The prompt for this week is this photo. A big THANK YOU to Mia and Vashelle for coming up with this great link up!
She let the coarse hair of Shadow's mane slip through her fingers. It was late and her body was exhausted. As much as she craved the warmth of her bed she equally wanted to be here. This was her safe zone. This was that place she imagined when people said, "Find your happy place." It was peaceful here among the smell of hay, the deep breaths of her horse, the wind whistling through the barn door, even the smell of manure was oddly comforting. She ached to be inside asleep but she stayed because she knew this would be one of the last times. She'd stopped the treatments. They weren't working. What point was filling her body with poison if it wasn't helping? The tumor would grow. The cancer would spread. That was undeniable. Her doctors seemed surprised she was still here. She hated their faces full of pity. Maybe it wasn't pity? Maybe it was a small fear that they could be her? She certainly didn't think this would be her life. High school. Check. College. Check. Moving in with your parents because you have an advanced form of cancer. Not on the list. Knowing you'll never have a family of your own. Not. On. The. List. In a way it was better that this happened now. She wouldnt leave behind a spouse to spiral into depression. There wouldn't be children who would need therapy for years trying to get over the loss of their mother and the shift in the family dynamic. No this was definitely better. She had her horse. Mom. Dad. The few friends who stuck around through all the bullshit. The puking. The crying. The pain. The sadness. And all for what? It didn't help. It didn't give her more time.
She took a deep breath and moved away from Shadow. She sat on the bench across from his stall. She grew up in this barn. She'd watch as her mom gently groomed and dressed their horses. She learned to feed them and to ride them. She reluctantly helped her dad shovel and clean the stalls. What she wouldn't give for more time to shovel horse poop. She laughed a little to herself. She picked up the brush, walked back to Shadow, and began slowly going over his coat. If she could choose she would die here. It would be sunrise. Dew would be on the ground and the smell of a crisp new morning would be in the air. She'd close her eyes and float off to a forever sleep. Realistically she knew it might not happen so simply. She might not even be quite lucid at that time. "You want to know the secret to life?", she said to Shadow "The secret to life is don't get cancer." He blinked his eyes slowly as she stroked him softly. She stepped away from him and opened the barn door. The cool night air rushed in. The sky was so clear you would swear you could count every star. It was calm. It was quiet. The quiet was what she enjoyed most about this place. There wasn't anything like it. In her time away at school she's always wish to be back here. She couldn't wait for a school break so she could rush home. She never imagined that the last time she returned home would really be her last time to come back. Now she slept in her old room. Pink flowered wall paper still hung on the wall. Her old creaky bed still between the two windows that overlooked the front lawn.
She moved so quickly between acceptance, sorrow, anger, and nostalgia that she felt crazy. Mostly she felt guilty. She knew the medical bills were piling up. Her debt was so substantial and she had no way of paying any of it. Her parents took out a second mortgage. They sold parts of their land. The barn used to house 4 horses and now there was just Shadow. She knew that they held onto him for her. Whether they would keep him after she was gone she didn't want to know. She would love to ride him but the risk was too great. Her bones were now very fragile. Chronic radiation damage the doctors called it. She would settle for this. She would spend what time she could here. There were good days and bad. Days she felt some kind of normal and days she laid in bed hour after hour. She knew the bad days would soon outnumber the good. She made her way back to Shadow's stall. She patted his head and kissed his soft nose.
"I'll be back in the morning. I promise", she whispered to him, and she hoped that she would wake up with the strength to keep that promise.