After Kasey put her mom to bed, she went to the bathroom and splashed water on her face. She leaned on the sink and looked at herself in the mirror as the water dripped down into the sink. She rubbed at the dark circles under her eyes that had become a permanent part of her face. She hated them, and wished she could rub them off completely. A 25-year-old woman shouldn’t look as old as she did. Taking care of her mother had taken its toll over the last few years. She needed help, but who could she turn to? It wasn’t like she had any family to turn to for help. Her father was never a part of her life. She’d lost most of her friends. Maybe if she had gone to college she could have avoided this whole mess with her mom. And as for dating? Nobody wanted to date a woman with an invalid mother, nor did she have time to find a date. At least she had her customers at the Rusty Anchor and the coffee shop. She wasn’t sure she could consider them friends, but at least she saw them on a regular basis. Except for Willow…she couldn’t figure her out. She seemed to want to push her way into her life. Kasey didn’t want to be rude, but she liked her life compartmentalized. She was a different person at the coffee shop than she was at the Anchor. At the Anchor, she could let her guard down. But since Willow had started showing up at the Anchor, Kasey felt guarded.
She heard a rustling sound coming from the living room. It startled her at first, but as she passed her mom’s bedroom door, she realized her bed was empty.
“What now?” she mumbled. “Mom? Why are you out of bed!”
Naomi had pulled the cushions off the couch, and was sticking her hands deep into the crevices.
“Not this again,” Kasey said.
“Come on, Mom. Time to go to bed,” she said, and pulled gently on her mom’s shoulders.
“They have to be here somewhere! Daddy is going to be so mad at me! I lost his keys again!” Naomi said. She was agitated, even frantic. She pulled away from Kasey.
“Mom, please,” Kasey urged and reached for her again.
“No, I have to find them!” Naomi said, and pulled away.
Kasey had reached her end with this nonsense. She reached for her own keys, grabbed them and shook them violently.
“I found them! Now let’s go to bed!” Kasey raised her voice.
Naomi paused, and studied the keys.
“Those aren’t Daddy’s keys. Now help me look, or we’ll both be in trouble!” Naomi yelled.
“Yes, they are! I’m sure of it!” Kasey yelled back.
“No, they aren’t! Daddy’s keys have a bottle opener on them!” Naomi said.
Kasey thought for a moment. She had to get Naomi off the subject, or they could be up for hours.
“No, remember? He took that off the keys! I’m sure of it! Now, let’s go to bed!” Kasey yelled and threw the keys into the dish on the counter. She reached for Naomi, and Naomi struggled against her.
“Mom, please!” Kasey was beyond exhaustion. She was crying, and desperate to distract Naomi.
Naomi saw Kasey’s tears and paused. For a moment, Kasey thought she saw recognition in Naomi’s eyes, but it didn’t last.
“Oh, sweetie, what’s wrong? Did someone hurt you?” Naomi asked.
“Yes,” Kasey said under her breath.
“What can I do to help?” Naomi asked, forgetting about the keys for the moment.
“Let’s just go to bed, okay?” Kasey asked, and wiped her tears. “We’ll talk about it in the morning.”
“Okay. If you’re sure there’s nothing I can do to help,” Naomi said.
Naomi looked around the living room, as if she was forgetting to do something. Kasey gently grabbed her by the shoulders and took her back to her room. She covered her up, and turned off the light, closing the door behind her. Then Kasey made her way to her room, and collapsed onto the bed. She wanted to cry, but was all cried out. She turned off the light and prayed for a better day in the morning.
The sun streamed through Kasey’s window, hitting her in the eyes. She squinted and looked at the clock…6:23am. She realized she hadn’t set her alarm, but she still had time to get to the coffee shop on time. Hopefully her mom would cooperate. She took a quick shower, pulled her hair back in a ponytail, and went to wake up her mom.
Naomi lay in her bed, snuggled under the covers, silent, in the same position Kasey left her the night before.
“Mom?” Kasey said quietly.
Naomi didn’t stir. Kasey sighed, knowing that getting Naomi up was going to be another struggle. She opened the curtains and turned on the light beside her bed.
“Mom,” she said again, and gently shook her. She still didn’t stir.
“Wow, you’re really asleep. Come on, Mom, time to get up.”
Kasey rolled her over and noticed how cold Naomi was.
She felt her cheek…cold.
Kasey shook her and put her ear to Naomi’s chest. She couldn’t hear anything. Her mom wasn’t breathing.
She shook her again. Still nothing. Kasey ran to the phone and dialed 9-1-1, then ran back to her mom’s side. She tried to start CPR, but didn’t know if she was doing it in the right order. Was it breathe first?! Or chest compressions?! How many breaths?! She went back to chest compressions. Still nothing. She was panicked, breathing and compressing as best as she could remember. She didn’t know how long she was there before she heard the knock at the door.
“It’s my mom! Please help!” Kasey yelled and led them to her mom’s bedside.
She watched from the doorway as the paramedics tried to bring her mom back to her. She could hear the paramedics talking to one another, but couldn’t focus on what they were saying. She replayed arguing with her mom about the keys over and over in her mind. Did she upset her mom so much that she had a heart attack? Was it her fault? She should have been more patient with her. She felt so selfish and so guilty.
“Ma’am?” the paramedic said.
“Is she alive?” Kasey asked and strained to see over the paramedic’s shoulder.
He shook his head. “I’m sorry.”
“Are you sure? There’s nothing else…”
He touched her shoulder. She watched from the doorway as the paramedics picked up everything from around her mom.
A police officer introduced himself to Kasey. She didn’t hear his name, and didn’t remember when he’d shown up. He told her that she’d have to answer a few questions, and fill out some paperwork. And the coroner was on his way.
The Officer led Kasey to the couch to sit down, and the cushions were still on the floor from the night before when her mother had been searching for the keys…those damn keys.
The next few hours were a blur. She talked to police and made arrangements with the coroner’s office. But none of it seemed real. Kasey felt like she was in a dream. Her mom was really gone.