General Fiction posted December 7, 2014


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We can all make the most of Christmas if we try.

The Best Christmas Ever

by sandramitchell


He didn't say anything, he didn't need to. Monica had seen this artificial smile many, many times. It wasn't his fault, God, if he could give her his, he would in a millisecond. Not that she would have let him.

"Come and read to me," she smiled. He lowered his head and dropped a kiss on her forehead.

"What shall I read to you today? Not a slushy romance story, pur-leese," he moaned, exaggeratedly.

Monica giggled, "You are so funny. What's wrong with a good old-fashioned romance story?"

"Okay," he sighed. "If I must. What have we got here, Pinocchio, Huckleberry Finn..."

"Dad! They aren't romance stories! Let me see what you've got." She pretended to look through the list he gave her; she wasn't really interested today. "So, what did the doctor tell you?" she asked, offhandedly.

Peter closed his eyes, then turned and looked at her sadly. "The same as usual. As soon as they have one, we will know straight away."

He stared down at his little girl, lying on the hospital bed wired into the dialysis, the only thing that was keeping his precious daughter alive. She never complained, and he was becoming desperate for a kidney to be found. Monica had been born with just one kidney, just as her father had, but that was where the difference ended, her one kidney wasn't healthy. The labour had been complicated, which hadn't helped, and her mother, his lovely wife, went into a coma after the birth. She did see her beautiful daughter, and held her for the little time she remained conscious, ten very short minutes.

Peter was now facing the possibility of losing his beloved daughter. Her strength and zest for life with regular times on the dialysis, had kept her going. Now, unless a kidney became available soon, he didn't know how much longer her tired body could keep fighting.

Monica had insisted on having as normal a life as was possible, and refused to be coddled. "I might just as well have died with mummy if I am not allowed to enjoy what life I have," she told her father, angrily. It had come to a head when she was nine years old, she had made some friends at the nursery school in the hospital, and one by one they had left to go to normal school. Monica was told that wouldn't happen with her. They could not risk her getting an infection.

Monica's determination finally paid off though, her father agreed to have a word with the head teacher at the local secondary school. The following week, Monica started 'real' school. All her friends were there to help her if it was necessary, and she'd made loads more. They were all taught to take care when they played about outside in the playground, so it was no big thing when Monica came out with them.

Peter sat at his daughter's side, looking at her sleeping face. She often fell asleep nowadays, she was always so tired. He looked at the cross above her bed, and silently prayed. He wasn't a religious man, but it seemed natural to ask for His help now. In the past, he had always had an answer for the church goers who persistently knocked on his door trying their hardest to convert him. How can a good loving God, allow a child to suffer and the wicked live healthy, prosperous lives? No one could give him the answer he needed. It was always...God's plan...he had to see the bigger picture...only God knew the answers... Well that wasn't good enough for Peter, and until they could come up with an answer to satisfy him, they were sent away with a flea in their ears.

A nurse came into the room, and looked at Monica. She used the latest temperature gauge that could take temperature readings simply by placing it on the patient's skin. She frowned slightly when the reading appeared.

"What is it?" Peter asked. He had become quite knowledgeable at this, hell, he'd been watching this for nearly sixteen years now!

"It's a bit high. I wouldn't start worrying now, but I am going to get the doctor to pop in and see her." She put the thermometer away, and left the room.

~*~*~*~*~*~

"What is it?" Monica asked her father, her face flushed with excitement. She gave the box a shake, it rattled. "Can I open it now? Please, Daddy?"

"It's not your birthday until tomorrow," Peter had laughed.

"I know...but then it is Christmas day after that, and I will have so many presents, I will forget what I got for my birthday. Please, Daddy, can I?"

"Who said you would be getting loads of presents for Christmas?" How could he deny his daughter anything, not when her face looked up at his with that pleading expression? It was her fifteenth birthday. "Oh, go on then," he scowled, which had made Monica laugh even more.

She sat down on the floor and ripped off the paper, "Oh, my!" Monica leapt up and started looking around. "Where is it?" she cried out.

Peter looked at her and frowned again. "Where is what?" he asked her seriously. "I thought you would like a collar with a bell on it!"

"It's not for me!" she screamed out laughing again. "Come on, Daddy, where is my kitten?"

"Kitten! Did you say, kitten? Oh dear, did I forget something?"

"Daddy, stop joking with me, where is my kitten!" Monica stood in front of Peter, one hand on her hip, and the other waving a finger at him.

Peter couldn't keep it up; he laughed and took hold of her pointed finger, leading her into the kitchen. There in a basket on the floor, so snug and small, was the cutest little black and white kitten Monica had ever seen.

"Oh, Daddy," she whispered, "Is he mine? Can I keep him? What is his name? Can I give him a name?" Without waiting for an answer she turned and ran into her father's arms. "Thank you so much, Daddy! I love you millions!"

~*~*~*~*~*~

The door opened and brought Peter back from his thoughts. It was Doctor Keith Richards. Peter relaxed, he had known the doctor since Monica's birth and trusted him implicitly. Now he stood up and watched as he took Monica's temperature and listened to her pulse. Next, he checked the tubes that were inserted into her arms. The machine gave him the readings he needed. It was all working fine, but the blood was not as good as it should be. Monica had been coming for dialysis treatment for many years now, and this was going to happen one day. Only having the one kidney was the problem when it wasn't a healthy one. Most people can live a full life with just one healthy kidney, with no ill effects. Monica was not that fortunate.

The doctor looked up at Peter. "Can we go outside?" he asked him.

Peter nodded, afraid to open his mouth, afraid to ask the question that was always on his mind. How long?

"Peter, I've got to be honest, it isn't looking good," Doctor Richards told him when they were standing in the corridor outside Monica's hospital room. "She is getting weaker by the day and the dialysis is not helping her much any more. The kidney just can't take it.

Peter paled visibly. Still, he couldn't speak, he nodded again.

"I want to put Monica into an artificial coma. It will take the strain off her body for a while. I'm hoping it will give us some more time." He reached out and put his hand on Peter's arm. "I know just how hard this is for you. You have had a rough time of it, losing Pamela, and your daughter being so ill. I don't want to give you false hope, but Monica is so young, I want to give her every chance I can. Her name is on the emergency list, which appears on every hospital transplant list there is. What do you think?"

Peter couldn't stop nodding. His mind was reeling, "I know you will do your absolute best for her, Keith, but I think I'd like to talk to Monica first. She might only be a child, but she knows the score...I've never lied to her, and I am not going to now."

It was the doctor's turn to nod. "I understand. Monica means as much to me as...well, I almost think of her as part of my family. I've known her all her life." They both stared through the window in the door. She had woken again, and saw them through the window and smiled. "Do you want me to come with you?"

"No. Thanks, Keith, but I think I should do this myself." Keith nodded, he understood.

~*~*~*~*~*~

"Oh, he's adorable!" Monica squealed with delight, "I'm going to call him...Socks!"

"Socks? What sort of name is that?" Peter grinned, "I was thinking of, Sprog, or Spud, but Socks! Where did that come from?"

"Look at his legs...they are black and he has white fluffy socks on his paws, so that is his name...Socks!"

"Okay, he is your kitten, so you have to name him. Socks, it is."

It wasn't long before Socks was turning the lounge into a cat's playroom. He loved to run along the polished wood floor in the hallway, jumping onto the small rug to slide along the whole length of the floor in the lounge. He had almost shredded Peter's old school scarf to bits, but he couldn't be angry, not when Socks was making Monica laugh so much.

It was strange, Socks acted more like a puppy dog, than a cute little kitten. Whenever Monica came into the room, Socks wanted to be on her lap. Sometimes Peter had the idea that the kitten knew that Monica was ill. Did he also know something else?

Peter had noticed the last few evenings when he had gone home alone, Socks had not looked for Monica. That was really unusual. He would come and sit on his lap now, and just stare at him.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Pulling his chair closer to Monica's bed, Peter took hold of her small, graceful hand and stroked it lovingly. He remembered holding it just as gently, moments after her birth. He had been so overwhelmed by the force of his love for this tiny little creature that had come into being from his and Pamela's love for each other. He remembered again how the joy had then turned into a terrible cold despair, as he had held his wife in his arms, watching as her life ebbed away.

How could God be so cruel? How can you do this, God? You have taken everything ...everything ...Why? Peter closed his eyes, and then blinked hard. A few years ago, he had asked to be tested as a possible donor, but because he only had the one kidney, the request had been refused.

"I have just been speaking to Dr Keith, sweetheart." He looked straight into her eyes, he wanted her to know he was not keeping anything from her.

"It's not good, is it?" It wasn't a question, it was a stated fact. She smiled, just a faint one, but her eyes told him it was all right. "I feel so tired, Daddy, I knew I would not be getting better this time."

"Dr Keith asked me if he could put you to sleep for a little while, just to give your body a rest. It has had to work very hard just lately, that's why you are so tired." Peter looked at his daughter, and in that moment, he knew...he just knew she would say, no! Why? Why would she do that?

She released her hand from his and reached up to wipe the tears that were falling freely from his eyes. "Don't worry about me, Daddy. Mummy has been here with me for quite a while now, I wasn't allowed to tell you...until now. She is going to take care of me now, Daddy."

Peter frowned, "Your mummy?"

"Yes, she told me to tell you, it will be all right."

"But...your mummy is..."

"She passed over, Daddy, and she is waiting for me, and then we will wait for you when the time is right. Daddy, don't cry, please, Daddy. We will be near you, all the time." Monica brought his hand back into hers and brought it to her lips. "I want you to tell Dr Keith, that I am too tired now. Will you do that for me, Daddy?"

Peter realised he had been holding his breath, suddenly, he gasped. He felt drained. All the pent up emotions he'd being keeping so controlled for so long, suddenly collided forcefully in his head. He knew he had lost the fight.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Christmas day came, Peter took Monica's things out of the locker in her hospital room, and put them in a bag to take home. "Right, are you ready?"

"Yes, Daddy, let's go see Socks, and my presents!"

"Presents? Oh no! What day is it?"

"Oh, Daddy, you do like to tease!"

The ambulance drove right up to their house and wheeled the hospital bed indoors. They had all decided that Monica should come home and spend what time she had left with her dad and her kitten. This would be the best Christmas Monica could have, Peter had made sure of that. All her friends came, everyone made the day the happiest ever. No tears, no talk of dialysis, nothing was allowed but having fun.

It was, in Monica's words, "The best Christmas ever!"






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