Short Story


The old lady awoke to the smell of antiseptic. She lay still on the bed. She didn’t move an inch. It was as if time itself had stopped ticking.

She heard footsteps against the linoleum floor. Her face lit up. Had her children finally come to see her? But the sounds gradually faded away, and her flame of hope was immediately extinguished, as quickly as it started.

She sighed. How long has it been since she saw her beloved children? A year? Three? They never came to visit her. She closed her eyes as she thought about memories of the past. She could remember it so clearly, it was as if it had just happened yesterday.

Thirty years ago, her husband left her for his mistress, and she was left to care for their three children. She only attended high school and didn’t further her education.  She worked very hard, doing various odd jobs for other people. She worked as a maid for a wealthy family during the day and washed dishes for restaurants at night. She made a promise to herself; that she would make sure all her children would be able to graduate from the best schools and become successful in the future. She scrimped and saved and hardly spent any money on herself. Eventually, all her children received scholarships and graduated from various prestigious universities.

But they left. Jane and Michael to America, and her youngest daughter, Jill, migrated to Britain. They never even asked if she wanted to go with them. She was left behind. Abandoned. As if she were simply a forgotten memory from the past.

A few days ago, when the nurse asked her to contact her family, she hesitated for a moment before saying “I’m unmarried.” The nurse raised an eyebrow, but didn’t question her any further. She was sure her children wouldn’t come anyway even if the hospital called. To her children, she was probably as good as dead. She was just a burden to them.

She wondered if things would have been different if she had spent more time with her children as a family. Probably. Then maybe they would at least had come to visit her. Maybe they would write to her. Maybe…

But it was all too late to realise her mistakes now. She could not turn back time to mend her mistakes in the past. It was already too late.

A single, lonely tear trickles down her cheek as she gently closes her eyes.

Laura Zheng



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