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It was one of those late July evenings, sultry in its humidity and suffocating in the heat it sent radiating off the misty fields and dewy hills. The sun broke gently through the evening harr coming in off the ocean and cooled the roots of the tall fir tree, shaking it until it was croaking like a scarlet ibis. A gentle wind whispered through our hills, lightly, easily, scattering the purple fronds of the sweet plum tree and the fading lilac blooms of the fragrant wisteria.
I, Lorelai, was sitting outside on the verandah just out the French doors leading to my bedroom. I had been watching the sunset now everyday for two weeks, never knowing which might be my last one.
I sighed, drawing my knobby, scabby knees to my bony chest. I could feel the silky touch of my bare legs against the gentle tickle of my soft cotton ivory nightgown. A gentle breeze swept across the verandah, lifting my dark ebony curls off my shoulders and rippling them down my spiny, frail back. My pallid complexion became rosy and smiling, a brief yet welcome change from the straight painful grimace I so often wore.
I didn’t deem myself a beauty, for I’d never gazed in a looking glass, but Momma liked to praise my beauty. She described me as having creamy caramel eyes flecked with gold rimmed with thick dark lashes that took in everything with curiosity and excitement, dark lustrous ebony curls that shone when the evening sun’s last gleaming rays caught hold of them, and milky white skin, smooth and unblemished.
But that did not mask the fact that I knew that I was going to die. Momma had told me the story often, about how I was born 16 weeks early, and with physical deformities. My bone structure was weak, and my heart was enlarged. When my father had heard, he left the house saying that he would never raise a cripple. I remember that horrendous day:
“What? There’s nothing wrong with her!” My father screams hysterically.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Bennet, your daughter will never leave this house.” Dr. Harsmith replied somberly.
Momma covers her face with her hands, and from my position at the top of the stairs, I can hear sobs bubbling out from between her tired fingers. She turns to my father, and leans on his chest, trying to find assurance.
To my horror, my father stiffens against Momma. He pushes her away roughly and glares at her.
“This is all your fault, Christianna!” He roars.
“My fault? How so?” Momma screams at him.
“You should’ve known from the way you were carrying her that she was weak!” He slaps her, the sound of flesh smacking flesh echoing through the stone hallway.
Momma clutches her face, tears streaming freely now. “Blaine, there’s nothing we could’ve done. I love Lorelai just the same for all her…problems.”
“Well, I won’t raise a damn cripple, that’s for sure and said.” He sneers, spittle on his lip.
Momma’s face was a mask of horror as my father pivots around and stalks out the front door, slamming it behind him, loosening several wall hangings. Momma, shocked, seats herself slowly on the stairwell landing and her head sinks into her hands once more.
From that day on, Momma hasn’t been the same. From my accursed bed, I watched her beauty fade from that of a youthful, happy wife to one of a burdened, hopeless woman. She never failed to care for me night and day, no matter what I needed. Her responsibility for a helpless daughter had withered and aged her.
I breathed in the evening air, my throat welcoming the fresh taste. Day after day, the air in my room would become stale and my physical state would worsen. Suddenly, I felt a familiar, thistle-down tickle in my throat.
“Oh no!” I croaked hoarsely. The doctor had already been to see me several times this week for coughing spasms. Momma and Dr. Harsmith didn’t think I’d heard, but I listened through the door at their murmured conversations. Dr. Harsmith wasn’t holding out much hope…
“Christianna, you must move her to a warmer climate. It’s her only hope.”
“How much time do we have?”
“I can’t say. With Lorelai, she could die at any time…”
I withdrew my ear from the door, my eyes welling with unwanted tears.
I began to try to breath in, almost immediately letting it out with a sound not unlike a donkey’s bray. Pain shot through my throat, bringing tears to my eyes. I coughed more, feeling my eyes strain as they bulged from their sockets and my face drain from the temporary rose color back to my pulpy, pale complexion. As the coughs rattled my ribs, I could faintly see dark strands falling into my face and tangling with each spasm.
I choked, unable to catch my breath and fell back to the splintery, white-washed wooden planks of the porch, my vision sparkling into black fuzziness.
Somewhere in my subconscious mind, I could hear yelling. Momma. Momma was yelling at Dr. Harsmith again most likely. I could hear the voices getting louder, and it was definitely Momma screaming, her voice pronounced with vexation.
Suddenly, a pair of strong, warm arms scoops me up and holds me close, kissing away the tears on my eyelashes. My body won’t obey me and wake up. I remain in my subconscious, in the land between the living and the dead.
It is obvious to me that Momma has ahold of me, for I hear her start to sing a sweet lullaby. My heartbeat sings along with it and my mind hums the melody. I hear her whispering my name over and over again then feel her salty tears land on my lips.
Stirring, I lick them away. My eyes flutter open, my double vision settling and coming to rest on Momma. I reach up with my thumb and swipe her tears away.
“Dear Momma, why are you crying? I was singing the lullaby with you…” I start to hum the lullaby.
Momma peeks out from her fingers, parting them as if playing peek-a-boo to discover if my voice is real. She embraces me joyously, and then carries me back to my bedroom. I finger the wispy, sheer curtains hanging at the French doors as we go by. For some reason, I’ve never noticed they were there.
She lays me down as though I am as fragile as a china doll, tucking my linen covers around me and plumping my feather-down pillows. My nose breathes in the soft aroma of rose blooms surrounding me. Momma is wearing her rose perfume again.
It took me a long time to fall asleep. I chattered for hours after Momma came in, and she got so worried, she started talking with me to make sure I wasn’t losing my mind.
“Momma, I’m hot.” I mutter deliriously.
Momma’s head snaps up and she jumps up and swipes a hand over my forehead. She pulls it away, her hand dripping with perspiration. She goes to the foot of my bed and throws up the covers and feels my feet.
“Icy cold,” she mutters, frantic.
She begins to rub my feet, trying to make them warm and draw the fever from my head. She leaves the room briefly, but it feels like a lifetime before she returns with a steaming basin of hot water and dips my feet in them. She holds them in the water, and I gradually feel the fever leaving my head, an impending migraine retreating as well.
Finally, I fell asleep merely from exhaustion. Horrendous night terrors and frightening hallucinations plagued me. I squirmed and wriggled, trying to escape them, tangling the sheets with my legs and knotting them in my fists. The visions were frightening, yet my mind wouldn’t let me open my eyes and escape them. I cried out, kicking and yanking at my hair, feeling tangled strands leave my scalp with a quick, sharp sting. Would this never-ending, feverish night ever end?
Suddenly, a new vision enters my mind. I stop yanking my hair, enraptured by the vision before me. Before me, there is standing a radiantly glowing man, perfect in His beauty and amazing in His grace. He holds out a hand towards me. I reach out, but recoil from fright. I gaze, awestruck, at His marred hands, a perfectly severed hole running through His delicate bone structure.
“Come home, Lorelai.” His voice is smooth and velvety, reminding me of a gentle summer rain pattering on silky spider webs.
Smiling, I take His hand and we walk off, feeling no pain, and having no memories.
Columbia Station, Ohio
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I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith - 2 Timothy 4:7
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"Learning to love the process."