Title: Heartache deja vu
Prompt: 3 of Swords
Word Count: 735 words
Characters: Mom and me
Summary: The 3 of Swords is a card of suffering. In a traditional tarot deck it is depicted as a beating heart pierced with 3 swords. This isn’t a card about a painful death. It’s a card about a painful life. It’s the heartbreak you wish would kill you but that is never that kind.
Warnings/AN: Contains graphic imagery, and adult situations. (VDA)
“Am I going to die?” the scrawled note still pierced my heart every time I looked at it.
I remember standing beside the hospital bed when Mom wrote it and joking, “not today.” I’d been right, but barely.
Most of that time was a blur. Everything went too fast. The only time the phone stopped ringing was when I was driving. Everything dragged on. Heating up a stale cup of coffee took hours. I could hardly tell one minute from the next. I kept moving because stopping, stopping meant sitting at her bedside, listening to the white noise of machines, unable to do anything but watch.
So I kicked it into high gear. I got everyone here, in record time. I bullied or stoically held my tongue through the inevitable disagreements on lodging, food, transportation, doctors, hospitals, priests and the appropriate use of my time. I pretended I still had a job, just to get away from the hospital. With her sisters and friends hovering, Mom didn’t need me. And frankly, after 6 weeks of being Janie on the spot, I needed the space.
I’d been here before, almost 20 years to the day. Then I had been a child, losing my best friend. My power had still been in it’s infancy. Most of my family thought the magick had skipped a generation. My grandmother insisted it hadn’t. My power just needed a more mature base. She had a very loose definition of maturity. I was still in high school. Better than middle school and puberty like shifters, I guess. Still, what teenager knows anything about death or dying? Certainly not I.
My grandmother’s cries and moans still feature prominently in my nightmares. We’d been told she was improving. That she would be leaving the ICU in a few days. After weeks in the hospital waiting room, we all slowly returned to our lives. Mom and Dad went on a business trip. My aunts, who had rushed to town, went home. The one aunt who was local went back to work. Being on summer break from school, it fell to me to keep vigil at the hospital. Which is how I can to be the one to tell everyone my grandmother had died. I was the only one there when it happened.
Breaking the news was the hardest thing I had ever done. Until now. Until we, I, moved Mom from the ICU to hospice and I had to face the truth I had known since I called everyone and told them to get here. Now.
“Mom, listen to me,” I said harshly enough to penetrate her drugged stupor. “They are going to take the breathing tube out, then you can talk to everyone, ok? Maybe have some juice, does that sound good?”
I hated sounding mean, but she tuned me out when I tried being gentle. At least this way she listened, even if it made me want to scream. I could not believe I was doing this. Again. This time, however, I was an adult and the one making the choices.
Two weeks ago, we were having lunch out and trying to figure out how she could move in with me until the economy picked up. Now she was lying in a hospice bed trying to focus on my words. I had never been so angry in my life. I wanted to rail at every deity I could name. One night I wasted a dozen eggs just hurling them to the ground from the balcony. They were the only thing I could find that it was safe to throw.
Smiling around the breathing tube, she reached out and touched my nose.
She gave a little nod, understanding.
I gave her temple a kiss as she closed her eyes and walked out of the room.
For nearly a week, my aunts hovered and talked and cried. The menfolk, my uncle and cousin and brother, got take out, talked on the phone, did the driving and helplessly held crying women. I stood firm by the decisions I made, not arguing or even putting them up for discussion. It is what it is, as a vampire I know would say. I was going to be blamed anyway. It might as well be for doing what I knew to be right.
She never opened her eyes.
I finally cried. Two years to the night after she died.
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