Even though Vivian knew how serious Rachel’s condition was, she was still stunned when she entered the room. Her tears flowed down her cheeks and all the mental preparation she made crumbled into nothing.
She covered her mouth as the beads of tear shattered on the floor, afraid that she might break down from what she was seeing.
The woman on the bed in front of her was nigh unrecognizable. Vivian could not even tell if she was actually her mother.
Currently, Rachel was on the drip. Veins could be seen all over her scrawny hand, so thin that it looked like she had only skin and bones left. On top of that, there was a huge concentration of needle marks.
As Vivian shifted her gaze upward along Rachel’s arm, it was clear that not only was her arm scrawny, Rachel’s whole body was far thinner than anything she would have ever imagined. Vivian could even see the outline of her bone structure through her skin.
Rachel’s cheeks were caved inwards with a hint of green on them, the cheekbones protruding noticeably.
And then, their eyes met. The initial warm and lively gaze that Rachel had was gone, leaving her with an empty gaze.
However, those lifeless eyes lit up as soon as Vivian was in sight. Vivian could even see the excitement and longingness Rachel was feeling just by looking into her eyes.
“Vivian? You’re back? Am I dreaming?”
“Yes, Mum. I’m back. I’m so sorry… “ When she heard Rachel’s hoarse voice, Vivian could no longer hold it in. She dived towards the sickbed and cried while she spoke.
Vivian knew she should have visited, but it was too late. The loving and gentle smile Rachel once had, was no longer there. It was replaced by a pale and haggard look on her face.
“Vivian! It’s really you! You really came back!” Rachel smiled as her hand brushed along Vivian’s hair. “Don’t cry. Come, show me how beautiful of a woman you’ve grown into. It’s been so long.”
Vivian sniffled and raised her head. She wanted to smile at Rachel like how she practiced before coming in, but it was impossible. Her tears could not stop leaking out of her eyes.
“Come on. Please stop crying.” Rachel wiped away the tears on Vivian’s cheeks with her hand. However, that only made it worse as Vivian’s heart ached even more from feeling the touch of Rachel’s dry and bony hand.
Vivian planted her face onto the bed beside Rachel and cried even louder. Even she herself was shocked to see the amount of tear she was producing. It felt like Vivian had opened up a dam, and water was flooding out nonstop. At the same time, Rachel was out of options. She had no idea how she could calm Vivian down, so she only stroked her back.
Eventually, Vivian raised her head towards Rachel after she toned down the crying and calmed down.
“Vivian, how have you been?” Rachel asked gently. Her eyes were filled with lament. She was the reason why Vivian took so long to get back into her own life.
“I’m doing alright. You?” Vivian wiped off her tears.
“I’m alright too. Your brother had gotten some people to take care of me all these years.”
“Oh, I… “ Vivian wanted to say something, but her mind went blank.
It dawned on her that, between her and Rachel was five years of absence from each other’s lives, so it felt like they were strangers. The crying she just did was more like a farewell to the past.
“Did Benedict come back with you?” Rachel asked instead.
“Yes.” Vivian nodded in response. “Can I ask how your body is doing?”
She wanted to call Rachel her mother, but then she remembered that Evelyn was her daughter, not her. Moreover, Vivian also recalled that Rachel cared about Evelyn much more, making her feel unusually distant and awkward.
She would have address Rachel as Mum if she did not think about that. Now that she did, Vivian’s tone changed and was more respectable and reserved.
Rachel noticed the change and felt distraught, but there was nothing she could say nor do.
Indeed, she was not Vivian’s mother, so it was good enough for Rachel if Vivian did not blame her for swapping her identity.