The last day I was fully human started off like any other April Monday in East Texas. Oh, sure, there were all kinds of warning signs that my entire world was about to come crashing down around me. But I didn't recognize them until it was too late.
I should have known something major was wrong when I woke up that morning feeling like utter crap, even though I'd just snagged a full nine hours of sleep. I'd never been sick before, not even with the flu or a cold, so it couldn't be anything like that.
"Good morning, dear. Your breakfast is on the table," Nanna greeted me as I shuffled into the kitchen. As usual, she was the ultimate in contradictions, her voice and smile a Southern mixture of sweetness and steel. Like your favorite old baby blanket wrapped around a mace. "Eat up. I'm going to go find my shoes."
I nodded and plopped down into one of the creaky chairs at the table. When it came to cooking, Nanna rocked. And she made the absolute best oatmeal in the world, maple and brown sugar with a ton of butter just the way I liked it. But it tasted like flavorless mush today. I gave up after two bites and dumped it in the trash can under the sink seconds before she came back.
"Finished already?" she asked before slurping her tea. The sound grated over my nerves.
"Um, yeah." I set the bowl and spoon in the sink, keeping my back turned so she couldn't see the blush burning my cheeks. I was a horrible liar. One look at my face and she'd know I'd just thrown out the breakfast she'd made me.
"And your tea?"
Oops. I'd forgotten my daily tea, a blend that Nanna made just for me from the herbs she spent months growing in our backyard. "Sorry, Nanna, there's no time. I still have to fix my hair."
"You can do both." She held out my mug, her cheeks bunched into a bright smile that didn't do much to disguise the snap in her eyes.
Sighing, I took the cup with me to the bathroom, setting it on the counter so I could have both hands free to do battle with my wild, carrot-colored curls.
"Drink your tea yet?" she asked ten minutes later as I finished taming my hair into a long ponytail.
"Nag, nag, nag," I mumbled.
"I heard that, missy," she called out from the dining room, making me smile.
I chugged the cold tea, set down the empty mug with a loud thump she'd be sure to hear, then headed for my bedroom to grab my backpack. And nearly fell over while trying to pick it up. Jeez. I must have forgotten to drop off a few books in my locker last week. Using both hands, I hefted a strap onto my shoulder and trudged back down the hall.
Nanna was at the dining table digging through her mammoth purse for her keys. That would take a while. "Meet you at the car?" I said.
She gave an absentminded wave, which I took for a yes, so I headed through the living room for the front door.
As usual, Mom had been on the couch for hours already, talking on her cell phone while drowning in stacks of paperwork and pens she'd be sure to lose under the sofa cushions by the end of the day. Why she couldn't work at a desk like every other safety product sales rep was beyond me. But the chaos seemed to make her happy.
Even as she ended one call, her phone squalled for attention again. I knew better than to wait, so I just waved goodbye to her.
"Hang on, George." She hit the phone's mute button then held out her arms. "Hey, what's this? No 'good morning, Mom,' no hug goodbye?"
Grinning, I crossed the room and bent over to hug her, resisting the...