A light orange hue was inching across top floors of a building opposite our house while the chirping of birds hiding somewhere in an oak tree in the backyard was drowning out traffic noise.
I knew she would be back any minute from her run, so turning away from window and taking my hands out of pockets went into kitchen to make coffee.
Putting the cups on a round bare wooden table in the lounge, sat down and began thinking about the past month.
While life hadn't been easy for us, especially for Mom who had to raise me all alone after Dad left her, nothing had prepared us for what was about to happen.
It all began a month ago when she started having stomach pains.
As they became unbearable, Mom went to our local doctor who, after conducting some tests, said: "Yana, there's some bad news. A tumor in stomach has become cancerous and we need to look into it immediately."
When the doctor broke the news, I was with her and could see her pink face turn yellow, as if somebody had drained off all the blood, and bright red lips become white.
I thought she was going to faint or even worse, so held her hand and tried to bring her out of shock.
Mom squeezed my hand tightly, took a deep breath and asked him how bad the situation was.
He described the whole situation and said she needed to be operated immediately.
Mom asked him a few more questions, looked at me and told him she needed some time to think things over and would call him the next day.
The next few days were the toughest. She consulted other doctors, underwent several tests and finally was revealed that it was a false alarm, the first doctor had misdiagnosed her and all she had were two kidney stones, nothing else.
Waiting for final results was the most difficult period and during that agonizing time Mom promised that she was going to do all the things she had always wanted if the results were positive.
When she got the all clear, I withdrew some money grandfather had given me for college and decided something special for her.
I took a sip of the coffee and was feeling good that I was about to make her happy when the front door opened and saw her walking toward me wearing black tracksuit bottom and yellow T-shirt.
"How come you're up so early?" Mom said, wiping the sweat off her forehead with back of her arm.
"How's your pain?" I asked.
"Would you like coffee?"
"Yes, please," she replied sitting down opposite me.
"Have to tell you something."
Looking at me with her deep blue eyes, Mom quizzed: What?"
"Tell me one place you've always wanted to go to."
"Have told you so many times."
"Tell me again."
"Because that's where your grand-father and grand-mother were born."
I picked up a newspaper from the table and slowly pushed a brown envelope lying underneath it toward her.
She stared at it for a couple of seconds and arching her eyebrows asked what it was.
Mom hesitated, then her red lips parted, face turned completely pink and big blue eyes remained fixed on two airline tickets to Berlin, Germany.
Before she could recover her breath and say something, I said we were going to Berlin and won't hear no for an answer as have already booked room and everything.
That didn't stop her asking how I had managed to buy tickets, etc. So told her to focus on the trip, not on money.
The next few days were spent planning and arranging everything and then we were off to Berlin, just two days after I celebrated my seventeen birthday.
We spent first couple of days enjoying the amazing city, made lovelier by sunny weather, and its historical and modern attractions.
We were getting ready to go out when Mom asked me to sit down as she wanted to talk about something.
"You know, I've worked hard all my life, lived a pretty boring life and haven't seen or enjoyed the world."
Interrupting her, I said she hasn't led a boring life, but she told me to listen, not talk, so I stopped in mid-sentence.
"I'm only thirty-four and want to enjoy life, do everything and have as much fun as possible, especially now. So, would you help me?"
"Of course, I would."
"Thanks. To start off, I want to do river rafting, go on a hot-air balloon and ride a jet-ski. What do you say?"
"Yea, sure. Let's do that."
In next three days, we did all the three things and even went to do bungee jumping, but she chickened out at last minute, a huge relief to me because I was more scared of diving from a bridge than her.
We were at an outdoor café in the evening of sixth day when Mom said she wanted to see a cabaret performance.
Now I had never even been to a nightclub with her, let alone cabaret, so the idea caught me totally off-guard.
"I've heard a lot about cabaret, so want to see it."
I stared at her with my dark brown eyes, but didn't see any change in expression, so said: "OK, go and see it."
"You won't come with me?"
"Don't think so."
"Why not? Are you ashamed to see it with your mom? It's just a dance. Please. I want to see it."
It really felt weird going with her and didn't want to do it, but seeing that she wanted to see it, I agreed in the end.
We took the last row seats and noticed that there were several women in audience, which was reassuring to me because that meant it won't be a sleazy skin show.
However, all reassurance went for a toss as soon as the dancers appeared.
Sure they weren't naked, but their thongs and bras were leaving little to imagination.
Their naked thighs, almost-bare bums and semi-covered breasts meant it was going to be a difficult night for me.
As I didn't want Mom to catch me looking at semi-nude bodies, I turned my face sideways and stared blankly at the bar and at people sitting around us.
Meanwhile, she was enjoying the show thoroughly, even clapping, hooting and stomping her feet. It was apparent that she was totally into it.
When she saw me staring at the bar she nudged me with her elbow and asked me whether I was enjoying the dance or not. I nodded my head and lied that I was.
Things only got crazier as the show went on.
Now the girls took off their bras and started dancing topless in just G-strings.
I had never seen so many naked breasts in one place and all were as beautiful as the next one.
Since Mom was sitting right next to me, I didn't have the courage to get a good look at the dancers, but did manage to steal glances.
My impression until then was that Mom wouldn't like the naked parade of breasts, especially since she herself always dressed conservatively and led a pretty straight life, but surprisingly she wasn't having any problem either at admiring or enjoying the movement of the bare bodies.
We stayed there until the end of show and then took a cab to our hotel.
On the way back, she again asked me whether I had enjoyed it.
Turning my face toward her, said: "Did you?"
"Yes, loved it. Always wanted to see it and glad that I did."
"You're really letting your hair down."
Taking my hand in her hand and kissing me on the cheek, Mom explained: "I've been holding it back for far too long and now want to have fun."
Patting her hand, I added: "Sure."
On reaching the hotel, both of us went straight to sleep, she in bedroom and I on couch in the lounge, as it was already late and both of us were pretty drunk.
The next day, we were browsing a street market when I told her that she needed to change her wardrobe.
"What do you mean?"
"Well, wear something colorful, something cool."
"What's wrong with my clothes?" Mom quizzed looking down at her gray full-sleeved shirt and black jeans.
"These don't go well with the new you. Let's go and do some shopping."
Taking her arm, I helped her buy skirts, tops and even negligee.
Then she started entering a store selling lingerie, so I stopped at the entrance.
Turning toward me, she asked: "Aren't you going to help? Thought you wanted me to have a new wardrobe."
"I'm not going in there."
She looked around us and then dragging me inside began looking at all kinds of bras, from semi-cups to transparent ones, and kept asking advice.
I knew she wouldn't stop, so decided to help her. Picking up a green half-cup bra, calmly asked her size.
Squinting her eyes and looking down at her breasts, she said: "Are you sure you want me to wear this?"
"Yes. What's your size?"
"I'm big, as you can tell, but not going to tell you my size."
Taking the bra from me, Mom selected a similar one that was her size and proceeded to buy all kinds of bras, including transparent and front zipped ones, and even couple of panties and thongs.
The next afternoon, just before we were about to go out, Mom dropped another bombshell.
She was brushing her long red hair when, without turning toward me, told me that she wanted to see a strip show.
As soon as she said that, my face turned red and after struggling to say something for nearly a minute, all I could come up with was: "What?"
Mom kept brushing and turning toward me repeated that she wants to go to a strip club in the evening.
Sitting down on the bed, I inquired: "You want to go alone?"
"No, silly, with you."
"I don't want to."
"You don't want to go to a strip club? I thought all men wanted to go there," she wondered sitting down next to me.
Placing her right arm on my left leg, she whispered: "You are a man, aren't you?"
.... There is more of this story ...