GENRE: YA Contemporary Thriller
The living room curtains block the early morning sunshine, shrouding the threadbare sofa in shadow. It’s been more than a year since my mother slept in her own bed; months since the cancer allowed her more than the briefest moment of comfort. She has retreated inside herself, a ghost of the woman who raised me with love.
“You’ll be okay, Mama?” I hesitate in the doorway with her steaming cup of tea, holding still until I see her stir. My greatest fear is finding her in this hell-hole of a room on the day I wake up and she doesn’t.
Her breath fills her lungs on a loud inhale, rough at the end. The room smells like old food and cigarettes, blended with the ripe odor of a withered body and blankets that need washing.
“Is it morning, Toni?” she asks thickly beneath the pain and the ever-increasing dose of meds that do nothing to mask it. I frown as she reaches for a pack of cigarettes on the coffee table. “Heading to school?”
I set the tea on the table within her reach, covering the rings from past cups with the pristine white mug. “Yes.”
She adjusts her hips on the concaved sofa cushion, hissing through her teeth. “Be careful, mi chica.”
I smile sadly at her pet name for me. Mama used to live in Mexico, as a nanny and teacher for a wealthy family. It was where she met my father, but we don’t talk about him.