Jelly Bean

The street was empty, save the last few stragglers wandering from porch to porch searching for the last of the Halloween loot. Beth didn’t want to sit alone in the drizzle but she wasn’t ready to head home yet either.

At 12 she was just on the cusp of feeling too old for trick or treating, but she couldn’t stand to be in that house any longer. As her mother’s days grew fewer and fewer the more people came by and paraded around their house. Nobody seemed to notice the whiskey on her father’s breath, the slur of his speech, or his ice cold demeanor.

All of their visitors fussed over them, offering kind words of condolence along with a hot meal. Beth hated when they left, being alone in a home full of death and despair was suffocating, especially to a young girl whose hormones were already a rollercoaster. In the most recent weeks she’d grown to resent them both. She felt like she was being abandoned by her mother, and she mourned the drunken death of the father she used to know.

She cried to her mother, begging her to find an experimental treatment or drug to fix it. Her mother held her hand quietly and softly said, “Give him grace Jelly Bean, you’re all he has left.”

Beth was sitting quietly on the curb thinking about being left alone when she first spot him. A dark figure, tall and gaunt, hidden beneath an ebony umbrella. A chill ran down the length of her spine. As the figure turned to her an immediate recognition fell over her. Panic stricken she scrambled to her feet, tumbling down the wet road to stop him.

“NO! Stop!” She screamed out, “Please, please leave her alone!”

Death turned silently after glancing her way and swiftly float along toward her house. Beth’s feet felt as if they were encased in cement, each step harder than the one before. But she continued to throw herself forward, willing herself to get there before he did.

Death stopped under the awning of her front porch, dropping the umbrella so she could see his skeleton like face. Tears streamed freely down her face and she gasped in each breath, pushing forward with all her might.

“Please, just let me be there. Let me say goodbye.” She begged him, her voice cracking with each word. She couldn’t bear the thought that her last interaction with her mother could be a cold goodbye without even a mention of how loved she was. She could never live with herself if that was it.

Death raised his bony pale hand and silently ushered her into the home before himself. Climbing the stairs clumsily Beth fell into the front door, turning down the hall and running straight into her mother’s room.

She didn’t wake at the sound of her daughter bursting through the door, and she looked so peaceful in her slumber. Beth pulled herself together best as she could and slowly crept across the room, sitting at the edge of the bed and taking her mother’s hand into her own.

Her deep green eyes fluttered open, and a small smile spread across her thin lips. Beth thought for a moment she looked like an angel on earth, her auburn hair fallen like a halo around her face. She seemed aglow with life for the first time in months, Beth took her phone from her pocket and quickly snapped a photo.

“What was that for Jelly Bean?” Her mother asked lightly, patting her knee at the same time.

“Because I want to remember how beautiful you are right now, forever.” Beth smiled sweetly, and then looked down at her hands with tears in her eyes, “I’m not ready Mama.”

Her mother nod softly, “You wouldn’t ever be Bean. But I need you to know I will never not be with you. You will carry me in your heart and I will be with you always.”

Her father had come into the room without a sound and sat across the bed from her, placing his hand gently onto her mother’s shoulder. Beth saw for the first time the heartache and sorrow behind his soft grey eyes. She reached her small hand across and placed it atop his hand

The three of them sat silently for as long as they could before her mother coughed. Beth looked up knowingly as Death float into the room, hovering silently at the end of the bed.

“I love you Mama. For ever and always.”

She heard her father’s throat catch as he murmured, “You are the love of my life, now and for all time.”

Her mother swallowed hard and nod, “Take care of each other. I will always be with you, and never forget that I love you.”

She drew in a jagged breath and closed her deep green eyes for the final time. Death float closer and closer, leaning his ice cold body over her and deeply inhaling her sweet earthly scent. He stood up right and looked at Beth with pity, wiping a tear gently from her cheek.

She lay her head softly atop her mothers still chest, letting her tears freely fall. She did not expect to feel so grateful to Death for letting the three of them have this beautiful moment together. Death slowly gripped her mother’s hand and they float off into the darkness of eternity together.

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