Michael Richmond placed his left palm against the familiar front door. He listened for some sign of life on the other side. His hand trembled as he slipped the key into the slot. The door swung open.
The condo was altered from the last time he was here. The comfy furniture was pushed back against the walls. I was replaced by a stainless steel hospital bed. An unfamiliar, medicinal smell made the back of his neck prickle.
He crept to the rail of the bed. The occupant’s ice blue eyes were wide open, but they were focused on a specter Michael couldn’t see. A guttural groan issued from her dried, cracked lips. Michael stood transfixed with horror. What was happening here?
He jumped as the kitchen door banged open. A woman entered. He thought for an instant this was his beautiful Rhiannon, but the scowl and the flash of green eyes told him this was her daughter, Beth, instead.
Beth carried a loaded syringe between her teeth as she pulled on rubber gloves. She slipped the needle from the plastic cap and inserted it into the IV in the woman’s hand. Beth watched her patient’s face a line of concentration between her eyebrows.
When the syringe was empty and the moaning stilled, Beth acknowledged Michael. “What are you doing here?”
“Why didn’t she call me?”
Beth removed the syringe from the tubing, recapped it and looked up from the IV line. “Look, Michael, not everything is about you, okay. Mamma said you were busy, and she would call you when she could.” She glared at him. The heat of her hatred penetrated him.
“Beth, I don’t want to fight with you. I came because you said on the phone your mother was ill. I need to be here. I want to help.”
“Kate and I don’t want your help,” she spat and strode out of the room.
He was alone except for the click of the IV pump. Rhiannon lie quiet and still. She looked so old. When had that happened? She was always alive, willing to go anywhere and do anything. Had he gotten too busy for her: taken her for granted? Then he realized that she had never depended on him. Loved him, yes, but never needed him.
He heard a crash against the kitchen wall.