“Sweetie, can you hear me?”
“Hmmmmmmm.” Ann swam through the narcotic haze that covered her sleep, drawn to a voice that inspired a thick warm trust tinged with guilt. She fought her way to consciousness to meet the concerned eye of her mother who seemed suddenly old and very wise. “Mom?”
“Shhhhhhhh, rest, I’m here and I’ll beat anyone who comes in to bother you.”
“I have a list for you to start with, there’s a nurse out there who” Ann realized that she’d tried to shift her body towards her mother to find that her encased and hardware-clad leg would not co-operate. The reality of her situation stormed into her rested consciousness and the anger and fear dissolved into despair. Despite her mightiest efforts, she wept in front of her mother.
“Oh my girl. We’re going to make it okay. You just have to learn to rest and heal, that’s all. Bones heal and you know it.” Gayle caressed her daughter’s callused hand.
“Why everyone is telling me to stay still?” Ann sniffled herself back to some semblance of composure.
“Because you can’t run from everything dear, some things you need to stand and face.”
“Stand and face?” Ann was awake and mad. ‘If I’m one thing mom, it’s fucking brave. I’ve never backed down from a fight and I take my licks like a man. You know it.” In an instant, Ann had transformed back into a rebellious teenager.
Gayle was ready for this. She’d had years to think about the pattern they had developed. Like an intricate dance, each setting the other up for the predictable move, each reacting in the same way with the same defenses, the same body language, the same territory to defend.
“Oh, you are brave my dear. Nobody can take that from you. Ounce for ounce, you are one of the toughest souls to climb on a horses’ back.” She watched Ann’s body quiet. “But you sure can turn tail and run from life when it comes knocking. No doubt about it.”
“I don’t even know what you are talking about mom. I’ve made a career for myself in a man’s world. In a tough man’s world that has chewed up and spit out lots of men. And I’m still here and I get things done, I run a hell of a business. I’m proud mom PROUD of what I do, whether you like it or not!” Ann’s cheeks flushed and her chin jutted. Her arms crossed over he chest exposing her naked hip to her mother through the open back hospital gown.
Gayle’s eyes were drawn to the shamrock tattoo on Ann’s hip. She tried mightily to conceal her surprise and disapproval – her daughter was a grown woman and could tattoo her body without regard to her parent’s feelings on the subject.
Ann felt her mother’s gaze and quickly drew the gown to cover her hip – she then turned her scowl back to her mother’s face and dared Gayle to comment.
Something unexpected bubbled up from the deepest reaches of Gayle’s belly, it rose and lightened her, effervesced in her throat and tickled her lips and cheeks, narrowed her eyes and wrinkled her nose and exploded into what began as a giggle and devolved into uncontrollable laughter.
The laughter launched onto the hospital bed and infected Ann as well. It rolled over both of them in waves that ebbed, swelled and curled over them both drowning them gasping and tearing and clutching each other for breath.