The air burnt my throat with every gasping breath. My hair hitting my face like little whips as I saw the images flash in my mind. Ma, laying there in Pa's lap.
She just kept repeating, "It's me Joseph, it's me, Mary!" Watching the blood drip down the staircase as I stood at the bottom.
*plink, gush, plink, gush, plink* Pa screaming to go get help, his voice shrieking in a way I never thought possible from the stong, broad, emotionless man I knew so well. Focus Katherine, focus.
I reached MiMi and Pappy's cabin door, throwing the door open. They jumped out of bed startled while Joe and Ruth sobbed and babbled about in their little voices.
Pappy grabbed me by the shoulders and asked what had happened. I couldn't find the words. The taste of salt overwhelmed me.
At first, I thought it was sweat from running the mile there, then I realized tears were rolling down my cheeks. Pappy took off running without receiving an explanation.
MiMi gathered us children and scurried behind trying to make out something of sense from the frantic children.
*plink, gush, plink, gush* that sound. That horrible sound. *plink* I couldn't get it out of ears. *gush*
I ran again. I had to get back to Ma. I had to check on the others.
I heard Pappy's scream from what seemed like miles away.
"Mary, oh my Mary, what has happened," he sobbed. But his voice quickly changed from shock and sadness to rage.
I was within sight of the door now. Pappy's big, strong shoulders lifted as he stood from the bottom of the stairs where his legs had given out.
His voice boomed with rage, "What did you do? Why didn't you protect her?"
I got nearer and could hear the sounds again. *plink* But now there was something different in the sound. Every couple of plinks there was this wet gargling sound.
It drowned out the *gush* I could hear before.
I pushed my way past Pappy and stared up.
I met eyes with Ma. Only this was a look I had never seen from her before in my fourteen years. So many emotions came from her gaze, but nothing at all.
I could see her pain, her fear, the love she showed me, then nothing. This gaze was all or nothing. I knew she was dying.
I ran up the stairwell towards her, screaming echoed in the background between the gargles. I felt Pappy's hand on my shoulder the same time my hands caught the fifth step. I had slipped.
Picking myself up, I looked down. Red. Wet. Warm. I looked at my feet perched before the first step. It was then I realized what the sounds were.
The red black pool around my bare feet, between my toes, now on my hands, was Ma's blood.
I turned and ran down the stone steps to the porch. MiMi wrapped her arms around me and Joe and Ruth joined in. I sobbed. I choked on each breath.
More little hands wrapped around my waist as Martin, Helen joined in.