The journey to the hospital only took about an hour and a half, but to me it seemed like eternity. Dad took me and my friend Kim across the city to get there, passing our school and the various other places we’d spent time together as a group. I’d made cupcakes the previous night, rich chocolate cupcakes packeted neatly in purple cases. Being clumsy and just slow in general, it took me way too long to actually bake them, and so I had to get up earlier that morning to ice the lot.
To me, chocolate had always been a comfort food. That was why I chose to make those mini cakes, loading them with the heavenly brown substance. I thought they would be a nice break from unpalatable hospital food, and on the spur of the moment I even decided to decorate them with hundreds-and-thousands. I wasted three cupcakes before getting the decoration template right, but in the rainbow Ws I’d managed to imprinted on the cupcakes were all worth the effort.
W was for Wini.
W was for wonderful.
W was for wishes.
Kim had brought along food as well, much healthier food than my own luxury-loaded cakes. We had intended to have a little picnic, with her corn cakes and cheese as the main course and my muffins for dessert. We even came equipped with cups for Kim’s smoothie and a knife to spread the cheese. I just hoped that this was enough to brighten up Wini’s day, even marginally.
She wasn’t there when we knocked on the reception desk, and a nurse told us to wait inside the living area while he went to get Wini. The interior of the youth centre was very much like that of the camps I’ve been to in primary school. The walls were colourful, with messages of hope and strength scrawled across the glass panes of the window in texta. There was a narrow corridor with rooms on both sides, each door adorn with a name plate telling of its two occupants. Another nurse greeted us inside this area, asking both Kim and me to surrender our plastic bags that we brought the food in. She said they were hazardous, acting as possible instruments for strangling. This was when my perception of the place as a nice camp faded.
Wini came in through the door while me and Kim were still trying to organize our now bag-less food. I turned around at the sound of the door closing, and pretty much dropped everything. I literally tackled her as I ran from across the room, hugging her so hard that I could feel every bone in her back. Kim joined in, and we stayed locked together for those few joyful seconds. Seeing her in flesh and blood, and being able to physically hug her made me feel so grateful.
We took our food outside into a little pavilion afterwards. Sitting cross-legged on the concrete, talking and hugging and serving each other food, that was one of the best moments of that whole month. She looked happier, a little more like the Winifred that I knew, except I didn’t really trust my perception of happiness anymore. She made me smile when she took up one of my clumsily made cupcakes like it was something precious, and I didn’t mind at all when she scraped off the icing to throw away. Wini was always a healthy girl, very conscientious of what she ate and what she did.
We played a couple of board games later on, talking to each other over the scrabbled pieces as if we were just hanging out. Wini was brilliant at those games, compared to my rather rusty brain. She declined lunch when the nurse came to take her, saying that she’ll eat the corn cakes that Kim brought for lunch instead. We shared the little cakes with each other, and passed around the cheese. Wini sighed a little when she tried and didn’t really succeed at spreading the cheese with the edge of the wrapping. Seeing that, I reached into my bag and took out the butter knife that I brought along just for an occasion like this.
“Hide it!” she told me in a hushed tone, even though we were in our own receiving room, “You’re not allowed to bring that in here.”
How stupid was I? If they collected up plastic bags because they make suicide possible, then this little knife in my bag would be disastrous! It was only a blunt butter knife, not sharp enough to even cut bread cleanly, but still! I dropped it back in my bag.
“Can I just use it for the cheese spread?” Wini asked me, her voice still quiet.
Whether or not to hand that knife over was one of the biggest decisions I made in a long time. But I chose to trust Wini, and slipped the handle of the knife slowly into her hand. She whisked it across the surface of the cheese and smoothed it over her corn cake in one motion. Handing back the knife to me, she picked up her lunch and started to eat. I let out that breath that I didn’t knew I held. My little butter knife returned back to the bottom of my bag.