Katie, I really got into this assignment. (Probably a little too into it.) Because my answer was long, I only did Angel’s story.
I’d never understood the word before.
The drive-through sequoia trees at Yosemite were hollow, cheap chocolate Easter bunnies were hollow, Halloween Jack-O-Lanterns with flickering triangle eyes were hollow.
What in the world had made me think of those things? God knew I’d never been around for Easter or Halloween when the kids were little, and I’d missed Jacob’s tenth birthday trip to Yosemite because I’d been working on the Walker … no, Walters … Williams contract.
Yes, it was the Williams contract, I remember now.
The firm filed for bankruptcy ten years ago. Another dying company I’d kept alive for a few years. That was my job, after all. I saved dying companies. Or at least staved off the inevitable for a while, as with the Williams firm.
In a twist of fate so cruel it defied the watered-down label of irony, I’d spent my entire life building a career saving dying things, and now the only dying thing I wished to save was the person who had always saved me from myself.
Two days ago, I’d walked into our formal living room to find Helen seated on the good sofa, one pale hand folded into the other like a love letter tucked into a rose-scented envelope. She had calmly informed me of her diagnosis in the same way she had always calmly informed me of the goings-on in her life—Bobby’s piano lessons, Lisa’s basketball game, report cards, parent conferences. A life that should have been ours but was always only hers, no matter how hard she tried to share it with me.
Today I was awarded a promotion. Chief Executive Officer, Angel Flores.
“It’s an incredible opportunity, Helen.” My voice, on speakerphone, echoed off the walls of the examination room.
“The health benefits are phenomenal, Helen.” I glanced at her over the screen of my laptop, watched her shave the last of her thinning hair from her scalp.
“So much money. We can travel. Together, the way we always talked about doing, Helen.” The hospice nurse administered morphine through the IV while I flipped through the Jackson … no, Jameson … Jefferson file.
“It’s everything we worked for, Helen.” I switched my phone to vibrate and slid it into the pocket of my best suit. The Jefferson contract was heating up and the office needed me to be there for them.
I bent my head, listening for the sound of my vibrating phone, but all I heard was the sound Helen’s casket made as the mortician closed the lid.