"I have cancer, Kelsey. The doctor said I only have a few weeks left. I-I'm so sorry, darling."
It took a few seconds, but it wasn’t too long until realization zipped through my mind. My heart fell into my stomach as I made sense of my mother's words. She had cancer, and she was dying. The thought of that just sent shivers down my spines, but it accompanied an onslaught of tears to my eyes. My mother, my only living relative, my hero, was dying. She was going to be gone, leaving me alone in the world that I didn't know how to live in without her being there, guiding me along.
As I looked at her, my blue eyes full of tears, I slowly shook my head. "N-No. Y-You're kidding, right? This is a joke?" She remained silent. "You c-can't leave me!"
Mom gave me a small smile full of sadness, pulling me in for a hug as her arms wrapped around my body and her chin rested on top of my head. "Please, darling, I need you to not cry," she whispers. "You're going to be just fine without me."
I shook my head again, pulling away to look at her. "What am I going to do?" I ask quietly, bottom lip quivering.
Mom bites her bottom lip. "I've arranged something for you."
I frown at her words, questioning, “What?”
"I have a friend who lives in Holmes Chapel, Cheshire, in England," she begins. "She has a son who's your age, and we're arranged you two to... To be engaged. Married, really.”
I wrench myself away from her, my body jerking back as my eyes widened in horror. Did I hear her right? Me? Getting married? A freaking arranged marriage to a boy that I don't even know? How could that possibly ever work out? This was the 21st century—the only people who arranged to get married were ones who had to have some kind of business deal taken care of—and even then, I doubted that even went on anymore.
"Mom, are you crazy?" I exclaim in unadulterated horror. "I'm only nineteen! I can't get married. That's—that’s insane!"
"Of course you can, sweetie," she says in an assuring tone. "I got married when I was twenty and your father was twenty one. You're gonna be fine. Plus, you two would look so good together."
"That's not the point, Mom," I tell her exasperatedly. "You're having me marry some guy I don't even know. I want to marry someone that I actually love, much less like. I don't want to marry this dude; whoever the hell he may be."
Mom sighs. "Please, Kelsey," she says. "I want to leave this earth knowing that you're in good hands. He's going to take such good care of you. And who knows? Maybe you'll learn to love him." I couldn’t contain the scoff at the end of her words.
As much as I didn't want this, I knew I couldn't do anything about it. I always did what Mom told me to, because it was what was best. She was always looking out for me, because that's what moms do. She took great care of me. And if she says that this is her dying wish - no matter how much that saddens me - I know I have to go with it. The absolute last thing I want to do is disappoint my mother before she... left.
"Fine," I sigh. "At least tell me what's the guy's name."
A knowing smile spreads across my mom's face, and just by the sight of it, I felt my stomach churning in dread. “Harry Styles.”