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To read Excerpt 9, click here.
Debbie is allowed to visit baby Krista in the hospital. It’s gray and grim. How can Krista get better in such an awful place?
Heavy, steel double doors, gray of course, prevent us from traveling farther. If I stand on tiptoe, I can see through small plates of glass in the center of the door. Wire mesh is set in the middle of the glass. The message is clear: stay out. Daddy and I will have to communicate with Mom and Krista through the little windows.
Mom must have been waiting for him because she immediately steps from one of the rooms and walks toward us with Krista in her arms. She wears a green surgical gown and a doctor’s mask stretched over her nose and mouth and tied behind her head. Her eyes widen in surprise when she sees me peep through the window, and she throws a sharp, questioning glance toward Daddy.
He tries to reassure her with a smile and motions for her to hold the baby up to the window. Mom’s eyes relax a little, then crinkle at the corners as she smiles beneath the mask and lifts Krista closer.
Krista is much tinier than I remember. So pale. Even my baby dolls have rosier cheeks. I tap at the window, but she doesn’t seem to notice. I wave. Her head turns slightly, but there’s no toothless grin of welcome. Has she forgotten me?
Her eyes are dull, and her mouth continually quivers, although she doesn’t cry. No wonder Mom comes home sad and exhausted every night.
My face must show the shock I’m feeling because Mom lowers her mask and smiles apologetically as though I blame her for the sorry condition of my sister. If I start to cry, I know she will cry, too, so I manage to smile.
With inches of steel door between us, no one can say anything without shouting. Hospitals frown on loud voices. I mouth, “I love you,” and motion for Mom to give Krista a kiss for me, which she does. Then I leave. Fast.
Daddy walks me back to the car in silence. When we reach the parking lot, I break down in sobs.