Cat opened the door to her house and paused to listen for a moment before proceeding. She could hear the strains of Fleetwood Mac’s Rhiannon and she knew her mother had at least had a peaceful evening. After a moment, Cat moved forward into the house and closed the door softly behind her. A haze of cigarette smoke hung in the living room and Cat waived her hands around her head as if to clear a space to breathe through as she moved towards the stereo. She knew better than to turn the music all the way off, but she rolled the volume dial back a few clicks. Her mother lay on the couch, near the entrance to the kitchen. Cat moved quietly to the foot of the couch and removed her mother’s slippers. Pulling a blanket from the back of the couch, she took care to make sure that it draped over her mother’s body from toe to neck. Lastly, Cat gathered up the pile of pills that had spilled from the mouth of the pill bottle whose descent had brought it to a bouncing halt onto the floor. She stuffed the pills back into the bottle and tossed it on the floor, watched as it rolled under the couch. “Good.” She thought, and she didn’t feel bad about the vision of her beautiful mother, bent over and scratching through dust to retrieve her precious prescription, her weakness exposed in the light of the morning sun.
The next morning, Cat rose early and sat dutifully near the phone. When 9:30 came and went, Cat made some eggs and tried to the fill the hole in the morning with food. Her grandmother’s calls had gradually ceased, but Cat still waited every Saturday. “You never know,” she thought to herself, but as she stared out at the apple tree she knew. As surely as she knew how it felt to fall from the highest branches of that tree and lay on the ground trying to suck wind back into an uncooperative rib cage, that talking to mom hurt Grandma in pretty much the same way. As she sat alone at the table, Cat let her mind wander around her dad’s house for a moment. Loud and busy, her brothers rushed about, the little ones all crazy and messy and playful, the older one always pensive and perpetually distracted. She stopped her mind from wandering when it came to the image of her father, sitting at the kitchen table and staring out the window, wondering what he did to make his daughter forsake him. Cat got up, washed her dishes and filled a glass with ice water. She knelt in front of her mother’s body on the couch and lightly shook her awake. Clare’s eyes were ringed with red, bloodshot and grateful. She reached a thin hand out and stroked Cat’s cheek after taking several deep gulps.
“Thank you, my girl, I don’t know what I’d do without you.” Clare’s beautiful white teeth flashed as she gave Cat a quick smile. Cat wondered if her father would understand why Cat had to stay with her mother if only Clare had shared more of those smiles with him. Clare’s jet black hair spilled forward onto the floor as she suddenly jerked forward. Her hands flew to her chest, patting out a desperate search that ended in her lap. Then her eyes turned into dark clouds. “Where are my pills, Cat, what did you do with them?” Clare moved more quickly than Cat had thought she’d be able to and she snapped up her daughter’s scrawny upper arm with one hand, her nails digging painfully into the tender skin near Cat’s armpit.
“Jesus Christ, Clare, you probably dropped the god damned things.” Cat jerked her arm away, wincing as Clare’s nails dug long strips of raw skin that wrapped quickly in a red glow around her arm. The raw strips on Cat’s soul wrapped a little more slowly, the burn significantly worse. Cat stood up and looked down at her mother. “You should get up and eat something. Maybe take a shower, huh Clare? I’m going to go see what Tony is doing.” Cat could hear her mother’s knees hit the floor as she opened the door, but she didn’t really care to see the vision she’d imagined the night before, so she just stepped forward into the sunshine on the porch and closed the door behind her.