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SHORT STORY


TITLE: LIFE AFTER
By Graham Insley
04/09/12
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LITTLE TOMMY WAS out of bed and fled for the bathroom so fast on that cold, shivery morning that his feet could not possibly have touched the icy tiles. The breath that was coming forth in a wintry mist was soon transformed by the excitement and wonder of the day ahead.

He must have been determined not to waste valuable time being sent back to the bathroom either, on this day of days. He had cleaned his teeth, behind his ears and even scrubbed his neck. Why, he’d even done the unthinkable and combed his hair. If you were a stranger looking on, you would have had to wonder at such immaculate care; especially when taken by a ten year old boy.

His grooming complete, Tommy’s face had been alight as he had rushed in for his breakfast. His first chore this morning, however, took him straight through the dining room, out into the backyard and down onto his hands and knees. He just had to touch the snow. He had to feel it and know it was real. It reassured him that one of his greatest dreams was now, at long last, coming true. Snow.

Tommy’s mum was already at the breakfast table, but she was struggling hard to control the tears that were already flowing behind her eyes. Sometimes, no, all the time, when she looked at Tommy lately she could not help but burst inside. Sure there was pride, tears of emotional pride, but there was something else too. There was this incredible pain; one that just would not go away. She felt it all the time now. A constant companion, as if to remind her of what she was going through.

Cancer. What a horrible word it was. Her doctor had said only three months, and that was at the most. This left such an incredible short period of time to fit in so many things. But she was determined to make the most of her last three months with Tommy. It’s amazing how awful fate can be in our lives sometimes. When her husband had been killed in a road accident, four years ago, she had thought that she would never climb out of the dark pit she sank into. But her love for Tommy had pulled her through. As difficult as the climb had been she had got there. But now, she often wondered, for what?

She could still hear the feared words of the doctor as she had sat in his office. Was it just three weeks ago? Her mind had been in such a daze that it felt like three years. He had called her the very day that the results of the tests had come back. But the sound of his voice in her memory was replaced by the sound of her son, laughing outside in the snow.

She and Tommy had planned these last three months together with great care. He had been so brave when she had told him and it had been his idea to spend these two weeks in the snow fields. Did he really understand? She thought so. He was such a brave young man and she was so proud of him. She had worked it all out very carefully, of course. She’d had to, for Tommy’s sake. Her mum and dad had been a great help, particularly financially, paying for this holiday and forcing her to look towards the future. What would happen after...?

Well, for Tommy, she had to put that out of her mind and make the most of what she had left. After all, three months would be gone before she knew where she was.

But the pain just keeps on growing, making it harder to think all the time. She wondered sometimes if she would not be better off just committing suicide and getting it all over and done with. Yes, the pain definitely keeps on growing.

But let’s go back to that morning. It was chair lift day. They had agreed to go up the ski-lift to the very top. Not exactly her delight, but it was something Tommy really wanted to do with her before ‘it’ happened. It was funny how they had come to call it, ‘it’.

As if her son could read her mind about the chair lift, he had suddenly squealed with delight, jumped to his feet and raced inside. “It’s going to be great, mum,” he had breathlessly panted. “I just can’t wait to go up to the top!” Reaching for the breakfast cereal, Tommy looked across the table and saw the tears in his mother’s eyes. He got up from his chair, went straight to his mother and wrapped his little arms around her neck. Her wet cheeks, pressed against his, told of just how much she was crying inside as well as out. Yes, Alice remembered that day very well. Even though it was fifty years ago that Tommy had died, Alice would never forget the bravery of her son. Nor would she forget the words that he had said as he hugged her that morning. Those words had kept her going through the last fifty years.

After Tommy’s death, Alice had gone back to school, on to university and become a social worker. She had spent the last half of a century working with the families of terminally ill children.

She had been inspired by Tommy’s words in the snow fields that morning so long ago. “Don’t be afraid, mommy. I’ll wait for you in heaven”
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