004: Love you, Mom
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After lending Sophie her phone, Lily left the room, though not before glancing back several times. Sophie gazed at the closed door of her room and gave a wry smile. "What a strange person," she breathed.

She stared at the phone in her hands and thought of her mother. The two had been living alone ever since she was born. There wasn't any tragic story, there was no deadbeat dad, no young death or adulterous husband. Mom and Dad just wanted different things, and by the time her Mom realized herself pregnant, her lover had already started life anew.

It was around when she turned 12 that her Mom fell ill. The doctors said it was chronic and incurable, a rare disease with maybe 3 or 4 cases per year. According to them, the disease wouldn't have a large impact on lifespan, maybe it would knock off ten years or so, but its impact on daily life would continue growing. Even now, after only a few years, her mother found it hard to walk and spent most of her time sitting or in bed. It was lucky that her work was based online, so she could pay the bills for the two of them, although her productivity had dropped recently. Who knows what things would be like in a few more years?

Sophie's heart ached when she thought of her mother, and her hand reached towards her leg and attacked it with a merciless pinch. "Sophie, you were too careless this time, what if you really died? What would Mom do?" Her tears, whether from pain or fright, threatened to fall from her swollen eyes as she chastised herself.

After calming herself, she unlocked the phone and dialed in her mother's number. A few seconds later the other side picked up and a shaky voice came, hurried, through the speaker.

"Hello? Is something the matter, Dr. Smarts? How is my daughter?"

"I'm fine, Mom."

"Sophie!", her mom called out, a clear relief in her voice, "You're awake!"

"Sorry, Mom, I've really made you worry this time, haven't I?"

There was a short pause before Sophie heard a long sigh coming from the phone, "Silly girl, what do you know? As long as you're okay, anything is fine. How are you feeling now, sweetie? Are you sore? What did Dr. Smarts say? When can you come home, darling?"

Hearing her mother's quick-fire questions, Sophie laughed, "Calm down, Mom, I can come home tomorrow."

"That's good. That's good."

Some sniffling could be heard from the phone and Sophie's eyes swelled further in response. She waited a bit longer for her mom to calm down before reassuring her, "Actually, Mom, you don't have to worry too much, I'm not even hurt that much. Just a few bruises; that's it."

"Oh, just a few bruises and you were comatose for three days? Aii... To think this old woman's daughter would be so weak."

"You're weak! Your whole family is weak!"

"..."
"..."

"I'm serious, the doctor said something about my brain just being so shocked by everything that I fell asleep for three days. And Mom! You're not even 40, don't call yourself old, lest you make all the neighborhood aunties hate you," she sniggered.

A sudden snort made itself known from the speaker, "Those old things have always had it in for me."

Despite the harsh words, her mother's mirthful tone betrayed her jovial mood. The two continued to laugh and joke about the aunties who liked to gossip so much and the uncles who could only grumble at their wives' wild antics. They talked all about what she'd missed over the past three days; about her favorite TV shows; about City-Y's latest scandals; about her school and the pile of homework she now had; and about her best friend, Emily, who had called in to check up on her.

"I have a present for you."

"Really! So getting hit by a car gets me presents, huh?"

A burst of laughter sounded from beside her ear as her mother scolded her, "Sophie, you had better not get any ideas! Your mother can handle one or two frights, but any more and she might not last much longer."

"Ah, Mom, sorry, I didn't mean-"

"Silly girl, you know I'm joking, what are you getting so worked up for? Your present is a surprise, come home quickly tomorrow to get it, okay?"

"Yes, Mom, love you."

"Mhmm, I love you too, goodnight, sweetie. And don't bother Dr. Smarts too much, she's as kind as she is strange."

"I won't, goodnight!"

A steady beep rang out as the call ended. Sophie looked at the phone in her hand and sighed, neither of them had brought up her mother's illness. They both knew what that conversation led to; a rabbit-hole of perpetual depression as they imagined the bleak future ahead of them. Of her Mom.

Shaking her head, Sophie considered what to do next. She still had to return Dr. Smarts phone, but it wasn't as if she was free to move about; still connected to her were several wires and a tube thing. "Well, I'll just leave it by my bedside; she can pick it up later, I guess."

She placed the phone on the edge of her bed and rolled on to her side, preparing herself to sleep. But a few tosses and turns later left her staring at the phone beside her. "What if it falls off?"

She shifted closer to one side of the bed, leaving enough space for the phone. About 60:40, 60 for the phone, 40 for her. "That should do it," she muttered, albeit hesitantly.

Somewhat assured of the phone's safety, she turned off the lights and closed her eyes to the light of the nearby monitors, which only blinked brighter in the darkness of her single ward. Despite her 3 days of coma, she still felt exhausted after all that had happened; especially after her meeting with the Grim Reaper. Did she really meet him? Or was it all a dream? Or something else..? Not long after, her breathing gradually changed from a disordered mess to a steady rhythm as she slowly fell asleep.

As if on cue, her room door jolted. A shadow, its identity obscured by the hall light behind it, made its way through the gap between door and frame as it took a firm hold of the door and gently forced its gap wider. A deep and guttural laughter quietly reverberated within the silence of the ward, alongside a faint whisper, "So, she's asleep..."

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