Wednesday, May 5, 2021

A Woman Like Her (short story) (2/6 ) by Leanne Dyck

Readers' reviews:  I find your stories so great n seem to draw me in.

A really good story Leanne! Can't wait to read more!!

Part oneI received a phone call advising me to go home to Manitoba to see my terminally ill mother. 

photo by ldyck

Part two

Lost in the toxic goo of my mind, I rely on Byron to guide me from our house to the plane and down the hospital corridor. The smell of cleaners, antiseptic, coffee, and food blends together and makes my stomach flip.

"Pancakes, please," Byron tells the woman behind the counter. He nudges me. "What are you going to have?"

I shake my head and place my hand on my stomach.

"Are you sure? You haven't eaten since supper, and you had very little of that."

"I'm just not hungry," I mumble.

Byron pays and picks up his tray. "Hey, isn't that Jim?"

That man sure doesn't look like Dad. He's too old, too fragile.  Who's he talking to...? Who's that woman in a white lab coat sitting at the table with him? She must be Mom's doctor.

When the could-be doctor stands up, Dad puts his hands on the table, leans forward, and pushes himself to his feet.  She gives him a hug before she speeds down the aisle, passes us, and leaves the cafeteria.

Dad waves us over.

"Hi, Jim." Byron sets his tray on Dad's table.

I give Dad a gentle hug--worried that if I press too hard he'll crumble.

I sit down but Byron doesn't. "Where's the bathroom?"

"Just over there." Dad directs Byron with a nod of his head.

Thin wisps of steam rise from Dad's coffee mug. "Are you thirsty, Kid?"

I want to see Mom but I'm scared. 

"Oh, no... No, thank you."

I want everything to be the way it was before I left.

"How was your flight?"

I'm so very scared that things have changed. Please, Dad, tell me she'll be okay.

But he shouldn't have to try to carry me through this. The weight of it is already crushing him. 

"Our flight was smooth. No turbulence."

"It's been so long since we talked. What's new?"

I should have written, phoned, visited more. If I had... None of this would have...This is all my fault. I'm so sorry. I love you. Mom won't be forgotten. I'll make sure she isn't. 

All the words try to come out of my mouth at once and so I say, "Bttlr."

Dad smiles because he thinks I'm still his little girl. That I haven't matured. That I'm not strong. 

He needs someone to lean on. I need to prove to him that I am that someone. 

I pull my journal out of my purse and flip to the page. I remember the words as he reads them.

Mom has filled...

I wait to see the look of pride sweep across his face. I wait to hear him say This is really good, Leanne.

But his face hardens into a scowl. "What is this?"

"I wanted to make sure she would be... It's..."

Too early. I gave it to him too early. I should have waited...until... How could I be so Stu-pid? So cold.

Sharp eyes glare at me. "Leanne, what is this!"

"I didn't know... I didn't mean to..."

He drops my journal on the table like it's a foul-smelling rag. Metal chair legs scrape against the linoleum floor and he's gone. 


The two of us against the world, Byron leads me to the nurse's desk. "We're here to visit Olavia Willetts," he tells her. "I'm her son-in-law Byron Dyck."

The nurse gives him the room number and tells him to follow the mint green tiles to the oncology ward.

"Dear, you have to eat." The closer we get to Mom's room, the louder the voice grows. "Just a little, Hon."

At the threshold, I squeeze Byron's hand--holding him there. I breathe out--one, two, three. In--one, two, three. "I'm so glad you're here."

"You'll be okay," he whispers and ushers me into the room.

A mint green uniformed nurse holds a bowl in one hand, spoon in the other. The patient is as white as a sheet and looks like a stiff wind could blow her over. She looks more dead than alive.  

Where's Mom? She must in the next b--.

"Why are you here?" A woolly-haired, elderly woman dismisses me with a wave of her hand and focuses on Byron. "Now you. You, I'm happy to see."

Byron smiles at her. "Thanks."

"Well, you can't travel back to Ericston on an empty stomach, Hon." The nurse tells her patient.

Ericston? She must mean Eriksdale. So that ghost is... "Mom?"

Mom searches my face with her saucer-like eyes. "Oh, Honey Bunny, you're here."

The nurse puts the bowl on the table beside the bed and moves out of the way. I lean down and softly press my lips against Mom's cheek. As I search for words, Byron fills the silence. "Hi, Oli. Nice room."

"Oh, Byron. It's so good to see you." Mom reaches for his hand. "How's work?"

"Oh, the usual--we're really busy," he tells her.

"Then you'll have to get back soon."

"Yes, unfortunately, I fly back on Monday." They let go of each other's hands, but I dive in. "But I can stay as long as you want."

"Well, then we're going to have a nice long visit." Mom smiles at me

Part three

Are you following me?