Status: Weekly Updates

A Day at a Time

Sixteen

The following day Charlie works up the nerve to contact Gerald. She reluctantly sends him a text message to meet her at Melissa's coffee shop, knowing Melissa will be busy at the hospital.

When she arrives she finds him there already, surprising enough. He's seated at a small table in the back scrolling mindlessly through his phone. She makes her way over, sliding into the seat across from him and grabs his attention. Gerald looks up from his phone, giving her a small smile but staying quiet. A moment passes as they sit together, Gerald afraid to say the wrong thing and Charlie trying to collect her thoughts.

"This coffee is for you," Gerald tells her, gently sliding one of his mugs toward her.

Charlie nods cautiously, grabbing her mug and fiddling with the handle, "Gerald..." She pauses, trying to collect her words as to not insult him, "I appreciate that you want to help my family, I really do but I cannot accept it. It was inappropriate for Melissa to ask you and I'm sorry for that. I want to say thank you for agreeing to help us but I honestly can not let you do this, I don't think you understand how much money this will be." She pauses again briefly and stares at the mug intensely unable to make eye contact. She takes a small moment before trying to say the next words delicately, "Thank you for offering but I cannot take your money and I don't think we should see each other anymore."

"We don't have to see each other anymore if that's what you really want but you're going to accept the money," Gerald demands. He reaches across the very small table and curls a finger beneath her chin, forcing her to look at him. "I want you to take care of your mother, I don't want you to be stressed about this. Spend the time you have left with her. I have more money than one person needs, I promise I won't miss it."

When Charlie doesn't respond Gerald retracts his hand. She maintains eye contact with him but is unsure of how to proceed with their conversation. He lifts his coffee to his mouth and finishes what's left in the mug before setting it back down, all the while Charlie keeps her eyes on him.

"If you decide that in the future you do need a friend," He begins before lowering his voice, "Or maybe just another good fuck... You know how to contact me, yee?"

Before Charlie can process anything Gerald has made his way out of his chair and towards the exit. She turns around watching as he makes a right out of the building, a few moments later she receives a ping on her phone. When she turns the screen on the first notification reads, 'Venmo: Gerald has sent you $5,000.' followed by a text message reading 'Let me know if you need more'.

Charlie hesitates before opening the app and accepting the money. Just like that, she could now pay for at least a few weeks at the hospice center. She sits with her coffee for a few more minutes, letting the uneasy feeling settle in the pit of her stomach. She is left wondering why Gerald would do something so kind for her family and guilty knowing that she would never be able to properly thank him.

When Charlie arrives for her shift a half-hour later she begins by checking in on her mother. She finds her alone in her suite, television playing the news but her mother looking peacefully asleep in her hospital bed. A nurse comes in behind her to check on Charlotte, Charlie recognizes her from around the hospital but is unable to remember her name.

She touches Charlie's shoulder lightly and gives her a tight smile, "She fell asleep shortly ago, you just missed your sister."

"How is she today?" Charlie inquires as the nurse gloves up and changes her medical waste bag.

The nurse gives shoulders slump slightly but nonetheless, she gives Charlie an honest answer that as a nurse she would usually have the doctor do.

"Not well, honestly. She's in a vegetative state, she no longer has any function to her legs at all but still some function of her right arm - usually only in the form of accidentally hitting the call button. She's still unable to speak but she tries."

Charlie nods and the feeling is sitting on the bottom of her stomach again, this time it feels like it knocks into her, threatening to take her down, "Thank you, you may go. I have it from here."

As the nurse leaves Charlie makes her way over to Charlotte's bedside, taking her hand in her own and having a seat on the armchair beside her. She takes in her mother's features, noticing how her health and youthfulness are withering away and the things that even weeks ago made her spunky ave now vanished. Her hair sits atop her head knotted as Charlie tries her best to brush it out with her fingers.

She leaves the room to continue on with her shift but not before stopping at the nurse's station and requesting someone brush her mother's hair once she awakes.

The following morning when Charlie awakes, she rolls out of bed to the sound of her phone ringing on the charges. Melissa's name flashes across the screen.

"Hello?" Charlie mutters as she picks the phone up, disconnecting the cord and throwing it on the floor.

"Hey," she hears Melissa breathe into the phone, "Are we good? We haven't spoken. Will you come over, I was thinking we could go see mom together."

"Yeah, I'll be there in an hour I just have to shower." Charlie offers as she turns on her coffee pot on before hanging up.

Charlie arrives at Melissa's apartment an hour later, as she had estimated. Melissa is just finishing breakfast when she comes in.

"Hey," Charlie greets, plopping down and making herself comfortable on Melissa's couch.

"'Morning," Melissa replies from the kitchen, shoving the last of her omelet in her mouth.

"I accepted Gerald money," Charlie admits, without Melissa having to ask. She doesn't want to have this conversation but it's just as much Melissa's business as her own. "Mom's being transferred to Heartland this afternoon."

Melissa nods, pulling Charlie up from the couch and embracing her in a hug. "You did the right thing," she mumbled before letting her go.