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Sing Me a Lullaby
The supposedly comfortable chair that Ellen Burns was sitting on was making her fidget. Models flashed their perfect smiles from the magazine covers stacked in front of her. She looked away, unnerved by their glamor. A paper coffee cup was next to it, stained a putrefying muddy brown after being refilled so many times. Ellen glared at the white washed, uniform walls that were devoid of any emotion. She hated that she even had to be here. She should have been at home, blissfully content with her whole family around her. Sighing heavily, she turned her gaze to the glass double doors, willing them to open. The ancient receptionist in front of Ellen gave her a stern frown over her owl-like spectacles. Conscious of her judgmental stare, Ellen looked at her watch for the hundredth time, wondering where he was. Suddenly, the doors burst open and he rushed in. She jumped to her feet and embraced him tightly.
“I came as fast as I could, Ellen. How is she?” he asked.
“She's in the other room, John. They won't let me see her.” she replied. John momentarily looked distraught, then the flash of emotion in his face disappeared. It was replaced by a tentative smile. They both plopped down onto the plush seats.
“Work was awful today... my boss would not let me go, even though I explained that this was urgent.”
“No wonder you took so long.”
“How are the kids?” he asked her.
“They are fine. Their Nan is looking after them.”
“Your mother is a saint.”
“Well, I wish she didn't have to be.” she said grimly, looking away from him.
“This is the third time that this has happened.”
“I know... this is probably my least favourite place to be in the entire world.” John caressed her hand in his. She leaned against his shoulder, tiredness seeping into her bones.
“John...about what I said when I called you..."
His face suddenly hardened.
“No, I won't do it.”
“But John...we have to. I believe that this is what's best.”
“Excuse me, would you like some coffee?” a kindly lady had walked up to John, interrupting the conversation.
“Yes, please,” he replied.
“Would you like some milk and sugar?”
“No, I will have it black, thank you.” Ellen looked on, intrigued. Maybe this place had some compassion in it after all. As soon as the lady walked away she took a deep breath, attempting to broach this subject again.
“Do you remember the day when we brought her home and we still couldn't decide what name to give her?”
“How could I forget?"Ellen smiled, “We named her Sadie, because I asked you to the Sadie Hawkins dance on our first date.”
"She was our perfect first anniversary present."
“Remember the time when you were playing ball together in the park and she fell into a ditch?"
“She is so clumsy...but came out with the ball in her mouth while covered with dirty leaves and muddy water, still smiling.”
“Do you remember the lullabies you sang?” her voice was softer now, more subdued.
“Her eyes would be wide and attentive at first. She even swayed to the music. Then, as the song went on, they would slowly...close.” John's voice trailed off. Neither of them spoke for a full five minutes.
“Hey, this coffee is actually really good.” he said suddenly.
“John, you are avoiding the subject."
" I just do not want to talk about it."
"We have to make this decision together." Ellen said, trying hard to hide the tremor in her voice.
“She will be fine.”
“We will only end up back here again!”
“Can we decide later?”
“This is not something that you can just brush aside and think about later.”
John jumped up and began agitatedly pacing back and forth. Anger flashed in his eyes and his veins bulged from his neck.
"How could you even think about doing this to her?"
"Don't you love her???"
"Of course I do! That is why we have to let them do it..."
" I have to stop them. I need her, Ellen." his voice broke.
Ellen looked deeply into the blue eyes that had captivated her heart fifteen years ago. Her own sorrow was mirrored back to her. Tracing her finger down his face, she felt the roughness of uneven stubble. John had probably not shaved for days. She pressed her forehead against his.
“John, stop thinking about yourself. Think about what is best for her."
John's lower lip quivered. Blinking rapidly, he fixed his gaze onto the mahogany wooden door across the hall from them, wishing that he had x-ray vision to see what was going on inside.
“Is there a simple procedure they could use to fix everything?” he said, his voice husky with frustration.
“No, John. This is our final option.”
“I wish that it didn't have to come to this.”
Ellen's eyes filled with tears, which began flowing like waterfalls down her face.
“I know. I will miss her so much...” she said.
“She needs you now, John.”
John nodded and slowly exhaled. He looked up as he saw the receptionist get up from her desk and walk over towards them.
“Have you made your decision?” she said.
“We have.” John replied.
The receptionist, upon seeing the look on John's face, bowed her head and patted his shoulder.
“I am so sorry. I see this happen everyday, but it does not make this any easier.” she said, the eyes that had been so condescending earlier now filled with pity. “You may go see her now.”
“Thank you.” John's voice wobbled as he spoke. As he started to get up from his seat, Ellen stopped him.
“Sing to her, John.” she said, “Sing her a lullaby.”
John swallowed and nodded, opening the wooden door and seeing his best friend awaiting him.