"Mommy, I need mowr water...Mommy, I need mowr water..."
It probably takes her ten fractured yells before I can pull myself from beneath the quilt and stumble in slippers to her side. There are great chasms beneath her eyes, shadows of ill that make me call her baby. "Are you feeling any better?" I ask her after I fill her cup.
"Not vewee dood." And her voice is cracked and her little fingers stretch for love. I gather her for a moment and feel the drifting of my eyes as three am pulls lids back towards slumber. She suckles her cup like a newborn and rubs her golden head into the curve of my shoulder. Her sleeping sounds like nightmares, in the rasp of soreness and the sigh of fever. I hold her until my head nods to my chest.
I lay her back down, in her nest of pink and Dora and polka dots and she turns to her side, curling her hand into a little fist to fight the sick.
"Feel better," I say as I kiss her hair.
"Otay," she whispers, not opening her eyes.
But morning dawns and she's not better. Three children line my bed with their sad faces, glassy eyes and clammy foreheads. I make soup and jello. I change the channel when they ask. I make you poor boy faces and hand out extra hugs. The sun shines crisp and warm through the kitchen window but blue skies don't brighten worn eyes. I administer the medicine. She licks her lips. "I'm all better now," she says but her head falls back on the pillow and her eyes slowly close. Even Harry and His Bucket Full of Dinosaurs can't compete with the need to rest.
"You guys need to get better!" I tell them.
Zander rolls glazed, over-dialated eyes, miming his attitude as he pulls the quilt higher...Right mom, whatever, what do you think we're trying to do here?