The doctor, one of many who'd treated her over the years came out of the room shaking his head.
"She's near the end" his voice slightly dry and somewhat repetitive as this was the fourth time he'd made this statement. Once again her mother cried, her father prayed and her family waited.
Maria lay in her bed wondering what all the fuss was about.
"But I feel fine" she'd said when her cousins came to say their farewells, once was heartbreaking and the second time was just as bad, they declined a third as they'd said all they had to say and anyway they had tickets to see a show which were non refundable.
"Hasn't she gone yet?" whispered Chloe who'd been promised her antique doll's house when the funeral was over.
Maria had no idea about said arrangements.Her headstone had been ordered and the flowers and food were on standy ready to be prepared when the time came. Maria had written down a selection of her favourite songs which changed week by week, she chose a few then scribbled them out again only to be replaced by the current number one in the music charts.
"Your mother is a martyr" said Mrs.Kennedy who'd lit more candles than she'd had hot dinners.
Maria blinked back tears as she thought of all the good things people had done for her, now it was her turn to repay them and let them get on with their lives instead of hanging about in limbo.
The priest held her hand and said strange things in latin which made her giggle and think of green goo and a spinning head.
After nine hours the priest gave up and went home, he shook his head as he left the room and prayed some more.
The 'young visitor' from the church had started coming once a week to do her bit and reserve her place in heaven but she stopped when she realised this stubborn invalid wasn't going anywhere. She still kept in contact with Maria's mother even though she was away at university and waited for the day she could place lillies on her grave and profess ' I did my bit for the dying girl.'
The professionals had done all their tests, x rays and scans showed that the mass had reached her brain.
"She won't be able to understand what's going on" said the woman doctor as Maria finished the crossword puzzle in the local paper.
"Can I go outside?" another pointless question left her lips but she already knew the answer.
"Because of what?
"Because you're dying you stupid selfish girl" yelled her auntie, redfaced and tearful as she ushered Maria's mother out of the room.
"But I feel fine" the invalid's voice echoed with the slam of the door from the two harrassed family members.
"I just want sunshine"
It had been five years since Maria was diagnosed, the cancer had spread throughout her body and was now killing her very very slowly.
She'd heard her parents ask the doctor to give her more morphine and let her go painlessly but he said he couldn't as she wasn't in any pain. So the painkillers stopped and alternative medicines were found.
Maria had a journal and wrote down how she felt. I don't feel ill, I want to go out and have fun, I'm twenty nine years old, I shouldn't be lying in a bed like a lazy cow.
Her auntie was blunter than most.
"You're dying, there's no going back and no cure, nothing, why are you taking so long?"
Maria was shocked all she wanted to do was go on a rollercoaster by the sea.
"Blackpool's shut" said her dad as he introduced her to a friend of his.
"I'll sit with you for a while" said the burly man with the tattoos and dread in his eyes who watched her from the doorway. He closed the door quietly and walked towards her unravelling a scarf, he started knotting it, five knots in she realised that this wasn't some weird habit, although murder could have been his profession from the way he looked.He stumbled towards her tripping on the Gromit slippers still new from three Christmasses ago and banged his head on the edge of the metal post at the foot of her bed.
He lay there for hours until her father knocked on the door.
He was prepared for his daughter to be dead but what he wasn't ready for was seeing the man he'd paid to finish her off laying on the carpet with a hole in his head and no pulse.
The doctor said it was a heart attack
"Who was he?" Maria asked but nobody would say.
She looked out of the window at the blue sky, seagulls swooped and dived looking for a meal as the summer drew even nearer.
Eavesdropping was sometimes a blessing but most of all a curse
"Think I'll go for a walk its lovely out there" came a disembodied voice as fragments of other people's lives drifted through the doorway to the girl who was waiting for death but who never arrived.
She thought she saw him in that strange man's eyes as he fell towards her hitting his head as his heart gave out, but he'd come for him not her. Maybe death was a woman, she sometimes saw her mother's tired lined face frown and a mixture of pity and guilt fall across it as she administered that days array of herbal medicines.
Maybe that was what kept her going, cheating death with peppermint and chamomile although flatulence and hysteria were the least of her problems.
She lifted her nightgown and traced the marks on her stomach. Five operations to keep the bad boy at bay and each one thought to be a success until he reared his ugly head again and popped up like the alien of the movie she'd so enjoyed but her mother thought too distressing for her.
"Bollocks" she'd yelled when she was told the other four were banned.
"What about the one with the Predator in? I like Predator"
But a resounding 'NO' was all she got, being treated like an invalid was one thing, but a child?
"I'm nearly thirty, I should be out clubbing, I should be married with kids, working, shopping, shagging and going on rollercoasters"
She sat back and wept that time, it hit home that nothing was going to change, she just had to sit it out until the grim reaper came calling.
"I'd love to see those Final Destination films" she'd told her friend Donna "does he get them?"
Donna was a stayer, she'd kept her informed on gossip, sneaked in chocolate and never prayed, this made Maria happy.
She didn't ask God 'WHY' she told him he was a twat for making her friend ill.
"I could sell my soul to the Devil" Maria told her friend "Then I can live"
But no one came calling for Maria as she lay on her sprung divan for another five years fending off bed sores and boredom.
Her mother died on the Thursday afternoon when the new nurse came calling.To say she killed two birds with one stone would be insensitive but she called the ambulance, comforted the relatives and then got started on Maria.
"You're a lazy girl" she said in her soft Irish lilt "Don't you want to feel the sunshine on your face then?"
Maria could have kissed her, her smile as broad as her bed, she nodded.
The nurse brought the wheelchair much to her father's annoyance but she was bigger than him so he backed off.
Maria packed more into one week than she'd done in the past fifteen years, she went on a rollercoaster, she drank wine and laughed in the summer air. Back home which now was a much happier place the nurse helped her onto the sofa.
"So you've had the time of your life?" she asked putting on the kettle.
Taking a deep breath Maria waited for the reaper in the kitchen to come through
"If I die now, I'll die happy," she gushed
Death gave a grunt and poured the tea.
© Copyright 2016 Charlie Gibbs. All rights reserved.