Wilhelmina Winters, Sixty-Two

Dr. Sullivan didn’t even wait for a response, a welcome. The door closed smartly behind her starched coat and the curtain rings made no more sound than was necessary. Wil even saw the swirling waves of heat from the wall registers keep to their proper paths. Dr. Sullivan strode past them all and stood near the foot of Cynthia’s bed.

Pulling out a tablet and barely glancing at its activated screen, she said, “And how are we feeling today, Mrs. Winters?”

Cynthia sat up a bit against her pillows. Rob’s hand and her IV followed along. “I..” she looked at Rob, Jakob, and lingered on Wil. “I had a little trouble breathing.”

“She had two coughing spells.” Rob said. “Couldn’t seem to stop.” He lifted his chin to meet Dr. Sullivan’s gaze, avoiding his wife’s.

Wil studied the doctor as well. She saw Jakob’s head move upward, from the corner of her eye. The respiratory physician smiled slightly, checked her records a second time, and addressed Cynthia. “Is that true about the coughing, Mrs. Winters?”

The angelic blonde hair on the bleach-white pillow shifted as Cynthia repositioned again. “Yes,” she whispered.

“Would you say these spells are increasing in intensity and/or frequency?”

Cynthia’s blue eyes met Wil’s dark ones, then each looked down at her hands. “Yes.”

Dr. Sullivan cleared her throat. “I’d like to discuss a few more issues with you, Mrs. Winters, Mr. Winters. But, perhaps you’d rather do so more …privately?”

False-down coat rustling told Wil that Jakob moved when she did, though she was the only one to stand. From a dark tunnel of recovering betrayal, a small part inside her found an anchoring emotion: indignation. “No!” she almost shouted.

Even Dr. Sullivan looked at Wil in surprise, though the stern-faced woman kept her peace. Instead, Cynthia spoke. “We just determined to not keep any more secrets,” she explained to the doctor.

If she wondered at how many secrets they could possibly have entertained recently, Dr. Sullivan chose to move past that revelation. “I see,” she said. “Are you certain? Many patients feel the information to be…” she searched the suspended ceiling tiles for the right word.

Deadly, thought Wil.

“-emotionally stressful for family members,” Dr. Sullivan finished.

Rob’s hand found a stronger hold on Cynthia’s fingers. “We’re sure.”

Wil’s focus shifted to her father. She thought back to the letter she’d just read, from a woman who claimed to have birthed her. Dependable, Guinevere Greene had called Rob, after crossing out boring. His deep-voiced response to the impersonal doctor echoed in Wil’s mind and his strong, determined profile sat before her. “You’re wrong,” she whispered to the phantom letter-writer, “He’s even more than ‘dependable.'”

Rob gave his daughter a confused expression, then turned back to Dr. Sullivan.

“In that case,” Dr. Sullivan said, “I’d better take a seat.” Her eyes roved the room till they caught sight of another plastic and metal chair resting by the cream-patterned curtain. She pulled the chair over and perched on its edge. “We will need a few minutes, and I want everyone to be clear about what I discuss with you.”

 

Continued from Sixty-One.
Keep reading to Sixty-Three.

Happy Birthday to Me

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March 23rd was my birthday. As an adult and a parent, it’s not like I expect a lot of streamers, balloons, presents, or even free time to use the bathroom uninterrupted. I’m just mentioning it to explain why there is a picture of dessert at the top of this post.

Birthdays=cake. Right?

Right.

My side job involves monkey-typewriter skills to produce content for those annoying webpages you go to when you search for party ideas and find you’ve landed on a collection of pictures stolen from actual artistes but leechingly getting the ad revenue for them. I’d say it pays the bills, but it’s more like funding peanut butter on a tortilla for all three meals at college.

What? Oh, yes: CAKE.

I found this Chocolate Easter Egg Nest Cake while researching ideas for Easter Desserts for Some Purpose That Will Rank High in Search Engines. It looked fancy. It looked tasty. Above all, the directions looked doable.

Maybe I just wanted to make that edible nest thing.

Point is, I bought (most of) the ingredients. I harvested that instant coffee. I mixed the flour and cocoa and yoghurt into chocolate cake. And, who helped me? Not those lazy children. Not that husband-who-works-a-steady-job-so-I-can-afford-something-called-“yoghurt”-as-opposed-to-“yogurt.”

Actually, my oldest son did help me. We (mostly) followed the recipe, substituting for the fact that NO STORES around our little suburb had Woolworth’s Gold Greek Yoghurt nor Woolworths Gold Hand Finished Chocolate and Hazelnut Meringue.

I’m no professional baker, but I’ve made my share of cakes. From scratch. And, not just “scratching” open a cake mix box. Although we followed the directions, the cake turned out like a round brick. The Sahara Desert has a moister surface than it did.

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Still, I whipped my own meringue, filled the darn thing, drizzled hodgepodge ganache over the top, and perched that cute, actually-inedible nest up top. Jellybean birds flew through the window and laid their little clutch inside it and the birthday cake was ready to serve.

I suppose I hoped the filling and topping might soften up the cake slabs. I optimistically hoped the cheap brand of instant coffee we found at Whale-Mart would not make it taste like overpowered, cheap instant coffee. I also get a bit pigheaded when I start a project (I like to call it “tenacity”).

I even forged ahead when we had to pickax a few holes in the top in order to place some candles.

But the chocolate rock stayed solid, its meringue/cream/sugar innards gooshed out when we attempted excavation, and the darling chocolate and vermicelli nest chewed and digested much like actual twigs.

We all tried some. You know, after singing about birthdays and happiness.

“I like the jellybeans,” my second-oldest said. “Can I have more?”

“Cake?” I asked.

“Jellybeans,” he and two brothers answered.

“Sure,” I sighed.

Determinedly, I sliced myself another piece. I dolloped the escaped filling atop the bits of pumice I removed. “Welp,” I told my husband, swallowing broken brick and teeth, “Maybe next time I’ll not bake it as long.”

The sweet man adopted his encouraging face. “I’m proud of you for trying it.”

“Can we have more jellybeans?” Asked the dog, the cat, and the rat.

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