“And then,” Wil said, grinning at the memory, “Reagan asked if we were going to be like the Girl Scouts. I thought Derek would correct her -Stephen definitely would- but Derek said that yes, it was like the Girl Scouts.”
Wil looked at her single audience member, propped up on the couch. Her mother smiled a tired smile in reply.
“So, then he said we need to make a list of things we want to help with.” Wil paused long enough to drink from her mother’s glass of water nearby. She didn’t seem to realize she did so, and its owner’s smile only grew more fond. “But then the bell rang and I had to go to Mr. G.’s class. With Art.”
Cynthia’s brow furrowed. “You have art with Mr. G.?”
Wil saw the confusion. “No, Mom. Art is a boy in the lunch group.” She remembered something. “We’re going to work on a project together for class. With another boy named Calvin.”
“Ah.” Her mother settled into the cushions and lay her head back. She closed her eyes. “That sounds fun.” Wil watched the beautiful woman she loved breathe in and out. She listened as well, frowning at how the sound had a continual bass tone to it. Wil suddenly hated everyone who breathed without rattling; without obstruction.
She looked around the room for distraction. A ray of late sunset reached from their small window and fractured through the glass of water. “Oh!” Cynthia opened her eyes at the startled noise. “Mom! I ..I drank your… I’m sorry!”
Her mother snorted a quiet laugh, but the action still brought on a coughing fit. In panic, Wil jumped up, ran the glass to the sink, dumped its contents and rinsed it, then refilled. Sloshing a path on her way, she returned and handed the water to her mother.
“Thanks,” Cynthia managed. She sipped; swallowed; kept coughing.
Wil knew what to do. She rushed to the breathing machine they kept behind the couch. After setting it up, she watched her mother inhale its life-giving breath and exhale in stifled coughs.
They’d just about gotten things under control when the door opened and in walked Rob and Jakob. Rob took in the room, his daughter, his wife, and the nebulizer. He set his keys on their hook and went directly to the couch.
Pulling the mask from her mouth, Cynthia said, “Hello, Rob. And how was your day today?”