Chapter Two – Kaksi
Written by: Sese Ramirez
“Why does it hurt so much?”
“Why am I in so much pain?”
“Am I being punished?”
She walks along the halls of the building. The smell of antibiotic and cleaning agent permits the air. To the living, it’s a smell they are not fond off. The smell of the sick and dying. For her, it’s the smell that attracts her.
A black feather lay on the palm of her hand as she walks. She closes her hand the feather disappears. So much black feathers. It seemed like less and less people are dying at peace. How she longed to see an orange or red feather. It’s been awhile.
“Lirika. You need to go now.”
“Where am I going today?” Lirika asks.
The tattoo on her hand, who she calls Chicol spoke, “Isn’t that, well you know?”
“Yes. It is.” She opens her plastic umbrella and away she goes.
St. Mary’s Cancer Institute. Lily hates going there. Every time she goes there she always goes home in pain. Her chemotherapy is really rigid. She gets it twice a week. Twice. Cancer is a vicious disease and the treatment is venomous to say the least.
Cancer of the Lungs. Stage 3. She is not even a smoker. According to her doctor, it was genetic and she got it from second-hand-smoking. She thought she’ll get liver cancer or any disease relating to alcohol because if she is not a smoker, she is a drinker. A bad alcoholic if you may say.
“Ms. Lily Jones?” the nurse calls at her.
She stands up from her chair. The nurse then led her to the room where she will get her chemotherapy. The nurse told her to change to her hospital gown and left. She puts her bag down on the bed and mutters, “Hope to fucking god that Kevin picks up Gracie from school.”
Gracie. Her beautiful daughter. She is just seven years old. Being a single mother was difficult enough and now she has cancer. Kevin is her younger brother who is still in college. Kevin who doesn’t give a fuck on what’s going on around him.
Lily Jones’ life is miserable and utterly depressing.
“She is very sick.” Lirika said as she watches Lily get ready for her chemotherapy. She is currently standing besides the bed. She waves her hand all over her and said, “Soon it will be over.”
As she looks at her bag, she could see Lily’s phone buzzing. Someone is calling. Lily, who is now dressed in the hospital gown, gets the phone from the bag and answers it.
“Hello? Yes, this is Ms. Jones. Uh-huh… what?!” Lily exclaims sitting down on the bed. “I am so sorry Ms. Carmine. I am… no Ms. Carmine, yes I will pick Gracie up.” With that Lily ends the call. As she puts her cell phone back to her bag, she mutters “Fuck you Kevin, you piece of shit.”
A doctor then enters the room smiling at Lily. Lily sighs as she runs her hand over her hair and said, “Doctor Daniels, I am so sorry. Can we reschedule tomorrow? My daughter Gracie… my younger brother forgot to pick her up and the school…”
Doctor Daniels held up a hand and said, “Look Lily it’s okay. We can have this tomorrow. It’s no problem.”
Lily nods her saying, “Thank you Doctor.”
“I’ll see you tomorrow okay?” Doctor Daniels replied and then he goes out of the room leaving Lily to dress back to her regular clothes.
Lirika, who is now seating on the hospital bed where Lily is suppose to lie down. She looks at Chicol and said, “Looks like we are going with her to her daughter’s school.”
“Her daughter is seven.” Chicol replied.
“I know. There is a chance she could see me. Children can see entities like me.” Lirika said knowingly.
Chicol stares at her intently and said, “Hey Lirika, are you okay being here?”
Lirika looks at Lily who is almost done dressing up and said, “I am.”
Lily arrives at Gracie’s school looking disgruntled as ever. She rushes towards her daughter’s classroom, trying to fix the bandana on her head. She sees her reflection in trophy cabinet’s glass case and stops. She looks horrible. She used to have long light brown hair but now, she has to wear a bandanna because her hair has fallen out. Her once smiling brown eyes are now dull and sullen. Her skin so pallid and dry and her clothes look too big for her. She has lost a lot of weight because of her chemotherapy.
Lily turns her head and she sees Gracie’s teacher Ms. Carmine staring at her. She smiles apologetically and said, “I am so sorry Ms. Carmine, I told my younger brother Kevin to pick Gracie up but apparently he didn’t.”
“You should not rely on Kevin when it comes to Gracie, Ms. Jones. You know what kind of person he is.” Ms. Carmine replied giving her a look.
“It’s like I have an option Ms. Carmine. You know my situation. God! Do I look like I have an option?” Lily exclaimed almost scathingly.
Ms. Olivia Carmine is no exactly the most understanding teacher. Oh she is a good teacher no doubt about it, she understands and is very sensitive to kids but not with the parents especially to her.
“Mama?” a small voice says. From the classroom door, there stood Gracie Love Jones. Her curly light brown hair cascading over shoulders, her big brown eyes staring at her. “Mama, why are you here? You are supposed to be at St. Mary’s for your medicine.” Gracie replied going over to her mother.
Upon hearing this, Lily hears Ms. Carmine gulp. Ms. Carmine gives her an apologetic look and is about to say something but Lily is not hearing of it. This teacher is obviously judging her because she is a single mother, got pregnant before marriage and obviously made bad decisions in life that landed her in this position. No, she will not accept that apology from her. So, she held out her hand to her face as to shut her up.
“Yes baby. I was supposed to be in the hospital to get my medicine but Ms. Carmine; she told me Uncle Kevin could not pick you up. So here I am.” Lily replied kneeling in front of her daughter. She gives her a hug and said, “Go get your bag and let’s go home.”
Gracie nods her head and went inside her classroom to get her bag. Lily turns to Ms. Carmine and said, “I’ll have Gracie take the school bus every time she goes home. I don’t mind paying the extra fee.”
“But your condition…” Ms. Carmine replied but Lily gave her a look that says, shut-up.
“Look Ms. Carmine, don’t start caring about my situation or pretend otherwise.” Lily replied as Gracie comes out with her bag in tow. Lily takes her daughter’s hand and walks away.
To the eyes of a child, they are not monsters. Innocence is such a bliss. Lirika could feel Gracie staring at her from her bus seat. She is seated at the very back of the bus. Quite far from Lily and Gracie. The seven year old stares at her with utmost curiosity. She stares back and gives a short wave.
Gracie smiles a bit and wave back. Lily noticed this and asked, “Are you waving at the old man?”
“No mama.” Gracie said shaking her head. “I’m waving at the pretty girl with feathers on her hair.”
Lily quickly take a look at the back but there is no girl with feathers on her head can be seen. Only a teen-age girl and an old man. She looks at Gracie with a puzzled look. As far as she knows, her daughter stopped having imaginary friends when she was 5 years old. Seven year olds do not have imaginary friends. Do they?
She is about to ask further but the bus stops at their stop. She mentions to Gracie they need to go. Gracie takes one more look at the back seat and waved goodbye.
“Oh boy. She can see you and she is not freaked out.” Chicol replied in a worried tone.
“She is still a child. We are pure beings to them. Not demons, not ghosts.” Lirika explained. She has just materialized herself inside Lily’s house.
She walks towards the master bedroom and looks around. Lily has a lot of paintings on her wall. All of them painted by her. It has always been Lily’s dream to be a painter. A dream she was not able to fulfill. Lirika approaches a canvass and on it is Lily’s current work in progress. It’s a portrait of her daughter Gracie.
“Is Lily really going to die soon? How about Gracie?” Chicol asks.
“You sounded very concerned. So unlikely.” Lirika teases. Chicol merely grumbled in response.
Lirika sat in front of the painting and said, “You know that Lily is going to die soon…. And Gracie, will she be okay?
“How can that child be okay? She is going to lose her mother. Who is going to take care of her?” Chicol remarked.
Lirika closes her eyes and said, “Be patient Chicol. All will be revealed soon.”
As she said this, she hears the main door opens. Lily and Gracie are home. She could hear Gracie climbing the stairs towards her mother’s bedroom.
“Uhhhh the kid.” Chicol replied. Lirika shushed the tattoo. Gracie enters the room and sees Lirika in front of her mother’s painting.
“Why are you here?” Gracie asks.
Lirika stands up and said, “I will be here for awhile. Is that okay Gracie?”
Gracie nods her head meekly. Lirika smiles a bit and points to the unfinished painting and said, “Your mother is very good.”
“Yes. Mama loves to paint. Sometimes she sells her painting to a place. They have a lot of paintings there too.” Gracie replied approaching Lirika.
“Gracie… Your mom is very sick.” Lirika said.
Gracie nods her head and replied, “I know. That’s why you will be here for awhile, right?”
Lirika nods her head and said, “Don’t worry Gracie, it will not hurt, for her.”
Lily sighs. She puts her bag on the kitchen counter. She feels so tired. What a long day. She opens their refrigerator and notice how almost bare it is. Money is very scarce nowadays. Ever since her cancer reached stage 3, she has to quit working in the diner because she doesn’t have the same stamina and energy before. Right now, she works at home. She managed to get a home based job that does not require a lot of energy.
Dr. Michaels, her doctor hired her to transcribe his medical recordings. The good doctor pays her okay. Enough to buy necessities. As for her chemotherapy, she would sell some paintings to the gallery nearby. Combine with what the gallery pays her and the money she gets from her health insurance, she is able to pay for her medical fees. But she knew, she is not going to get better. Stage 3? Who is she kidding?
She needs to do the grocery but she can’t leave Lily alone.
“Where is Kevin?” she thinks.
As she thinks this, she hears the main door opens. Someone came home and she knew who it was.
“Kevin? Kevin! I know its you! Kevin!” she calls out.
A tall brown haired boy with a crew cut enters the kitchen. He is dressed in tattered jeans and a black shirt. Kevin Jones, Lily Jones younger brother.
“Why didn’t you pick up Gracie up?” Lily ask looking pissed. “I asked you and you said yes. Why didn’t you even tell me you couldn’t? You do realize that it’s my chemo day and I know you don’t have class this afternoon, so why?”
Kevin sighed, “Look I’m sorry. I kinda forgot and I was with Travis and…”
“Are you really sorry Kevin? Look I am not asking much at least look after Gracie when I’m at St. Mary’s.” Lily replied looking exasperated.
Kevin sighs and said, “Lily… if this is your way of letting me know that you will leave Gracie to me when you are gone, I am telling you, I can’t.”
Lily gave Kevin a look and said, “You are my next of kin. You are Gracie’s nearest living relative. If you abandon her she goes to foster care and I will not let that happen Kevin!”
“Don’t push your burden on me Lily!” Kevin exclaims looking annoyed.
That comment had Lily freeze. She felt like she has been slapped and doused with cold water.
“Look, fuck. I’m sorry. Lily, I’m just in college and I’m lucky enough to get a scholarship. I can’t handle more responsibility.” Kevin reasoned out looking forlorn. Lily shakes her head and said, “I can’t believe you think Gracie is a burden.”
Kevin wipes his face with his hand and said, “That’s not what I meant Lily!”
“Then what?!” Lily screamed at him. She could feel tears stinging her eyes. Kevin didn’t answer her and she had enough. Kevin only cared for himself. Kevin hasn’t shown any care when it comes to her. Not even when their parents died. She doesn’t understand why. She took care of him and tried her best to support him but in the end when it’s her needed help, Kevin didn’t care.
“Get out.” Lily muttered but enough for Kevin to hear.
Lily glares at her brother saying, “Get out! I have enough of you! Since you never cared about me and you don’t want Gracie, you don’t deserve us. So get out!”
“You are kicking me out? I don’t have anywhere to go!” Kevin exclaims.
Lily gives out a short laugh and said, “Do I give a fuck? No! Get out and never show yourself to me even if I die or show yourself to Gracie. I swear to God Kevin! I will haunt you! You hear me? I will fucking haunt you!” she then points her finger towards the main door and exclaimed loudly, “GET OUT!”
Kevin gives Lily a disappointed look and turn his back at her and walks away. As Kevin gather his things from his room, Lily took that opportunity to seat down and cry. She sobbed her heart out and didn’t stop even until Kevin left the house closing the main door with a bang.
Lily gathered herself and slowly climb up the stairs to check up on Gracie. As she reaches her room, she sees Gracie talking to no one.
“Mama!” Gracie exclaims as Lily enters the room.
Lily looks around asking, “Who are you talking to baby?”
Gracie shakes her head and said, “No one, just me talking to myself.”
Lily then sat down besides Gracie and gives her daughter a big hug. Gracie kissed her mother on the cheek saying, “I hear you screaming at Uncle Kevin again. He always makes you angry.”
“I know baby. That is why, Uncle Kevin is no longer going to stay with us.” Lily replied almosg sighing.
Gracie broke away from her mother’s embrace and ask, “What will happen to us now mama?
“I don’t know baby but I promise you, everything will be okay.” Lily replied forcing herself to smile.
She knew that was a lie. It will never be okay. She is dying and Gracie will be alone. How is that okay?
“Oh God please, let me live a little more to make sure Gracie will be okay.”
Dr. Yojan Daniels stares at the recent result of Lily Jones. The results bare no good news for the single mother. He thought of her daughter Gracie Love and sighs. Why do terrible things happen to the young and innocent?.
Lily Jones is no saint but she is not a bad person. Dr. Daniels have known Lily for long that he knows her story. Almost every one in town knows who is Lily Jones. Lily the frustrated artist. Lily whose parents died before she managed to graduate from high school. Sacrificed her college degree so that she can take care of her younger brother and send him to school. Lily, who had an affair with a married man and got pregnant with Gracie. She was known to be a home wrecker after that and what’s worst, because of their highly conservative town, Lily is further looked down because of her single mother status.
Some townfolks believe that Lily deserved to get sick because she has sinned. Dr. Daniels believe no one deserve to get sick especially cancer. He thinks there are really unkind and judgemental people in the world. He came from the big city and even if city folks think differently, people in small towns and in the city have one in common: they love to judge and they can be very unkind.
A nurse approached him and said, “Doctor, Ms. Jones is here and she is ready.”
“Thank you nurse.” Dr. Daniels replied. As the nurse walks away, he sighs. Even years as a doctor, giving patients bad news is not something he likes. He loathes giving bad news, but there is no easy way of doing it.
Lily is seating on the bed when Dr. Daniels enters the room. She smiles at the good doctor approaches her with her chart. He has this grim look on his face and she could feel something is wrong.
“Doctor?” she asks.
“Hi Lily.” Dr. Daniels exclaimed, he seats down besides Lily and sighs. He looks at Lily eagerly and said, “Your cancer… it has started to metastasize to your liver and soon it will reach your brain.”
Upon hearing this, Lily starts to cry and said, “Are you telling me my cancer has spread?”
Dr. Daniels nods his head. “We can still continue your chemo but I fear your body might not be able to take it.”
“Oh God… I thought, I thought I still have time. This can’t be…” Lily sobbed. Dr. Daniels rubs her back in comfort, “I’m sorry Lily. I wish I had better news.”
In between tears Lily managed said, “Gracie, my precious Gracie! I was praying that I would have more time, at least enough time to find someone that can take care of her.”
“How about Kevin?” Dr. Daniels asks.
Lily shakes her head and said sobbing still, “He didn’t want Gracie. He thinks she is a burden, he sees me and Gracie a burden.”
This answer had Dr. Daniels feeling bad for Lily. With no living relatives, Gracie will land in foster care. If he can only do something about the current situation.
Lily takes deep breathes trying to calm herself and to stop herself from crying too much. When she is able to calm herself a bit, she asks, “How much time do I have a left?”
She scans the people inside St. Mary’s. She notice how much has changed inside the hospital. So much memory inside this hospitals. From the when she was still mortal and until now.
Lirika turns to her right where the voice came from. There stand another Lost Soul. She is 2 feet taller than her. Her long curly hair cascading up to her shoulders. Shs has this elf-like ears and bright blue eyes. She is dressed in a bright orange long dress and yellow high heeled shoes. On her right hand, she wears a yellow laced glove.
“Hello Medina.” Lirika replied with a nod.
“My, my, my, fancy seeing you here.” Medina replied winking at her. “I never thought I’ll see you here again.”
Lirika smiles a bit, “I had a few assignments here. During my early days, most of my assignments are here.”
“It’s usually like that. Where you died is your usually your first assignment.” Medina replied winking at her. “So, is your assignment dying today?”
Lirika shakds her head and said, “Soon. Yours?”
Medina shows her a black feather and said, “I just reaped it.”
“Another black feather.” Lirika replied looking sad. Medina sighs and said, “I know. I hope yours is red or at least an orange”
Lirika looks at Lily who is walking slowly out of her room accompanied by her doctor. She gives a Medina a sad look and said, “I don’t think so. She is at best will be a gray.”
Medina made a tsk, tsk sound and said, “Oh mortals. Anyway, I gotta go. Lovely to see you again my dear.”
Chicol who has been listening to their conversation piped up, “Wasn’t it Medina who reaped your soul when you died here?”
“Yes it was her. According to her, she had fun reaping my mortal soul.” Lirika replied in a confused tone.
Chicol chuckled and said, “Your life must be super interesting then.”
“I supposed. I guess.” Lirika said. She then starts walking towards Lily who is entering Dr. Daniels’ car.
“Thank you for taking your time to help me out with the groceries doctor.” Lily replied clasping her hands together.
Dr. Daniels who is pushing the grocery cart shakes his head and said, “It’s no problem. I needed a break from the hustle and bustle of the hospital anyway.”
“But your other patients doctor.” Lily points out as she puts two carton of milk in the cart. Dr. Daniels smiles and said, “Don’t worry; I have another Doctor fill me in. Besides I’ll be just gone for a couple of hours.”
Dr. Daniels grabs a few canned goods and puts it into the cart saying, “By the way, you don’t need to continue transcribing for me. With your condition, what you need is complete rest.”
“No, no doctor. I can’t stop. How are we going to eat? Survive even? ” Lily asks looking offended at the comment.
“If you are worried about that, I can take care of it.” Dr. Daniels points out.
Lily shakes her head and said, “Please take no offense doctor. I appreciate the offer but you had done so much for me and Gracie. Please let me continue transcribing.”
“I understand but let’s compromise. You continue transcribing but let me pay for Gracie’s school bus fees. How about that?” Dr. Daniels replied.
Lily sighed. It’s an offer she can’t refuse. Money is indeed scarce, so she simply nods her head in agreement. Dr. Daniels pat’s her back and they continued shopping for food.
Gracie ran towards her mother as soon Lily came home. She is looks at the good doctor besides her mother.
“Dr. Daniels helped mama to buy groceries today baby.” Lily replied hugging Gracie back. Dr. Daniels looks at Gracie saying, “Hello Gracie. Your mama needs to rest now, help me store the groceries is that okay?”
Gracie nods her head. Lily smiles at her daughter. She then gives a nod to Dr. Daniels and climbs up to her room leaving her daughter with Dr. Daniels.
“Okay Gracie, where is the kitchen?” Dr. Daniels asks. Gracie led him to the kitchen. Dr. Daniels with armful of grocery bags walks towards the kitchen with Gracie in tow.
As they reach the kitchen, Dr. Daniels placed the bags on the kitchen table and started taking out all of the content of the bag. Gracie looks at him and said, “Mama is not getting better isn’t she?”
Dr. Daniels looks at the young girl in front of him. He sighs. How do you even answer that to a seven year old?
“I know mama is dying. I know that I will be alone soon.” Gracie said her eyes tearing a bit. Dr. Daniels immediately envelops the young girl in a hug saying, “I’m so sorry Gracie. I could not heal your mama.”
Gracie sobs through the good doctor’s shoulders not saying anything.
Lirika watches this scene with sadness in her eyes. “Soon. It will be all too soon.” She thinks and disappears from the kitchen.
Two months has passed. Lily Jones has gotten weaker and weaker. Soon she was wheelchair bound. Dr. Daniels has been visiting her at her home with a care giver to check up and care for her. Despite her being wheel chair bound, Lily continued painting. A part of Lily wants to finish painting the portrait of her daughter Gracie. It will be the last painting she will paint. The only thing she will leave her daughter. All her love for her beloved daughter Gracie.
“It’s almost done.” Her caregiver Mona said looking at the painting. Lily nods her head smiling. On a normal basis, she can finish a portrait within a week but because of her condition, it took longer than that.
Mona carefully placed a blanket over Lily’s shoulders saying, “Dr. Daniels is really such a good man, don’t you think so?”
“Yes. He is.” Lily replied her voice soft and weak.
Indeed. Dr. Daniels is a very good man. He is paying for everything now in the house. From the bills, the food, even her medication. She asked so many times but Dr. Daniels never gave her a proper answer.
Her grip on her paint brush loosens a bit and fell to her lap. She picks it up carefully and Mona said “You should rest already Ms. Jones.”
Lily shook her head. She knows her time is near and she wants to finish the painting. She doesn’t want to go out without finishing it.
“I need to finish this Mona. It’s for Gracie.” She replied coughing a little. Mona pats her at the shoulder, “There, there, let me get you some water Ms. Jones.”
As Mona steps out of her room, Lily put her paintbrush down and looks to her right and said, “It’s time I know.”
She is speaking to Lirika who is seating besides her the whole time.
“Please just a little more. I need to finish this.” Lily begged.
Lirika nods her head and didn’t say more. She could still spare some time for this. For the sick and dying like Lily, when they are near their death bed they can actually see the Lost Soul who will reap their souls. This gives the opportunity to bargain or even confess their sins. Some would tell their regrets and stories in life before they pass away.
“Tell me, why I am being punished this way? I know I sinned but why like this?” Lily replied trying not to try.
“Do you think you are being punished?” Lirika asks.
Lily nods her head. She stares at daughter’s portrait said, “Am I? Because my life has always been miserable. I was never happy; people say I deserve to get sick because I am a home wrecker.”
She shakes her head saying, “I do feel sorry you know. I know it was wrong but I did genuinely love him. I know he will never be with me. I know that. I broke it off when we were found out. I didn’t even go to him when I got pregnant with Gracie.”
“Do you want Gracie to be with her biological father?” Lirika ask.
Lily smiles fondly at her finished portrait and said, “I want Gracie to be happy even if I am gone. I want her to be okay even if…” she then looks at Lirika and said, “Gracie… she is the only thing that made my life worth living. My daughter is the only one that ever made me happy.”
Lirika smiles a bit and said, “Then your life is not that miserable Lily.” She then stood up saying, “It’s time.”
“I know. Please let my daughter know that I love her so much and I am sorry.” Lily replied. Lirika nods her head and raised her right hand on her and said, “It will be over soon.”
“What do you know, you were right.” Chicol said. Lirika stares at the light gray feather on her hand. Lily’s soul was sad; her heart was in pain that she has to leave Gracie behind. All alone but knowing, that having Gracie gave her a life worth living made her soul a bit happy.
Lirika watches as Mona discovers Lily’s lifeless body. She drops the glass of water she is holding and went down the stairs screaming for Dr. Daniels name.
“We should go now Lirika.” Chicol said.
“Not yet Chicol.” Lirika replied closing her eyes.
Her wake and funeral was simple and only was attended by family and friends. Dr. Daniels made sure of that. He didn’t want some unknown people attending only to gossip and what not.
Gracie stares at her mother’s grave sniffling. She has been crying non-stop. Her mother has finally passed away. She clutches the last painting her mother made before she went on. It was her portrait.
“Your mother loves you so much and she is sorry that she has to go.” Lirika replied who is standing besides Gracie. She opens her clear plastic umbrella and looks at Gracie, “I am sorry that I have to take her away too.”
Gracie nods her and said, “I know.” She hugs the painting tighter and ask, “Is mama is in heaven?”
“Yes. Your mama is a good person.” Lirika answered honestly.
Gracie looks at Lirika and said, “Please tell mama I will be okay. Dr. Daniel’s is taking me in.”
“He is adopting you.” Lirika points out. Gracie merely nods her head.
A cool breeze blew past them and Lirika hears a whisper, a voice from Lily. Lirika smiles and pats Gracie’s head and said, “Your mom knows you will be okay and she will be watching after you.”
Gracie smiles a bit and said, “You will be going now right?”
“Yes. You won’t see me again until it’s your time.” Lirika replied with that she bows at Gracie and walked away.
Gracie closes her eyes and when she opens them she sees Dr. Daniels at her side. Yojan Daniels held her hand and said, “Let’s go home Gracie.”
The young seven year old tightens her hold on the good old doctor’s hand and nods her head.
Lirika who is still watching by looks up to the sky saying, “All is right in the end.”
“I love you, my sweet daughter of mine.”
“Don’t worry about me, I am at peace.”
“Be strong my child and go on and live.”