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Mountain Dew, Chuck Taylors and Empty Words


    Apologies are like Mountain Dew. Sweet, but worthless. Empty words. I’d only been to the hospital twice in my life, once when I was born, and again when I was seven and I swallowed three cats-eye marbles. This time was different.

    I sat in the waiting room. The walls were painted an off-white, which bugged me like crazy, and the old, dated chairs were stiff and as comfortable as a bed made of brambles. Time seemed to soar by as I sat waiting. My grandma sat next to me, reading the latest issue of HGTV Magazine and tapping her Ugg Slippers impatiently on the floor. I glanced down at the shoes I wore. Black Chuck Taylor’s hugged my tiny foot. They were rugged and the white toecap was dirty and torn. “Hollie?” a voice chirped. I sat straight up.

    “Yes, grandma?”

I don’t want to turn my head towards her. Her small sky blue eyes would be as big as saucers.

    “She’ll be okay. I promise.”


I told myself not to shed a single tear, but it felt impossible. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my grandma turn away from me, and focus her eyes back on the magazine. I couldn’t ever picture living with my grandma. The only food she had was Lactose-Free this and that, but the way things were looking, that’s probably where I’d end up.

    What felt like hours later, the doctor finally stepped out of the room. A clipboard was clutched in her shaky hand.

    “Mrs. Cumberland?”

My grandma looked up from her magazine in the blink of an eye

    “I am she,”

    “We’d like to see you in the back,” she looked down at the clipboard, “and we’d like to see Miss Nolan as well.”

I stood up. My palms were shaking. My grandma set down her magazine and grabbed my hand, her eyes were shiny, she was about to cry. We followed the jittery nurse into the room.

    The room was the same off-white as the halls. Big snot-green drapes hung from the middle of the room.

    “Nora is on the other side.”

The doctor muttered just loud enough to hear. As my grandma and I rounded the drapes, I closed my eyes, not wanting to see her in such pain.

    “Hollie? Mom? You’re still here?”

I slowly open my eyes to see my mother laying on the beige hospital bed. Except, she doesn’t look like the mom I knew. Tubes are stuck everywhere, on her nose, face, arms, and legs. Her skin is ashen and her bones are visible. Her eyes are watery and drown-out, and he voice was cold and sharp.

    “Yes, Nora. Hollie and I are here to see you.”

She barely made out a smile as grandma approached.

    “Honey, you look awful”

My mother sighed, although it sounded like an exhausted weeze.

    “I know,” she stated, sounding congested as hell, “I feel awful too. It’s not working. Nothing’s working.”

    “Nora, everything will work out perfectly. You’ll be back at your home with Hollie and Frisky in no time.”

    She snuffled with doubt.

    “How’s Hollie dealing with this?”

I walked closer to her. Her face was sunken as deep as an abyss. For some reason, I felt scared.

    “I am well mother,” I choked hoarsely, “Frisky is good too. We took him to grandma’s with us. He doesn’t like grandmas dog very much. He keeps getting chased-”

    “Ah, that’s nice that the cat is doing well, but I want to know about my daughter.

I hesitate.

    “I am well. I already told you…”

I trailed off. I looked into her pleading eyes. I could almost see the vibrant green that once flooded her eyes, but then reality hit me like car, and her eyes faded back to dark grey.

    “I need some water.”

I admitted. I left the room before I could get a response.

    “You’ll take her right?”

I hear my mother voice whisper through the doors. I stop and walk back to the door.

    “Yes, but you don’t need to think of that now-”

    “Yes, I do mom.”

She pauses

    “Stage Five remember?”

    “Sweetie, you’ll be-”

    “Don’t you dare fill Hollie’s head with lies, I’m not gonna make it.”


    “Listen to me!”

My mother shouted. I could almost feel her pain through the door.

    “Dr. Westerfield said it himself, he said I wouldn’t make it to the next week!”

Silence coated the room. Tears began to roll out of my eyes like boulders.

    “I don’t know,” my grandma paused, “what to say”

    “You can say ‘God? Why’d you give my daughter cancer? Why’d you do this to her?’ Teach that bastard in the sky a lesson.”

    “Nora,” my grandma whispered, “I understand that this is hard, but we mustn’t lose faith, we have to keep going on and-”

    “Stop talking about your stupid faith!” she screamed, “It’s my life, and seeing it come to end is hard. Hard. So I’m not gonna spend my LAST week on Earth going all ‘Jesus this, and God that’”

    A dark silence filled the room. I rested my hand on the handle.

    “Fine, but Hollie and I are still sending prayers for you,” she commented, “whether you’ll accept them or not.”

    Footsteps were coming closer as I backed away from the door. My grandma stepped out with makeup messed up on her face.

    “Hi, Grandma, I was just coming in,”

She smiled faintly and grabbed my arm,

    “I don’t think your mom’s doing well, let’s go home,”

She tugged me a couple inches before I planted my feet down.

    “Grandma, I’ve been here all day!”

    “Even more of a reason to go home.”

    “Here all day WAITING to see mom!”

I yelled. My face was a red as a tomato.

    Grandma stared at my face. She slowly loosened her grip.

    “Five minutes”

She grunted, turning away from the door.

    “Thank you.”

I muttered gratefully. I opened the door, and walked through. Preparing myself for seeing my mother again was easier this time. I didn't close my eyes, and walked straight to her side without hesitation. She was still sitting there, looking out the window with a vacant expression on her face.

            "Hi Mom,"

I mutter. She looks at me. Her face is blotchy and screwed up from crying and drugs.

            "Hi baby girl."

She snuffled then broke out into crying. I walked up to her bedside and hugged her with my deepest emotions.

            "Come home"

I cry, my arms still wrapped around her waist.

            "Hollie, I wish I could, but you know I-"  she stammered, "you know I can't."

I nodded and carefully let her go.

             "Don't you believe any of that bullshit Grandma tells you," she whispered, "I don't want you to build a false hope that isn't gon' come true."

I nodded again, holding back tears.

            " I won't. I won't if you don't want me to."

I sniffled loudly and embraced her again.

            "Je t'aime"

I smiled as I released again. She smiles. She always wanted to go to France.

            "Je t'aime. Je t'aime."

I carefully kissed her on the forehead and left the room as she fell asleep.

            My mother died two days later. The call came in at 10:32 am. I knew what was happening the moment Grandma picked up the phone and stopped to listen for a while. I wasn't the tough girl I thought I was as I broke into tears that fell like a waterfall. I buried my face into my pillow and screamed. Footsteps as loud as firecrackers neared my door. Grandma. I felt her hand on my shoulder and the cold, petite teardrops stream of her face onto my top. I took my face out of the pillow and sat with her. Hours passed of us in the same position. My head was on her lap and she was sitting criss-cross applesauce on my bed.

           "We should go see her."

My grandma added while stroking my head. I look up at her and nod slowly.


She stepped out of my bed and transferred my off of her legs. I reluctantly climb off with her, and proceed to grab her hand and walk out of my room with her. The house was a still as water. Not a sound emerged from the quiet other than the creaking of the wooden planks as we descended from the top of the stairs. Frisky was laying on a wooden bookshelf, Grandpa’s ancient uniform picture standing next to the black, purring cat. We walked through the house, to the garage. Before opening the door, Grandma looks at me.

    “You’re a brave, little girl Hollie Nolan.”

The edges of my mouth creep up abit, but eventually fall back down. Much to my Grandma’s dismay. Without a single reason in my mind, I jump in her car, and keep my mind blank all the way to the hospital where my dead mother lay.

    Seeing my mother lifeless was surprisingly easy. I looked at her peaceful, at rest body and smiled. Forty-two is a terrible age to die at, but I felt like she was finally at rest with the world. We went over her will in an empty  room. The custody went to Grandma, of course. As I left the hospital to pick up all my stuff, I was wondering if she went to heaven. Maybe she could say “hello” to Grandpa for me. Dad too, and tell them that I’ll see them all one day. One day.

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