Prompt Day #310: Depict parents who are nervously suspecting that their young child might actually be “forever young” – not physically aging at all.
An Insect in Amber
“I’ve been thinking about taking Cricket to Dr. Taylor.” Renee said quietly to her husband. She didn’t want her daughter to hear. She looked over at her little girl, her little miracle, sitting so still on the couch. The girl barely spoke anymore. Didn’t interact appropriately but even more worrisome was that for the last five years, Cricket hadn’t developed further. Renee had assumed the scars were not allowing her skin to stretch and grow properly, but now, it was becoming obvious that there was more to it. At twelve years old, Cricket should be showing signs of puberty, but she hadn’t changed a bit since the fire.
“The same doctor who told us she was going to die? Who said we needed to let her go?” Mark asked. He had noticed (of course he had) that she didn’t seem to be growing. “Besides, it’s the scars. We need to be better about her skin care, that’s all. More moisturizer.”
“Mark, she is twelve. It’s not like I can keep doing it for her. She is old enough to not have her mother rubbing her naked body down every day, you know?”
“Look, what good is it going to do her emotionally by taking her to the doctor and presenting her as a freak in a different way? Don’t you think she realizes how different she is?” Mark just wanted to protect her for as long as he could. He’d done so much in the last five years to protect her from the awful things children say and do to each other (not to mention the stares of ignorant adults). After they brought Cricket home from the hospital, Renee quit her job to stay with her. When they did take their daughter out into the world which was infrequent, they covered her up.
“But she already knows something isn’t right!” Renee whined. “She barely talks to us, she never comes out of her room, she just…”
“She is just a normal adolescent. That’s what they do. They brood.” Mark interrupted.
“Mark, I’m taking her.”
“How about a compromise?” He sighed. “Why don’t you make an appointment just for the two of you to sit down and talk? Don’t take Cricket. If Dr. Taylor thinks we have cause for concern, fine, then you make an appointment.”
Renee considered it. What harm would it do? It might save Cricket the embarrassment of the overly concerned mother if Dr. Taylor felt it wasn’t anything to worry about. And if he did, she could ask all the important questions then, again saving Cricket the discomfort of once again being the freak in the room. She agreed.
“Mrs. Marsh, how are you? It’s good to see you again. How’s Mark?” Dr. Taylor asked.
“Mark is fine. It’s Cricket I wanted to talk to you about.” She said. She saw Dr. Taylor’s back straighten, his lips tightened down on each other forming a thin, pale line. He probably assumed she was going to bring up how he had believed Cricket wouldn’t survive. How he had even at one time encouraged them to pull the plug.
“Poor little Cricket. How long has it been now, four, five years?” He was trying very hard to sound conversational but Renee could see he was uncomfortable.
“Yes. Five years. Five years since our lives changed dramatically. But that’s what I wanted to talk to you about. Change.”
“It takes time.” He said. Renee furrowed her brow in confusion.
“What does?” she asked, unsure if they were discussing the same topic any more.
“Change, moving on with life, getting over such a tragedy.” Dr. Taylor answered.
“But it’s been five years and she isn’t changing. Not at all. She is twelve now. She looks exactly the same as she did the day of the fire.” Renee explained, trying to get the conversation back on track. Dr. Taylor had a deep crease in his forehead that Renee watched grow ever deeper as she spoke. His lips thinned again and he leaned over, resting his elbows on his knees.
“Renee, Cricket is never going to grow up. She is never going to change. She is gone. Dead. We can continue to celebrate birthdays, if it helps with your grief process. But she is never going to be more than seven years old. We’ve been through this. Do you think you need to go back on your anxiety medications?”
“You know,” Renee said standing up “I forgave you for saying she was going to die, I forgave you for telling me to pull the plug on my own daughter but this continued nonsense has got to stop. She is most certainly still alive. I see her every day. And Mark does too.”
“Mark needs help too. I wish he would agree to talk to me, but he never comes. Have you noticed that? He never comes to these appointments. Just you. We go through this at least once a year, Renee. You have to let her go.” He pulled a paper off his clipboard. “Here, I made you another copy of the death certificate. Take this home and sit down with Mark and try to remember what really happened. Cricket is dead. You are still seeing her because you have preserved her memory so well in your mind, she’s like a little bug trapped in amber. Let her go, let her go wherever her spirit needs to so you can all move on.”
Renee grabbed the paper and walked out. She sobbed all the way home. It couldn’t be true. Dr. Taylor was just angry because he’d been wrong. She would go home and show Mark this preposterous document and he would know what to think. And then, she would find Cricket and hold her and kiss her and tell her how very much her mom and dad love her.
“Mark? Mark?” She called out. The house was silent. She checked the rooms downstairs…nothing. She walked up the steps to their bedroom. He wasn’t there. She saw that Cricket’s door was opened slightly. Odd, Cricket liked it shut all the way. She knocked lightly on it.
“Crick? Are you in here honey?” She asked. She could hear the sounds of crying coming from within. She pushed the door open and there was Mark sitting on the Dora the Explorer bedspread.
“Mark? Are you alright? Where’s Cricket?” Renee asked. Her heart suddenly pounding in her chest. She felt the room tilt and it made her dizzy. She tried to focus on a single object for balance. The stuffed animals, the tea set, the brand new box of Play-Doh sitting on the shelf. All the items she and Mark had bought and carefully replaced after the fire. All the things set for their little girl to come home to as if nothing ever happened. Things that hadn’t been touched since the day they’d put them there.
“Oh my God” she said and sat down beside her husband and mourned the loss of their daughter.