A young struggles to deal with her mom's past and death.
Spring had arrived, a time for renewal, for change, and for planting the butterfly garden. Chloe sowed the seeds just as her mother had done each spring, but since her mother's death the past winter; this was more than just a garden to her. As she dug into the cool earth, she thought back to that day--the day she found out her mother was dying.
It was Thursday, and the day Chloe got "the curse" or become a woman, depending on whom you asked. Her friend said it is a curse, but Grandma says it is part of becoming a woman. For Chloe, her friends were right.
It happened right in the middle of gym class. Chloe felt something wet between her legs and ran to the restroom. Mrs. Giles, the gym teacher, ran after her.
She knocked on the stall door. "Chloe, are you sick?"
Chloe's voice cracked. "I think I need the nurse."
"Okay, can you make it on your own?"
"Yeah." Chloe waited until Mrs. Giles left the locker room, she folded up some toilet tissue placed in the crotch of her panties and went to the nurse.
Nurse Regina was a plump lady with a large bun atop her head that doubled as a pencil holder. She told Chloe to have a seat, while she stuck a thermometer in a boy's mouth lying on a cot. Sliding another thermometer from the green jar of liquid, she shook it off and shoved in Chloe's mouth.
Chloe blushed. She slid the thermometer out and said, "I don't have a fever, ma'am," she glanced over at the boy lying on the cot and lowered her voice, "I, I'm bleeding down there. "
"Oh, so you need a maxi pad!" She announced. She rummaged through a drawer and brought out a large, thick cotton pad and an elastic belt. "You take this part, stick it under here and hook these around your hips," She handed Chloe the contraption. "While you do that, I'll call your mom to come pick you up."
Chloe went into the restroom and did as Nurse Regina instructed. She opened the bathroom door and peeked out.
"You all set?" Regina asked.
"Your grandma is coming to pick you up. You can wait outside on the bench. "
Chloe walked outside. She used her arm to shield her eyes from the bright sun, and took a seat on the bench, waiting.
Grandma pulled up to the curb and Chloe slid into passenger seat.
"So, my little Chloe is a woman now." She smiled.
"I suppose." Chloe sighed. She didn't say a word during the car ride home.
Chloe went straight to her room and plopped down on her bed.
"Chloe, you want some lunch?" Grandma called.
"Sure," she replied.
Grandma knocked lightly and opened the door. "I got you two aspirin and glass of water. It'll help ease any pain."
Chloe plopped them into her mouth and drank the water. "Thanks, Grandma."
"Come on out to the kitchen in a few minutes. I'm making us cold meatloaf sandwiches. "
Chloe changed into jogging pants and old tee shirt and went to the kitchen for lunch.
"You got any questions for me?" Grandma asked.
"How long does this curse last? I feel like I have a mattress between my legs."
Grandma chuckled. "Well, It's only a week or so out of the month of discomfort." She set two sandwiches on the table and sat across from Chloe. "You shouldn't think of it as curse, Dear. It's a natural thing, and it just means you're growing up."
Chloe picked at the bread on her sandwich. "I wish I could just stay a kid."
Grandma rubbed her hand. "Oh, now don't say that. Soon you'll be filling out, dating, and then one day you'll be married and have kids of your own. It's a change, but you'll get used to it. "
Chloe looked down at her stick figure. "Well, I guess I wouldn't mind filling out a bit here and there."
Grandma got up from the table to wash her plate. "Just think you could have a figure like mine some day." Grandma winked as she ran her hand along her side.
Chloe smiled, but she couldn't image her small frame every resembling her grandmother's. She was build almost like snowman. If it wasn't for the apron tied around her waist, you wouldn't notice she she had one. And her chest...Chloe couldn't even begin to imagine being so large in that area.
"She had another doctor's appointment this morning. She should be along anytime."
Chloe took her plate over to the sink to wash it, but Grandma took it from her. "You go lie down. I'll bring the portable TV in, so you can watch it."
"Okay, thanks, Grandma."
Chloe fell asleep watching Password, and woke to voices in the kitchen. She rubbed her eyes and got up to see what was going on. She started to pull the door open when she heard her Mom say something about cancer and six months.
Chloe's heart raced. She felt a lump in her throat. She sat close to the door and slowly opened it just a bit, so she could hear more.
"The doctor said it's in my lungs." Her mother's voiced cracked. "I don't know how to tell my little girl."
"Honey, you know I'm here for you, and we'll pray for you, all of us at the church."
Chloe saw her mother's shadow pass by her room. She opened the door a little more and crept into the kitchen. Grandma was leaning against the sink, crying.
Grandma quickly wiped her eyes with her apron. "Hey sweetie, how are you feeling?"
"Okay, I guess." She didn't want Grandma to know she was eavesdropping, so she asked, "Did I hear Mom come in?"
"Yeah, she just went to her room to lie down for a bit." Grandma turned her face away. "Go on in and talk to her, woman to woman." Grandma forced a smile.
Chloe knocked lightly the bedroom door. "Mom, are you asleep?"
"No Hon, come on in."
Chloe curled up beside her mother on the bed. She wanted to ask her about the doctor visit, but thought she should wait for her Mom to say something first.
"I hear you're my little woman now." Mom smiled.
Chloe sighed. "I guess." She scooted closer and rested her head next to her mother's. "What'd the doctor say?"
Her mom hesitated a moment. "Um, just need some more tests to see exactly what's going on. I go back on Friday." She pushed Chloe's bangs back and kissed her on the forehead. "I'm not going to church tonight. I'm too tired. What about you?"
"I'll stay here with you." Chloe smiled. "We can watch a movie or something."
"What about school tomorrow?"
"I can go. Misty and Rebecca are going to be asking me a million questions, but I think I can handle it. I am a woman now." She smiled.
"I guess it won't hurt to miss one night of church." Mom smiled. "Grandma's going though, if you change your mind." She yawned.
"Mom, why don't you take a nap, and I'll look over the TV Guide to find us a show to watch tonight.
"Sounds good. I'm exhausted." She closed her eyes and rolled to her side.
Chloe tiptoed out of the room and grabbed the TV Guide.
You going with me tonight? Grandma asked.
"Mom said I can stay here and watch TV with her tonight."
"Alright, Punkin. I'll see you later. I'm heading out early to help mend the choir robes."
"Bye, Grams. See you later."
Chloe stretched out on the couch and closed her eyes. "God, it's me. Grandma says you know what I need, even before I ask, so I suppose you know what on my mind. Yeah, it's Momma. Please, don't take her from me. Amen. "
Grandma came home from church to find Chloe and her daughter asleep on the couch. "Hey, girls maybe you should turn in."
"Oh, Mom. What time is it?"
"It's about 9:30. I stayed a little late to have some quiet time to have a talk with God." She winked.
Chloe yawned and kissed Mom and Grandma. "Goodnight."
"Goodnight, sweetie." Grandma sat down next to her daughter. " I put your name on the prayer list, so everyone is praying for you, Dear." She patted her leg. "I'm off to bed. You best get some rest too."
Chloe's friends were asking questions at school the next morning.
"What's it feel like?" Rebecca asked.
"Chloe shrugged." It kind of hurts down here." She rubbed her abdomen.
Teresa ran up to Chloe. "Your grandma asked everyone to pray for your mom last night at church. I heard she's real sick."
"I don't know. She told me she more tests before she knows--"
"Well my mom said she is terminal, so that means she is dying."
Rebecca pushed her. "Shut up, Teresa! Don't say that."
Teresa pushed back. " I'm just repeating what I heard. Anyway, my grandma says God is punishing her for having a baby without being married and stuff."
Chloe help back tears. "You don't know what you're talking about Teresa. My dad died in the war, so shut up."
"Yeah, Teresa. Stop causing trouble." Rebecca chimed in.
"I'm not. You just ask your mom about it. My grandma said she remembers when you were born and your mom and dad weren't married, and your mom went off to live somewhere else for a whole year and came back with a baby. Even the ladies at the beauty parlor were talking about it. I heard them."
"Well, then why isn't God punishing your dad? I hear the same women in beauty shop taking about him..." Chloe stopped herself. She remembered what her grandma told her about gossiping. "God please help me keep my mouth shut and walk away," she said under her breath.
"What, Chloe? You got something about my family, just say it out loud!"
The bell rang. Rebecca grabbed Chloe's hand and pulled her toward the classroom.
Chloe sat in class staring out the window, thinking about what Teresa had said. I just couldn't be true, she thought. She felt nauseous but wasn't sure if it was the curse or the terrible thoughts of God punishing her mother that was making her feel ill. She jumped up and ran to restroom.
Rebecca followed her. She knocked on the stall door. "You okay in there?"
"I feel sick. Tell Mrs. Hertz I'm going to the nurse, okay."
Chloe flushed the toilet and went to the nurse's office.
"What's wrong little lady." Nurse Regina asked.
"I threw up. I'm not feeling well." She said holding her stomach.
"Okay, park it right there." She point to a chair. "I'll call someone to come pick you up."
A few minute later, Chloe sat on the bench waiting for her Grandma.
On the ride home, Chloe was quiet thinking about her parents, wondering did she really know everything about her dad. After all, he did die before she was born.
Grandma saw the distraught look on her granddaughter's face, but didn't pry. She'll come to me when she's ready, she thought.
Chloe got out of the car and went to her room. Grandma brought her some broth and crackers. "Here, sweetie. This will settle your stomach. I'll be in the kitchen if you need anything." She leaned down and kissed Chloe's forehead. "Get some rest, okay?"
She nibbled the crackers and sipped some broth, but the questions and worry wouldn't go away. She had to know if Teresa was right. She slid off her bed and made her way into the kitchen. "Grandma?" She said quietly.
Chloe pulled the bench away from the kitchen table and sat down. She opened her mouth to ask Grandma about her mom, but her voice cracked.
Grandma turned from the sink of dirty dishes, a sudsy plate in her hand. "You feeling okay, baby girl?"
She nodded her head and played with a loose string hanging from the edge of the place mat.
The plates clanked as Grandma added another clean one to dish drainer. Chloe felt Grandma turn and look her way, but continued to play with string, fraying the edge of the place mat.
Grandma dried her hands on her apron and sat down next her granddaughter.
"Chloe, honey? You can tell ol' Grandma anything. You know that right?" She placed her fingers under Chloe's chin and lifted her head.
She nodded, but couldn't speak. Her throat ached. You know that kind of ache when you are about to bawl and don't want to? You hold it in and it aches until it's set free.
"You want to talk about your Momma? You overheard, didn't you?" She brushed Chloe's long, red hair back and placed it behind her ear.
Chloe nodded, took a deep breath and just spit it out. "What did she do wrong, Grandma?"
Grandma's lowered her brow, waiting for more words to erupt.
She swung her leg around and straddled the bench, braced herself with her arms and gazed downward. "Teresa said Momma is dying 'cause God is punishing her." A stream of warm tears broke free. "What bad thing did she do?"
Grandma wiped the tears from Chloe's checks with her thumbs. "Why your Mom hasn't done a thing. She just got sick is all. Hasn't all these years attending church taught you that all good things come from God? Not bad."
She managed a broken, "Yes," between sniffles.
"Don't ever think bad about your Mom. She is a child of God."
"Then why her? Why does she have to die and leave us?"
"You know there is more to life than what's here on earth."
Chloe nodded again and wiped her eyes.
"You can't think about death as an end, 'cause sweetie, it's only a new beginning." She took her granddaughter's hands and smiled. "Our time here, on earth, is limited, because it's a time of learning and growing. We're all kinda like caterpillars in a cocoon, growing, maturing and then one day, when God thinks we're ready, we can emerge a new and beautiful creature."
Chloe gazed into Grandma's eyes as she spoke.
"Yes, we're gonna miss your Momma, but God is calling her home...she's been in her cocoon long enough. "
Chloe reached over and hugged Grandma and she squeezed her back even tighter.
"You feel a little better now?" She asked, patting my back.
"Kind of, but I still don't want Momma to go."
"Neither do I baby, neither do I." Grandma released her grip, and Chloe swung my legs around and hopped up.
"You need to let your mom know that you overheard and talk with her."
"I will, Grandma."
Chloe went out and sat on the porch swing. Breathing in some fresh, spring air made her feel a bit better. Mom's car pulled up, and she waved at her daughter.
"Hey girly, what are you doing home?" She gave Chloe a kiss on the cheek.
"I threw up at school." She said trying to hold back tears.
Mom put her purse down and sat beside her. "You look like something's up. What's wrong?"
Chloe looked down and felt ashamed for asking, but she had to. "Mom, were you and dad ever married?"
"What brought this up, Chlo?"
"Teresa said her mom said that you were dying and being punished by God because you had me and wasn't married to dad," She blurted. Tears slid down her cheeks.
"Teresa is wrong, honey. I've never told you before because I didn't think it was important, but your dad died before we got married. He was set to go on leave again in a few months, so we were planning the wedding." Tears glistened in Mom's eyes. "But he died in a helicopter crash a few days before the wedding date."
"So, it's true?"
"Yes, but it's not like the gossip. The terrible the stories people will spread about someone, and then people tend to believe the worst without question. Your dad was so excited about you, and I spent some time with your grandma and grandpa Thomas until you were born. It was the best way to get away from the rumors, and we helped one another get through the loss.
Chloe's put her arm around her and scooted her closer. "I didn't run away. I didn't do anything wrong or bad. We were in love and out of that came my beautiful girl. We even took your dad's last name because that's what he would have wanted."
"I understand now, Mom. I knew Teresa was spreading lies. She's always picking on other girls and talking about them behind their backs. I could've said what I heard about her dad and the blonde lady that works the express lane at the market, but I didn't. I clinched my teeth and didn't spread the gossip, like Grandma taught me."
Mom laughed. "I'm proud of you. It's not easy to walk away and not lash out when people are being vile." She squeezed her daughter tight. "I love you. You feel better now?"
Chloe nodded her head. "Yes, about this, but I'm still worried about you."
"I know, sweetheart. You've grown up so fast, and I should have been upfront with you. The doctor said my condition is not treatable." Her voice cracked. "I have about six months."
"No, I can't imagine my life without you, Mom." Chloe held her mom and cried.
"One thing I've learned about life, Chloe, is it's always changing, and you have to be strong and ask God for guidance to help with ups and downs."
"Ok, Mom." Chloe sniffled.
"I know it's not easy, but we have to be strong and make the most of the time we have left together here on earth."
The next few months started out okay. The school year ended and Chloe and her mom went on picnics, playing games, watched scary movies, and sat outside at night looking up at the stars. The two packed a lot of quality time into a few short months.
Chloe often thought about the last good day they spent together before Mom's health declined. The two sat on the porch swing and watched the butterflies flutter around the zinnias, four o'clock and daisies.
"Grandma says our lives are like butterflies because there is more to come after this life. Do you believe that's true?"
Mom took a deep breath and sighed. "We all have our thoughts on life and what comes next, and while I do believe there is more to life, I don't know that it happens instantly, like Grandma believes.
"What do you mean?" Chloe scooted closer to her mother waiting for her answer.
"I feel like there has to be something after, but I wonder if there's a wait. Maybe, life isn't our cocoon, maybe the grave is." She paused and thought a second of the right words to explain. "Okay, what if when we die, we remain in our graves and sometime in the future, once all life had ended on earth, we rise again? Think about how joyous a reunion that would be."
"I guess that could be true, Mom. I like it. Tell me more."
"Well, while those who have passed on are all in their cocoons sleeping, life goes on, but we don't know it, kind of like when you are asleep and times passes and you wake up. Of course those left behind are sad, but it's comforting to think that a loved one is at peace, and yes, you'll see them again. Of course, it could be while, but just think of all those people rising up and becoming something more beautiful than even the loveliest butterfly. What a reunion for everyone to come together as once and meet their creator."
"That sounds beautiful, Mom." Chloe stared up at the sky. "I can picture it in my mind. Everyone waking up to find they have changed and that all their loved ones have joined them for a long-overdue reunion. "
"It does, doesn't it?" I know not everyone thinks of that way, but I like it, too. I know your Grandma wouldn't hear of it," She smiled. "But, I want you to be open-minded and follow your heart, pray and try to be accepting of other ideas. God loves us, and that's all I know for sure."
"All these years you've been going to church with Grandma, and you've had other beliefs?"
"I've always had a different way of thinking than her, yes, and you may differ from mine, but I think that's okay. I think what you believe in your heart is put there by God to help you cope with loss." She hugged Chloe tight, tears filled her eyes. "I don't want to leave you, but I know in my heart, we'll be reunited."
"I do too, Mom. I just know we can't be apart forever."
"After I'm gone, just watch for the butterflies, and think of me and remember we'll be united as stunning new creatures."
That last conversation stayed with Chloe, even as she watched her mother grow frail. In the last couple of months of her life, her mother changed dramatically. Life a healthy green leaf plucked from a tree, denied its nutrients, she wilted and withered away.
With the garden all planted, Chloe waited until the first spring blooms brought out the striking butterflies, taking her back to that day on porch swing with her mother. It didn't matter if Grandma's beliefs were true, or if her mother's vision was correct because when she prayed, in heart she knew they'd be together again.
Chloe watched the butterflies come and go and flutter in circles together. "I can't wait to see you again, Mom."