Originally posted January 23, 2012, before the disaster.
Like a rebel, I used all six, and 704 words.
A handmade quilt sits alone on a neatly made bed. She’s left it there, unwilling to even fold it, lest it disturb the silence of the room.
The quilt reminds her of happier times. Of better times. Once upon a time, that quilt was hung across branches to make a fort. It wrapped a red-haired dolly tenderly while a “mama” carried her around in her arms. It was laid across the sand on a beach, supposedly to protect soft toes that were too busy trekking back and forth to the water with a little pink bucket to care.
That quilt hadn’t moved in nearly a year.
It had all started with a rash. Probably from the sand at the beach, the doctor had said. When it didn’t get better, another doctor diagnosed a food sensitivity, a third suggested changing laundry detergent. When nothing helped, more tests were run and eventually came the dreadful day when they learned the truth.
Leukemia. A word that they had heard of only in relation to other people was suddenly an intimate part of their daughter’s life.
It had all started then. Doctor visits, trips to specialists, journeys to and from the hospital, each accompanied by a small, stuffed goat in overalls that was held and squeezed during every procedure, cuddled for comfort, and whispered secrets to late in the night. She had been brave, their darling child, much braver than either of her parents had been. Most days it was her who reassured them that everything would be alright.
Of course, it hadn’t been, but at four years old, you don’t really know that.
Still, it had been Audrey who had known first that she was going to be a big sister. How she had known, neither of them could tell, but it seemed to give her some new strength and new hope. They had encouraged that positive thinking, and it had broken their hearts, two months later, when they had to tell her that the baby was gone.
Audrey took a visible turn for the worse after that news, although the doctors were confident that it was only a coincidence that it had come so soon after the miscarriage. Still, within only five months of losing the baby, they had been forced to say goodbye to their daughter.
Had it only been a year? It had felt like much longer than that, although the medications had messed up her perception of time. She had tried at least four antidepressants and none of them worked, although she’d lied to her doctor to avoid having to experience the side effects of a fifth.
Her husband had know the truth, though. He’d grown tired of it and left her two months ago. Now she had nothing but the objects in this room to keep her company. Just a blanket and a doll and a few bibs that she’d pulled out one glorious sunny afternoon when Audrey had been home from the hospital.
They had all been so excited then, back when the idea of a new baby was new and fresh. Looking through Audrey’s old baby things had provided a brief moment of comfort and normalcy, before the shadow of the cancer had taken over their lives again.
That was the last sunny day she could remember. The world had grown darker without Audrey in it. And now she was all alone, with only a few stuffed animals for comfort.
She picked up the goat and clutched it tightly to her chest. It still smelled faintly of chemicals and vomit, but mostly of Audrey. She inhaled deeply, trying to remember the good times, the happy times, and not the dark sadness that she’d anticipated ever since the day of the diagnosis.
It was no use. Her sweet angel was gone forever.
They found her body two weeks later, lying on the floor of the dusty children’s room, surrounded by dingy stuffed animals, a very dirty plastic bucket, and a few worn bibs. Her body was wrapped in a small quilt that was drenched in the blood that had quite clearly seeped from the gash on her left arm.
She was smiling, for the first time in a year.