“Daddy come throw the ball for Boris,” Paige cried bounding up the path. Her chocolate coloured ringlets had been pulled up in high pigtails and bounced along like slinkys. I kept my head low and continued with the weeding hoping that she would leave me alone.
“Daddy,” she cried. She stopped by my side and handed me a filthy ball with a long string of drool hanging from it.
“Paige, Daddy is busy right now. Go see what mummy is doing,” I told her.
“Mummy is busy. Can you play with her,” my wife yelled through the kitchen window.
“That’s why we got the dog,” I snapped. I felt Paige stand next to me for what felt like an age as I continued weeding hoping that she would give up. Eventually she skipped off to play with the dog. The microwave inside started beeping and I couldn’t figure out why Randi wasn’t getting it.
“Beep, beep,” the noise continued insistently. I groaned and put down my weed hook. I opened my eyes and realised I was no longer kneeling in the garden weeding but was instead sitting in an arm chair. Randi was standing next to me with her arms folded.
“I leave you for a moment and you fall asleep. How am I supposed to trust you if I can’t even leave you for ten minutes,” she yells at me.
“Keep it down Randi, people will hear you,” I whispered realising that we were in a hospital and people were starting to look.
“So they should. They deserve to know what a terrible husband you are,” she growls at me. Her emerald green eyes are ablaze.
“Randi please stop. I’m sorry,” I pleaded as I got out of the chair and reached out for her hand but she pulled it away.
“Sorry just doesn’t cut it anymore Haymen. I don’t know how many times I can forgive you,” she was furious. I could see the vein on the side of her forehead start to throb and her hands were balling into fists.
“So you don’t even have anything to say. How typical,” her voice is going up an octave with every word and I can tell what is going to come next. “Get out,” she yelled pointing to the door. I opened my mouth to protest but before I could she was in front of me pushing me out the door. She slammed it in my face and I stood in the hallway staring at it. I wandered outside. I found an empty park bench and sat down with my head in my hands sighing. Someone sat next to me and I smelt the old familiar scent of a freshly lit cigarette. I looked to see a nurse sitting next to me.
“I’m sorry I can move,” she said. I realised then that I must have been staring at her.
“No I’m sorry,” I replied. I continued to stare at her hands because she offered me the packet. A part of me wanted to say no but there was something so inviting about the idea of having a cigarette. I hesitated but I took one and lit it up.
“I quit a long time ago. But…” I started.
“How old?” she asked. I stared blankly.
“Your kid?” she sighed. Embarrassingly started coughing as soon as I took a drag.
“How do you know?”
“We are out front the children's hospital,” she reasoned. I took another drag and coughed again.
“How sick?” she asked.
“She’s ok,” I lied as I took another drag, then scowled at the filthy cancer causing stick and flicked it away.
I was startled by a tap on my shoulder and stood up to face Randi.
“Did you just have a cigarette?” Randi screamed as she started pounding her fists into my chest.
“Honey I….” I muttered biting my tongue it didn’t matter what I said.
“So our little girl is lying in there and all you can think of is hitting on nurses and smoking,” she pounded my chest with each word.
“Ma’am he wasn’t hitting on me,” the nurse started.
“I didn’t ask your opinion you little tramp,” she screamed. Enough was enough. All she had done was yell at me over the last six months.
“What the hell is your problem Randi? You have no right to speak to her like that she didn’t even do anything wrong. For that matter neither have I. Do you not think it is hard enough for me to deal with what is going on and on top of that every time I see you all you do is scream at me. Maybe we should take alternative visiting hours.” She stood there with her mouth open as I headed back inside. I carefully opened the door to Paige's room hoping not to disturb her.
“Daddy,” she whispered when she saw me.
“Hey precious,” I replied with a fake smile. I couldn’t let her see how torn up I was.
“Boris,” she whispered.
“I’m sorry honey I can’t bring the dog for a visit,” I explained.
“Boris,” she whispered again as she pointed to the floor. Her blue stuffed animal was lying there. I picked up the well loved and tattered creature remembering that she had named the dog after the character from her favourite show. Boris the Blue Bunyip. She pulled the creature in close to her and closed her eyes. I’d spent the last few months trying to block it all out but for some reason today everything sank in. It felt like a hand had reached into my chest and was squeezing the life out of my heart.
I stared at my little girl. Her skin was the same colour as the white sheets and she looked so frail. I put my hand on the side of her head careful not to move the tubes that were feeding her oxygen. There were monitors and drips coming out of her all over the place, these same machines filled the room with a disheartening constant beep that seemed to echo on forever. I closed my eyes and imagined that I could twine my fingers through her chocolate ringlets. I opened my eyes and ran my fingers across the skin where her hair had once been. Weeding the garden seemed less important than ever. I yearned for more time with her and the chance to go back and live that afternoon over and throw the ball with Paige and Boris. For the first time since her diagnosis I allowed the tears to spill over. I’d been strong for Randi and for Paige but I guess there just comes a point when being the man isn’t enough of a reason not to cry. I stroked her head while she slept while I let the tears fall quietly. Randi came in behind me.
“I’m so sorry,” she whispered. I just nodded; knowing if I spoke, I would choke up. “Did you hear me?” she demanded as she pulled me around to face her. When she saw me crying she lost it. The sound that escaped her mouth will stay with me forever. She collapsed into my arms and I got her out of the room as quickly as I could hoping not to wake Paige. One of the doctors escorted us to a parents room. Randi sobbed, screamed and wailed as I held her close, while I cried in silence. Parents walking past looked in, knowing to well what we were going through.
A doctor came to the door with a pained look on his face. He saw us on the couch and came over. I didn’t need to ask. I helped Randi to her feet and we went back to Paige’s room. She looked worse than she did when I left her only moments ago. I took hold of her hand and Randi went to the other side of her bed and took the other one.
She didn’t open her eyes and the hand I held in my hand was limp and non-responsive. Her breathing grew shallower and the insistent beeping of her heart rate monitor grew slower. It didn’t matter how long we had been preparing for this day, it was still the most painful thing in my life. The long beep that indicated her heart would beat no more ripped through my soul. I looked to Randi who had collapsed on the floor. The doctors surrounded Paige did all they could, even though we knew there was nothing. Paiges cancer ravaged body was beyond help. We’d known all along that her diagnosis was a death sentence. I sat on the floor next to my wife and held her.
“The last thing she saw was us fighting,” Randi wailed. I felt numb this wasn’t the way life was supposed to go. I held her tighter and rocked her gently. My heart ached, my biggest fear had come true. I had outlived my daughter.
FGC #14- Challenge to write a First Person POV story in 1,500 words
Actual word count- 1,497