Written by Vanessa Anne Walsh
Please Be Careful
Three days passed painfully slowly, with no news from Mum. Then, just as I was about to leave for school one morning, a taxi pulled up outside. I rushed out to see if it was Mum. As I reached the street, I watched mother slowly and with a great deal of effort climb out of the cab. I found it difficult to hide the sense of shock I felt as I noted her frail and aged appearance. Her lily-white face could not hide the deep, dark rings under her eyes, and as she looked up, I noted that the lid over her left eye was partially shut. She barely acknowledged me as she paid the cab driver and when she finally turned to face me, her mouth was drawn tightly closed, emphasizing her haggard appearance.
“Mum,” I cried, at once thrilled to see her, and devastated by how sickly and aged she looked. “Let me help you with your bags.” I said rushing forward to give her a hug; however she didn’t even raise her arms to return the embrace. We walked slowly inside without talking, before I settled her in the living room and offered her a cup of tea.
I found it difficult to stop staring at her face in disbelief and amazement. It was as though she had aged twenty years since I last saw her. I wanted to ask her about her trip, but it was heartbreakingly obvious something terrible had gone wrong. Not wanting to overwhelm her with questions, I sat beside her, holding her hand. Disturbingly, she just sat in silence. Together we sat, not saying anything, for about half an hour. At some point Dad entered the room; however neither mother nor father spoke a word to each other. I felt my heart sink. The atmosphere immediately intensified as Dad marched through the room, as if he was checking to see what Mum was saying, rather than looking after her state of health. Inside, I could feel myself beginning to seethe as my chest tightened with anxiety.
After a while, Dad left the room, and not able to restrain myself any longer, I leaned forward, looking intently into my mother’s eyes. “Mum, what happened,” I whispered. “I have been trying to find you, but Dad wouldn’t tell me where you were.”
With her eyes cast downward, and unable to meet my gaze, mother murmured in a tone that was barely audible, “As I was leaving the hotel in Singapore, I suffered a brain aneurism and collapsed. I was taken to hospital and that is where I have been the past few days. They told me I shouldn’t fly, however I was worried about you and Lucy and felt I had to get home.”
“That’s awful Mum. I’m so sorry.” I paused for a moment before asking, “Do we need to take you to hospital now that you are back?”
“No dear, I’ll be seeing my doctor in a few days. For now I just need to get some rest,” she replied in a voice barely above a whisper.
I squeezed her hand. “How was Canada Mum? Were you sick there as well?”
Immediately, Mum’s face froze over with an icy stare. She just sat, dazed and in silence. Horrified by the change in her expression, I offered to help her settle in bed, but she refused to allow me to assist her any further.
“Don’t you have to be at school?” she said, looking around to check the time.
“Mum, if you are sick and need help, I can stay home today,” I said. “I am so worried about you. You look so frail, as though you are about to pass out.”
Again, her face froze, gaunt and lifeless. “I’ll be alright,” she replied coldly. “You get back to your studies. You have exams coming up soon. It’s important to me that you do well.” Finding it difficult even to contemplate my school work at this time, I reluctantly got up and agreed to catch the next train to school. “Is there anyone you want me to ring, to come and look after you while I’m away,” I asked, as I picked up my school bag. “What about one of your friends?”
“No,” was the short reply. “Go to school Oceané. I will see you this afternoon.”
Upset by the lack of emotion and affection I was used to receiving from my mother, and horrified by her ghostly and frail appearance, I walked quietly out the door. Instead of feeling relief that she had made it home safely, my concerns and worries had only increased. She was all I could think about as I gazed out of the dirty window as the train sped towards the city.
Copyright © Vanessa Anne Walsh 2019
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