Published by Amazon Genres: Contemporary Romance, Young Adult
2: Goodbye to Childhood
The call came late one evening, not long after my fourteenth birthday. I looked to my sister, both of us wide-eyed, feeling the other’s pure terror. I held my breath. This wasn’t real was it? The phone kept ringing, a shrill horrid alarm that the three of us would rather stare at than answer.
This couldn’t be happening, not to us, not to me, not to her. My dad shot up, snatched the phone and stormed out of the room. We waited. Listening to the muffled conversation from the kitchen. Then there was silence. Dad didn’t come back in for what seemed like a very long time. When he did, he’d been crying. He tried to hide it of course, but it was obvious. His sparkly green eyes, like mine, were dull, pink and swollen. I still play that conversation over in my head daily, it’s a reminder that it happened and I’m not about to wake up and be whole again any time soon.
“Girls.” His voice cracked.
“No! No! It’s not time!” Claire squealed, and ran upstairs.
“Sammy,” he whispered, kneeling at my feet. “Sammy Cakes…” I gulped. ‘Sammy cakes’ had been my mum’s special name for me, we’d bake fairy cakes and I’d never wait for the cakes to cool down before I’d steal one. I didn’t want to hear that name now…not ever. “Sammy, Samantha…” he continued.
“No! Don’t say it!” I burst into tears. “If you say it, it makes it true.” I sobbed into his shoulder for hours, until his entire shirt collar and sleeve were completely soaked.
How could I lose her? Surely I was too young? Did I not deserve her? Was that it? Did I not love her enough? Did I do something wrong? Maybe if I’d spotted her illness earlier…maybe she wouldn’t have died. Didn’t she deserve to see her girls grow up? Watch me become a top tennis player? That had been my dream: that one day I’d be in the final of Wimbledon, and she and everyone I knew would be in the Royal Box, cheering me on. And when I held that trophy aloft, I’d turn to her first and mouth the words, ‘thank you’. But that dream can never happen, no matter how much I replay it in my mind.
“It’s not fair.” I cried pulling away from Dad’s shoulder.
I’d known something wasn’t right for a while, a year or so I guess. But I’d been selfish, ignoring that little voice in my head that was threatening to ruin my tidy, happy, perfect life.
Mum would often complain about having ‘one of her heads’, or go lie down in the middle of the afternoon. A couple of times, nearer the end, we’d been packed off to my Gran’s in the country. I loved ‘quality time’ with Gran but deep down, I knew there was much more to it. Neither Claire nor myself spoke about it. Looking back, I guess it’s because we didn’t want to know. As long as we knew nothing, then nothing was happening.
Bless Dad, he tried his best to shield us, but when mum collapsed on the kitchen floor whilst pouring my cereal, there was no doubt she was poorly. Just how poorly was the real shock.
Turns out she’d had breast cancer a few years before and had surgery without our knowledge. She was cleared after a year or so but then it came back with a vengeance, spreading rapidly to other parts of her body. She’d hide herself after chemo, Dad or my Auntie Sue would tend to her. We could hear her retching from every room in the house, but we knew little of cancer, little of our own mortality. No one we’d been close to had ever died before, apart from our cat Nigel and I was tiny back then.
Dad told us everything as we sat around her unmoving body on the cold kitchen tiles, waiting for the ambulance to arrive. I felt numb, more than anything else, numb and cheated by life. I pinched hard into my arm, so hard that I drew blood. I knew this wasn’t a dream. I was very much awake and silently praying for her to open her eyes and pour the milk on my Shreddies. I can still hear the high-pitched screams of Claire. I can still taste the tears in my throat. We visited Mum in hospital for about six weeks after that.
One Monday morning, dad came home and without a glance our way, threw his keys in the fruit bowl and headed upstairs. His bedroom door slammed and then nothing but silence for a good hour.
“I’m off up there,” I told Claire, as I stood on shaking legs.
“Well I am. You can sit here, not knowing, all you like. I’m going.” I took a deep breath and headed out before she could object again. I marched up and pushed his door open ready to burst in if he refused to speak to me. I couldn’t handle anymore doors between us. He sat on the bed, head in his hands, quietly sobbing and I crumpled on the spot. I just wanted to make him happy again, make him my happy-go-lucky dad who was always whistling or singing some random tune that he didn’t quite know the words to. My dad, with his crazy red hair and overdose of freckles, my dad who was my mum’s strength, now wasn’t my dad at all. I wanted to make him that guy again, but I knew it was beyond words, beyond gestures…even so, I had to try. Life certainly was laughing right in our faces and I couldn’t let it win. “What is it?” I asked sitting next to him on the bed. The bed he shared with mum. The room smelt like her, she always smelt like baby talcum powder.
“She’s got worse Sammy.” He sniffled, looking up from his palms. God, he looked old.
“And?” I gasped.
“And?” Claire demanded, standing in the doorway.
“She asked that you girls don’t visit anymore.”
“What?” I jumped up from the bed.
“Calm down, Sammy,” Claire ordered me, which I really didn’t need right then. She wasn’t my mum; she wasn’t even a decent sister most of the time. Then I had an awful thought, I still cringe when I think about it…I wished it could have been Claire instead of mum. What a terrible, horrid person I was. I still feel guilty. I still feel like a monster.
“She doesn’t want you girls to see her, she wants you both to remember her how she was.” Dad tried to smile, but gave up halfway.
“You’re talking like she’s already dead!” Claire shouted. “This is bullshit!”
“Claire!” Dad shouted after her, but in the light of what was really going on, he didn’t get up or really even get mad. He was broken. Unfixable.
“It’s not fair.” I cried, and plonked myself back down.
“It’s really not, Sammy cakes.” He hugged me and we stayed like that for a while.
* * * *
It was a small, intimate funeral. People, family, even neighbours hugged us, told us how sorry they were and what a lovely woman she was. I know they were trying, but none of it helped. I was uncomfortable the whole time, made to wear one of Claire’s old dresses because I only had dungarees, jeans and tee-shirts. Claire —being a size that some magazine article told her she should be — made the dress a little restricting. I wasn’t overweight, in fact I was developing quite an athletically toned frame, Claire just needed to eat a few more pies in my opinion.
I went looking for my dad, Claire was playing at being host, I guessed it was her way of coping. I hadn’t seen her cry, not once, which was weird. It made me resent her. Didn’t she care at all? Was shopping, going out a lot and playing stupidly loud music her way of not dealing? It was as if Mum never existed to her. I got angry just looking at her face, a face that was the image of a woman she was too easily forgetting about.
I found Dad hiding in the study upstairs. It was Mum’s work space really; she was an accountant but worked mostly from home. Her walls were covered in photos of us. Dad had taken one off her desk and was cradling it.
“Hey, “I said “People are missing you down there.”
“Do you remember this Sammy?” He nodded at the frame. I walked over and stared at it. It was Mum’s favourite. The four of us on holiday at the seaside. I was small and Claire was about six. We were laughing at something when my Auntie Sue took the picture.
“Not really, but Mum loved it.”
“God, I miss her.” He looked at me, his eyes were watering.
“I miss her so much it hurts. There’s this emptiness in my chest…it’s not fair.” I cried, I couldn’t bear to see him so sad.
“It’s not Sammy Cakes. But she’s in a better place…and she’s not in any pain now.” He tried really hard to be strong that day and I loved him even more for it.
“I want her back!” I sobbed.
“I know. We’ll get through this together, I promise. Okay Sammy?” He lifted his eyebrows. I should have realised at the time that he needed me as much as I needed him.
“It’s just Sam now.”
“What?” he asked, wiping a tear from my cheek.
“No more Sammy Cakes or Sammy…I’m too old for all that now. It’s just Sam now, okay?”
“Okay,” Dad nodded. “I love you…Just Sam.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kristy Brown lives in England with her husband and two sons. She trained as an actress and has a degree in Contemporary Arts. After her first child was born she began writing a short story whilst he took a nap. That was the beginning of the “Kiera’s Quest” teen fantasy series, which is published by ‘Muse It Up Publishing.’
Kristy then went on to write “Summer’s End,” a YA Paranormal romance series, which will also be published with Muse It Up Publishing.
“Just Sam,” is a YA/ Teen contemporary romance book set loosely in the world of tennis.
Kristy is currently editing her YA modern retelling of Cinderella, “Cinderfella.” She is also writing the third book in the “Summer’s End” series and has many more stories in mind, yet not enough time in the day!
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