A woman living alone in Boston during the pandemic brings home a new family member.
I narrowed my eyes at the cup on the coffee table. It didn’t move or do anything interesting, but it had hovered in the air and touched the ceiling in my dream last night. Why didn’t it float now? Is it shy? Would it only fly when I didn’t look at it?
I glanced at Mommy as she stretched across the couch and typed away on her laptop. When I snapped my eyes back to the glass, it seemed to be in the same place as before. Did it move without me realizing it?
A chime rang from Mommy’s computer, then Aunt Anna’s face popped up on the screen.
“Hey, are you busy?” she asked my mommy.
“I got time. What’s up?”
I darted my gaze to the framed photo of Mommy and me on the side table. It had flown in my dream too, but now it played opossum.
“Have you spoken to Mom lately?”
“Yeah, last night,” Mommy said. “She seemed to be feeling a little down.”
I shifted closer to the glass on the table while pretending to focus on the photo frame. Maybe I could trick it into moving.
“I think she’s scared. I hate that I can’t be with her. She needs support.”
“I know, Anna. I wish I could see her too, but at least we have video chat now.”
Anna nodded. “That’s helped a lot, but she starts treatment in a couple of months. She’s going to need help.”
When I was close enough, I swung my face around to the glass, but it remained still and empty. I reached out and tapped it.
“I’ve been looking at some home care help that we could hire, but her insurance isn’t going to cover much of it.”
“That’s going to be expensive.” Anna bit her lip and sighed. “My husband isn’t working right now, but I can help out as much as possible.”
“It’s okay. I’m going to look into a loan. I just have to figure out what I can offer for collateral.”
I tilted my head as I examined the seemingly inanimate cup on the table. I tapped the glass harder, and it shuddered. Tapping it again, the glass shifted across the wooden surface.
“Here’s a crazy idea, why doesn’t Mom come live with my family and me. I’d love to have her here, and she’d enjoy spending time with the kids.”
“Anna, we’ve talked about this.”
“No, we haven’t.”
“You going to Denver is the same risk as her coming to New York. Except that it’s worse because she’d be living in New York and constantly at risk.”
A few more taps and the empty glass tumbled to the ground. Mommy gave me a look and snapped her fingers at me.
Anna huffs at her sister. “Then let her come to you in Boston. It’s not as bad there.”
“It’s still worse than Denver.”
Why didn’t the glass float? It should’ve hovered high above me, and I could’ve chased it, like in my dream. I wondered if the pen lying on the coffee table would float. I patted it, and it rolled to the left. It hadn’t been in my dream, so maybe I shouldn’t bother with it.
“Look, Jeanie. She’s going to be at risk no matter what. Her doctor told her that she needs a support system to make it through the treatment they’ve planned for her. Without a support system, she could give up before it even starts.
“It’s Mom. She doesn’t give up on anything. She once showed up at your Homecoming Dance because you missed curfew. Do you really think she’s going to give in that easy?”
“There’s nothing easy about her treatment plan. Going through that and this national quarantine without any support is going to affect her.”
But what if the pen could float, and I didn’t know about it because I never tried to make it float? I tapped the ball-point and watched it roll off the table to land next to the empty glass.
“She doesn’t have to quarantine. She just needs to practice social distancing guidelines and avoid all contact with people...”
“And how’s that different from quarantine?”
Mommy threw a pillow at me, and I dodged her attempt to dissuade me from my experiment. I bet she didn’t want me to know about the floating items.
“Being in quarantine for extended periods like this is hard on everyone,” Anna said. “It’s going to be unbearable for her during treatment. She either risks exposure to COVID, or she risks losing her will to fight the cancer. Which do you prefer?”
“I don’t prefer either!”
“Neither do I, but this the reality of our situation, Jeanie.”
Mommy shook her head and closed her eyes to fight the welling tears. “I can’t do this. It’s too hard.”
“I know. This really sucks,” Anna whispered.
I sneaked across the living room to the side table that held the photo frame from my dream. I stretched my arm and tapped the photo, but it didn’t move. I guessed that I’d have to get more forceful with it to flush it out of hiding its ability to fly.
“What does Mom want to do?” Mommy asked her sister.
“She wants me to come there for a visit and talk about everything. I don’t think she wants to leave her home, but she also doesn’t want to be alone.”
Jeanie sighed and ran her hand through her hair. “Let me think about this, okay. I’m sure we can figure something out.”
The sisters said goodbye, and Mommy closed the laptop lid. Lost in thought, she didn’t move as she stared at the closed computer in her lap. Then the frame I knocked over hit the floor, and Mommy rolled her eyes at me and sighed.
Mommy sat at the kitchen table and chatted with her friend from work, Heather, while I snuggled in her lap. I had loved the attention Heather gave me at the start of the video call, but after they spent the last ten minutes discussing work, I grew bored.
“I agree that flipping the left image will open up the entire piece, but will it give us enough space for the text without overcrowding the ad?” Heather asked.
Mommy nodded. “I think so. Let me make the changes we’ve listed, and I’ll see what I can do. I can probably have this done by Friday.”
“Great, thanks for working on this for me.”
I yawned and stretched until my gaze fell onto an open cabinet in the kitchen. I’d seen mommy pull all kinds of dishes and pots from behind that small door; she’d even returned a few from the dishwasher.
“No problem,” Mommy said with a smile. “How’s your family doing?”
“They’re all alive. Although, sometimes I’m not sure they’ll survive the day. Virtual schooling is way more hands-on than I was anticipating.”
“Really? Don’t they just have to watch the lecture and do the assigned work?”
“Sounds easy, doesn’t it?” Heather threw her hands up. “But I have to stay on top of my kids to keep them on task. My youngest has ADHD, so that makes things harder for both of us.”
I wondered what else hid inside the dark cabinet. Maybe an arsenal of powerful weapons awaited me, or a hidden world with a pony to ride in the magical fields of Fairy Land. As a knight of adventure, I had to discover the truth.
“You’re such a good mom.”
“Thanks, but I don’t feel like it a lot of the time.”
“Are you kidding me?” Mommy said. “You work so hard to make sure your kids are doing what they’re supposed to do, and you manage to stay on top of your workload at the same time. You’re super mom.”
Heather laughed. “I don’t know about that.”
“I can barely manage Tina. I don’t know how you stay on top of all your kids.”
I wiggled in Mommy’s lap while she chatted with Heather until she let me slip away. I sneaked across the tile floor and stretched my neck for a glimpse into the open cabinet, but it was too high above the counter.
“Well, it doesn’t help when the teachers aren’t using the online software properly. Or the instructions they provide for the kids are incomplete.” Heather huffed as she shook her head. “I spent half an hour trying to figure out some instructions on how to access my oldest’s latest assignment, and it turns out they were missing vital information on how to log in.”
“We’re only a couple of weeks into this new virtual format. Maybe the teachers are still ironing out the wrinkles?”
“Maybe. I hope it gets better fast,” Heather said.
After I spotted the step-stool that my mommy used to reach the top shelves, I dashed up to the countertops like any brave knight. I shuffled to the open cabinet and peered inside, eager to find my magical prize.
“I hope this COVID ends quickly, and everyone can go back to their normal lives.” Mommy’s face falls, and Heather frowns with concern.
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I was just thinking about my mom.”
“Did you talk your sister out of moving your mom to New York?”
“Yes, thank God,” Mommy said with a nod. “But the bank declined my loan, so I can’t afford the home care help. I don’t know what we’re going to do.”
As I peeked into the cabinet, I found a treasure chest of white dishes guarded by a fierce dragon-spider. It’s web arched across the dark cave as it dangled above the treasure.
“I’m so sorry. When does she start chemo?” Heather said.
“Around 6 weeks from now. It’s a pretty aggressive treatment, too. It’s going to be hard on her. My sister and I can’t stand the idea of our mom going through this alone, but she can’t come here or to New York. It’s too dangerous.”
I slipped inside, but the dragon-spider noticed my movement. It threatened me with a hiss and arched its legs into the air while spreading its wings across the small enclosure. I shoved my knight’s shield in front of my body and crouched away from the terrifying arachnid.
Heather pursed her lips as an idea brightened her face. “If she can’t come to you, then why don’t you go to her?”
“My sister has a family. She can’t uproot her husband and kid. Besides, they are New Yorkers. They’d never be happy anywhere but in New York.”
Heather flashed a smile at Mommy’s half-hearted joke, then she shook her head. “No, I didn’t mean your sister and her family. I meant you. Why don’t you move to Denver and be with your mom?”
I paused to gather my courage and unsheath my knight’s sword, then I blustered forward. I swatted the dragon-spider and recoiled when it flailed in the air.
“I thought about that, but what about my life here in Boston? I have my friends, my apartment, my work. And we can’t forget about Tina. How do you think she’d respond to a big move like that?”
“You can make more friends in Denver, and you can video chat the ones you don’t want to lose,” Heather said. “Besides, how much time are you spending with them now anyway? Boston is still on lockdown, and it doesn’t look like this pandemic is slowing down anytime soon.”
When the small creature slipped down from its hanging web to the cave floor, I puffed my chest out and huffed at it. It stood its ground in front of the treasure and arched its front legs into the air again. This time, it hissed louder than before, but I wasn’t deterred.
“What about my apartment?”
“You’re renting. Moving across the country to be with your ailing mother is one of the best reasons to break a lease. The charges for breaking the lease are going to be less expensive than paying for your mom’s home care.”
When I stabbed at the dragon-spider, its hissing turned to a growl, and a puff of blue fire burst from the tiny monster. With wide eyes, I jumped back against the cave wall and hoisted my shield against the flames.
“That’s true.” Mommy raised her eyebrows. “Do you think the boss would mind if I moved across the country? I mean, I’ve already proven that I can do the job remotely. What does it matter if I’m in Boston or Denver?”
“Exactly!” Heather smiled. “And Tina will be fine. She’ll adapt to your new home in Denver as quickly as she did to the one in Boston.”
The dragon-spider lurched toward me with its fiery hiss, and I scrambled out of reach, knocking against the treasure chest of glassware. I cringed when a dish fell free of the cave and into the light of day.
“You’re right. I should really consider-”
Mommy jumped at the clatter of the glass bowl shattering to a million pieces on the kitchen tile. She twirled around and gaped at me as my head poked from the cabinet.
“Tina, how did you get up there?”
When Mommy stood from her chair, I shuffled from the cabinet onto the countertop. Rushing to escape Mommy’s wrath, I leaped toward the floor, but Mommy lurched forward to catch me mid-flight. She wrapped her arms around me and pulled me to her chest, and I tried not to panic at the trouble I’d caused.
Mommy ran her hands over my back and shushed me with a soothing voice. “It’s okay, sweetie. You’re safe. You have to be careful. You almost landed in the glass shards.”
With a smile, I buried my face into her chest and savored the smell of home.
A couple of weeks later, I dashed through the forest of cardboard boxes that littered the living room and scampered down the hall to find Mommy sitting on her bed. She taped up a cardboard box and set it on the floor as I climbed up next to her. She pulled me into her lap and ran her hands along my long hair with a smile. She tugged a small hairbrush from her nightstand and combed my knots free. I frowned at her, but she kept at it.
“The movers are coming next week. Are you ready for our road trip to Denver?”
I looked up at her and blinked, and she nodded. “I know you’re nervous because this is a big move, but you’re going to do great, Tina.”
Mommy took a deep breath and nodded again. “We both will.”
I closed my eyes and cuddled closer to Mommy as she ran the brush along the length of my back and down my tail. I hummed to her, and she smiled at me.
“You’re such a good kitty.”
Visit the 'Members Only' section to download a free ebook version of this short story.
© 2020 by Kelly A Nix