She rolled her eyes, but did whatever it is she needed to do. The mist started again, crawling up my ankles and then rising, surrounding me before floating a few feet away. Slowly, it began to take the shape of a person, a woman, with shoulder-length hair, of average height, who bore the same features that I knew so well. They could be sisters, in the wrong light. And those eyes, those eyes that had often saved me, bore into me as it solidified.
“Hello, Liam,” said Amy’s mother. “I have been looking forward to meeting you.”
I had never been so annoyed in my life then when Sarah began pounding on my door at 8 am. For the last week, I hadn’t done much except stay in my room. I didn’t know whether it was a placebo effect or an actual effect of the disease, but I had been feeling lousy all week. And no one, not even my best friend, questioned the girl who now had AIDS. If I wanted to stay in bed most of the time then I could.
But apparently, Sarah had enough.
I dragged myself out of bed and opened the door. My head hurt, likely from lying down for twelve hours, and I winced as the light hit me.
“What the hell?” If she was here to tell me yet another thing about how sweet Connor was, I was going to kill her.
Grudgingly, I realized I was starting to sound like Liam. We had certainly spent too much time together.
“Get dressed.” She was super excited. “I have to show you something I found last week.”
I raised an eyebrow. “You found something last week and you are just telling me now?”
“Well, we had to make it… better first.”
“Me…. myself and I,” she replied in a way that told me Liam was involved.
I shook my head and almost closed the door on her face, but she reached through the gap and grabbed my arm.
“Sarah…” I turned to meet her eyes, but she didn’t have a hint of humor in them. She was serious.
“Ok, ok, let me get dressed first. And then, if this is super lame, I’m never listening to you again.”
“Is there some symptom of AIDS that makes you bitchy to everyone who loves you? Can we get medication to control that?”
I sighed as I pulled a sweater over my head.
“Don’t worry about it. This’ll make you feel better.”
I finished dressing and followed her out the door. Another time, I would have put on makeup and made sure I looked stage ready. But today, I didn’t care.
I followed Sarah to the stage of the Red Theater. To my annoyance, Liam was waiting there. Immediately, I turned to go.
“No,” I said, but Sarah kept a firm grip on my arm.
“Fine.” Reluctantly, I followed her up on the stage.
Liam pointed to the spot where our lives changed, off in the wings where Porsche was killed.
Sarah stood off to the side, leaning against the wall. Liam made sure the lights were off. He still hadn’t said a word to me, and I thought that was probably the safest route. On top of that, my head was starting to swim and I wondered when the last time I had eaten was. I wanted to be back in bed, but Sarah had a firm grip on my wrist.
Just as I was about to complain, I saw it and my heart dropped to my stomach. The white mist that haunted my dreams began appearing again.
Quickly, I looked to them, one to the other, but neither of them seemed alarmed by this. I mean, this past year had not exactly been normal, but the fact that no one seemed phased by this worried me.
“Just watch, Amy.” Liam had a soft smile on his face. “I think that you’ll be pleasantly surprised.”
I raised an eyebrow but said nothing, watching the mist. Sarah had her feet firmly planted on the floor, her eyes closed, and she seemed highly focused.
I was about to open my mouth, dry as it was, when it began to take shape. And I saw exactly what I had seen on TV, but more solid.
Within a minute, standing in front of me, just as solid as Sarah or Liam, was my mother.
The mother I had never met; the mother I had only seen in pictures; the mother who I imagined would tell me bedtime stories or kiss my wounds or tell me the secret to boys.
She had a soft smile on her face and she was holding out her hand, as if I could take it.
Tears filled my eyes, and I put my hand over my mouth. We had learned, probably about the first month of last year, to tilt our head upwards when we stage cried, to not ruin the makeup. This time, however, they came spilling down my face, smearing whatever left over makeup I had on from yesterday. I couldn’t see, except through blurred vision, and it felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest.
My hand trembled as I reached out to take her hand. Despite myself, I shrieked when I made contact with warm flesh and jumped back.
Liam caught me before I slammed into a set piece.
I whipped around. “How is this ok? How are you doing this?”
Nothing made sense anymore and I couldn’t wrap my head around what was real and what was not. I looked from Liam to Sarah, and then finally to the person who I thought I would never see again.
“I’ve been watching you your whole life, Amy. You’ve grown into quite an impressive young woman. Just because you can’t see me doesn’t mean that I am not here.”
“But why can I see you?” I managed to make my voice steady in between sobs.
In my mother’s presence, all the hurt and confusion I had felt over the last few weeks came to a head, and I felt like it was finally alright to expose it, despite having never known her.
“Shields,” she replied. “A powerful shield leaves residual energy, and your friend Porsche was very powerful indeed. In addition, Sarah draws on power that has been untapped for years, thanks to her broken bloodline. A Shield can remove the supernatural element from anything, and so if a ghost is true a ghost and not a residual, it makes me…”
“Human,” I whispered, and then threw myself into her arms.
This was a moment I had imagined my entire life, and now that it was here, I couldn’t get any of the practiced scenarios out of my mouth. I must have wasted whole days of my life thinking of what I would say if this moment ever came. Some days, I was happy, overjoyed and would ask her everything, knowing that she would be a world of knowledge. Some days, I was angry, blaming her for the disease that would one day take me to her. Some days, I just sat in silence with the vision of her, enjoying every mundane daily activity. But at the moment, I couldn’t do anything but hug her and cry.
Eventually, I pulled back, grateful that she did not break our embrace, even when it became too long. I was aware of Sarah and Liam behind me and I turned my head slightly.
“Is it possible that I could get some time alone with my mother?”
“Of course,” Liam replied, and exited as if this was a show and he was a practiced player. Sarah, however, remained routed.
“Sarah?” I asked, looking her in the eye.
“If I leave, Amy,” she said slowly. “She’ll still be here, but not as strong. Not as real. You won’t be able to touch her.”
I looked back to my mother, who had her arms lightly on my shoulders.
“Stay, then,” I replied, and looked around for somewhere we could both sit. Finding an apple box, I nudged it over with my foot, not letting go of her. It’s like we were playing some sort of bizarre theater game; never breaking contact. I took a deep breath. “I don’t know where to start. I don’t know what to say.”
“You don’t have to.” She brushed a lock of hair out of my eyes. “I know everything. And it’s tough, Amy, but you will get through this.”
“How do you know?” I asked, biting my lip. “Can you see the future?”
“The other world… isn’t like here, Amy. There is no time, no past, present and future. I can see the choices you can make and the consequences they lead to.”
“I’m just so tired,” I replied, sniffling. “When I was away, I hated being gone, and now that I’m here, I hate it too. And I can’t… I don’t know what’s going on with Liam and me, and it’s been 18 years of doctor’s appointments and needles and medication and I don’t know if I can take it anymore!” My voice had reached a hysterical pitch and it broke.
She laid a soft kiss on my forehead. “Ssssh, my love, I know. I know. And that is a choice you can make, my love, and it will lead to the consequence that you feel is the easiest.” She met my eyes and I nodded, feeling relief go through my chest. “But life is not easy, my darling, and easy won’t always make you happy. Especially someone with a spirit as strong as you.”
I shook my head. “Mom, I don’t know what to do anymore.”
“I will support you with whatever choice you make,” she replied, brushing a tear away from my cheek. “You don’t have to pretend to be anyone. At least, anyone you don’t want to.” She gave me a small smile. “But I want you to fight, my love. You have such a strong future and there is so much more you can achieve. You can fight this, Amy, and you will enjoy your life.”
“But I can’t beat this.” Another tear slipped down my cheek. “You know that. Nothing has changed from when you were around. They still can’t cure it.”
She squeezed my hand. “I’m not promising you anything, Amy. So many things depend on your choices and the choices of the people around you. But no matter what, I will support you, and the outcome will be something you’ve worked for, one way or another.”
I turned this over in my head. She seemed to know my thoughts before I was thinking them. She knew me as if she spent my whole life beside me, like she had spent her life raising me and letting me know her values and traditions. And looking deep into her eyes, I felt like I knew her too, like I could see into her soul. I knew her well. I could see how it would have been; whether she was waiting in the kitchen with cookies or whether she was telling me about how to deal with boys. I was as comfortable beside her as with my father, which was strange, because I hadn’t actually known her my whole life. But she was my mother, and she always would be.