Jenni Clarke - Author
‘Dad.’ Mandy stroked the dry skin on her father’s thin hand before laying it back on the white hospice bedding. ‘I love you.’ She blew her nose into a disintegrating tissue, before searching each pocket for another.
‘On the table.’
‘Dad.’ Mandy smiled through her tears and reached for the tissues she’d not noticed before. ‘How do you always know what I need before I do?’ She shook her head. ‘How can I live without you?’
He smiled. Dimples and laughter lines deepened in his creased face and his eyes twinkled with mischief. ‘You’ll be happy.’ His fingers twitched, and Mandy lifted his hand to her lips. Kissing them warm.
‘No, Dad. I’ll miss you. Like I miss Mum.’
She watched his eyes flutter and close, and his breathing deepened. ‘I wish I’d spent more time with you since Mum died.’
Mandy sighed. She knew he’d loved her and Mum from the bottom of his soles to the end of his hairs, he’d told her often enough over the years, but when Mum died in her sleep at fifty-four, he was not grief-struck or shocked like the rest of the family. He continued to smile and enjoy his life, and he talked about her as if he’s seen her that very day.
Only once had she asked. ‘How can you be happy without Mum?’ He’d shaken his head, and winked at her. ‘How can I miss her? I can be with her at any moment of our wonderful life together.’ Although Mandy had been frustrated at his reply she loved him dearly, he was a wonderful dad, despite being a little eccentric.
Mandy stood up and walked to the window. The bright sunshine felt wrong. The world should be crying.
‘Mandy, love. Sweet tea.’ She spun around and saw him lick his parched lips.
‘Oh, Dad, you know you can’t …’
‘Kiss me, hug me… tea.’ His voice faltered. ‘I need to do this now.’ She stepped to his side, kissed his papery thin cheek, lay her head on his fluttering chest with her arms wrapping around his shoulders.
‘I’ll get you a tea, Dad. I’ll be back soon.’ She left the room and walked to the visitors lounge where a kettle was always hot.
‘Hi, Mandy, how’s he doing?’ a red-haired nurse asked as Mandy picked up a mug.
Mandy shook her head. ‘Sometimes he is so lucid, and then he asks for tea.’
‘He’s spoken to you?’ The nurse looked shocked.
The nurse placed a tea bag in one cup and a heaped spoon of coffee in another. She patted Mandy’s arm. ‘You know he’s in a comma, don’t you?’
‘Yes.’ She frowned. ‘But he woke up and spoke to me.’
‘I’m sure he did.’ The nurse looked away and poured the drinks.
Mandy walked back to the room. Her dad looked peaceful. In his motionless hand was a piece of paper. ‘Mandy. The answer is time-travel. Drink your tea, it’s good for shock. See you soon.’
Fiction - Sweet Tea
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