“How long has she had the fever?” asked Doctor Martin Ray as he stepped into his son-in-law’s house.
After Alex closed the door behind him, he said, “For about four days. I keep trying to give her medicine, but she refuses it every time,” Martin gave him a solemn nod and replied simply, “Maybe that just means she’s ready."
“Ready for what, Doctor?”
“To accept the fate that’s been given to her."
“Are you suggesting what I think you are?” Alex snarled, grabbing the older man’s shoulder. “How could you say that about your own daughter?!”
Keeping his calm composure, the doctor gently took hold of the cowboy’s hand and removed it from his shoulder. “I’m not, son,” he murmured, “I am speaking on the behalf of my patient. And I can assure you, she isn’t the first loved one I’ve watched die. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I would like to speak with her.”
Dumbstruck, Alex watched as Martin silently headed down the hallway and towards his patient’s bedroom.
Alice’s tired eyes cracked open upon hearing the door squeak open, and offered her father a weak smile when he popped his head in.
“Hello, Daddy,” she rasped.
Martin returned her smile and walked over to her. “Hello, dear,” he whispered, taking in the heartbreaking sight of the newlywed with the aid of the candlelight on her bedside table. Her long auburn hair was dirty, her complexion was deathly pale, and her lidded blue eyes seemed to lack any signs of life.
“Did Alex send you?” Alice asked, her lips twisting into a grimace.
Martin nodded and placed his medical bag down onto the floor. He then knelt before it, tugged it open, and took out a clear bottle that sloshed with a dark liquid. Seconds later, he stood back up and showed her the bottle.
After examining it, Alice immediately shook her head and mumbled, “I don’t want it."
“And why is that?”
“Because I want to see Mother again.”
The doctor’s heart skipped a beat at the mention of his wife, and he gingerly placed a wrinkled hand upon his daughter’s sweaty forehead. “I know you do,” he whispered, slowly stroking her hot skin with his thumb, “but I can assure you, making yourself ill is not the way to do it.”
“That’s how Mother died,” Alice retorted. “I don’t see anything wrong with it.”
“Yes, but she was ready to see God,” Martin shot back. “You’re not. You’re too young, Alice. Now…” he continued while impatiently tapping on the bottle’s glass, “…you are going to overcome this fever whether you want to or not.”
Once again, Alice shook her head and closed her eyes momentarily, frightening Martin. With trembling fingers, he placed his index and middle finger upon his daughter’s neck, and to his relief, she still had a pulse. “I miss her, Daddy,” came a weak whisper from her pale lips. “Don’t you?”
Frowning, Martin whispered back, “Yes. Everyday. But, I’ll miss you more."
“I’ll try to wait.” replied Alice, her voice growing quieter with each word. Taking notice of the volume change, Martin quickly uncorked the bottle and put it to his daughter’s lips. But before he could lift her head to force the medicine down, Alice released a deep sigh that sent a chill across the doctor’s spine. No, no, no, thought Martin in a panic. You said you’d wait!
“Wake up,” he ordered softly, but she did not stir. “Alice, please, wake up!” He ordered, louder this time. “Don’t leave!” But to his horror, her eyes remained closed.
Beside him, the candle’s flicker became noticeably weaker.
Hannah Bartberger is a sophomore at LSSC.