The Sick Child
The dull, gray autumn sky sags with heavy, black clouds. A fine mist swirls down sugaring the tips of the evergreens. Not a bird is singing. Not a dog is barking. All is quiet on this gloomy morning.
Inside, a young child curls up amongst a pile of fluffy, white pillows. A warm, cozy blanket is wrapped around her frail, little body. Dark circles dip below her sunken eyes and her long, brown locks hang limply around her delicate, chalky features. A steaming mug of soup sits, ignored, on a low table within reach, along with a tall glass of water and a box of tissues. The child stares out the window beside her, not focusing on anything in particular. Many days, just like this day, have past leaving the child without hope. She longs to see a glimmer of sunshine, a glimmer of hope, but she only sees what she feels, gray shadows of death looming nearby. The child sinks lower into the pillows and rests her weary head. Her vacant eyes stare up at the waterstained ceiling. Rest, she needs rest.
Across the room, the child's mother sits with a book laying in her lap. The pages open to the beginning of the second chapter, the same pages that they've been open to for days. Silent tears cascade down her soft features, blurring the words infront of her making them dance across the page. She squeezes her eyes closed and starts gently rocking back and forth trying to keep her emotions under control. Wave after wave the emotions roll over her heart, surging and crashing until it was almost impossible to breathe.
A noise from the kitchen breaks the spell over her raging emotions and she looks up to find her own mother coming towards her with a tray of hot soup, toast and coffee. She watches as Ruth places the tray down between them and lowers herself into the chair beside her.
"You need to eat Clair," the old woman says softly as she pushes the tray towards her daughter. "It won't do Marissa any good if you are to weak to help her."
Clair turns to gaze upon her restless child's face. "I know that Mama," she whispers. Deep lines of worry etch into her soft features. "I'm just not hungery right now." Marking the page in her book she sets it aside and picks up the lap quilt drapped over her knees. Stiffly she lifts herself from her chair and carries the quilt over to her child. As she begins to tuck the warm cloth around Marissa she notices that the gay colours of the quilt are in sharp contrast to her pale features. Quickly, she flips the quilt over to the plainer, duller side.
"Mommy, I hurt," Marissa whimpers. Tears well up in Clair's eyes and she smiles sadly at her child.
"I know Sweety. I know." Gently Clair reaches down and strokes Marissa's cold cheek with the tips of her fingers. A stray hair catches on her finger and she smooths it gently behind her ear. Marissa winces with pain and Clair pulls her hand back. "I'm sorry Honey, I didn't mean to hurt you." A sob escapes from her and she turns to hide her face from the child.
Ruth's warm arms wrap around her shoulders as her body begins convulsing with sobs of pure grief. "I can't touch her. I can't even give my child a kiss."