Ballad Builders - *Finished*
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17th Apr 2010 at 8:41 AM
PixCii Round 3
“Joseph, can you please mind your language around Emma? I don’t want one of her first words to be a swear word,” Charlotte Moss scolds her husband who was rubbing at a spot on his new tie furiously. “What’s happened?”
“I got some of that gunk on my new shirt. Lottie, I can’t go to this meeting with a stained shirt! This is the most important interview I’ve ever had,” Joseph falls into a chair, exhausted.
“Darling, its only oatmeal. Give it to me and I’ll get the stain out, but maybe wear something different today. You look like you’re going to a funeral. Just go and give Emma a bath, okay?” Charlotte offers, and Joseph smiles.
“Thank you so much, love,” he presses a quick kiss to her lips before turning to their daughter who lifts her arms expectantly. Joseph chuckles and scoops the toddler into his arms, talking to her absently as he takes her into the bathroom.
It is half past seven on Monday morning, and Charlotte is already exhausted. She feels nauseas, and the headaches were returning with a force. Of course, Joseph hadn’t noticed her sunken appearance. She had lost a lot of weight and her skin was paler. Most of the other mothers in the town attributed it to her working off her baby weight, but she knew it was much more sinister. Three months ago she had told Joseph she was going to her parents’ house with Emma for a weekend. Emma made it to her parents’ but she had booked herself in for tests at the hospital. With sad eyes the doctor had informed her that the leukaemia she suffered from as a teenager was back. Utterly defeated, she had returned to her parents’ house and curled up in her old bedroom, crying.
Two days later she had returned home with Emma, into her husband’s warm embrace. She had inhaled his musky scent, wanting to drown in his arms and forget everything. She wanted to tell him. More than anything she wanted to let him know what she was going through, but it would destroy him. So she lied. When he questioned her nausea one morning, she lied and said food poisoning. During one of the days when he wasn’t so distracted by work he asked about the purplish shadows forming beneath her eyes. She said she wasn’t sleeping well. He had bought the excuse and she had resolved to use more makeup to cover hide her illness.
She took the medication prescribed to help her nausea in secret, not wanting to alert Joseph to the fact that something was badly wrong. If it was possible, little Emma was the only person, aside from her parents, who picked up that something was wrong. As exhaustion began to set in for Charlotte, Emma calmed down and was happy to spend her days playing quietly with her dolls. When Charlotte was having a particularly bad day and just felt like lying down and sleeping, Emma would clamber onto the couch and give her mother a hug which was all that Charlotte needed to put a smile on her face.
And now she stood, exhausted and ill, washing dishes and removing oatmeal stains from her husband’s shirt, acting like nothing was wrong. This was going to be one of her bad days. She could tell by the restless night she’d had before. She could tell by the way she had broken out into a sweat from walking down the stairs. She could tell from the way she had retched up all of stomach contents into the toilet. She’s nearing her end, she knows this. She had refused treatment, stupidly, selfishly. Doctors had told her that had she gone through with chemotherapy and been put under the assault of many drugs, it was still highly probable that the cancer would come back. She didn’t want that. So she said no, said she wanted to live as normally as she could and die on her own terms. She wanted to keep her hair, the long brown locks she had loved all her life. She wanted to be able to wake up in her own bed each morning, devoid of IV drips and beeping machines. She’s only twenty seven and she’s accepted her death. She had spent hours on the phone planning and preparing for Joseph when she died. She was ready.
“I’m going to be late,” Joseph is worrying. He’s holding a slightly pink Emma who is smiling, the smell of her baby shampoo swirling around the room. Charlotte nods in approval at Joseph’s new outfit and takes Emma off his hands. The little girl makes a content noise and rests her head on her mother’s shoulder.
“Have a good day, darling,” Charlotte smiles.
“You too,” Joseph kisses her cheek and plants a peck on Emma’s head. He grabs his briefcase and is gone.
Charlotte’s arms are shaking under the weight of her daughter. She places the toddler on the ground and Emma walks precariously to her dollhouse, humming a nonsense song to herself as she plays. The house is a mess but Charlotte can’t find the strength in herself to clean. She puts the breakfast plates in the dishwasher, wipes down the benches and brushes her hair from her face. Her knees are quaking. Slowly and carefully, leaning on any furniture on her way, she moves towards the couch. Emma watches her mother with wide brown eyes as Charlotte sits on the couch, turning on the television and watching some mindless show.
“Grandma will be here to pick you up soon, Em,” Charlotte manages a weak smile and looks at the clock. Her parents had agreed to pick up Emma twice a week, Mondays and Wednesdays, to give Charlotte a chance to rest. She was so grateful for this. Her parents were the only ones who knew about her illness.
As if on cue, the doorbell rings. With a little difficulty Charlotte gets to her feet once more. She pulls the door open to reveal her mother standing there, smiling. Her face falls when she sees her only child.
“Oh, Charlie,” she moans, pulling her daughter into a tight embrace.
“Hey, mum,” Charlotte says, her throat burning with emotion. Her mother’s face was enough to break her heart. “Emma’s ready.”
Her mother sniffs and releases her, nodding. “Where’s my favourite grandbaby?” she coos.
“Gramma!” the child cries happily, toddling over towards her grandmother who stoops down to pick her up.
“I’ll drop her home around seven, okay? Your father and I were going to take her out for dinner at McDonald’s.”
Charlotte nods and kisses her mother on the cheek, patting Emma’s head lightly. She waves to their departing car from the front window and rests her head on the glass. Maybe she’ll take a nap.
She lies on the couch and her eyes flutter close. She just tired. So tired. The warmth and safety of unconsciousness is calling to her, beckoning her forth into its soft darkness. Her mind isn’t working. Thoughts of Emma, Joseph and her parents swirl around her brain. She squeezes her eyes tighter against them until they disappear, waiting for sleep to hold her. Then she’s falling into the never-ending blackness of sleep. She slips away, and she’s gone.
hours on the phone
I'm hoping it isn't too early to post this round. I'm going away for a few days tomorrow, so I wanted to make sure I had this done before I leave.