Karen stumbled down the white tiled hallway. The smell of disinfectant burned her eyes. She opened the glass doors and stepped into the fresh air. It had been just after sunset when Karen brought her mother to the hospital. Now she squinted in the noontime glare.
Last night’s clothes clung to her body. Feeling wrinkled and stale, she craved sinking into a bath. But first she had to get home. She had walked miles every day for her entire life. Today the walk home was too much. Karen found a bench and buried her face in her hands, too exhausted to cry. Peggy was going to be okay, but Karen couldn’t get the image out of her mind of her mother, ghostly white, lying on the bathroom floor.
Karen took a deep breath to muster the strength to walk home when she noticed the telephone booth across the street. Henry would help her. All she had to do was call. But asking for help was not something Karen did.
She looked down the street. It was probably two miles to her house and only fifty yards to the phone booth. More than a ride home, she needed a friend. She swallowed her pride, forced it down like bitter medicine and crossed the street.
It took Henry’s fraternity brothers a few minutes to find him.
“Henry, it’s me. It’s Karen.”
“Karen, what’s wrong? You never call.”
“I had to take Mum to the hospital last night. I need…”
She trailed off, not knowing how to ask for what she needed. How could she tell him what she needed, when she didn’t know herself?
“I’m sorry. I don’t know what I need.”
“I’ll be there in ten minutes. We’ll figure it out.”
Karen sank to the bottom of the phone booth. She hadn’t cried when her dad left town. She hadn’t cried when her friends all left for college and she took a job waiting tables in a greasy diner. She hadn’t cried when her dreams of secretarial school began to fade when Mum started drinking. She hadn’t cried when she begged Mr. Weitz to call an ambulance for Peggy. Now years of disappointment tumbled down her face.
“Please God,” she whispered. “This is as much as I can take.”
For this week’s prompt from Write on Edge, we were asked to write a story or memoir which relates to choices and/or consequences. I found myself a little stymied by this week’s prompt, maybe because most of Karen’s life is about choices and consequences so I didn’t know where to begin. If you’re interested in reading more about Karen, click here.