The prompt: "When the shoebox rattled and moved, I decided I should open it..."
What came out of my head:
"When the shoebox rattled and moved, I decided I should open it," Tracy read. Matthew snuggled up to Tracy as she paused. She was waiting for him to plead for her to keep going. When he didn't, she looked down to see if he was asleep. His eyes were open but the light in them was dim.
"Matt? Are you ok? Tired?"
"I'm ok. I like the story."
Tracy sighed but kept reading. "I pushed up the lid with my thumb to see if anything tried to get out. The magician had warned me not to open the box while he was away. But I had left the doughnut - my favorite doughnut - right next to the box when I went to answer the phone and now it was gone. That chocolate-covered-lemon-filled goodness was gone. And I wanted it back."
Tracy looked down at Matthew again. He loved doughnuts but no reaction. Tracy leaned to the side a little to get a better view. Matthew's head moved with her and continued to rest on her arm. Tracy propped the book open on her lap, sunk her fingers into his soft, curly hair and squeezed like she was shopping for melons.
"Hmm, not overly ripe, not too soft. Just right."
"I'm not fruit, mom," Matthew said without looking up. He was too tired now to even protest her not finishing the story. His eyelids would softly close then snap open like a windowshade opened by an invisible hand.
"Are you tired sweetie?"?
"A little," Matthew said, his eyes closed once again. "Let's finish it tomorrow."
Tracy stroked his head again and leaned over to take his temperature with her kiss. "You need to rest. Tomorrow you'll go to the hospital, you'll see how the count looks, huh? You'll get the magic elixir, you know? You'll feel a little better. A lot better. I promise."
Matthew said nothing. He had been living with his cancer for five of his 10 years. He had reached a place where his chemotherapy was more for his mother's benefit than his own. He was tired more than she cared to recognize. She refused to see it because she had her hope. She spent time on the chemo circuit, the group of parents she saw every time she took Matthew for his treatments. They supported each other. Shared research and news of miracle cures. That was where she had heard of the 3-month program at the private German hospital. They could devote the precious time needed to look for the root of his mysterious cancer so that a proper treatment could be set in place or, dared she hope, a cure could be found. She just needed the funds. It was more than her husband's salary as a police officer could bear. She was the one with the faith. She had to be the one to find the way.
She slid her arm from under Matthew's head and laid him on his pillow. She kissed his forehead again. "Am I warm," Matthew asked.
"That wasn't for me, baby. That was for you."
Covering him up, she laid his book on the nightstand and clutched herself as she looked around his neat room. He didn't even have the energy to be messy anymore. What she wouldn't give to be stepping over toys on the floor again like she did when he was little.
Flipping the switch on his wall, she looked over at him again. With the onset of his illness, she had never gotten out of the habit of watching him breathe. She closed his door softly then stepped around the creaky floorboard to walk the short distance to the next bedroom.
She checked on the twins, Lisa and Evan, as they slept in their cribs. Sniffing the air, she smelled their new baby essence. Stepping to their beds she looked down at each of them, watching their creaseless lips close briefly then part as they silently huffed in their sleep.
She tiptoed from their room and opened the adjacent door. Her husband, Aaron, was as sound asleep as the rest and she didn't want to disturb him. He had a busy day the next day and he needed his rest.
Creeping down the steps, she walked carefully to the kitchen to start her tea. She typically would drink a cup while prowling the web; visiting her favorite cancer chat rooms and reading up on the latest news on Cell Phone, the science e-magazine that had the latest controversial research on all sorts of diseases. Sometimes the articles focused on the metaphysical and the spiritual, revealing some surreal methods people took to cure themselves or their loved ones. Sometimes it talked of the ones who opted to take control of how they would live and when they would die.
As her water got hot in the kitchen, she powered up her laptop in the living room, then went back to prepare the cup of tea. She mixed and stirred the liquid in her favorite Moms Rule mug. Then she got a saucer from one cabinet as she looked in the next one for the can of almonds she had placed on the top shelf.
She took the tea and nuts back to her favorite chair, placing the items on the table beside her. The laptop sat on the ottoman, singing its brief song of introduction. She sipped the large cup of tea as she waited, frowning a bit at the heat and slightly bitter taste. When the welcoming screen had come and gone, she called up her favorite sites and made her rounds. There was no need to study the latest research tonight. She would check in on all her friends instead. She took another sip of the tea as she called up her blog and began to write the posts she had been conjuring in her head all day. She shook her head, trying to fight the fatigue, and continued to write until she had emptied herself on the screen.
Minimizing the blog, she called up her email to check in with her brother who worked for the Bank of London and was sometimes online at this hour. Except she kept herself invisible to him and opted to email him instead. He was online for clients but he wouldn't be checking his email until he was on the tube going home.
Tracy laid her head back and closed her eyes for a moment, daydreaming of a healthy and happy Matthew. Being 9 1/2 years older than the babies, she imagined him relishing his big brother role, finally able to keep up with the life he should have.
Tracy finished off the tea and ate a couple of the almonds. She bit one last one in half and put the other half of it on the plate. Setting the laptop back on the ottoman in front of her, she propped up her feet, pulled the blanket off the arm of the chair that she kept there and covered herself. She laid her head back and imagined the peace that she longed for Matthew to have, the peace he would have, the peace she now gave him just as she had given the rest of what she had.
The insurance money would surely be enough to fund his trip to Germany, she thought. They would be able to pay off the house, have at least some money for all the kids to go to college, but more importantly, there would be money for Matthew's radical treatment. She had heard through the circuit of the privileged few children who had had miraculous turnarounds at the clinic. She knew in her heart, Matthew's hope was there.
As she rested, her eyes flew open as she remembered a link she wanted to include in her post. The one that referred to her post from 6 months ago when she first started eating almonds for their health benefit. She needed to make sure she fixed that, and fought back the blurriness in her eyes as she made her final change.
"There," she said. "It is done." The smell of almonds was now a fixture in her home. Her blog said so. She loved them. Her husband had witnessed that. When the mortician smelled the almond smell on her, they would say, "She loved almonds, that's all." No one would suspect a thing as her grieving family claimed the money they deserved so they could finally live the life she had dreamed for them all along.
What's this about, Monica?
You don't know? Why, it's my own March Madness!
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