One A Day: Day 26: Contact

Today doesn’t have a picture. The reason being because I was walking to the Drs and overhead and bloke on the phone and this is what he said, “She’s in contact with her mother at last.” And I thought that it would make perfect fodder for a short story. I am writing from the point of view of the ‘she’ in question.


I found my mum six months after I was diagnosed with cancer. Well, that’s a lie. The people here at the Children’s Hospice found her, and now they’re trying to get her to come see me, before I conk out for good. There have been some false alarms these past couple of days, so they’re desperate to get her here before it’s a real one, and the pain is proper.

“Your Mum has agreed to come.” Marilyn pushes me forward really gently and plumps my pillows, before softly pushing me back into them. My shoulders hurt, like the bones have ground together.

“I’d give you a high five, if I could move my hands without it killing.” Marilyn is the only nurse here that I can talk to properly, about what comes next. The other nurses skirt around the subject, like they’re too frightened to talk about it with me, because I’ve only just stopped watching Blue Peter, listening to Radio One and eating Milky Ways. Even though this is the place where people come when they know they’re going to die.

“What does she think about me having cancer? Did she sound upset?”

“I didn’t speak to her, love, but I imagine she’s beside herself with grief.”

“Good. So she should be. Maybe she shouldn’t have loved the bottle more than me, then.” Any of the other nurses would have told me to stop saying such horrible things, but Marilyn understands, and she lets me speak my mind. I think it’s because she knows I don’t have that long to go. She has four kids of her own, a house with not enough bedrooms and a father going downhill, after a stroke when he was babysitting. She knows how shitty life can be sometimes.

“You’re not going to talk like this when she comes, are you?”

“I’ve got more sense than that.”

“You’ll be nice?”

“I’ll be nice.”

Today is the day she’s coming. Marilyn and me, well, Marilyn mainly made a calendar out of a cheapo notebook that we hung on the wall, counting down the days until she was to arrive. It was hard waking up today and I’ve thrown everything back up that I managed to get down. I’m not allowed to open the window, so my room hums. Marilyn has cut her hair shorter than I’ve ever seen a woman have it who’s not ill. Mine fell out yonks ago. I’ve collected about thirty funky headscarves. I’m wearing a flamingo pink one today.

“Why did you do it, M?” She finishes moisturising my hands.

“I don’t have the time to look after it properly, so I cut it off and gave it to a cancer charity. They need it more than me.”

“If I was old enough and if I wasn’t like this, I’d take you out for a lunch with wine.” The corners of Marilyn’s eyes get wet.

“I know you would, love. I know.”

I don’t know what to say to Mum, and the awkward silences build and build and build, until I ask for a gentle hug. Mum says she needs a coffee, picks up her handbag and goes to find one. Marilyn comes in to check everything’s okay. Mum doesn’t know that we can see her walk out the front door. Marilyn sits with me and we watch crappy afternoon telly. I’m not hungry at tea, so she moistens my lips and mouth with water and while I drift, tells me about the kittens back at her house and how they like sleeping in the bath.