Sweet sunlight poured onto my face as I opened the old attic door. How many years had it been since I was in this house? Too many to count. As I climbed the old stairs, memories flew in to me, as if they were arrows. I saw the face of a younger me, huddling in the corner, hiding from her brothers. Memories I had once forgotten came back instantly. I looked back at my childhood, the days where I could tease time and say, ‘You’ll never catch me!’. Now, as a grown woman, I try my hardest to look young and pure again.
A small hand grabbed and tugged on my skirt. I looked down and say the face of my young daughter. Her eyes stared at me endearingly. She asked me what I was doing in her high-pitched child voice. She wanted to know why I was up in the old attic. I couldn’t tell her I was being put in the hospital.
“Mommy’s going on a long work trip,” I lied. I sat down on the old wooden stairs and held my daughter on my lap. She rested her head on my shoulder and played with my long, graying hair.
“I don’t want you to go,” She whispered in my ear. I whispered back in her ear in our own secret language. The child nodded her head, golden curls flying everywhere. I couldn’t come to tell her I was slowly dying. My daughter nodded, smiled, and ran off to play with her toys. I continued to walk up the stairs. Once I was in the attic, I pulled a permanent marker out and walked up to one of the many cardboard boxes. I sat on the dusty floor and pulled the box toward me.
All this dust would probably worsen my condition, but this needed to be done. I uncapped the marker and wrote on the box in my neatest handwriting:
To my loving daughter, open when you are ready.
I noticed my hands were wet. I had been crying. My hair was in my face and stuck in my mouth. I hadn’t heard the footsteps coming up to the attic. My head shot around and I stared at the grim face of my husband. Behind him were the doctors who were assigned to take me to the hospital. I smiled a faint smile and stood up slowly. My legs staggered as I stood up. I almost fell down again, but my husband’s strong arms held me up. The three then escorted me down the old stairs. I had asked the doctors not to pick me up in an ambulance. They decided that they would pick me up in a small black car. It was as if it was my carriage to my death.
My daughter ran out of the house and embraced me. I put my hand gently on her soft golden curls and hugged her tightly. She told me to have a good trip, and ran back to stand with her dad. I wondered if I should tell her where I really was going and what was going to happen to me, but I decided against it. The last thing I would want to see would be to see my daughter in tears.
I was hesitant to step in the car, but I took a deep breath and with all my courage, I stepped in. My daughter was holding one of the neighborhood cats and making it dance. I laughed a bit. The doctors soon came into the car after talking with my husband. They started it and drove me off. I could see my daughter jump up and down and wave at me, wishing me a good trip.
“COME BACK SOON!” She yelled. I turned around and waved. As soon as she was out of sight, I buried my face in my hands and sobbed. I was the worst mother on Earth, I was a coward. How was I not able to tell my own daughter I was dying? How could I not tell her that I wouldn’t ever come back home, or ever go to another birthday party? How could I not tell her that she would have had a little brother? My chest and back heaved with each sob. I felt as if I had no hope.
Days and days past, and with every coming day, more and more machines were being attached to me. Different doctors from around the country, from around the world, came to examine me, but they had never seen a condition like mine. With each test, there was one less organ. Whatever I had was eating away at my organs. My body was destroying itself. My body destroyed my unborn son.
There came a time when I started rejecting the IV. My cheekbones began to poke out of my skin. Dark circles began to appear around my eyes. I was on so many machines to keep me alive that I didn’t feel human at all. Sure, the medicine and the machines had advanced, but they hadn’t advanced enough to cure me. I wouldn’t be alive much longer. The doctors stopped testing on me, and they basically just waited for me to croak.
One day, the doctors came in and cleaned me up. I barely noticed them. They told me that my husband and my daughter had come to visit and say goodbye. My husband told our daughter that I didn’t look the same and that I wasn’t feeling well. She seemed to be okay with that. When she came up to me, she stepped back, but then ran up to me. She talked her head off, that little chatterbox. Her birthday, first day of school, first bike ride, I had missed them all. My girl had grown up so much. She talked for an hour and left. She wasn’t angry at me. What a relief!
The doctors came in after she left and checked on me. How come I could see them? I could see me as well. My skin looked gray and wrinkly. Was this ugly woman me? My eyes were closed. Why were my eyes closed!? I pinched my arm and I hit myself, but I couldn’t feel anything at all.
I was dead.
I curled up in a tiny little ball and cried endlessly. I saw several patients come and go out of the room. I watched news programs on the tiny little television screen in the hospital room, but I never left. Once, there was a news bulletin on the same condition I had. There were pictures of me and other women as well. They called it “She”. Apparently it was a new disease caused by unknown factors that only occurred in women. It was said that cures for it would be developed soon. It didn’t matter, though. I was already dead. For many years, I remained in limbo. I was an empty spirit, haunting a hospital room.
There was one day, when the door burst open. A young woman was laying on the gurney. I touched her hair. It was soft and curly. She was in labor. It was obvious. Her face was covered in sweat and she was clenching the covers in pain. Suddenly, I blacked out. My spirit blacked out.
Sunlight poured into the bright room. The walls were painted with a light pink and yellow. My mom peered down into my crib, the crib of her newly born baby. She opened a cardboard box with faded writing on it and pulled out a book. On it read Diary. My mom picked me up and began reading from the diary. I yawned and sighed, snuggling towards the woman. I reached for the golden curls and stared into my mother’s beautiful blue eyes.
Little did I know that I was staring into the eyes of my daughter, the daughter who I was afraid to tell that I was dying. Of course, I would never find that out.
I didn’t know anything about the woman I once was, and I will never be her again.
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