Rest In Peace

Clara had been happy with her life for nearly seventy years. She’d spent her time doing good things, doing all of the right things, and now, suddenly, there was a world of missed opportunities before her. She would never, ever, get the chance to know them now. Clara’s skin ached for the feel of a sea that she’d never touched, her eyes strained to know the sunsets that she’d been to busy for, and her tongue watered suddenly at the unfamiliar idea of authentic escargot.
Even as her breath came more quickly, less satisfyingly, a gust of air filtered in.
“Mom,” Clara’s mind registered that there should be face attached to that voice, but she wasn’t surprised that she couldn’t see it. Instead, she closed her useless eyes and remembered.
Tiny pink hands reached up to grab her greasy new-mother hair, brown and messy, not grey and wispy like Clara felt it should be.
Watery green eyes stared into her own, begging not to be forced onto the school bus. Clara watched young, strong, hands pass her daughter off to the bus driver, and she wondered if she would be able to lift a child like that now.
A dry voice informed Clara that her daughter was in jail for shoplifting, and the deepest disappointment of her life weighed heavily in her chest again.
“I love you, Mom,” she was choking on her own throat, by the sound of it.
A lifetime ago, Clara filled up on the irreplaceable scent of her mother’s neck. “I love you, Clara.”
Three quarters of a life ago, Clara stared into lying eyes and believed every word that came out of the matching mouth. “I love you, Clara.”
Half of a life ago, Howard’s smooth voice sang along to the song that had played as she walked down the aisle, just moments after the night of concentrated passion that had followed, and he switched out the last words with, “I love you, Clara.”
“Stay strong, mama,” her daughter’s voice sounded alien, and Clara wondered how long it would last.
Clara could barely see her mother’s floating face through her tears, but when she looked down, she could clearly see the red splattering on the sidewalk from her knee. “Stay strong, Clara.”
Clara should’ve known better than to put her faith in someone so untrustworthy, and it was her fault that she was sobbing on the couch now, but her sister didn’t seem to care. “Stay strong, Clara.”
Everything was black and frosted thick with pity; Howard’s glassy eyes stared past her for the last time, and the hand on her shoulder was all that kept her up. “Stay strong, Clara.”
“I’ll see you soon, mom,” Her daughter tells her, and Clara wants so badly to tell her that that had better not be true. Instead, she wheezes and spit clings to her chin. She settled for opening her heavy eyelids to give the illusion of staring into her daughter eyes. She wonders if she’s looking in the right direction, but she knows she is when a warm hand encases her papery fingers.
“Goodbye, mama.”
Clara forfeits her last breath in favor of pressing all of the love in her life into her daughter’s palm. Her skin is so young, so soft, that it absorbs all of the Looks and Smells and Feelings and I Love Yous and the Stay Strongs with little effort.
She didn’t need ocean water, or scenic nature, or expensive food. Without any of that, she rests in peace.

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