Rita pushed her mother’s wheel chair towards the edge of the sidewalk. Today was one of her day’s off and she always looked forward to seeing her mom. It has been months since her last day off. Her phone was buzzing with missed phone calls. Her mother fell and was recovering slowly.
Rita felt that this was her moment. She was going to show her mom that she was here.
“Rita.. Rita the ice cream. I want ice cream. Rita!” Her mother’s voice is raw and pitchy as if she hasn’t drank anything before they left the nursing home.
Rita soothes her mother’s excitement with a few gentle strokes to her silver hair.
“I’ll get you ice cream later Ma.” she states, gripping the wheel tightly when they begin to cross the street.
The nursing home is no longer in view behind them. Rita enjoys the breeze that swishes her hair, cooling down her neck which has been sweating for a while.
Rita reminded herself to get a cooling pad on her neck when her and her mother arrive home. But her main focus is to grasp the handles of the wheelchair, making sure they are there.
Her mother is now her responsibility and she’ll be damned if she’ll let go of her mother’s wheelchair.
“Rose. Look at the pretty Rose!” Her mother’s shaky finger points toward the small field of grass beside them.
They have been walking for ten minutes at best, people crossing the street whenever they see them coming. Rita didn’t like the way people watched her, making her grip tighter on the handles. She may be overthinking it but she pushed even harder whenever people slowed down, probably debating whether to wait for them to pass or to completely change sidewalks.
Her mother’s shrill excitement makes Rita forget those onlookers and she stops the wheelchair mid stride.
“I’ll get you one Ma.” Rita says, a new feeling to her voice. Rita crouches down and picks out two. One for her and one for her Mom. She gets in front of her mother’s face and takes the rose and gently brushes her mother’s hand.
Her mother like a child wears curious eyes and has giddy hands when she reaches for the rose.
That child like innocence makes Rita frown. These walks were the only time she got to see her. It was both cruel and delightful. It became a reminder as to why she did them in the first place.
This is no longer the mother she knew anymore. This person is a mere child, excited about roses and ice cream. The person who used to tuck her in at night and read Goodnight Moon before she fell asleep, feed her apricotes and cottage cheese and tickle her tummy saying “My fruity cheese girl!” her youthful fingers pinching her cheeks. That mother is gone and every month is a reminder.
So when her mother finally reaches the rose and has a firm grasp of it, her mother leaps in her seat with an inaudible sound which Rita can assume is joy.
“Alright Ma let’s get you that ice cream.” Her mother nods and Rita goes behind her to grip the handles again.
Rita feels her power surge again, the wind picks up and Rita takes a few strands and puts some silver hair behind her mother’s ear.
The second rose is in her fist, one of the thorns pricks her palm. She welcomes the sting, its a reminder of what the future will soon hold.
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