OWEN WOODS - 'TILL NEXT TIME
Owen Woods is a Creative Writing student in Orlando, Florida. He is 19 years old. He writes old fashioned horror and comedy, in hopes that one day he can combine the two.
‘Till Next Time
Maria raced through the hospital, fumbling through the knick knacks and oddities of her purse to get Maggie’s adoption papers. She was looking for the nearest elevator bank, while avoiding nurses, old men in wheelchairs peeking up her skirt, doctors standing, gloating about a successful diagnosis, and a flurry of telephone rings and paper shuffling.
The hallway in the Oncology wing smelled of cold metal and bleach. The tinge of blood filled Maria’s nostrils but was singed away with the odor of freshly placed iodine on patients’ skin. Deep down, Maria avoided these patients like the plague. She knew they weren’t contagious, yet, she still avoided them as such. Always making it as subtle as a simple side step or looking down before they noticed her brief eye contact.
During the past few months, Maria had spent so much time around these patients that she’d learn to hate them. She had a mission at hand, there was no time for chit-chat. She needed Calista to sign the papers. Calista didn’t have the time they needed.
Goddamn elevators, Maria thought to herself, now shuffling through the adoption papers looking for the one that would house Calista’s John Hancock.
When she found the elevator bank, there was a handful of people getting on and off. A few patients stepping off, holding their I.V. bags, asses hanging out the backside of their gowns, nurses too hurried to look up from their clipboards, and a few more visitors holding flowers and holding back tears. Their faces were unfamiliar to Maria. She didn’t care either way. She had to get to Calista and sign these papers. Maggie depended on it.
Maria impatiently tapped her foot on the elevator ride down to the atrium where Calista waited. The tapping was loud enough for everyone to look Maria up and down, annoyed. What does it matter? Did they know how long they had been friends? Did they have any idea how anxious she was to have a daughter of her own? After all the years of her and Jim trying desperately to have one of their own. Being so desperate for a child, they even had sex on the night of a full moon. They didn’t have a single clue.
So, the least they could do is let me tap my fucking foot, she thought.
The elevator doors opened and Maria flew out, gaining the upset groans and complaints from the strangers inside.
Her heels clacked on the tile floor and echoed in the atrium. Calista recognized the sound and looked up from her wheelchair, only turning as far as her oxygen mask would let her.
Maria nearly broke down in tears when she saw her friend. She hadn’t seen in her a few days, because of her radiation treatments. Those few days were just enough. Enough for Maria to forget how frail her friend had become, how skinny and weak she looked, how big her smile was, and how the light inside was trying so hard to die out.
Oh, Cal, Maria thought, holding back her tears to be strong for Calista.
“Maria!” Calista said, smiling even bigger from behind her mask. “How the hell are you?”
“Hi, sweetie,” Maria said, short of breath. “I’m good.”
“Did you get the papers?”
“Yeah, I’ve got ‘em right here.”
“Quick, lemme sign it. How is she?”
“She’s with Jim. He’s so good with her. He’ll be a good dad.”
“I know so. You’ll both be great parents. Better than I could be.”
“Hey, you shut your mouth. There’s nothing you can do,” Maria paused. “This isn’t your fault.”
“I know. I just feel so bad that I can’t be there with her.”
Maria watched as Calista looked over the papers. She could tell Calista wasn’t concerned with what they said. Her eyes darted across the sentences. Maria watched as Calista made sure that Maggie would be safe and sound with her new parents. Calista signed her name with the last bit of strength that she had.
“Why are you down here anyhow?” Maria asked.
“I wanted to look at this painting one last time,” Calista said, pointing up to the painting hanging on the wall with her bone of a finger.
Maria noticed the finger first.
“This is the painting I saw when we came for the first ultrasound. Edgar had a meeting. I wandered down here and saw this. I sat here for hours. Just looking at it. I came here again after she was born.”
The painting was two men holding hands on a park bench, they sat watching a mother with her child. The painting had reds and greens that swirled in harmony and came together to form the child. The reds swirled around the men’s heads and flowed through their fingers. The green jumped and swirled again, forming the trees and buildings, then into the mother. It was Van Gogh if anything, instead, it was done by some high schooler ten years ago.
“I think it’s a statement. It’s how a mother’s love creates beauty everywhere it touches. There was love in the creation of this painting,” Calista stared at it for a moment, smiling. “It’s called Maggie—the painting.”
A nurse came to Calista and started to wheel her away, Maria stood, “When do you want me to come see you again, Cal?”
“This is it, Maria. I want you to remember me and this painting and how much I love you here and now. You, of all people, don’t need to see me on my deathbed. I guess I’ve always been a little vain that way. I don’t want you to remember me that way. Fine?”
“Okay, Cal. I love you.”
“Hey, don’t worry. There’s always a next time in the next life. You just gotta be patient.”
Calista and the nurse headed to the elevators, Maria watched them.
Calista moved her mask from her face, “Take care of my fucking kid, will ya?”
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