The last word said was “Goodnight.” That was the final time I heard my mother’s

voice for a long while. I knew something was different about the strong embrace I

received. The warm kiss on the forehead was also a rare mother-daughter event for our

small family that only included my sister, my mother, and myself. I couldn’t remember the

last time I had such a caring moment with my mother. However, I didn’t question it. I

absorbed the warmth, slowly walked down the chilly hallway to my bedroom, climbed the

stairs of the bed, and threw my body on the top bunk.

My older sister, Sydney, occupied the bottom bunk. She was already sleeping,

indicated by her heavy breathing. It didn’t usually take long for Sydney to fall into a deep

sleep. I, on the other hand, had to force myself to relax by staring aimlessly at the blinds

moving against the breeze in the window.

I always stayed up a little longer than my sister. My mind was always overcome

with the fear of something in the darkness springing to life. However, that night, I was

more worried about how anxious my mother appeared. While she’d hugged me, I’d

wondered if it was her body I felt shaking or my own.

The morning came despite any objections from me. I didn’t want to get out of bed

and face the reality of the world, or how overwhelming my life sometimes felt. A lot of

weight rested on the tiny shoulders of an eight-year-old, a lot of worry occupying my

mind. I’d known something was wrong since last night when I was struggling to go to

sleep. Now that the morning arrived, I prayed it was a dream and that it was still night. It

wasn’t. The sun beamed into the bedroom as Sydney shifted her weight in the bed below.

I walked into the empty living room, peeked into the dining room, and then turned

around and went into the bathroom. Nothing. I didn’t give up, though. I turned the corner

to enter the kitchen, but still no sight of my mother. The only place left was her bedroom.

I thought that she still must have been lying in bed. I ran to my mother’s door and swung

it open. My worst fear had come true. She wasn’t there. My mother was gone.