I knew it was coming. It always happened the same way but this time I would stop it. I glanced at mom calmly driving beside me. I knew how it went. 7:13 p.m. driving down Pembina, right turn onto Winnipeg's Perimeter Highway. Five minutes to go. I watched my mom accelerate to 70 km/h. We should pull over. It couldn't happen again. I needed my mom to stop the car but somehow all I could do was sit silently beside her. My mom reached 100 km/h, her eyes never left the road but somehow she didn't see the car swerving across the lanes until it was directly in front of us. I focused on my mom's face and watched her eyes widen in shock. It looked like she was about to say something... probably scream something, but the vehicle came too quickly. Everything happened too quickly. I shouted at my mom but -
I sat up shaking. I tried to chase the remainder of the dream from my head but my mom's face always stuck with me. I looked across the room to where my mom continued to lay, eyes closed. I got up stiffly from the chair I'd fallen asleep in and gently let myself out of the room.
The hospital had become my home during the last 48 hours. I'd spent most of that time at my mom's side. My aunt and uncle were also here, taking turns to sit with me. My aunt had convinced me to try and sleep but every time I dozed off, I relived the moments before the crash. Each dream was identical to the last. The worst part of it was I knew the accident was coming but I was never able to stop it. All I could do was watch my mom's expression change as we waited for the impact.
I let myself into the public washroom and walked over to the mirror. I stared at the girl in front of me. She was the same person I looked at every day and criticized until I ran out of comments but right now I hardly recognized her. My dark hair hung in damp stringy mats around my angular face. My normally piercing green eyes looked flat and lifeless. The rest of me was even worse. The scratches and bruises looked like makeup from a movie only I knew these were real. I could feel them. But it wasn't the cuts and scratches that hurt; it was the gaping hole inside me that consumed my feelings.
I was only eight years old when it began.
I sat on our front porch, slowly shelling peas from our garden. The sun was out and so was school. I closed my eyes and smiled up at the billowing white clouds. A giggle broke into my thoughts and my eyes snapped open. Two small girls were standing together across the street. I knew one to be my neighbour Kayla. The other I didn't recognize. They were whispering avidly together but it was loud enough for me to catch my name along with the surrounding comments.
Tears filled my eyes but I blinked rapidly, trying to blot them out with my eyelids. I forced a smile and waved at the girls. They waved back but then turned away quickly, lowering their voices. I got up off the steps, looking down at what I was wearing. Orange and green print overalls. They were comfortable and they matched the ones my mom always wore while she was painting. I'd been so happy to receive them from her on my last birthday. I wore them 24/7 the first week. Now they were solely my home clothes but they had always been a favourite. They had grass stains from helping my mom in the garden and various matching paint and food markings as well. They were worn through in the knees and bore one patch by my left thigh where I'd ripped them climbing over a fence. Many memories were attached to those overalls.
Now I looked at them again angrily. What those girls had said about them - about me... Instead of comforting, they looked childish and silly. I felt guilty as I found myself agreeing with the other girls. I marched upstairs angrily and stripped down to my underwear. Before even putting on fresh clothes, I took a pair of scissors and - through tears and snot - began hacking away at the overalls. After hiding the evidence, I sat on my bed and stared out the window blindly. Tears still running down my face. That's when I felt a hand on my shoulder. I felt my bed sag under the extra weight of my mom.
"Do you want to talk about it?" she asked me, staring out the window as well. I shook my head. She nodded.
"Well you know what the best cure for tears is?" my mom questioned and I shook my head again. "The sun," she stated. "It dries them up and leaves a smile on your face." I barely managed to keep a straight face, my mom did always have the perfect remedy to everything. I trusted her ideas even when they did sometimes seem bizarre at first. My mom and I stood up.
"One thing though," my mom added before leaving my room, "you might want to consider putting clothes on first." She winked at me before shutting my bedroom door, leaving me alone. I finally smiled at this and drove all thoughts of the destroyed overalls from my mind.
My mom always knew how to make me feel better. Now I didn't know who to go to.
Just then I felt my phone in my pocket vibrate. Automatically I checked the caller. It was Meghan. I hadn't talked to any of my friends since the accident. I knew I'd have to face her sooner or later but not just yet. I needed some more time and space. I turned off my phone, returning it to my pocket.
My gaze now returned to the mirror. I thought of my beautiful friend Meghan whose flyaway blonde hair and soft blue eyes made her the envy of many girls. Myself included. I looked down at my body. Why couldn't I have inherited some of my mom's curves - instead, I was left small and lanky. Then I stopped myself. What was I thinking?! I screamed in my head. You wish you were more attractive all the while your mom is lying on her hospital bed, barely alive.
Suddenly I felt such a strong sense of self-loathing and in a flurry of tears and anger, I blindly grabbed one of my bobby pins and stabbed it into the top of my hand. I was the selfish one. I deserved to be the one lying on that bed. My mother was always so good to me and I took it all for granted. Now here I was - miraculously alive, and still I was jealous of something as meaningless as beauty. I withdrew the pin and looked down as a small bead of blood grew on top of my hand. My mind spun at the sight of blood. What had I done? Slowly all my emotions drained out of me until I didn't even notice the sting of my hand. This was crazy. This wasn't me. My mom wouldn't want me to live like this. Her constant ambition was to remove all the pain from my life. I couldn't do this, I was just hurting my mom more. I threw away the bobby pin knowing that it would never come down to that again.