In the afternoon Patricia got sick. After lunch she didn’t get up from her chair, she just sat there and stared at the tablecloth. Her whole body seemed to be hurting, arms and legs were heavy as lead and behind her eyes there was a very unpleasant pressure. She couldn’t be bothered to move, she felt paralysed.
“I have a headache!” she said to her mother.
“Yes, sure”, said mother, “it seems you don’t feel like making your homework, am I right?”
“No, really, everything is hurting, my shoulders, my knees, my fingertips. I feel terrible, I couldn’t even touch anything.”
Now her mother became apprehensive and took a closer look at Patty: “Let’s see, maybe you really don’t look too well after all. Let’s just take your temperature!”
And then Patty was sent to bed with a hot water bottle and the doctor was called. He said he would come as soon as possible.
“Do you need anything else?” mother asked.
“No”, Patty said weakly, “I think I won’t ever need anything anymore!”
Mother drew the curtains and left Patty alone in the dim room.
“Try to sleep a little” she said, but Patty could not sleep. She lay there and her head was buzzing. She speculated which illness she might have.
Maybe I have cancer, she thought, or leukemia or tuberculosis. If it is tuberculosis, I will be sent to a sanatorium in the mountains. There they will give me lots of milk to drink and wrap me in lots of blankets and make me lie in a deckchair in the sun – if the sun is shining. And to my left and to my right only people with tuberculosis, and constantly you hear them coughing. Some get well again, but every day you can hear: So and so has passed away and what’s his name won’t make it much longer.
If it is cancer they will have to operate. No, it would be terrible if they would have to amputate an arm or a leg. Then I would be – disabled. No – handicapped. No – a person with special needs. But I could learn to ride a bicycle with just one leg and everyone would say how courageous she is! Even with one leg missing she is coping with life! And I could train hard and one day take part in the Paralympics and win a medal. Then my picture would be in the paper!
If it is leukemia there is no chance of survival. Somehow the blood is sick and slowly dissolves and you have to die. Not immediately, but after one or two years. I think. Would they tell me, if I have to die? Probably not. Probably they would tell me a white lie. Out of mercy. No, if I have to die, I want to know. If the doctor tells me I only have one or two years left, I will be very brave. Mom and Dad will be weeping, and I will comfort them and will tell them: “You don’t need to be sad. Isn’t it grand I have lived at all? And we still can have one or two
wonderful years together. And when I will be dead, you will always remember me as a little girl.” And then they will take me to all the wonderful places, to Paris and Venice and even to Disneyland, so I can see everything while there is time. And all my classmates will come and take leave of me and they will weep. And I don’t have to be considerate of Frederick any more, because he is little, but he will have to be considerate of me, because I don’t have much longer to live. And one day daddy will come home from work and will tell us that he has resigned, because it is not so important for him to become chief of the department and he would rather spend my remaining years together with me. And when we have seen all the important cities and Disneyland, we will buy a little cottage at the sea or in the mountains, with a flower garden around it and there we will live together quietly during the last year of my life. And we will have a horse and a donkey and a little dog and goats and sheep, and we will make excursions and picnics and will be very patient and friendly with each other, because our time is so short.
And then I will meet a handsome boy with dark eyes and we will fall in love with each other. We will take long walks together along the shore or through the woods and will tell each other all our secrets. And one day I will even tell him that I have leukemia and must die. And I will tell him to be brave.
And then I will slowly get weaker, and I will lie in a deckchair in the garden, and Frederick will play with the young goats, daddy will work in the orchard and Mummy will paint, I will say farewell to everything. And I will not be sad, because through me my family will have found true happiness, and they will never quarrel or be unkind to each other. And the boy with the dark eyes will come to visit me, and he will hold my hand and with a sad little smile I will fall asleep.
But then the doctor came felt her pulse and Patty had to open her mouth and show her tongue and then it was only the flu. Patty could have cried from frustration.