Her laughter is genuine, not faked or pretentious. It echoes throughout the hospital room, bouncing off the sterile walls and tiled floor. I imagine she would too if not for the IV or the wires and cords hanging from her as if to hold her down.
Her hair is matted and stuck to the side of her temples, shaved just above her brow, despite this a smile stretches across her young tender face when I see her, she pulls the thin hospital blanket up over her chest, sorta snuggles in a little, her small sock feet tapping against each other out the other end of the blanket.
A brain tumor they said. I suppose it explains a few things in her overly whimsical behavior. My mind races to understand the misfortune, which resonates in the pained faces of her parents and her older sister. She is my niece, she is funny, she is smart, she is beautiful and she is struggling for control against a dark and looming force, one that threatens to rob her of her, of her strength and that light in her eye that shines and sparkles like an early morning sun on the ripples of a lake.
It is unfair, it is unfortunate and it is hurtful to all those around her as well, it is a war only she can fight, from the inside. The rest of us can only attempt to comfort her and do what we can from behind enemy lines. We can see only the fragments of the pain through the growing darkness in her eyes.
That was twelve months ago, the doctors did what they could with what they knew, and now the beast is back, it showed itself in the scans of her brain, in sterile black and white images, new growth where it had once been erased, echoes of the pain felt the first time run through our minds and seem to pierce through the walls of our hearts as we try to reel in the madness and portray a strong front against the uninvited beast.
And as she smiles her unpretentious smile, we fear the thoughts running through her delicate mind, wanting to hold snugly her small, young frame to protect it, to protect her, to ward off the darkness from her heart, from her undeserved burden.