by ~ Aqua ~
A father gets to spend his last day, a New Year Eve, with his little princess
|Peter woke up to the symphony of a heart rate monitor. He tried to open his eyes but they wouldn't budge. He felt numb; then he began hearing faint voices and a doctor pushed his eye open. The intense light of a torch stabbing, blinding him temporarily.
"Mr. Ralph, can you hear my voice?"
". . . Yes . . . "
His voice was so hoarse, he couldn't even recognize it.
"Can you sit up?"
Peter grunted, and two firm hands helped him upright. He felt small wires inserted in his wrist. His chest was heavy and his head throbbed with a migraine.
"How many fingers am I holding up?"
Peter blinked his eyes until his vision set in and he saw two fingers held before his eyes.
"Four," His voice sounded worse and someone offered him a cup. He gratefully drank it in a single gulp, "There are two."
Much better, he thought to himself. Peter looked around to take in the surroundings which, were all but familiar. The typical scent of the vitamin tablets, pungent smell of disinfectants, the beep of several machines, the equipment clacking with the black, hard tray, and the immaculate, perfect pale walls.
He sighed at the thought and saw a small head. He could recognise the golden tresses anywhere and his eyes captured his beautiful angel, just outside the door.
"Mr. Ralph," The same voice addressed him. The doctor wore a white coat with a stethoscope around her neck. Her brown curls were tied in a tail and her dark brown eyes explored his as if expressing her thoughts without saying
"I am Dr. McCalem . . . "
"Can we see Peter? I am Carla and this is . . . "
Rapid footsteps thrummed on the floor as his angel approached the room. Carla, his twenty year old sister entered the room with Lily, sent an apologetic look to the doctor and beamed at Peter.
"Daddy! Daddy, why had you been sleeping for so long?"
"Hey, princess!" Peter held his five year old daughter in his arms and put her in front of him.
"Now who said I was sleeping here?"
Peter eyed Carla and Lily suspiciously, with his eyebrows lifted slightly.
"Aunt Carla said that you were sleeping."
Lily pointed, accusingly, on the brunette behind, who dramatically displayed her hand over her mouth in a surprised gasp.
"Aunt Carla is lying. I was fighting off evil spirits so they cannot hurt you."
Lily's eyes sparkled with excitement as she wondered which adventures her father had embarked on.
"So you have defeated all monsters?"
Lily's eyes had fear and curiosity at the same time, which made Peter laugh, "Yep, they ran as soon as they saw me."
Lily clapped her hands as Peter spoke again in a low voice, "But there's . . . still one monster left. Do you know what he can do to you?"
He motioned his finger for Lily to come closer and she approached cautiously, believing the story he was knitting.
"The tickle monster!"
Peter started tickling his sunshine and the room filled with shrieks and laughter. Watching Peter and Lily, Carla joined in as well and soon the doctor's face transformed into a gentle smile as she announced,
"I'll talk to you later."
Peter nodded briefly and trapped Lily in his arms, kissing her on the head.
"Aunt Carla won't get any gifts from Santa this year," Lily pointed at Carla, "You are on the naughty list!"
Carla and Peter burst out laughing. Suddenly the air seemed to squeeze out of his lungs and he coughed vehemently as he struggled for oxygen. In a few seconds, his heartbeat returned to normal. He looked straight into his Lily’s concerned eyes. He glanced at Carla, worry written all over her face.
Peter and Carla exchanged looks, and Carla understood Peter’s wish that she take Lily home.
"Lily, why don't we let daddy rest? He seems to be exhausted after the fight."
Lily jumped at Peter and kissed him on the cheek, "Okay! Thank you, Daddy!"
She held Carla's hand and both left the room, waving at Peter.
As soon as they left, Peter found the silence quite uncomfortable and he wasn't used to it for Lily kept him occupied most of the time, with stories, laughter, and her non-tedious personality.
"You have a caring family."
"Yeah. Lily is my daughter and the girl with her is my sister. I wish we had her mom too."
The doctor's features turned gentle and sympathetic but she didn't ask about his wife, much to his curiosity.
"She died after she gave birth to Lily. She was so happy, the happiest when she saw Lily."
The doctor's smile faded, "I need to talk to you about something, urgently. While you were unconscious, I ran blood tests and . . . You are. . . you have Acute Myeloid Leukemia."
Peter looked down at his hands, clasped together. "How bad is it?"
Dr.McCalem sighed, "I am afraid it's the last stage. Leukemia has reached a stage where your. . . your immune system is extremely weak and your body is in a vulnerable state. The blood tests showed you have gastric ulceration, anemia and your organs are severely damaged. Lymph nodes, liver and your spleen . . . I don't know how you are even breathing; it's a miracle."
Peter raised an eyebrow and the doctor realised she had expressed her thoughts out loud.
"I meant that this condition has progressed so quickly and you didn't have the symptoms before, even though the last stage has begun."
"Am I going to die?"
The doctor paused.
"An honest doctor to patient answer, Dr. McCalem, please."
His eyes crossed the room and met with hers. Peter stared at the silent doctor until she broke the gaze.
"It would be better if you stay here."
"Can I be discharged?"
"Wait, you could receive treatment - ."
"You cannot force a patient to stay in the hospital without his consent. I want to leave."
The doctor insisted, "It would be best if you stay here."
"Look," the doctor looked at Peter, "If I have a few days, even hours to live, I would spend every second with my daughter. I don't want to live on wires, machines where I can't even be there for my Lily."
Her eyes changed, and Peter sensed her struggle.
"Fine, I'll get the documents."
Peter was discharged from the hospital the same day and the cold wind engulfed him as it reminded him that it was 29th December, and of his New Year's Plans with Lily. It was eight p.m. and his stomach growled. "How about I surprise them?"
Peter stopped at Lily's favourite place to pick up a McDonald's Happy Meal. He reached home and knocked at his own door.
"Honey, he'll come back, maybe tomorrow okay? Let's get you in bed,"
"No! I don't want to go to bed without Daddy!"
The door opened and Carla stood with her jaw open and Lily stunned, Peter laughed.
"Did my baby girl miss me?"
He spread his arms as Lily jumped into them, delighted.
"Daddy! I am hungry."
"Hey! She just ate her chips."
"They were not McDonald chips, Aunt Carla. They were only chips."
Carla let out an abrupt laugh and shook her head. "Look what Daddy bought you."
Lily looked behind him and saw the meal box. She took the box and ran inside, "Thanks Daddy!"
"You're spoiling her. How are you?"
Carla patted Peter's back, "Perfect." Peter replied, as he beamed at Carla, so happy to be back at home sweet home.
The next day Peter woke up with someone rocking back and forth on him.
"Daddy, come on, wake up already. You promised we would spend the day together, it's New Year's Eve!"
Peter woke up and found a breakfast tray next to him. He kissed her and finished his breakfast as Lily changed into a pink dress.
"Ready? Let's go watch Dora!"
Peter quickly showered and his thought of being away from her killed him. Tears stung his eyes.
"Daddy, don't fall asleep in there!"
Peter rushed out and spent a good two hours watching the adventures of Dora and occasionally starting conversation which Lily shushed him, "Let me hear Dora!"
After the movie, they ate lunch and went to celebrate the New Year. Lily noticed that the environment was different, there were beggars that she recognised from cartoons because of their get up.
"Why are we here, daddy?" She tugged at his sleeve.
"To celebrate, of course."
"No I meant. . . " She motioned for him to come closer and whispered, "Poor people?"
Peter was proud of Lily's intelligence. They sat on a step on the stairs.
"Lily, I brought you here today because a princess has to be aware of her people's problems. They are underprivileged people but they have every right to celebrate, look at those jars."
It was a marvelous sight, jars were hung at distance from each other with golden dust glitter. Under the lights, they shone bright like a blue sky filled with stars, all in a jar.
"Are those more beautiful than the Japanese lamps?"
"Wow . . . " Lily had her lips curled and her eyes full of amazement. "I want to hang one too!"
Peter lifted her on his back, "Come on then!"
He put Lily down and stopped near a small shop with similar jars with glitter put separately on a table.
"How can I help you?" The shop owner beamed, "Enjoying the view?"
"Yes," Peter smiled kindly at the shop owner.
"Can I have a jar?"
A tiny voice said which made the shop owner hover over to the counter to see a small girl.
"Your daughter?" The shop owner raised his eyebrow in surprise as he asked him.
Peter nodded, "Here you go, sweetie. Put as much glitter as you want."
Lily took a fistful of glitter and put it in the jar.
"Good girl, let's hang it."
They found an empty space for the jar and Lily climbed a bunch of stairs to get at the same level as Peter. He looked with nothing but love in his eyes for his curious daughter. He took the jar from her hands and Lily looked at him questioningly.
"Lily, I want you to know that. . . . that Daddy might not be there for you."
"What do you mean?"
"I am going to your mommy, Lily. Do you know where she is?"
"You told me she is in heaven!"
"Yes, I will go to heaven and I won't come back."
"Lily, It is said that if you go once, you cannot come back again. Do you want mommy to be sad?"
"Will we be together?"
"Yes, some day."
"But what about me? What if I forget you?"
Her face looked panicked and Peter chuckled. "You have Aunt Carla."
"You'll never forget me, neither will I ever leave you if you hang this jar here. The small dust glitter will carry your love and wishes to me. They'll become stars and then I'll always see you from above because I'll always be there."
She hugged him and hung the jar.
"I love you, Lily."
"I love you too, Daddy!"
The next day Carla woke up to the sound of the door bell and saw that it was an invitation for Peter to Lily's dance recital. She looked at the clock and it was ten a.m. She went to Peter's room and jerked him but nothing. Worst thoughts came to her mind as she frantically searched for a pulse but it was no nightmare, it was real, Peter was dead. She slumped against the bed and sobbed.
She felt soft little hands caressing her eyes, and her vision cleared.
"Why are you crying, Aunt Carla?"
"Your dad. . . he's gone!" She hugged the girl.
"There is no reason to cry. Daddy told me he was going to visit mommy in heaven and we will be together one day!"
"Oh Peter! Lily, you are such a brave girl! Your daddy is with mommy, I just wasn't ready to let go."
Word Count : 1997