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Watching My Niece

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A little girl plays in the garden.
I sit back and watch her from my patio.
My niece has the assumption that nothing will ever go wrong in her life, so she whiles away her days frolicking.
Leila’s foot catches on something, and she falls over.
With a light-hearted laugh, she pushes herself up off the ground. She turns to look at me, and her cherubic face is rosy with delight. Leila lift’s a chubby hand to wave at me. I paint a smile on my face and raise my hand slightly.
My smile grows painful. I have to wait until my niece is looking away from me before I lift a white handkerchief to my mouth and muffle the gut-wrenching cough as well as I can.
I glance down at the piece of embroidered cloth. There’s a film of thick, yellow phlegm covering it. Harsh red blood glares back at me. I sigh as I fold up the hankie and slip it into my pocket. Another one ruined.
I tilt my head up and stare at the sunset through heavy eyelids. An angry yell of revulsion cuts through the air like a knife.
‘Leila!’ Caroline shrieks in disgust as she marches up to her daughter. ‘Put that filthy creature down this instant!’
My niece looks down at whatever she’s holding in her grubby hands. She bends down and a large rat scurries out of her grasp. Leila whispers something that is probably a farewell to her little friend.
My sister scoops her daughter up and strides through the door and into the kitchen. She shoots me an angry glower that says, ‘You were supposed to be watching her!’
I chuckle, which causes another fit of coughing. Caroline always was the drama-queen of our trio of siblings.
Looking over my shoulder and into the house, I see my sister furiously scrubbing little Leila’s hands with disinfectant.
I slide my hand under the blanket on my lap and quickly open the little cylinder with my thumb, retrieving a smooth pill. As I pop the foul-tasting pill in my mouth and swallow, I argue with myself silently. It’s such a beautiful evening, but I need to spend as much time with my family as I possibly can.
My health is deteriorating by the hour. My doctor said that I had six months left.
But that was before the towers went down five months ago. I didn’t have to explain what was wrong with me back then. Now, I can easily pretend that all my ailments come from being inside one of the Twin Towers when the aeroplanes went into them. I’m sure that I won’t be questioned; after all, who wants to argue with a cripple?
I manoeuvre my chair in a one-eighty and wheel myself inside. I plaster the usual mask of cheeriness on my face and shoot Caroline a cheeky grin, pretending that everything is okay. She, among many, is blissfully unaware, and I plan on keeping it that way.
I’m the only one that knows that I have less than a month to live, at most.



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