Alfred dimmed the lights. “I hope you’ll be okay without me.” He looked down at her perfect little face. He wondered if she really would be okay without him; he was her advocate. He could understand her, and let The Mother know what she needed.
He nestled himself atop her head and got cozy. This was going to take a while. He scanned and scanned, looking through her available dictionary of words.
“Hm, okay, so she can call on them, ask for milk, say ‘no,’ talk about urination under the guise of playing peek-a-boo…”
Alfred thoughtfully added some words he figured would help her during her travels, and quietly slipped out into the night, leaving nothing but a kiss behind.
The next morning, during a rather intricate battle between The Girl and The Mother over a phone with capitalization issues, Alfred’s gift of gab displayed itself. “MOMMA, WHERE IS DADDY?”
It wasn’t long before both The Ella and Alfred got called upon to do mumble mutter whisper whisper SHOUT.
“You really need to work on your whispering skills,” Alfred mumbled muttered to The Ella, but by that time, it didn’t matter much, they were both well on their way to the nation’s capital.
Before they left, however, Alfred had stopped by The Girl’s room to say his goodbyes. He explained to her that he had to leave for a little while, and then he kissed her softly on the cheek. She didn’t move an inch, and she probably hadn’t heard a word he said.
“Okay, I’m turning on the light.”
“I’m about to leave now, so -” he started.
“Where are you going?” she asked.
“I can’t tell you that, I’m sorry,” he said, sadly.
“Well, I’m going on an adventure, tooooooooooo,” she whined.
“Yeah? Where are you going?” he asked, somewhat in disbelief. The Girl had never ventured off on her own, he doubted that she’d being doing so without him anytime soon.
“That’s classified,” she said, pleased with herself.
Alfred began to doubt that she was going anywhere at all, but he couldn’t be sure. “I want you to have something.”
“It’s dangerous to go alone, take this!” He snuggled up next to her, draping a purple knit blanket over her. In the time it had taken Alfred to get the blanket from his belongings, The Girl had already fallen back asleep, even though he had left the lights on in an effort to keep her awake.
The Ella tilted her head, and Alfred went tumbling down.
Unlike The Girl, The Ella made no attempts at catching him, and he plopped softly onto the couch beneath him.
They both jumped when they heard The Mother come into the room carrying The Girl.
“Does she know?” Alfred whispered, motioning at the tall one.
“No, of course not. Does she know?” The Ella whispered back (even though she didn’t have the fine skill of whispering honed quite yet), motioning at the little one.
“No, and it has to stay that way.”
“Maybe she will want to play with me, maybe she will pick me out from all of the toys in this bin,” Alfred thought.
He waited a while, but soon grew bored. The toy she had chosen was her handheld video game… or was it actually something else, some super secret spy technology disguised as a Leapster Explorer.
“Choose your pet,” the Explorer beckoned. “Code! Surely, code,” Alfred reason. “Pet. Pet. PET. P E T. What does that stand for? Planetary Evacuation Trajectory? Planet Explosion Torpedo?” He gasped, audibly.
She looked up, but saw nothing. Just then, she felt a slight tickle, and a small pulsating sensation. This time, when she looked up, she saw none other than Alfred, nestled cozily atop her head.
“Are you …” she paused. “Are you Ag—-”
“Shhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!” he stopped her. “And just who are YOU?”
“Oh, me? I’m The Ella,” she said. “I guess it’s true what they say about you, huh? Find out anything interesting up there?”
Alfred had heard many stories about her. Some talked about how she loved to swim. Some talked about her gift with lyrical stylings. Some talked about how she was a horse breeder. Of all of the rumors and legends he had heard about her, the most talked about was the allegation that she was a CIA agent.
He knew he had to meet her, but he also knew he couldn’t just walk up to her and introduce himself. He had to be cunning and conniving, sneaky and stealthy. He heard her coming down the stairs. Quickly, he threw himself into a basket of toys and plotted his next move.
The Girl turned nine months old, even though she was only 9 weeks old just yesterday. It’s funny, the tricks that time likes to play on our minds.
Some tricks that The Girl like to play were:
Standing on her own for several seconds at a time
Saying Mama, Dada, and Baba (but not Alfred)
Saying “hey. hey. hey.” whenever The Mother had ice cream
Signing milk, the one singular time that The Mother didn’t nurse her quickly enough
Making food on her tray disappear, and then magically reappear on the floor
There were a few tricks The Girl hadn’t mastered that The Mother wished she would, such as napping on her own, or playing by herself without The Mother’s assistance. The Mother made it a point to remind herself that just yesterday, The Girl was 9 weeks old, and tomorrow, she would be 9 years old, and The Mother would miss the days like today, when The Girl slept peacefully in her arms, or cuddled up next to her in bed.
One tooth, two teeth, three teeth, four teeth, five teeth, six teeth, seven. Seven teeth. The Girl had seven teeth. She started with two little chipmunk teeth on the bottom, then got two adorably large teeth on the top, then one poked out on the left side of those two, while one poked out underneath on the bottom, and finally, the last little tooth came in on the right of her two top front teeth.
The Mother’s favorite thing about these new teeth wasn’t that she could eat solids, or even that she sometimes nibbled her milk, but it was the way she looked when she was asleep, when her little mouth was open. Only one tooth would be visible, and it was both funny and cute at the same time.
It was January 12th. The Girl had gone 5 whole months without a transfusion, and The Parents and Alfred finally had an answer to that one question that had been on their minds since The Girl was born. The answer was Hereditary Spherocytosis.
What is Hereditary Spherocytosis (HS)? Hereditary Spherocytosis is a rare blood disorder that presents itself in people that are so beautiful that their blood cells are perfectly round little spheres instead of doughnuts or flattened discs, or sickles, for that matter.
What causes HS? Let’s talk about what doesn’t cause HS. Hereditary Spherocytosis is not caused by low iron counts. Eating processed, disgusting rice cereal filled with man-made iron that isn’t highly bioavailable doesn’t magically convert spheres into doughnuts. Anemia, for that matter, is a symptom of a bigger problem, not the problem itself.
Many things can be a result of HS, such as chronic fatigue and weakness, but The Girl was a fighter, and truly showed no signs of lethargy since her last transfusion. She looked and acted like a normal baby who was her chronological age, progressing far past those of her adjusted age. Most days, The Parents completely forgot that she was born 6 weeks early, but they never forgot or discounted all that she overcame.
Another new thing that The Girl was actually fond of was baths in the tub. Much to The Mother’s surprise, she wasn’t scared when the water was running, or draining. Once she learned the joys of splashing, nothing else really mattered.
One thing The Girl didn’t understand is why Alfred couldn’t take a bath with her.
“You’re an octopus. You like water.”
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
The Girl left it at that. She had known Alfred enough to realize he was an octopus enshrouded in mystery, and he liked it that way.
“It’s almost the new year,” Alfred said, “what’s your new year’s resolution?”
“To be awesome,” The Girl paused, for effect, “and to try new things.”
The Girl began early by trying some avocado. Being the generous girl that she was, she made sure that her shirt tried some, too, and the floor, and she tried to get Alfred to have a taste, but he was not interested, or close enough, for that matter.
It seemed as though The Girl liked the avocado at first, but…
Evidence would suggest otherwise.