"I can't believe they won't let me see her," was all I said as the tick-tick-tick of the wall clock edged into the silence of our lone, tired group.
The walls, a bubblegum pink, screamed of naivety. Did the hospital think that visitors didn't know what happened beyond those doors into the ICU? Did they actually think the quietly humming television set displaying the raging storm outside, or the fashion and parenting magazines, strewn around on various end tables, were distractions?
Death was death.
Bleak, unforgettable, and the greatest and loneliest pastime one could invite into his or her life. The idea of Heaven, Hell, the Inbetween, the Afterlife--whatever floats someone's unsteady boat--seeps into your bones, eating you relentlessly from the inside out. News could hardly break through the stupor of impending death, let alone what's in style this Fall.
I hated it all.
The teddy bears that sat misleading on the smaller couch across from us, smiled their stitched grins, their eyes a velvety black that saw nothing. Children played with them while their parent, uncle, grandmother, sister, cousin was dying. Yet, when older, they would only recall the shudders in the room and that naive smile on the patched and worn teddy bears.
"I'm a few months short of eighteen," I reasoned with Logan, though I knew he understood. "My mother is dying, my father is in there with her on his own, but they won't let me in because I'm a minor. Because I can't possibly understand how sick she is."
Elena, lying down across the couch in a fetal position with her head on my lap, tenses up. Her thin limbs are shaking and her hands clench against her chest
"I don't want to see her," she said quietly. "I don't want to see her."
"Elena--" I began.
"If I do, then it'll all be real," she interrupted me. "Everything this past year would be a lie and I would be that stupid kid who believed it all."
I pressed my lips together and reached out a hand for Logan, his own fingers immediately intertwining with mine. After a few minutes, Elena's breath steadied and my shoulders sagged with relief. At least one of us in this family could finally rest.
"I'm really glad you came," I said, looking over at Logan's blank face. Though he showed no emotion, I could see his eyes registering everything happening around him. This was too much, too soon, I knew, but I needed him here with me. I needed my best friend right now, and he provided for my needs. Writing and reading could only take me so far down this road of ignorance, but Logan taught me how to be again.
When I saw him there by his house earlier, his loose clothing whistling in the coming storm, my heart had frayed at the edges. He knew I needed him and like a wish upon a star, he was there. I knew he was tired, I could see it in the way his eyes squinted against the dark and the way his back slouched just a bit. But yet, he was suddenly there in the SUV, coming along. Dad looked in the mirror, gave us an unsteady stare, before driving down the driveway and towards the highway.
What had hit me most of all, as Logan and I shared a quiet look outside my house, was how the evening had come to fruition. That day had been full of both metaphorical and literal sunshine, while the night was full of that same ease I'd come to feel around him. His touch was a reminder that I was someone, not just the daughter of a dying woman. His eyes told me that I was heavier in his life than I'd ever been in anybody else's.
Mom understood that about Logan too, even if they hadn't met yet.
After the lullaby, she'd told me of how she too had found her own Logan inside dad. How he had taught her to believe in a happy, free life. Which was ironic because of dad's current career. I told her this and she laughed the kind of windy laugh that can only be heard in the early morning, when the breeze is soft enough to flutter the curtains without a sound.
"You're right, he is a very stressed man," she said. "But what I love about him is how he knows when to separate life from work. His job comes last and everything else comes first."
"Yeah, he certainly proves that by staying at the office so long," I said, then quickly corrected myself. "He proved it, anyway."
"You know your dad came from a difficult upbringing." I nodded, having heard this story countless times. "His parents immigrated here from Havana when he was fifteen, so he had to start from scratch. You should be proud of how he takes care of his family."
"I am," I muttered. "But I hate that it took you getting sick for him to finally come home."
I remember the pang of guilt that ricocheted off my ribcage and into my heart then. I'd been the same as dad, living elsewhere but here. I realized my words hurt me more than I expected, more than dad's absence hurt.
"Life is funny like that," she laughed softly, like I'd told a cute joke. Then she gingerly pressed a hand on my cheek. "Alexis."
No hair brushing, no tender touch--just a soft breath full of pain.
"Mom?" I sat up. Her hands fell away from me and to her sides. Her chest moved, I realized with relief, but her face contorted with the agony of her body slowly gnawing at her.
"Dad!" I yelled, my voice crashing through the fragile quiet of our home. "Daddy!"
Lights flickered overhead by the foyer and feet stomped down the stairs. Elena.
"Lex?" She came into the room and her brown eyes quickly took in the scene. "What's wrong with mom?"
Then dad was there, pushing his youngest aside before reaching his wife. "Mary?"
"Mom?" Elena whimpered from where dad had moved her, against the wall and a hanging plant.
"Come here," I said to her, forcing my eyes off mom, who was now jerking with pain. As gently as I could, I told Elena that mom was sick. That she was very, very sick.
She didn't cry, she didn't scream out of anger at not being included. She simply said, "Will she be okay?"
"I don't know, Leny," I held her as tightly as I could, disregarding her suddenly stiff body.
And even now, holding Logan's hand, her head on my lap, I didn't know what to tell my sister.
That was a lie.
I knew what to tell her.
But how do you tell your thirteen year-old sister that her mom is dying? How do you tell her that her mom will never see her grow up?