting down in the seat beside me. “Long time since I’ve seen you, Kiddo.” James clasped his hands in his lap, eyes growing wide. I hadn’t seen him in four years, since the last time Mom was in the ICU. He was recovering from a stroke.
Mom had grown quite fond of him when she was here, as their rooms were across from each other’s. Every time I came to visit, he always made her laugh. But when they moved her out, she lost contact with him. Or at least, I thought she did.
“What are you doing here?” I asked, brows furrowed.
“I’m here to see your mother. We’ve been sending letters back and forth every since she left.” He reached behind him and into his back pocket, pulling out an envelope. “These bad boys.” He handed them over to me, and I opened one up, my lips curling into a smile.
In it there were a handful of letters on ripped napkins or coffee-stained paper from the assisted living home. Mom’s handwriting decorated all of them, and she left cute little smiley faces at the bottom. She even signed one with Love, Vanessa.
My heart swelled, and I clasped it to my chest. Mom had to survive. She had to. I thought her life had been so shitty, but she found happiness in even the smallest things. I handed the envelope back to James and grasped his shoulder softly. “Mom is still in surgery, but… I don’t know if she’ll make it.”
He gave a gruff laugh. “She better. I plan to take her on my vacation with me in September. I’ve been saving up enough money to bring her out.” He looked up at me. “I’ve been getting better.”
I squeezed his shoulder a little tighter. “She’d love that,” I whispered. Though James was almost twenty years older than Mom—nearing sixty-five—I could tell that he’d make her smile. But… I wondered why Mom didn’t tell me about him. Was it the age-gap? Was she afraid to tell me she had been talking to someone after Dad? Maybe she didn’t say anything because she didn’t know if it was serious between them yet or if they’d ever really be able to be together.
Whatever the reason, I was beyond glad that he was here for her. She told me that I needed to be strong, that I needed the right kind of love… Well, so did she. And she deserved it more than anyone.
James patted the seat next to him, and I sat, suddenly feeling so much stronger than I had been a few minutes ago. Michael smiled at me from across the waiting room and I smiled back. Mom better make it. She had her whole entire life ahead of her. No matter her age, no matter how shitty her life had been so far, she was a fighter and she better fight this.
James held out his hand, and I placed mine in it, squeezing. I stared at Michael, my heart feeling lighter than it had been. I hoped, prayed, waited for a long time, before Michael came over again, crouching next to me. He took my hands, not caring who we were in front of, and smiled. “It’s going to be okay, Mia. No matter what happened with your mother, I got you.”
My heart warmed, and I smiled down at him. Though I was sitting in the hospital as Mom was in surgery, something felt… good. I felt like I was finally in a good place, in some fucked up way. I had people who were here to support me. I had friends and… I glanced down at Michael… family who would be there when I needed them.
“I know,” I said, and for the first time in a long time I meant it.
He nodded to the seat next to me. “Can I sit?”
I patted the seat beside me and curled my arm around his, resting my head on his shoulder. Melissa gazed at us from across the waiting room and I didn’t know if she was glaring or just staring. I wasn’t sure I wanted to know. At some point, we’d have to work things out, but I didn’t want the drama right now.
I intertwined my fingers with him, my eyes closing softly. After what seemed like days of waiting, Dr. Jackson walked into the waiting room.
“Mia,” he said, lips pressed into a tight line.
I shot up from my seat almost instantly, my stomach dropping. “What’s wrong? Is everything okay? When can I see her?” I asked, hoping to God that she made it. James stood up next to me and placed a shaky hand on my shoulder, nodding to the doctor who had done surgery on him too.
Dr. Jackson paused for a moment and glanced around. “Your mother had some complications during her surgery”--my heart stopped--“but she is in recovery as we speak.”
My eyes widened, and I stood there in complete disbelief. After the compilations bit, all I expected to hear was that she passed away. I shook my head. “What did you say?” I asked, my voice small.
“Your mother is recovering, but--”
But? I didn’t care about the but right now. All I cared about was getting to see Mom again--alive. By the way she was talking earlier, I thought I lost her for good. I thought I’d never see her again.
I threw my arms around him, not even able to cry happy tears. But I was beyond happy. I was ecstatic, gleeful, and so fucking excited. “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”
“Mia, please, let me speak,” Dr. Jackson said after a few moments, gently pushing me away.
Michael grabbed my shoulders and pulled me off of him. “Let him tell you about the compilations before you get excited,” he whispered in my ear. My smile dropped, and I nodded my head to let him speak.
“A couple days ago we found a blood clot in your mother’s brain, which can happen after brain surgery for aneurysms, especially after two. We inserted a catheter to help the blood flow, but in recovery we noticed your mother acting… different.”
I held my breath, my palms sweating, and listened to him. “Different, how?”
“Some minor speech and vision problems as well as memory problems,” he said. “Right eye--peripheral damage. Her speech is a bit slurred at the moment. And she is having minor memory problems.”
“She won’t remember me?” I asked quietly, my heart sinking in my chest. “My mom won’t remember me?”
“I believe she will. We’ve run a couple tests and think she’s having some trouble with forming new memories. This usually lasts between a few minutes to months, but I can’t tell you for sure when she’ll recover from this.”
My heart sank, but I tried to keep a strong mind. Mom was alive. That’s what I had hoped for, and maybe not remembering this time in the hospital, might be good for her (even though I knew it wouldn’t).
A/N If you want to read the rest of this trilogy right now, you can find it on Patreon (Click “Support Me” in my bio!)