Without You

{For the Appleshine Mum, Loony, may she rest in peace.} The House Appleshine is rocked when they find out that their mother, Luna, has fallen ill. With their lives changing left and right, they've begun to have strains on the family ties as they struggle to cope with their mother's illness.

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13. Chapter Thirteen

It was eight in the morning. The sun was rising, and the day was unusually clear for a December. The Appleshine house was silent, as none of the children were willing to rise from their slumbers before nine on a day off for anything short of a fire on their beds.

Prez, however, had slept in the hallway again, and was finding it impossible to stay asleep on the hard ground. She contemplated going to Girlie's room to sleep, since the second grader was still using her bedroom (after Girlie argued and Prez insisted for at least twenty minutes). But Ink would probably be mad at her for the next three hours if she kicked the cats out of Girlie's room, and she didn't feel like being the cause of any more family drama no matter how minor or quick.

So Prez pulled her lazy self off the ground, dusted off her nightgown, and went downstairs to make waffles or something. Hopefully she could do it this time without blowing up the waffle maker.

As she poured the thick batter into the machine, the phone rang and she nearly jumped out of her skin. She put down the batter and peeked at the caller ID.

Nuremberg Hospital.

Oh God.

Maybe if I don't answer it, it won't happen. What I don't know won't kill me.

But she knew she had to answer. Besides, the ringing would wake up her brother and sisters soon enough.

So she picked up the phone and held it to her ear with a shaking hand, saying a quick prayer.

Please don't let it be this. Please don't let it be this. Please let Mum be okay-

"Hello?"

"Good morning. It is our regrets to inform you that Luna Brian Appleshine passed away this morning at approximately 8:13 from complications to a tumor. Please stop by the hospital today to learn your options during this rough time -"

She didn't hear the rest of it. Her brain had shut down. When it finally started working again, she denied everything she had just heard vehemently.

No. This is some sick prank. There must be some other Luna Appleshine in the hospital and they called my family by mistake. No. No. No. Mum's not dead. Mom's going to come here and then we'll be okay and Mum will come home . . . no . . . no . . .

But she had to accept it.

Prez was gripping the counter hard. So hard that her knuckles had turned white.

"Thank you," she replied the automated call and numbly put the phone back on its receiver.

Oh. My hands are starting to hurt. Yes, Prez. Release your grip. One finger at a time. Keep breathing. Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out. Now pick up the batter and finish pouring it. Breathe, breathe, breathe. Close the waffle maker. Breathe.

Her shock was broken when a certain seven-year-old came down the stairs.

"Who was on the phone?"

Don't cry. Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out. Don't cry. Don't cry. Don't cry. Whatever you do, don't . . .

The only word she got out was "the" before she burst out into tears and fell to her knees.

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