by NT Franklin
She looked at the tiny child in bed, barely a third the size he should have been. Sick his whole life, and now bad sick. A tear dropped onto the mattress. She hadn’t realized she was crying again. Little Billy stirred and she looked away, wiping another tear off her cheek. A deep breath to regain composure, then she was back to being strong. For Billy.
Billy rolled over and brushed limp blond hair out of his eyes. “Mommy, you’re here.”
“Yes, Billy, Mommy’s always here for you.”
“And you’re not crying. I like it when you don’t cry. Everything is going to be okay.”
“You keep telling me that, honey. How are you feeling today?” She asked but didn’t need to. The look in his eyes told her everything. It wasn’t going to be a good day, not that there had been many recently.
“Okay. About like yesterday.” Billy grimaced and looked at the wall after he spoke. His hoarse voice was weaker than yesterday. She knew he was lying.
This routine was repeated day after day. She didn’t want her little man to have to lie anymore. He wasn’t feeling ‘about like yesterday.’ He wasn’t okay. She wasn’t okay.
Every time she administered medication, she tried not to, but still cried. More and more medication was needed to dull the pain in his eyes.
Billy tried to smile. “Don’t cry, Mommy. I love you. I want you to be happy.”
She had to turn her head away when he was struggling and rasping the words out. Her jaw hurt from clenching her teeth. She wasn’t going to cry anymore, even if it broke her teeth. She was going to be as strong as Billy.
Here was her little man, barely enough hair left to get into his eyes, comforting her. “I’m okay, honey. Mommy loves you, too,” she said.
The doctors gave him less than five days. Billy had been fighting for almost two years; she could hold it together for a few days. She would be selfish and not share him. She alone, would spend his final days with him, her only son.
For the next three days, she pulled herself together for Billy. She spent the days holding and tending to Billy, never once crying.
For the next three nights, she awoke in a cold sweat. The longer she was awake, the angrier she became. Why my son? Why him? It’s not fair. Pounding her pillow didn’t help. She fought off the urge to cry herself to sleep each night; she had to be strong for Billy.
Come the fourth morning, she no longer had to pull herself together for Billy.
On the following Saturday, the funeral was a blur. The casket was surrounded by blue flowers, Billy’s favorite color. Friends stopped to give her hugs. Most of the other young mothers were crying, but not her. Billy wouldn’t have wanted her to cry. She managed to be strong when she was led away so the tiny casket could be closed. Everyone heard her best friend say, “she’s not crying anymore.”
The mourners winced at the snap of the casket closing.
About the auhtor
NT Franklin has been published in Page and Spine, Fiction on the Web, 101 Words, Madswirl, Postcard Shorts, 404 Words, Scarlet Leaf Review, Freedom Fiction, Burrst, Entropy, Alsina Publishing, Fifty-word stories, Dime Show Review, among others.