Mother must care for her daughter Chloe following a traumatic event.
| Chloe’s sweat dampened her Hello Kitty bed sheets. Her mother tucked the blanket under her daughter’s twitching legs. The melody she was humming was offkey and shaky, as were her hands as she touched Chloe’s hot forehead to tuck a loose strand of hair behind Chloe’s ear.
“Mom, I wanna say night to Daddy.” Goosebumps crawled up Mother’s arms and down her spine.
“Sweety, Daddy’s on a business trip.” Mother squeezed Chloe’s clammy hand. Chloe pouted and rolled over onto her other side. Tears began to drip from Chloe’s dead-looking eyes. She sniffed and rubbed her nose with her free hand.
“Daddy will be back soon.” Mother stood up and dropped Chloe’s hand. “I’ve already read you your bedtime story, now it’s time for you to sleep.”
Chloe’s eyes were wide and wet, and Mother sighed as she pulled the bedroom door shut behind her.
Mother made her way through the cluttered living room into her own bedroom. Kneeling beside the worn mattress, she folded her hands and lowered her head. She wished God would speak back to her. Her hair was fully gray - turning white - and her frown lines were as deep as canyons. “Lord,” her voice cracked. Just as she was about to begin her nightly plea, a scream rang out from Chloe’s bedroom. Mother hauled her aching body up. She moved as fast as she could, which wasn’t much with her creaking knees. “I’m coming, Chloe.”
She leaned on the wall as she limped towards Chloe’s room. Mother guided the door open. Chloe was in fetal position on the center of her bed. Her whole body shook. She was muttering under her breath. Mother knew what it was about, even though she couldn’t decipher her exact words at the moment.
Mother froze, guilt and shame washing over her. “Chloe, I’m so sorry, baby.” Adrenaline helped her ignore the scraping of bones in her knee as she ran to the kitchen and snatched the pill and water bottles off the table. Her chest was tight and her stomach was acting like a contortionist. It felt like an eternity before Mother reached Chloe on the bed, placing her hand behind Chloe’s neck and back and guiding her up. “Chloe, I forgot your medicine. Oh god, please forgive me.” The water bottle vibrated in Mother’s hand. She set it between her legs to focus on the pill bottle. It took her a few tries, but the cap finally popped off and Mother dumped one out into her hand. She unscrewed the water bottle cap.
“Open up.” Chloe complied, and Mother set the pill in Chloe’s mouth. “You can do the rest.” She handed Chloe the open water bottle and watched carefully as she took a swig. “Okay, let me check.” The daughter opened her mouth. “Lift up your tongue… Good.”
Mother laid the blankets over Chloe and tucked her in once again. She was barely out of the room before she fell to her knees, sobs wrecking her aging body. One hand over her mouth, the other keeping her stable.
After a long while, she stood up, bracing herself on the wall. She stumbled into her own bedroom and collapsed on top of the sheets. She reached for her phone on her nightstand and dialed her voicemail.
She waited patiently to get to her daughter’s.
Mom, Dad and I got in a car crash. He- uh oh fuck, he’s not breathing. Tammy was panting into the phone. Then the sirens arrived. We’re both bleeding pretty bad. I can’t move. I’m scared, Mom. I love you - tell Chloe I love her too.
Mother laid the phone back down on the nightstand and buried her face in the pillow. She gripped the bedsheets, tugging them towards herself. Her lungs were weak from so much crying and she knew she needed water. Her legs felt too much like water to her carry her.
Chloe should be asleep by now. Mother wrapped herself up in her comforter. She couldn’t find the courage to close her eyes.
The next morning, Mother woke to Chloe climbing into Mother’s bed. Chloe bounced on her knees, giggling. “Mommy, I’m hungry!” Mother groaned and sat up, pulling Chloe into her arms. “Good morning, Chloe.”