One sixteen-year-old girl in remission (for the third time)? Check.
One road trip to confront your bio-mom once and for all? Check.
One unfriendly, arrogant guy to share the ride? Check.
One Mille Bornes list, with ten must-do items? Check.
Falling in love? Check again.
Mama Rhonda throws up her hands, her ample frame, made up half-of-boobs, surely swift enough when it comes to exiting hospital rooms. “I give up on this impossible child!”
My mom stirs in the chair, where she’s slumped over her Better Homes and Gardens magazine, snoring softly. “What’s going on,” she says, half-asleep.
Through the curtain between the beds, I hear Flipa sobbing. I ache, to hold her. But I’m scared of Mama Rhonda. Scared that, one day, she’ll turn the loathing on me, and forever separate me and Flip, out of spite.
“Shhhh. If Mama Rhonda doesn’t come back in ten minutes, I’ll go to Flip.”
I rattle off what she missed.
“Flip is on a breakfast kick. It’s the only food that doesn’t taste like metal. She’ll only eat Moons Over My Hammy. Denny’s is twenty minutes away. Mama Rhonda wants to go home. She has a movie coming on at seven.”
“That woman.” My mom’s face is fierce. Like, Nurse Loretta fierce. She stands up. “Flipa is eight-years-old on chemo, for chrissakes. She’s lucky she’s even eating.”
“Mom – wait! Where are you going? I don’t want Mama Rhonda to think –”
“Like that woman ever thinks. Calm down. I’m driving to DENNY’S.” My mom says the last so loudly, I’m sure they can hear her all the way to the nurse’s station. “And we’re ALL having MOONS OVER MY HAMMYS. As a matter of fact, Payson and FLIPA,” she shouts, “are getting TWO MOONS OVER MY HAMMYS. One for NOW, and one for LATER. They can have ANOTHER ONE, if they want, TOMORROW and the NEXT DAY and the NEXT DAY.”
The sobs behind the curtain subside into tinkling laughter, like wind chimes turning the storm around.
Mom bends down and holds me tight. It hurts the incision in my chest, but I don’t care.
“You’ll be okay while I’m gone?”
I nod, swallowing the tears, my eyes like smiling up from the bottom of a pool. I catch her hand, as big as a raven, to me.
“I love you, Mom.”
She stops to regard me in the bed, and she smiles. A before smile.
“If that woman upsets Flipa one more time, you call Nurse Loretta. I don’t care.”
My mom picks up the remote control, and the tv bolted to the ceiling flips from The Price is Right, to the Disney channel. She disappears around the curtain. A moment later –
“Here you go, darling. Watch what you want.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Iron Horse.”
That’s what Flipa calls my mom, and we’ve never corrected her.
Because for all intensive purposes, that’s how strong my mom is, too.
From D22go (dah-go) by Emily Murdoch