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Silence This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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The second the baby entered the world, a silence hung about her. The new father shuddered and the nurses let out a gasp.

The mother said, "Let me see my baby."

The doctor whispered comforting words while the nurses whisked the baby away down the hallway to the unusually quiet nursery.

The elderly nurse on duty shook her head and sighed. What a cursed life this child-thing would lead. She picked up a cloth and cleaned the baby, not cooing or speaking to it like she did the others.

The doctor walked into the mother's room, his face emotionless. Experience had taught him not to let his face tell the horrors he was about to reveal.

The father sat by the eager mother holding her hand.

"We have decided on a name," the mother said, excitement ringing in her voice.

Poor dear, the doctor thought. She does not know. Not even the best name could allow this one acceptance into the world.

"Her name is Jessica."

The doctor nodded and took a file from his briefcase. "I am not here about her name," he droned. "I am here to tell you of an illness your child has."

The smile faded from the mother's lips, but then returned. The father's brow furrowed.

The doctor paused for a moment, then continued. "This illness will not go away over time, nor is there a cure. Your daughter has Down syndrome, an illness caused by a genetic mutation in the ..."

"Thank you, doctor," the mother interrupted.

The doctor sat back, glaring. No one dared interrupt.

"I would like to see Jessica."

The doctor said nothing and left the room.

***

The father carried his new daughter into their little brick home. The dog trotted out, wagging its gray tail. The tail dropped at the sight of the father's cold eyes.

My wife is beautiful, he thought. My looks aren't bad, so how did we produce this? he wondered.

The mother fluttered around, anxious to make everything perfect for the new arrival. Jessica slept soundly the first night.

A year passed. The mother moved at a frantic pace around the house, adding a spot of icing to the cake, taking scissors and curling the bright red



ribbon tied to balloons.

"Everything's ready," she whispered.

Her husband said nothing. People bearing brightly colored packages rang the doorbell and were ushered inside. Their shouts of joy disturbed the heavy silence of the house as the mother brought her baby down the stairs. The people cooed as each held her. Liars, the husband thought.

The excited mother brought in a frosted strawberry cake, while a friend placed a single candle in the middle. The mother lit the candle, and led the crowd in singing "Happy Birthday." The mother took Jessica from a friend, faced her toward the candle and started to blow. Before she could a gust of wind burst through an open window, extinguishing the flame. The crowd fell quiet for the first time that morning. Taken aback, but not about to allow this to dampen the mood, the mother cheered. The father said nothing.

The mother's screams awoke the father one night many months later. He ran to Jessica's room and pushed open the door. The mother stood by the crib, Jessica in her arms.

"She's not breathing," she shrieked. "Do something - I don't know CPR."

The mother thrust Jessica into his arms and ran down the stairs to call 911. He laid Jessica down on the floor and administered five breaths. He heard his wife talking frantically as he struggled to help the baby breathe. He administered five more chest thrusts. Just stop, a voice whispered in his head. Let her die. Wouldn't that be best? What kind of life can a thing like this lead anyway?

No! another voice whispered. She is your daughter.

The father felt beads of sweat run down his forehead and hesitated. Let her go. No!

He continued. A harsh knock on the door and the paramedics dashed inside and took the baby.

"Your daughter has a heart problem," the doctor said.

You almost let her die. The father stood and walked out of the room. The mother shouted for him to come back, but nothing would draw him back to the room where his guilt lay waiting.

***

The mother looked into the nursery where her baby slept. Tears of joy filled her eyes; the surgery had been a success. After more tests, they would be able to take her home. Her heart twisted as she watched Jessica whimper in a feverish sleep. "Hush, little one," she whispered. "You're almost home."

Jessica no longer slept through the night; she often cried out. The mother came almost instantly, laying a damp rag across her forehead. Jessica whimpered when the coldness touched her face. The mother picked her up and cradled the baby in her arms. She always sang the same lullaby, "You are my Sunshine."

The father watched his wife and baby, silent with grief. She will never be my child, he thought.

"You're looking pale," the mother commented one sunny morning. "You should take a walk to the park."

The father agreed and went to find his coat.

"Take Jessica with you. She needs the sun, and I need some peace."

Before the father could make up an excuse, the mother ran up stairs to fetch her. He sighed and took out the baby stroller. His wife always tried to get them to bond, and could never understand why they could not be close.

The mother strapped Jessica in her stroller and kissed her cheek. The father said good-bye and pushed the stroller to the park, not saying a word. As if sensing his angry mood, Jessica did not coo. Twenty months and still not talking, the father thought.

The park was oddly quiet for that time of day. The father carried Jessica to a nearby sandbox and she ran her fingers through the sand, while the father hovered nearby. He watched her for a moment, then allowed his eyes to stray.

"Dada?"

He spun around and stared at the little girl. She stared back at him, holding a clump of sand in her hand.

"Dada?" she repeated, holding the clump toward him.

He ran to his daughter, tears forming. He scooped her up and held her in an embrace, murmuring, "Jessica, my little one, what have I done?"

Then the sounds exploded. An ambulance's siren screamed in the distance, a flock of geese honked above, and the wind rang fierce in his ears. Yet the sound of the father crying could be heard above all the rest. The silence had finally been broken.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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This article has 45 comments. Post your own!

jaydabirdThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Jan. 25 at 4:29 pm:
This was so beautiful. I was in tears at the end. Well done :)
 
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. said...
Dec. 29, 2012 at 4:22 pm:
So beautiful! Too beautiful for words.
 
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next.to.nothing said...
Jun. 6, 2009 at 3:46 am:
Honestly? At first the perspective of this story seemed iffy to me, and a tad awkward. But as I read, you won me over. This was a truly unique and meaningful story with excellent closure. And okay, I admit... by now, I like the whole thing. Even the perspective. Thank you. :)
 
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Ennui said...
Jun. 5, 2009 at 10:57 pm:
oh my god.
[deep breath]
this was really great. the author has a great way of building up the emotion then making you cry at the very end. keep writing. your really great at it.
great story.....
 
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ReneeAnne said...
Jun. 5, 2009 at 2:30 pm:
beautiful job.
i couldn't write something this beautiful if i tried.
 
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Kerry_Berry_101 said...
Jun. 5, 2009 at 2:05 pm:
That was too, too good. I loved it. Keep up the good work :)
 
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ShayShay said...
May 21, 2009 at 4:55 am:
This was such a passionate, moving story and I totally relate to it because my sister was born with Down Syndrome and she had a hole in her heart so shes had alot of surgeries relating to that. Now if anyone is interested here is a link to an amazing documentry film on people with Down Syndrome, warning though, you will cry. http://peterbarton.blip.tv/file/2111134/
 
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KaylaKissesAlways said...
Apr. 26, 2009 at 11:22 pm:
This is beautiful! The ending kinda got me though? Is he happy that she can speak or not? Oh well I'll figure it out ha ha! Awesome story, very heartwarming!
 
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Mr.Knightley said...
Apr. 22, 2009 at 3:41 pm:
I felt a lump in my chest as I read this, which is pretty much the closest I ever get to crying when I'm reading something. MUCH more deserving of the top article than Opulence.
 
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Sid said...
Feb. 7, 2009 at 2:17 am:
I Am Impressed With The Wonderful Writing Style I See And The Ability
To Move The Reader To Greater Heights!

Congratulations!
 
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PhoenixLord said...
Nov. 18, 2008 at 8:36 pm:
That was a great piece of work, it brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for your creativness.
 
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chaste_enigma said...
Nov. 18, 2008 at 8:35 pm:
i really enjoyed how it started out..
the silence really said alot
 
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gemstone said...
Nov. 18, 2008 at 8:32 pm:
It was a very interesting!but so sad!
 
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trk77 said...
Nov. 18, 2008 at 8:31 pm:
Your story really touched me, I have a cousin with down syndrome, and this story had me in tears. I love the imagery and the details, keep up the good writing.
 
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cryan90 said...
Nov. 18, 2008 at 8:30 pm:
This is a great piece of work!!!!!!!!!!
 
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QueenQuinnNukka16 said...
Nov. 18, 2008 at 8:26 pm:
wow, very amazing story. awesome use of dialogue. very moving.
 
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Jim S. said...
Nov. 18, 2008 at 8:21 pm:
What a great story!!!! I love it. Keep on truckin.
 
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AlixtheGolfer said...
Nov. 18, 2008 at 6:40 pm:
We have seen the light You have used it and made art Thank you for the love. :)
 
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masterlee406 said...
Nov. 18, 2008 at 6:39 pm:
I loved this story.
 
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JMAC said...
Nov. 18, 2008 at 6:38 pm:
The article was amazing! The passion that was put into this gives a strong message to the reader.
 
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