Ever since Ella could remember, her mom had been having epileptic seizures. They were never predictable, but usually fairly easy to manage.
"She just had another seizure, but this one's a little more serious." That was whatElla's dad had said that night he calledher about her mom.
She told him she was on her way,hung up the phone, pulled on jeans and a T-shirt, and grabbed her purse. Kim, whom Ella had completely ignored for the past few minutes, sleepily asked her what her dad had said.
"I have to go see my mom. She's in the hospital. One of her seizures...this time it was bad."
"Well I hope she'll be okay."
"Yea that makes two of us. I gotta run. I'm not sure when I'll be back. Bye Kim."
And before Kim could say anything else Ella ran out the door.
The second she walked into the hospital room, Ella could tell there was something different about her mother. She looked paler than usual, weak, as if barely clinging on to life. Seeing her mom after she had just had a seizure was nothing new, yet this time it wasn't quite the same. Her health appeared undeniably fragile.
"Mommy I love you so much! I don't want you to ever scare me this bad again," Ella cried, wrapping her arms around her ill mother.
"Baby, don't worry so much. I'm still around and I'll be fine in just a couple days." In their relationship, Ella's mom was always the one who didn't take things so seriously. She was always joking and leaving the worrying to her daughter.
"You know I'll always worry about you Mom, especially when you're not healthy. I just hope there's nothing else wrong with you. I don't know what I could ever do without you."
"Elle, that's crazy talk!" She took a deep breath, preparing to be serious for a moment. "Just remember I love you more than you can ever imagine. No matter where you are, I'm there too. You okay hon? Come on, be happy. Celebrate life," her mom said smiling, while squeezing Ella's hand and looking into those warm green eyes.
At that moment a revelation came upon Ella. She suddenly realized that no matter how many bad things she had done, or how many arguments she had had with her mother in the past, her mother now forgave, and forgot, all of it. Ella sincerely wished she could take back everything. She was now seeing her mother in a whole new light; she wasn't just a woman who annoyed her daughter constantly, she was a woman who wanted to get the most out of life and wanted the same for Ella.
She just couldn't stop wondering why it took her so long to figure this out. Her mom was a great person - heck she was even funny and easygoing most of the time. Maybe it was high school and just being a teenager that caused her strenuous relationship with her mom. Regardless, she couldn't wait until her mom went home from the hospital and they could begin again, fresh, without regret, with hopes for the future instead. Maybe going to college and having a break from the family for a while has actually been a good thing, she thought. Not having to depend on her parents for everything made them a bit more tolerable.
"Hey Angie, Elle has some good news to tell us," Ella heard her father announcing, awakening her from her momentary daydream.
"Yup. I sure do. You guys know how I've been looking for a part-time job recently andapplied to several places, right? Well, I got the job I really wanted - tutoring middle school kids in English on the weekends. I finally have a chance to really help some kids and share my love of reading and writing." Ella honestly was excited about this opportunity - partially because she could use some extra cash, but mostly because it seemed like a fun and easy way to kick off her teaching career. Little did she know, it wouldn't be exactly as ‘easy and fun' as she expected.
"I'm really happy for you hon," said her dad smiling.
"So am I Elle. I'm sure you'll make an awesome tutor. But, just out of curiosity, aren't these the kinds of kids who fail English and get tutored on the weekends so they don't fail a grade? Because if they are, you're in for a lot of hard work," her mom said. "And believe me, I know from experience," she added with a wink.
Before, Ella would have rolled her eyes or sighed, acting like she was embarrassed by her mom. Now, she just laughed and said jokingly "Yeah mom, Steven acted like such a delinquent in middle school." Steven, Ella's 26 year old brother, was no more of a juvenile delinquent than Ella herself. A straight-A student, he went to a military college after high school and was now fighting in Iraq.
"Steven? I meant you of course." A smile approached the corners of Angie's mouth.
"Sure Mom," Ella nodded and smiled.
"I'm just kidding Sweetie."
Just then the doctor knocked on the door and proceeded to enter the little room.
"Hi, you must be Angie's daughter. Your mom sure loves to talk about you. I'm Dr. Briner," the doctor said, reaching out to shake Ella's hand. Right off Ella could tell he was an affable person. He was tall, with graying hair and glasses, probably in his late 40's or early 50's, wearing a genuine smile that showed off his straight white teeth.
"Nice to meet you Dr. Briner."
"Pleasure's all mine darlin'. So, why don't we get right down to business, okay? Well, Ella, David, it looks like Angie will be ready to go home tomorrow. She'll be all right, but not totally back to normal for a while. It's probably going to be at least two weeks before she completely regains her strength. Just make sure she gets a lot of rest."
"So in other words, I can't go bungee jumping or rock climbing for a while, right doctor?" Angie asked teasingly, even though she enjoyed doing both of those activities.
"Exactly my point," said Dr. Briner.
"So did you determine why this one seizure was so much worse than usual doctor?" questioned David, back to the serious issue at hand.
"We think it was triggered by a lot of stress she's been under lately...which is why it is essential that she must relax for a good long time - no work, shopping, or anything strenuous for two weeks. She's too fragile for that."
"Well then, I can assure you that she will be completely taken care of for the next few weeks."
"With my help on the weekends," added Ella.
On that note Dr. Briner said good-bye to the family, smiled once more, and left the room to move on to his next patient.
Just six hours later, at 7:00am, Ella woke up and realized she was still at the hospital. It was only Wednesday and although she had several assignments due back at Harvard, being with her family was more important. Last night Ella and her dad had decided that she would go back to school the following night- tonight - and if anything happened with her mother's condition he would notify her immediately.
Ella yawned, stretching her arms and getting up out of that not-so-comfortable hospital armchair, one of an ugly mustardy yellow color. She glanced toward the bed, saw her mom sound asleep, observed her father snoring in a chair on the other side of the room, and decided she needed a breath of fresh air. She quietly walked towards the door and slipped out into the hallway. Feeling groggy, she thought it would be wise to go downstairs and get a cup of tea to put some caffeine in her system - most people would have wanted coffee but Ella hated its taste.
She stepped into the elevator, feeling like the only person awake on the fifth floor. Pressing the button for the ground level, Ella leaned her head against the wall behind her. She heard the ding, then stepped carelessly out, not realizing there was a guy heading directly towards her, a cup of something in his hand.