Breath

Chapter 1

Bella, December 27th 2011

I stand at the window in my mom's hospital room listening to the weeze of the machines and the beeping of monitors. It stinks of antiseptic and death. I roll my eyes to myself and shake my head. Overly dramatic my mother would say about thinking the hospital smells like death. Maybe she'd be right. Mom, Renee, isn't talking today. The doctors keep her sedated a lot of the time. When she does talk she doesn't talk to me. She cries out for my brother Jasper. He isn't here. He can't be here. When she was awake and semi alert three days ago she left me with strict instructions to give him all the cash we have between the two of us. She doesn't want him to get sick. I looked at her like she was out of her mind.

"Mom, that's our rent money. It's like nine hundred dollars." I reminded her. My arms folded over my chest I wait for her standard response. It's a shitty three bedroom apartment that we share. I pay most of the bills because my mom is too sick to work, she has stage four liver cancer and my brother won't work or can't work depending on how you look at it.

"Bella! He will get sick without his medicine. Do you want him to get sick? Do you?" She's getting worked up now. I can see her blood pressure spiking. I do my best to calm her down, to talk to her rationally.

"No mom. I don't but maybe it would be the best thing for him." I remind her. It's what all three rehabs have told us. He needs to detox in a controlled environment and then stay a minimum of three months at a live in facility. He doesn't listen. He's a heroin addict, he can't listen.

"He could die! We will find a way to pay the rent, we always do. The important thing is that Jas is well." She's resolute in her decision and I know that when it comes to my brother I don't need to argue. It's a waste of breath and energy. That was three days ago. He doesn't call me and I won't call him so I sit alone and listen to my mother's monitors and wait for a doctor to give us more news I don't want to hear.

The doctor finally comes late in the afternoon. He seems nice enough even when he's delivering totally shit news.

"Ms. Whitlock…." He says. I flinch and respond,

"Please call me Bella and it's Swan, Not Whitlock." I grimace at him. He nods and continues on.

"Ms. Swan your mother isn't improving. She has stopped responding to treatment and well we've been keeping her comfortable but there's only so much we can do here. She needs to be in a place where she can be comfortable and…." He stops and I know what he's going to say,

"Where she can pass in peace." I say mostly to myself. He grips my shoulder gently, trying to comfort me.

"Is there anyone you can call? This isn't a decision you should make alone. Her chart says you have a brother….or her husband maybe." He suggests. I feel a few tears escape and I wipe them away quickly.

"Her husband passed away 5 years ago and my brother isn't good at these things. It's just me." I say softly. I don't want to get into the sorted tale of my mom's many marriages and divorces. He say's he will give me some time to think it over and let him know how we want to proceed. He gives me some reading material on some different hospices in the Seattle area. I flop down on the nearest bench and sigh scrubbing my hands down my face. I haven't showered or eaten and I can't think here. I can't make this decision here. I go back in her room and get my purse. I kiss her cheek and tell her I am going to go home but come back tomorrow. I make sure to tell her nurse too in case she wakes up.

I climb the stairs to our apartment slowly as I don't want to see what's going to greet me when I open the door. We have an elevator, its broken. It's just as well. I don't mind the third floor hike. It gives me time to think. I reach in my bag and check my phone. I see my boss from my office job has called three times and the diner has called twice. I sigh knowing I need to go back to work but I need to be with my mom too. If I'm not working no one is making money and the bills aren't getting paid. As I approach our floor I can hear them fighting and it only confirms my worst fear, Jasper is home. I know that's terrible but I really just want to be alone. I want to clean the apartment, call my bosses back and go to bed. If he's home and his girlfriend is with him I can't. I open the front door and watch as a coffee mug flies across the small space we use as a dining room. It smashes into tiny pieces of porcelain against the wall. Maria is cursing at him in Spanish.

"I said I was sorry! You were sleeping. I didn't think you were joansing that bad." He screams at her. He's wearing a stained white tank top and jean shorts in December. The tops of his feet are black and blue from trying in vain to shoot up there. He misses a lot. He stopped being able to use the veins in his arms about year ago after his third over dose. He looks awful, worse than usual. His blonde hair is chin length and unwashed. He is tall and thin naturally but he's definitely lost weight. He'd rather shoot up then eat. The apartment stinks of unwashed humans and cigarettes. I stand quietly and wait to be noticed. I wish I could leave. I wish I had somewhere I could go.

"Hey look! Bella's home. " Jasper say's happily. He's so high. Any minute now he will start to fade in and out, slurring his words and not making sense. Sometimes he drools. My mom wipes his chin and sits with him until he comes back to us. I let him drool.

"Yep. Hey we need to talk about mom. She's not getting any better and we have to make…" I say. He cuts me off.

"And I will help you with anything you need but first did Mom send any money home for me? I um need it real bad. I messed up and I have to take care of Maria." He smiles lazily, he is trying to be charming. He's trying to be the good southern boy his Daddy raised. Maria stands in the kitchen in her bra and a pair of shorts. I don't know why she's not dressed and I am too tired to ask. She has another coffee mug in her hand and it's ready to fly at a moment's notice.

"Yeah about that, I only have a hundred bucks. Diner's been real slow and mom's check hasn't come. " I hope he's high enough that he buys it. I hope he will take the hundred and leave so Maria can score.

"That's not enough! We need at least five Bella. I know you have it." Maria snarls. I've been home five minutes and I am already sick of them.

"Hundreds the best I can do." I say directly to Jasper not even acknowledging Maria's statement.

"I'll take it sis. I'll make it work." He says and smiles. He puts his hand on my shoulder like the doctor did before.

"You know Bell's someday this is all gonna be better. Mom's gonna get better and Maria and me we are gonna get married. We can buy a house and all live together." He likes to lament like this when he's high. I used to believe him when I was younger but now I see it for what it is. He also used to tell me he was going to get clean but that's never happened. I sit my purse on the counter and carefully pull out two fifty dollar bills trying not to let him see what I have in my wallet which is all our rent money and the money for the electric bill. All and all about fifteen hundred dollars. He takes the hundred from me thanking me over and over again. Maria goes to get dressed so I try to talk to him about hospice but all too soon she is back and pulling him out the door. At least I can say I tried. When they are finally out the door I decide cleaning the apartment can wait and get in the shower. When I get out and go into the kitchen my purse is on the floor and my wallet is gone. They came back for my wallet while I was showering. I slide down the wall in my towel and cry. I cry for my mother who isn't getting better and I cry for my brother who I don't think will make it without her. I cry because I need it and I cry because with no one watching I can. I hear my phone ringing over by the fridge. I let it ring until it stops and then my voice mail chimes. I stand up and go get it. When I check my messages it's a nurse letting me know I need to come back because my mother is passing away. .

Author's notes- They say to write about things you know and sadly, without going into too much detail, I do know about this. This isn't going to be easy to write and for a lot of you it may not be easy to read. I know usually when I finish a story it has a happy ending but I can't promise that this time because I don't know how this ends. If this isn't going to get read please someone tell me now so I can write this and not post it. It's too personal to me for it to sit in open space with no one reading it. Writing is baring your soul, even when it's fiction. It's like opening a wound and hoping it heals as the words come out. I don't know if the words can heal this but I'm willing to try and I am willing to share. Please don't judge my grammar ect. I am out of practice. This is not beat'd because I don't have one.