Chapter 1 - Zoe
Autumn came and my heart broke.
Sucking in the last mouthful of brisk air, I stepped through the automated doors and along the glossy, long corridors that felt like my second home. Unlike a hospital, the place attempted to masquerade as something else. Bright, lime green splashes of colour dotted around the space, trying to make things less depressing. It didn’t work. The smell of antiseptic permeated every room, silently and invisibly revealing its true purpose.
I was making my daily visit to the hospice where my mother was slowly deteriorating from cancer. Ten years prior, she’d managed to beat the damn thing, now it had come back more ferocious than ever.
Desensitised, I sailed through the maze of doors on autopilot, my doc-martin boots squeaking embarrassingly with each stride, but my focus remained firm.
As I approached my mother’s ward, I could tell something was different. The nurses didn’t greet me with a smile and courteous “Hello,” as usual. Their faces were solemn with hooded eyes and knitted brows - picture-postcard concern.
I rushed over to my mother’s bed to see the trigger. My mother, my beautiful, radiant, and lovely mother was a shell of herself. All the glowing life was gone. Left was this tiny, sunken, grey person with closed eyes and rasping breaths.
The nurses confirmed my darkest fear. It was time. All I could do was sit by her side, and hold what was left of her fragile hand as a nurse called my father.
It was no good. She passed before he arrived. I was glad really. It felt right, just us two. I was birthed into this world by this great woman, and she left this world by my side.
When my father arrived, grief seized his former face and frame into a pained stranger; the cancer had somehow shrunken him too. His skin seemed ashen, and his eyes were as lifeless as hers. His hair bounced loosely with flecks of silver, no longer bound in place with pomade, as he sobbed against her hardened chest.
When he eventually peeled himself off her limp body and silenced his heaving cries, we embraced one another as grieving family members do. At that time, I didn’t know what my father was, but I was about to find out.