by George Parler
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In the mirror Mary sees without seeing. To the silver strands in her hair she frowns while pretending not to notice the lines at the corner of her eyes. She refuses to acknowledge the reflection of the gossiping weight scale on the floor behind her. Her robe parts, exposing the scars on her abdomen from the unnatural yet treasured births of her children. She covers the scars with her hands. Her eyes sadden as she remembers her baby girls who have now flown away into their new lives, while leaving her with the empty nest she clings to. The glimpse of a smile finds its way to her countenance as her thoughts sway to her grandchildren, her life’s most precious addiction. Her smile soon fades as her mind spins out of control.
She strains to drown out the constant knocking at the door of her mind. She knows who it is. She brushes her hair in attempt to ignore the cold greeting of fear until she can’t help but notice the overwhelming amount of hair in her brush. She knew this was coming. “Not now . . . not now,” she whispers. Mary’s hand trembles as she places the brush by the sink. She allows her robe to fall to the floor. Feeling for the lump, she stares at her reflection in silence . . . until her tears resolve to answer doubt’s pounding at the door of her mind. She slumps to the floor muffling her sobs into her robe. She reminds herself, Breathe . . . breathe.
She reaches up to the counter with her fingers finding the tissues. She blots the tears from her face. Taking a deep breath she draws her knees to her chest. Wrapping her arms around her legs she gently rests her head on her knees. During the passing minutes her breathing grows shallow as the warm silence bathes her soul.
A knock at the bathroom door startles her retreat.
“Mom, are you ready?”
“Uh . . . Yes . . . I’ll be out in a minute, dear.” She scrambles to her feet. “I didn’t expect you to show up so early, Lisa.”
“I know mom, but we don’t want to be late for the start.” Lisa replies from bedroom.
“You’re right. I won’t be long.” She said looking down at the pink silk scarf on the counter. “I had planned on wearing you around my neck today but it looks like you’ll have to be my covering, won’t you?” She brushes the back of her fingers across the silk. “Lord, give me strength.”
Mary puts on her favorite walking pants and her new pink T-shirt. Leaving the bathroom she enters the master bedroom and sits in a chair to put on her new pink walking shoes. Returning to the bathroom counter she picks up the silk scarf and ties it over her head. Looking in the mirror she adjusts the scarf and then pauses taking a long look at her reflection in the mirror. “I see you, scared little girl.” She smiles. “We have to be strong now. Let’s go do this so my daughters and granddaughters may never have to endure this.”
Driving into town, everything looks newer somehow. The trees seem greener, the sky bluer. The air feels electric.
“Isn’t this exciting, mom?” Lisa asks while driving.
“Yes . . . very. I just wish Jenifer and Susan could have made it, but I realize they live far away and have jobs.” Mary stares out the window in a silent prayer of thanksgiving for her wonderful family.
“MOTHER, LOOK.” Lisa’s shout startles Mary, as they turn into the park and gaze upon a pastel sea of pink. The park is filled with those who have come to walk for this wonderful cause.
Lisa parks the car. Mary pulls down the visor mirror for one last check before exiting the car.
“You look fine, Mom.” Lisa says softly as she puts her hand on her mother’s shoulder.
Mary pats Lisa’s hand. “I’m glad you’re here with me, Lisa.” Mary smiles and then exits the car. They marvel at the sight before them.
“MOM.” A voice calls from behind. Mary turns to see both Jenifer and Susan running towards her in their own pink attire. Mary beams as both of them run into her arms.
“I didn’t think you two would be able to come,” Mary questions.
“We wanted it to be a surprise . . . didn’t we, Lisa?” Jenifer winks at Lisa.
Mary turns to the grinning Lisa. “You rascal, I'll deal with you later.” Mary laughs.
“We have one more surprise, Mom.” Susan says, holding Mary’s hand.
“Are you going to give me another grandchild?” Mary’s eyes brighten.
“No, Mom, I’m not having another baby.” Susan laughs.
“I hope not.” A familiar voice from behind Mary surprises her. “All these grandbabies are breaking me at Christmas and birthdays.”
Mary turns to see Daniel, the man of her dreams for the last 35 years, standing behind her in his own pink T-shirt. Mary is speechless.
“Do you have any idea how hard it is to find a man’s pink T-shirt in a husky-plus size?” Daniel smiles raising his eyebrows. “Well let me tell you, there's none to be found. We actually had to take one of my white T-shirts and dye it pink. How do I look?” He grins while taking a pose.
“Like the man of my dreams.” Mary says fixing the eyes of her heart on his. If it were possible to love him more she would have fallen in love again. “But I thought you had to work today.”
“Not today . . . Oh, they wanted me to work but . . . not today.” Daniel embraces Mary. “I’m taking a stroll with my bride in the park today.” Mary’s tears fill her eyes.
“Mom . . . Are you okay?” Jenifer rubs Mary’s back with concern.
Mary steps back and takes in the beauty of her family. “I couldn’t be happier.” She reaches out both of her hands to her husband and daughters.
The five of them join hands, walking into the park as a family, fading into a sea of pink hope.
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This truly beautiful story put a lump in my throat. You excelled, George, in presenting your main character to us.
Your descriptions in the beginning of this one especially are so incredibly clear and vivid. You did a great job of getting into your MC's head.
I love this! It's tenderly written (I had to wipe away a tear), and captures very well what a woman would think. Kudos.
I had goosebumps reading this story. My mom had breast cancer but Praise God, she did not need radiation.
George, this is beautiful! How did you get to be so wise about women? Could it possibly be a little woman named Miss Brenda and some wonderful daughters? Superb job! Living with a household of women will do it every time!
I think you are capturing a woman's perspective pretty well (you're such an insightful and sensitive writer, I would be surprised if you didn't). But, since you write in third person (more like outside looking in, vs inside reaching out), it's a little harder for me to tell than if it were first person. That being said, I was able to "see" Mary as the narrator, not you the male author!