“Mom-mmy, Mommy, Mommm-mmm-y!”
Mom took me to my horseback riding lessons. After, we would go for soft serve chocolate ice cream. It’s our favorite.
Her smile is the last thing I see at night. She moves in close to me with the sweet smell of her perfume surrounding me. Then mom pulls the sheets tight around me, cocooning me in my duvet. Once I’m tightly wrapped, she tries to plant one hundred goodnight kisses on my cheek. I always stopped her at fifteen. When I was little, I always let her go to one hundred. But at some point, I didn’t. I was too cool to have my mom smother me with all those kisses, even though no one else was there.
I don’t know why I stopped her.
“Mommy!!!” I scream through blurry eyes. I’m too frightened to turn away from Momma’s pale white face for fear I’ll never see her again. But at the same time, I don’t want to see her like this anymore. I want to see her smile.
“Alvina, Alvina, Alvina….”
I blink at the man’s voice who knows my name. I don’t know who he is.
Now, he’s dragging me away by the hand from momma.
“Mommy!” I hiccup through my tears. Drool escapes from my lips. My nose drips onto the carpet where my wide-eyed mother lies.
“Alvina, baby,” the man’s voice cracks apart like soil does in summertime when it hasn’t rained for several weeks. The man’s lower lip trembles. I feel his hand shake inside of my hand. Small streams of water fall from the corners of his eyes.
How did I not know who the man was?
“Daddy!” I shout as fear and comfort collide together inside of me. I thought I was alone. But now that I know he’s here, I’m relieved and yet, even more frightened at the same time. Daddy’s arms wrap around me and he lifts me up. I drop my head onto his shoulder and bury my face into the space between his neck and shoulders.
I’m being carried away from mom.
“Do you know how long she’s been like this?” a man asks who wears a paramedic’s uniform.
I blink at him. When did he get here?
Daddy places me on the ground. I stand beside him not quite certain what else to do. He continues to hold my hand. It’s comforting. But it doesn’t feel quite right. We never hold hands. It’s mom’s job.
I know this is bad.
I’ve got nothing else to do, so I stare at dad’s face. Water drips from his nose and he wipes it away with his free hand. Dad’s eyes are red. I hear him say, “I don’t know. I found her like this. I was working late.”
“What’s your wife’s name?” a bald paramedic asks with dark brown eyes and bushy eyebrows.
“Be-Beth,” Dad says stuttering.
Dad never stutters. He owns his company, and he says: he’s the man in charge.
I take a deep breath in and summon all the strength I have inside of me. Daddy needs me to be brave now. I squeeze dad’s hand so he knows I’m still here. Nothing is worse than feeling like you’re all alone.
Dad’s eyes glance down at me. His face contorts in a twisted expression of emotion. Water pours from his eyes, over his lips, and out his nose all at the same time. His breath is laboured as he sobs for a few seconds.
From where mom is I hear, “Beth, can you hear me?” a dark haired woman paramedic asks.
I notice that at some point the paramedics moved mom to a stretcher and they’ve placed an oxygen mask over her lips. As they wheel her past me and dad, her eyes roll over to where we’re standing next to a policeman.
I don’t remember seeing the policeman. Where did the paramedic go? But he’s the bald guy with bushy eyebrows. He wasn’t a paramedic. He was always a policeman. How did I mix up their uniforms?
I can’t believe I was upset over a grade earlier today. Stupid history test. One grade. I can’t believe a few hours ago, that’s all that mattered to me.
My lower lip begins to tremble. But when I look up at dad, I stop it. I notice dad’s calm now too.
“Come on, Alvina. Let’s find out what hospital they’re taking your mother to,” Dad says as he fumbles for his keys in his pocket.
We walk behind mom with our hands clasped together. Dad’s focused on mom. My eyes flip over to the window. Outside, I see the twenty acres of woods my parents own. I search there for one second of peace in the leafy branches. Because when I’m upset, it’s where I always go.
Through the window panes, I see a faint outline of a woman. The woman has long dark hair, and wears a plaid shirt, and blue jeans.
There, Gudrun waits, for my return.