Happily Ever After?

By: Cher Etan


“Your dad broke down like that too, his first time.”

Meaghan lifted her head. “Yeah?” she asked hopefully encouragingly. Her mother rarely spoke about her father, especially their early days before Meaghan came along so she treasured every memory she could get.

“Yes. He was…he was doing his residency at the military hospital; you know they paid for his schooling – so anyway there was this one soldier. Came back from the war with shrapnel in his chest. Too close to his heart to extract but he was getting better every day, stronger. He and your father became friends because Charlie was there every day, encouraging him, treating him. Well one day, Charlie comes in to work and finds that the patient had a heart attack during the night. They were fighting to save him but it wasn’t looking good. Charlie went in there, opened him up – it was past time to think about risks vs. benefits. He just went in there and got the shrapnel out and closed the guy up and willed him to live. And he did, for twenty four hours. But then he had another cardiac arrest and this time he would not be revived. It wasn’t Charlie’s first time to see a man die God knows. But it was his first patient that he lost; and that patient also happened to be a friend. I remember he came home, looked at me so bleakly. Then he just collapsed in my arms in tears. It was my first time to see your father c-cry…” Amanda paused swallowing hard and Meaghan carefully avoided looking at her mother’s face.

“I almost cried myself but I knew that he needed me to be strong for him,” she finished at last.

Meaghan pulled her closer, wrapping her arms tightly around her mother’s shoulders.

“He was lucky to have you,” she said into her mother’s shoulder.

Amanda laughed wryly. “We were lucky to have each other,” she said wistfully.

They were quiet for a while, just holding each other close.

“I still miss him,” Meaghan said softly. “And I barely remember him. I can’t imagine how it must be for you; especially now that I know what it is to love a man.”

Amanda sighed. “He’s a part of me; he always will be. And I hope your man loves you as much as your father loved me.”

Meaghan took a breath ready to tell her mother all about Dean asking her to move in with him. But then she closed it again. That was not a discussion for now. It wouldn’t be fair to broach it when her mother would want to sit down and discuss it in detail. Either she’d go to work distracted or she’d be even later than she already was. Meaghan disentangled herself from her mother’s arms.

“I’ve taken up enough of your time,” she told her. “Go to work – we’ll discuss Dean another time.”

Maybe she was also stalling.

“Okay honey. You’ll be alright?” Amanda asked, her hands on Meaghan’s arms. Her daughter nodded her head just the same way she’d done in first grade when her mother had dropped her off at the new school and asked her the same question.

Amanda smiled wetly at her, leaned forward and planted a kiss on Meaghan’s forehead. “Your father would be proud of you, you know?” she said wiping stray tears off Meaghan’s face.

“Yeah, I know,” Meaghan replied shakily trying to smile back. It was an epic fail but her mother appreciated the thought behind it.

“I have to go but I’ll see you later okay doll?” she asked smoothing Meaghan’s hair back.

“Okay mom,” she said reaching out to clasp her mother’s hand.

“Are you going to be here the rest of the day?” she asked.

“Nah, um Bain is coming to take me shopping because Dean got tickets to a movie premiere.”

Amanda shook her head at her. “Seems dating this man is pretty expensive,” she said.

“True, but worth it,” Meaghan replied.

Amanda squeezed her hand and picked up her bag, pausing at the door to look back at Meaghan. “If you need to talk I am literally a phone call away.”

“I know mom. Love you.”

“Love you to muffin cake,” she said as she left. Her mother hadn’t called her muffin cake since third grade; she really must look a hot mess. Meaghan put her ring tone to its highest volume so she would hear when Bain called and then flopped down onto her mother’s bed to get some shut eye.

*****

She was dreaming that she was in a dystopian post apocalyptic world with nothing to be seen for miles around except sand. She walked and walked and walked, worried about getting thirsty and not having anything to drink, maybe perishing from dehydration…she didn’t know how long she’d been walking when she saw a man in the distance, seemingly walking in the same direction she was. He was quite far away from her, very nearly a dot in the horizon but she tried to call out to him anyway. He didn’t respond in any way so she hurried her footsteps to get closer to him but the distance between them remained the same. Suddenly, there was a jarring claxon sound renting the atmosphere. She crouched down over herself, hands over her ears, trying to keep the sound out. It just seemed to get louder and more insistent.

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