Jose Bueno is fiction and nonfiction writer who will one day learn how to tie a Windsor Knot. He currently resides in Orlando, FL.
Her Last Gift
Jennifer woke up to the sound of bells and rose from her bed with great effort. Her eyelids were heavy, her arms were sluggish and her legs were lethargic, but the sound of bells demanded her immediate attention. She stretched out and picked up the cellphone that rested on the mahogany nightstand next to her bed. Her vision was blurry but she could make out the name on the screen. It was her sister, Karen. Jennifer yawned and answered her phone, silencing the bells that filled her room with exasperation and discomfort.
“Hi, Sis,” said Jennifer with a tired voice.
“Hi, Thumper,” said Karen.
Jennifer began to protest her sister’s call. “Karen, I know it’s my birthday, but the I went out last night and I can barely –”
“It’s about mom,” said Karen with a hollow voice.
Jennifer eye’s widened, her arms tensed, and her legs shook. She tried to speak with a clear voice, but her lips betrayed her fear. “How is she?” she asked, wishing that her sister would lie.
“Mom… she passed last night,” said Karen, crying into the phone.
And there it was: the dreaded words Jennifer knew she would hear. It had been a little over a year since her mother had gone to the hospital. A little over a year since her diagnosis. A little over a year since Jennifer and her sister had started to prepare for the end of their mother’s life.
I am prepared, Jennifer thought whenever she saw her mother being treated, when the needles would break her naked skin and leave her unable to move for days. I am prepared, she told herself whenever she watched her fall asleep. I am prepared, she lied to herself whenever she would look into her eyes knowing that one day she would be unable to look into them again.
“Jennifer,” said Karen.
I am prepared, she thought one more time as she heard her sister speak. Jennifer closed her eyes, took a deep breath and then gained control of her body.
“Karen, I—” her lips quivered, her eyes turned wet, her arms were heavy and her legs became undone. She laid on her bed and closed her eyes. “I am not prepared,” she said to her sister.
“Stay there,” her sister said. “I’ll come for you and we'll go to mom’s. Uncle Fred and the rest are on their way.”
It took Karen twenty minutes to get there. Jennifer s
The car stopped and she stepped outside. In front of her was her childhood home. She stared at it. It wasn’t like she remembered it. In her memories, the warmth from the sunlight would caress her skin, the smell of freshly cut grass relaxed her body, the soft tinkling of the wind chimes unwound her mind, and the softness of the wind gently rocked the chairs that had been neatly placed on the porch. But now it was different. There was no warmth from the sunshine, no scent of freshly cut grass, the wind chimes remained silent, and the chairs remained still. She entered the house with her sister.
“Mom is upstairs. She is in her room.”, said Karen.
She went upstairs, each step she took was heavier than the last until she saw her. At first, she stood at threshold of her mother’s room. She could see her mother laying on the bed. Her head rested softly on her pillow. She approached her mother and stopped when she reached her bedside. Her eyes were opened.
“Mom.”, she said, hoping her mother would reply.
She knelt down, and gently grabbed her mother’s hand with hers and felt it cold
“Mom.” Tears began to flow from her eyes. She closed her mother’s eyes and rested her head on her mother’s chest, hoping to hear a heartbeat. But she heard nothing.
She could hear the front door open and the sound of feet shuffling in. Her relatives had arrived, ready to pay their respects to the deceased. With tears in her eyes she kissed her mother’s forehead and let go. She went downstairs and exited the house, leaving everyone inside to their grief. She walked for what seemed like forever.
As she arrived at her apartment, Jennifer noticed a small boxed placed on her doorstep. It was a completely ordinary box that had been delivered by courier. With little bewilderment, she picked up the box and entered her apartment. She laid on her bed, wrapping herself around the box. She opened it.
Inside the box were three things, a picture of herself as a child with her mother, a small plush toy of a rabbit, and an envelope. She recognized the toy as her favorite when she was a child. She would always take it with her wherever she went, and because of that her mother started calling her Thumper. The picture she remembered from when she was a child, it was her mother’s favorite, taken on the day they had gone to the Grand Canyon. She opened the envelope, and pulled out a small note, the kind people get on their birthday. It had her mother handwrite all over it. With tears in her eyes, she began to read.