Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Challenge 1: St George's Blonde Sweetheart

In the Saint George Children's hospital, there is a little girl with no hair. She came here six months ago, back when there were bright golden curls bouncing with every twist of her head.

Her mother visits once a day and it seems like the fine lines around her eyes get heavier. At Christmas, she bought her daughter a pretty leather bound book. At night, after her mother is gone, the girl squints at the pages and sometimes, bright, sparkling tears trickle down her cheeks. Her mother comes back in the mornings, occasionally bringing a boy with her. He mostly lies on the bed beside his sister and kisses her bald head before settling down and listening to their mother read from the book. The little girl will fall asleep then. She is awake most nights, vommitting from the chemo.

Today, her mother hasn't come yet. The cicadas are screaming from the park outside our window and she is out of bed, watching the sky fade from black to red to blue. There is a thin white scar down the back of her head where they opened up her skull.

She stands there for a long time in her breezy hospital gown, waiting. Then, without warning, she collapses to the floor with a thud. One of the other children screams and the nurses come running. She is just like a rag doll in that white man's arms. Blood streams from her nose and they try to stop it, taking her away on a trolley.

Later, though it's hard to tell how long, her mummy and brother walk in, holding her birthday cake. It is shaped like a castle with seven candles on the walls. Mummy goes pale, looking at that empty bed. She drops the cakes. Smash. Icing streaks, dirty grey on the shiny white floors.

Mummy and brother don't notice the mess. They are gone as quickly as they arrived. Later still, someone comes to clean up. Cake is scooped into the bin; mop wipes away the rest. Soon enough, the evidence is gone. Just a squeaky clean patch and an empty bed. Night comes and goes. The cicadas pray to the rising sun.

She's back now, pale and bruised. She smiles, then closes her eyes. Brother holds one hand. Mummy strokes her fine layer of golden stubble and then opens the old book. She begins to read.

"Once there was a little princess who was very brave, though no one knew just how strong, because she had five older brothers to protect her from any sort of trouble that might befall the kingdom..."

Brother looks at Mummy, whispering, "Will she be alright?"

Mummy keeps reading, but her voice is a bit wobbly.

"Then one day, an evil magician came and stole the little princess away from under her brothers' noses..."

The other children listen too. All girls in this ward. They want to know how the princess defeats the evil magician. Mummy doesn't lower her voice or close the curtains. She just keeps reading. The end of the story is beautiful. The little princess escapes from her dark and scary prison onto a balcony overlooking the lake. She prays to god and he turns her into an angel so she can fly away and live happily with him in heaven.

Brother is crying. He says her hand is cold. Mummy smiles, her eyes sparkling. She says Gracie is in heaven with god. She finally got her wings.

Her soul is happy, floating above them. She has her golden curls again. I am still waiting. Maybe one day, Mummy will come and read me to heaven too.

Wordcount: 608

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