"Now Dana, don't go far."
"I won't Mom, just to the room with the TV, okay?"
"Promise me you won't go anywhere else." Mrs. Scully was distracted; Dana wasn't going to make anything worse for her. Ahab couldn't get here until at least tomorrow, and Mom needed to be with Charlie. Too bad they didn't know anyone in town and the other kids weren't here to keep her company. Oh well, she could hang out in the playroom. It was just down the hall from Charlie's room.
"I promise, Mom. Don't worry. If I leave the playroom I'll come straight to Charlie's room. I'm not a baby." Even wanting her mother not to have to worry, the redhead came out in the tilt of her chin.
Mrs. Scully smiled slightly, for the first time in hours, "No, you're not. I'm counting on you, Dana."
The little redhead nodded at her and Mrs. Scully stood in Charlie's door until she saw Dana disappear into the playroom.
Dana looked around, most of the toys seemed to be for little kids, but she could check it out. She glanced over at the TV, there was only one kid watching. She headed over that way.
She stood looking at the TV, then glanced over at the boy. He looked up at her as well then away. Since he hadn't made any comment she sat tentatively on the sofa at the far end from him. "You're not catching are you?"
He looked over at her again, and then down at the pajamas he was wearing. "No."
"Okay." She settled back on the sofa to see what had him so interested.
"If there's something else you want to watch we can change it." He offered, glancing at her and away again.
"What is this?"
"The Magician. Have you ever seen it?" She shook her head; "I used to like it a lot, but now . . . " He shrugged.
"It's okay. I don't know what's on anyway." He nodded and turned back to the TV again.
During the next commercial she looked back at him, "Are you sick?"
"Me? Uh, no. How about you?"
"My little brother got sick. Mom's with him so I have to stay where she can find me. Dad can't get here until tomorrow." She was looking him over now; if he wasn't sick why was he here in his pajamas.
"What's wrong with him?"
"His appendix. They took it out, but I think it still made him pretty sick."
"Is he going to be okay?" That brought a frown to her face and he regretted his question.
"I think so. Mom said he would." She sounded defiant now; he could almost see her red hair bristle.
"Then he will be, your Mom wouldn't lie to you." She seemed to relax a little at his words and that made him feel a little better. He didn't want to upset her. "How old is he?"
"Charlie? He's six."
"What about you?"
"I'm eight and a half. How old are you?" He didn't look as big as Bill, but Bill was bigger than most of his friends so they could be the same age.
"I have a brother whose thirteen and a sister that's eleven."
She nodded, "Do you have any brothers or sisters?"
"Uh, a sister." He looked away then and she thought maybe he was trying not to cry. She suddenly felt terrible, she hadn't meant to make him sad. Maybe she was the sick one and he had to wait here in the playroom like she did.
She reached over and touched his arm, "I'm sure she'll be okay." He brushed a hand across his face and nodded. "Is she here?"
"No." Well, he didn't want to talk about it. They both turned back to the TV as though understanding what the other needed.
She really didn't know what was happening on the screen, she wasn't familiar with the characters on this show. She chanced a glance at him but he seemed absorbed in the TV. A noise at the door caused her to turn in that direction. A nurse smiled at her and waved, looked at him, then moved on.
She turned back and saw that he too had looked over at the door but hadn't smiled. "Do you have to go back to your room?"
He shook his head, "They leave me pretty much alone now."
"Are you almost well?"
"I'm not sick." He looked at her and sighed. "I did something stupid and . . . " She didn't say anything but he could see the curiosity on her face. He turned away again and she wondered if he wanted her to leave.
She started to rise from the sofa but his hand shot out. "You don't have to go" he said quickly, "I mean . . . "
"Okay." She settled back and he seemed relieved, almost as if he didn't want to be alone. Come to think of it, he did look a little lonely sitting here.
The show had ended now and she wasn't sure what he wanted until he looked over at her. He wanted her to stay, it was clear in his eyes. He had pretty eyes. Without thinking she asked, "Are you parents here?"
"No, they're busy."
"Busy?" What did he mean? Sure Ahab wasn't here but he was on his way. If he hadn't had to pick up Bill and Melissa he would be here already. "Are you mad at them?"
That startled him. "Mad? No, I'm okay, there's no reason for them to be here."
"You're their kid. Can they not leave your sister?"
"My sister . . . my sister is gone. No one knows where and . . . and it's my fault." Why had he said that? He hadn't talked to anyone about anything, who was this girl?
"I'm sorry." She had put her hand on his arm and it felt good. She was just a kid, just a little older than his sister, but she seemed older. He didn't even know her name.
They both jumped as the nurse came in behind them. "Did you eat your supper?"
"Yeah," he spoke sullenly to her, "before I came in here."
"Well, I don't want to have to look for you tonight. Don't you leave here unless you go back to your room." He didn't bother to answer her, turning back toward the TV. The nurse seemed to sneer slightly at him and Dana felt herself bristle, ready to defend him if she said another word.
The nurse left the room without speaking, but Dana wasn't satisfied. "What's wrong with her?"
He shrugged, "She doesn't like me. Do you need to check in with your Mom?"
Dana glanced over at the clock, "Oh, I guess I should. Are you going to your room?"
"Will you be coming back?" At her nod, "Then I'll wait." She smiled and he suddenly felt better than he had in ages.
She was gone so long that he went to the door to see if he could find out what was keeping her. There was a lot of activity at one room and then he saw Dana move back out into the hall, being led by a dark haired woman. They were both crying, but the woman hugged his friend and seemed to reassure her, turning her back toward the room where he waited.
He started to step back so that she wouldn't see, but she had already spotted him and after hugging the woman returned to him. "Is everything okay?"
She shook her head, "Charlie's worse. I wish my Dad were here."
"Is he coming?" He led her back to the sofa and sat beside her.
"Yes. He had to get my brother and sister first. Is Charlie going to die?"
"I don't think so. He's sick, but there's a lot of people in there looking after him. You just need to wait here."
"Can you stay?"
"As long as you want." She took his hand and settled back. Her new friend made her feel better and he thought Charlie would be okay. They sat silently together for a little while.
"If you're not sick, why are you here?" She looked up at him and he didn't look away.
"I . . . I tried to kill myself." Her eyes widened and her grip on his hand tightened.
"Why?" Tears formed in her eyes again.
"I'm the reason my sister's gone. I didn't look after her well enough, and now she's gone." He sounded like a robot when he said it, not at all like he'd sounded before.
"Is she . . . is she dead?"
"Nobody knows. She's gone. That's why my parents don't come to see me. They're looking for her."
"But you need them too" she protested for him.
"No, I'm old enough - "
"Do they blame you?" He didn't answer that, finally looking away from her. She tugged at his hand, clearly expecting an answer to her question.
"Why shouldn't they? It's my fault. If I'd looked after her better she'd still be here."
"I don't believe that. I bet you were real good at looking after her."
"Why? Why do you believe that?" He was watching her closely now.
"I know you better than that."
"But you don't know me at all. We just met."
She looked surprised at that. He was right, but it didn't feel that way. "I just know." She looked so determined at that he smiled, the first real smile she'd seen on him and she smiled back.
They relaxed back, not talking anymore. After a few minutes he caught her yawning. "You should go on to sleep. I can get you a blanket." She nodded, yawning again.
He was back in no time with a pillow and blanket. The boy leaned back in the corner of the sofa, giving her more room. She lay down and drew the blanket over her, falling into a light sleep quickly. He turned the TV back on, with the sound low. When he returned to the sofa she cuddled in closer to him and sighed. He smiled down at her red hair and relaxed himself, falling asleep quickly for a change.
When he woke the next morning he was back in his bed, alone. He rose immediately and headed to the playroom. It was empty, so he opened the door to the room he had seen her come from the night before.
A man in a navy uniform was sleeping beside the bed, where a little boy slept. "Fox? What are you doing?"
He hadn't heard the nurse come up behind him. "Where's the girl that was in the playroom last night?"
"Charlie's sister? Her mom took her and the other kids when the father got here."
"She's gone?" The nurse nodded and turned back to the desk.
He felt devastated, she had believed him, in him. He didn't even know her name. He turned to go back to his room. "Oh Fox? Your mother's coming today. I think you'll be going home. You should start packing."
He didn't bother to respond, moving on down the hall. Maybe she'd come back, but he wouldn't be here. How could he let her know how to reach him? Would she? She'd been nice to him, he couldn't forget that.
He rushed to his room to leave her his name and address, not bothering to pack. That's what he was doing when the nurse came in. "Fox! You've not even started. Come on!"
"I'm leaving a note - "
"Fine, address it and give it to me. Now move, your mother will be here any time."
Address it to who? Well, he knew her brother's room number. That should work. He wrote that on the outside of the paper and turn to the nurse.
"Make sure this gets to the sister of the patient in room 312. It's important."
"So is your packing. Okay, I'll make sure she gets the note. I will." She shook her head at the expression on his face and when he turned away glanced at the note and stuffed it in her pocket. She heard the buzzer on the door three rooms down and rolled her eyes. "I'll be back. Now hurry."
Maybe he could call after he got home, remind the nurse about the note. He needed her to know how important her friendship had been to him last night, even if he never saw her again.