Notes: I can pretty much say I failed the Writing Blitz. This is a really short chapter, maybe 1600 words, if that. At least this is the last chapter of the 'prologue' so Chapter Four will be a bit... different, I guess?
Anyway, I didn't enjoy writing this chapter that much, which is probably why it took so long to write it. It wasn't fun, and research for the best of me since I had to check facts here and there, although you might not notice. Even so, I'd like it if you corrected me on things, because I might have overlooked a few things. All comments are welcome, though!
Phyllis hated to lie, especially to her patients. Some looked up to her with hope, hope for good news. And lying about good news brought them down, eventually. Just harder than it would have if she had been honest to begin with. Maybe she shouldn’t have been a doctor, but she had been doing it for a few years now and couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Besides, it would have been a waste of all that schooling she went through.
She gulped and walked into the next patient’s room with another cheap smile. The patient was reading when she came in. He looked terrible — horribly thin and faintly breathing combined with the deathly sound of the heartbeat monitor, beeping steadily. She hated that sound.
“Good afternoon, Doctor,” said the boy, looking up from his book.
Ignoring his greeting, Phyllis read from her clipboard, “Marcelo, is it?”
He nodded excitedly. But why? Why would he be excited to be in the hospital? Surely he was delusional. Or he was hopeful like the others. Unfortunately, all she had to give was bad, bad news. The diagnosis was set and couldn’t be changed – the disease was incurable, or so the research said.
And then the look on his face made her want to lie even more. His face was weathered, yet at the same time it was beaming. She swallowed her pride and pulled out a pen to act as if she was going to take notes. “How long do you think you’re going to be here?”
“In the hospital? Well, I guess until I’m better.” He sounded so sure of it.
“What if I told you you’d never get better?”
Then he smiled. “I wouldn’t mind that at all, Doctor.”
That answer confused her, although it relieved her slightly. There was a lot to this boy. “What do you mean? There are a lot of things you could be doing instead of lying in a bed. There are so many places you could be instead of a hospital. Don’t you want to be elsewhere?”
“Of course. I’d love that, but I’m stuck here and there’s not much I can do about it. I’ll get better eventually.”
His conviction was killing her on the inside. “And how are you so sure?”
“You can never be sure about anything,” he said. “I just trust you.”
“Yes, but you can’t trust me with saving your life from a chronic disease,” said Phyllis, and it was only afterwards did she realize how blunt she was.
But it was too late – his calm demeanor visibly faded into worry as a frown crept onto his face. Worry was written all over him. “So it’s true.”
“How long until I . . .?” His voiced trailed off at the end to a mumble.
“It’s variable, but you have a year, a few if you’re lucky.” Another lie, so Phyllis bit her lip to stop herself from talking.
He was quiet for a while, and Phyllis waited for him to speak. Marcelo had a strange look on his face, pondering. Then he made some muffled laughing sound.
Confused, she asked, “Why are you laughing?”
“It’s just that I’ve always wanted to be a trainer. I grew up on a daycare and pokemon are all I know — they’re the only thing I’ve ever dreamed about. Now, that’s all gone. It’s funny and sad.” He looked away from her, but she could still see him wipe tears from his face. Quietly, he added, “Laughing and crying at the same time hurts.”
There must have been something more encouraging to say, but Phyllis couldn’t imagine what. So she leaned over and touched him on the shoulder, trying to bring some sort of comfort to him. He didn’t know how to react, so he continued to giggle while weeping.
And then she realized something. Marcelo could be a trainer with a bit of luck. She didn’t believe in miracles, but this was the best she could do. “I could help you become a trainer. There would be a ton of precautions and regular check-ups, but it could happen.”
Marcelo wiped stray tears from his face and looked up at her. “Really? That would mean a lot, Doctor. But are you sure it’s possible? There must be a rule against cases like mine going.”
“For good reason,” said another man, walking in. Bags accented his eyes, but he stepped with vigor. “Marcelo, just what do you think you’re doing? You know you can’t go on a journey.”
He looked down, so Phyllis spoke up for him. “You must be his father then?”
“Yes, and your suggestion is insane! He will get better and then he can go, but for now, he’s staying put. He’s going to get treatment!”
“Let’s talk outside.” They went out of the room and walked into the hallway. She gulped, trying to find an easier way to tell him his son was going to die, but there was no other way. Finding a more secluded spot, Phyllis gulped and said, “Marcelo’s condition has only gotten worse. We’ve discovered that his disease is beyond treatment. I’m sorry.”
His father took the news without saying anything at first. Then quietly, he said, “That’s impossible.”
“As of now, you want to consider what would be best for him. His only wish is to leave. Are you really going to take that away?”
“I know that’s what he wants!”
“Then you should understand—“
“I can’t let him go out there! He could die or collapse, and no one will be there to help him. What kind of parent would I be if I let that happen?”
Calmly, she said, “And would you prefer him to stay here, living his last days in a hospital?”
“If there’s a chance he’d survive, yes.”
“I already told you, it’s incurable. He’ll be lucky if he lives through the end of this year.”
“But you told him—“
She raised her hand, and he stopped talking. “I know what I told him. He won’t last long here. There’s nothing for him to do, and his morale will be crippled. Give him this one opportunity to see the world and do what he wants to. He deserves the freedom.”
He sighed and seemed convinced. “I don’t like this one bit, Doctor.”
“Your child’s happiness will be your own. That’s the goal of a parent, isn’t it?”
“Yes, but I always wanted him to bury me, not the other way around.” With that, he headed back to Marcelo’s room.
Phyllis went in the opposite direction and went in her office, where she shoved the papers off her desk and laid her head down.
She didn’t go home that night.
When Phyllis woke up, it was late. She didn’t bother to check the time, not that it mattered.
Her head lifted off the discharge forms for Marcelo, all filled out.
The only thing left was to hand it to him, but would his father let him go? More importantly, why did she even bother? He was just an ordinary patient, no different from the next. Still, something got her to do this for him, but what?
She pondered this as she found her way back to his room. Papers in hand, she prepared to leave them on his bedside table, knocking softly before she entered.
It was surprising to find Marcelo sitting up on his bed, watching a pokemon battle. Given his condition, he should have been resting, but Phyllis wasn’t in the mood to lecture him; she wanted to give him the documents quickly so that she could go back to her office and . . .
“Doctor, what are you doing here?” Marcelo asked. “Aren’t you supposed to be home?”
“And you’re supposed to be resting.” She approached his bed. “Watching the league tournament?”
He nodded. “My friend’s battling.”
“Really? Which is your friend?”
“Her.” He pointed at the girl on the screen. “Her name’s Connie.”
They watched the battle silently before she asked suddenly, “Do you still want to go on a journey, Marcelo?”
He turned away from the screen to look at her and sighed. “My father would never let me.”
“I’ll talk to him about it. I just need to know if you want to.”
But he didn’t answer directly. Instead, he asked, “Why do you want to do this for me?”
She wasn’t sure how to answer him. In fact, she didn’t even know herself. “Good will,” she lied.
Marcelo said nothing, as if he was acknowledging that she lied. Then he said, “Yes, Doctor, I’d like to go on a journey.”
That was all he had to say. She handed him the papers, asking him to sign them. Phyllis wanted to say something else, something to comfort him, but she couldn’t. This was all she could do for him.
The television exploded with excitement as the girl won the battle, and for the first time, Phyllis saw Marcelo truly happy.
In the morning, Marcelo was formally discharged after five days in the hospital.
He had little time to live, and Phyllis was sure he’d ignore it. With whatever life he had left, it was going to be fulfilling. She saw to that. She promised him that much, after all.
It felt good to tell the truth for once.