“Mama? Are you awake?”
She stirred, and turned feebly towards him. There wasn’t much strength left in her, and she used whatever she had carefully and sparingly. Time, the greatest enemy of youth, had robbed her of everything but the sanity of her mind. Thank God she had her boy, though. Even though there was an army of nurses and doctors that her vast wealth had given her, she couldn’t bear it if her little boy wasn’t around.
It was almost time. She could feel it in her bones, see it in his eyes. Here today, gone tomorrow. She was treating every second as if it were her last, and she was determined to be holding her baby’s hand when the time finally came.
“You have it, yes?”, she wheezed.
“Hush, mama. Yes, I have it.”
He held up the scrap of paper, torn from her notebook all those years ago. It was her one regret, not being able to travel. As a little girl, she had stared out of her window and wondered what the world beyond her town was like. She used to yearn to run until she could touch the horizon, and then see what happened. Would the world end, and would she fall into a bottomless abyss? Would she be carried up into the starry heavens?
When she had the desire, she didn’t have the means. When she had the means, she wanted more means.
They say that every person with wealth wants only one thing – more.
So she had devoted her life to amassing wealth, never thinking that she wouldn’t make it to her retirement age. Never understanding that nothing in life is certain, even for the uber-wealthy. Never anticipating that the slow rot of her cells would rob her of all the time that she had set aside to see the world.
But never mind. If she couldn’t see the world in life, she would see it in death. Her boy would make sure of that.
That’s what was on the scrap of paper. A travel route that would take him around the world, with her ashes. He would take her everywhere she couldn’t go, show her the world. Ibiza, Vietnam, Belize, Bali. She would see it all with the one she loved the most.
She would touch the horizon with his hands.
“You do have it, right?”
He didn’t answer this time, just held the scrap up in front of his face. He had been carrying it everywhere for years now.
Her smile was weak. Then it faltered, and disappeared altogether.
The paper parted down the center, torn in two by hands that she had been holding just a moment ago. And as the halves parted, she was staring into the hardest, coldest eyes she had ever seen.
She didn’t have the strength to protest, but her eyes asked a thousand questions.
He didn’t answer with words, but simply turned towards the door of her hospital room. It opened slowly, and a person walked in.
And the bottom fell out of her world.
It all came rushing back. The secretary job that she had landed. The little whispers in his ear, the malicious little lies that she had told about people. The eventual seduction, and the affair. Finally, the papers that she had slipped into his folder one day, hidden amongst invoices and payment slips. He trusted her so blindly that he hadn’t even looked at what he was signing.
She took his empire and tore it apart, terminating jobs and wrecking lives with a ruthlessness never before seen. And considering she was on Wall Street, that’s saying something.
From the burning embers of his empire had risen the phoenix that had become her world.
Her son’s voice brought her back to reality with a jolt.
“I’m going to spend every last penny that you’ve willed me righting the wrongs that you’ve caused. I will not rest as long as there is a breath in my body and a cent in my pocket. And I may not know the future, but I can tell you one thing. Your disgusting remains will not see a single place, other than this room and the nearest morgue.”
Tears streaming down her face, she choked out a few words.
He stood up, eyes cold as ice. He extended his arm, and scattered the pieces of the notebook paper over her hospital bed. He then leaned over and brought his mouth to her ear.
“As far as I’m concerned, MOTHER, you died a LONG time ago.”