The room is dark, and I realize that there must be a light somewhere, but I do not bother to look for it. The phone feels familiar in my hand, and my fingers punch in the only phone number I know.
A bright, feminine voice picks up. "Dayview Rehabilitation Center, this is Charlotte, how may I help you?"
I cannot speak. For a second I consider hanging up and claiming to the women that I couldn't get through, or that she was busy. In the next second I decide that I at least have to try. In the second after that I brace myself to be told that my mother hadn't made it through the night, and they forgot to call me. The next second the voice interuppts my thoughts.
"Hello? Is anyone there?"
"Yes I'm sorry," I apologize, "this is Ada Laney. I'm calling for Georgia Laney. It's a- uh- a family emergency."
"One minute please, dear," Charlotte replies politely. I hear the sound of buttons clicking on a keyboard, and the shuffling of papers. "Oh yes, Georgia Laney, I have her name right here. I will patch you through to her room, dear."
"Thanks," I mutter, half sad, half happy that I will finally be able to speak to my mother after all this time. After all, I hadn't received a call or a letter from her in weeks. For a minute there is nothing but empty silence, and I consider hanging up.
"Hello?" Darn it.
"Hi. Mom? It's Ada." More silence. "Your daughter?"
There is a grunt from the other end of the line, and I recognize it as laughing. "I know my own daughter, Ada, I am just wondering why she is calling at this time of day!" I know she means it to be concerned, but her voice is full of annoyance. I am annoying her. The anger builds up in my chest, and it takes all I have not to open this door and slam the phone back on the receiver.
"It's about Aunt Sandra, you know, your sister? Yeah, there was a fire at the house today and she is in the hospital. That's where I'm calling from."
She pauses before saying, "A fire, huh? And she's in the hospital? Well, I hope your not expecting me to pay for all that crap, because I am broke!" She laughs into the phone, and the sound of it disgusts me.
"Don't you even care that she could be dying? What kind of a person are you? What if I had been hurt? I'm your kid!" My voice has raised an octave, and I hear a hesitant knock on the door.
"Is everything alright, honey?" A voice asks. I cannot tell if is the doctor or the office worker, but I don't answer.
My mother's voice is hoarse now as she backtracks."Of course I care, Ada! Don't you ever say that! I- I was just trying to make light of the situation. Everything is gonna be fine. But I can't help you from where I am. Heck, I can't do anything here!" Her voice is louder, and I know she wants other people to hear her trying to make a point.
"You can't even write a letter once in a while?" I accuse softly, all the anger beginning to dissolve.
"I can write you, from now on. I just thought..."
"Thought what?" I ask, irritated. Thought that it didn't matter to me? Thought that I wasn't important enough for you anymore?
"I thought that you would be better off without me."
It's my turn to be quiet now. I know how much this simple statement must have taken her to admit, that she was bad for me. We both know it to be true. But when did we ever take the easiest route, the healthiest?
I am aware that it is my turn to say something to reassure her of my love, but I cannot. I do love her, perhaps more than I should, but there was too much history. If I told her it was okay, that she didn't have to write me all the time, I knew she never would. So, instead, I would let the guilt eat at her.
"I have to go now. I just wanted to let you know about Sandra."
I am half expecting her to beg and plead with me to stay on the line.
"Okay. Goodbye, Ada."
I sigh, soft enough so she can't hear.