Like a Memory(2)

By: Abbi Glines

“All summer. My parents think I need a break from Rosemary Beach and my friends. In other words, I’m being punished.”

“Punished?” I asked from fascination.

He grinned then winked at me. “A story for another time. No need to scare you off. Hell, I just found you.”

Scare me off? Hardly. I wasn’t going anywhere. In fact, I would sit in this spot all summer and refuse to leave if it meant Nate Finlay would be by my side.

Seven years later . . .

Bliss York

SENIOR PROM. I didn’t go to mine. Much like everything else in high school. I missed it all. It wasn’t until I turned nineteen that I went on my first real date. The only experience I had with boys until then was one summer when I was fifteen. I spent it with a boy. One I’d never forget. He was like everything else in my life that had been good . . . before the cancer.

In late October after he’d returned to Rosemary Beach, Florida, I began experiencing fatigue with a fever. Neither could be explained. By November both were out of control and I was then diagnosed with leukemia. My world changed in one visit, that consultation with the doctor and my family. And the boy I thought I loved was put away in my memory to adore. When I was scared, I brought him to mind, which back then was way too often.

I didn’t answer his calls or respond to his texts and around Christmas he gave up trying. What would I say to him? The idea of that boy seeing me hairless with all the side effects of chemo would ruin those special memories of the summer we had together. So, I preserved them yet in return lost him. Everything soon became all about surviving each day. Beating the darkness of the cancer that ravaged my physical body. In the end, I won.

Yes, I have beaten cancer. However, since my mother lost her father to cancer, my mother continues to hover over me. She can’t allow me to live normally although I’ve been cancer free for almost four years now. Dad said to “be understanding.” My mother was terrified when I was first diagnosed. She cried a lot back then and held me. I often wonder if I fought so hard to beat it because I didn’t want my momma to hurt. I couldn’t stand the idea of how she’d suffer if she lost a child.

Now here I was at twenty-two, still living at home taking photos of the oldest of my three younger brothers Cruz. Snapping photos of him with his date to the prom. Living through watching him was something I was accustomed to. Although I was ready for that to change. I was glad my brothers had normal lives and I’d been able to experience the normalcy I lost by observing them. Cruz had done all the things I hadn’t been able to do during my bout with leukemia.

Watching my momma and daddy, especially momma, being parents to healthy kids was nice and I loved to see it. The boys gave up a lot during those years that my sickness owned our family. They had to stay with my parents’ closest friends, Willow and Marcus Hardy. Mom and dad had lived with me, at the Children’s Hospital in Atlanta.

Cord was now sixteen. Our parents had missed his tenth birthday because I was going through chemo that day. Clay had turned eight that very same year and they’d also been absent for that. I was lucky the boys weren’t bitter. The leukemia didn’t only rob my teenage years, but it also stole many of their memories. Memories my parents should’ve been a part of. Instead, the boys made me cards, sent me boxes filled with magazines and books, along with cookies they made with Willow.

Finally, as a family, we’d come into balance. We were mostly normal now. As I took the last photo of Cruz and watched momma kiss his cheek, I could smile and know everything was okay. I was here to see my brothers grow. My life wasn’t cut short like I’d feared. I was given a second chance. I’d missed a lot and it was time I stopped missing. Momma didn’t need to hover anymore. I was healthy and I was an adult. I’d stayed home to keep her happy. Now it was time for me to live the life I should have been living. The one I had held off on for my momma’s sake. I knew dad would understand. He’d be sad but he’d get it. However actually telling them I was moving out wasn’t going to be easy.

“Drive careful,” dad called to Cruz. He was taking Dad’s new blacked out Jeep and dad really loved that Jeep. This was one of the many ways my parents tried to make it up to the boys. They knew they’d missed a lot of their life because of me. So, they tried to make what they weren’t missing extra special.

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