A New Day Dawning

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Emma imagines herself free only to find her fantasy a reality in the light of day.

Submitted: February 17, 2012

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Submitted: February 17, 2012

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Emma was laying on her back on the grass, feeling each individual blade tickling up between her toes. A warm breeze blew gently across her lean body and she stretched out as long as her 5 foot 3 inch frame would go. She could lay here for hours, listening to the wind, the crickets and the birds. With her eyes closed, she let her other senses take over and every inch of her felt the ripple of life.

Off in the distance she heard a chickadee call, just a faint tweedlee-dee, but she took a deep breath and inhaled the crisp beauty of nature. She listened to the sound of water rushing over stones, smelled the clean, fresh, mineral-spiked liquid. She wondered if she could find its source and feel the cold, crisp bite washing over her tongue. She imagined herself standing at the edge of a waterfall then diving gracefully over the edge, rushing toward the pool below along with the tumbling crystal stream.

Just as she broke the surface she jolted upright, barely in time to see the bathtub overflowing onto the floor where she sat. Her shirtsleeve was soaked and her father was jangling that insipid bell from the other room. She must have fallen asleep on the bathroom floor again.

It wasn’t really a surprise any longer, after all, she was perpetually exhausted. She was the primary (sole, really, if the truth be told) caregiver for her ailing father who suffered from dementia and rarely even knew who she was any longer. He was often combative and demanded constant attention. Her mother died in childbirth with her youngest sister and the rest of her family was too busy or too emotionally bruised to be bothered. So it was just Emma and William in a small 2-bedroom apartment in the city.

Thankfully, he had lived there for over forty years and the rent was controlled as they both lived on his meager pension and even more spare Social Security. The placed smelled of decay, opening the windows only served to stir up days long past, so she kept the shut most of the time. Emma did her best to take care of him, despite the weight she felt getting heavier by the day.

She had loved her father, she supposed she still did, he simply didn’t exist behind the shell left on the outside. No more card games, no more walks in Central Park identifying bird songs, just the day in – day out, stuck in the limbo between a life well lived and a death too unspeakably cruel.

She walked down the hall, wringing the arm of her now sopping shirtsleeve and lifted him from the bed to the wheelchair his bridge club donated after they asked her to keep him home, his temper and dissociated moods becoming to much to overlook any longer. She had stopped keeping track of his weight, she blended his food into a thin soup and prayed he could manage to eat. The doctors had prepared her for what she already knew – it wouldn’t be long now at all.

She drained some of the excess water from the tub and placed him in the lukewarm bath. It was the only time he was quiet and calm these days, she watched him close his eyes and exhale a shallow, ragged sigh. She washed him gently, no longer affected by the sight of her father’s naked body, that had passed years before, before his flesh had begun to slip from his frame. He now resembled a little boy dressed up in a too-big suit, arms dangling uselessly at his sides. When she was finished, she draped a towel over the chair, lifted him up and wheeled him back to his bedroom.

By the time she had him dressed and back in bed every muscle in her body ached. Her stomach reminded her noisily that she hadn’t eaten since before he woke that morning, but she was too tired to cook. She slipped a slice of bread out of its plastic sleeve and slunk off to her bed.

When she awoke the sun streamed through her windows, heating the room to a stuffy and uncomfortable degree. She threw back the tattered sheets and quilt realizing that the clambering bell hadn’t woken her, and that it was well past dawn. She rushed to her father’s room, the sense of urgency coming more from convention than conviction.

He lay still in his narrow hospital bed (again, a donation) his head half elevated on two thin pillows. He face was twisted somewhere between a grin and a grimace. Emma didn’t cry and she didn’t hesitate. She made the necessary phone calls, and endured the rest of the week with the stoicism that had come to be expected of her.

In the small rental car she made the trip up the coast. The small metal urn in the passenger seat while she drove, as her brother and sister were predictably too busy to join her. She stopped at a lighthouse by the sea and set the urn open on the edge of the craggy cliff that lead sharply to the ocean below. She lay down in the soft grass, she eased off her shoes and felt the grass creep between her toes. A chickadee sang a soft tweedlee-dee as the waves crashed rhythmically below.


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