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by Laura Besley

And there she lies. On stark white sheets, stripped of her accessories — make-up, jewellery, entitlement — she no longer looks like the woman I knew.

“Your mother might not make it through the night,” the doctor says.

“Right,” I say, turning to him. No white coat, the buttons on his cardigan are not with their rightful partners. He scribbles something on a chart and leaves.

Sitting on the edge of a plastic chair, I reach out to take her hand, then pull back. A lifetime of memories skips through my mind. I can hear cicadas calling, smell jasmine flowers. I’m dancing barefoot in the garden, heat enveloping me. Cook is singing in the kitchen. Suddenly I’m forced into shoes too tight, clothes too itchy, in a country that’s too cold. Home, apparently.

Machines emit an unrushed beat.

My mother. That title given to her due to a technicality, because she pushed me out into this world. In my first days I barely slept, barely ate, but after a week we were discharged. Cook could hear me crying from the end of the driveway and wrapped me in a scarf, nestled me into the folds of her body. I was asleep within minutes. Maybe my mother took it as a personal slight, but from that moment on she kept her distance.

And yet here I am, by her bedside as she takes her last breaths. A daughter’s duty.

In the early hours of the morning, the steady rhythm transforms into a continuous sound. “I’m sorry,” the doctor says. “Your mother has passed away.”

I nod, but think no. My mother passed away years ago, alone, and nobody thought to tell me.

Laura Besley writes short fiction in the precious moments when her children are asleep. Her fiction has appeared both online (Fictive Dream, Spelk) as well as in print (Flash: The International Short Story Magazine, Vol. 9 No. 1) and in various anthologies (Adverbally Challenged Vol. 1 & 2, Another Hong Kong, Foreign and Far Away, Imprint 13).