Kindling

She was all fire and flame and action. She never seemed to stop moving, even when sitting down. One foot would tap against the wood floor beneath her toes, or a long slender finger would play with the hem of her shirt as she stood talking. This wasn’t anxious, nervous energy either. Mimi wasn’t in the least bit a worried person, she just had too much fire in her to think of stopping to breathe, or rest, or sometimes think. Even her voice was fast and decisive. She was strong, stiff backed, with a spine of steel and a resolution to match.
And right now, Mimi sat slumped and small on crackling paper. Her fingers didn’t twitch against the edge of the rubber, and her bare toes hung motionless into empty space. Her head was bowed, eyes closed, and nothing moved. She was still. That, more than anything said in the last few minutes, was what forced me to realize the enormity of this news. A thing that could stop Mimi was something to be feared. I pictured an evil blackness working its way through her body, forcing stillness and silence where before there had only been sparks and heat. I couldn’t take it.
“What will you do?”
She looked up, noticing I was still in the room.
“I guess… everything. I don’t know. Whatever people do. What do people do?”
“I don’t know, really. I’ve seen this stuff in movies. Never…uh, in person? That’s not what I mean. Never close friends. Never anyone I’ve really known. I’m babbling. I don’t know what people do.”
“Right.” A small smile. “Neither do I. But that’s what that asshole doctor is for, right?”
I smile back, happy at her attempt to make anything so normal as a joke.
“Yeah, he’ll probably know how to save your life. Bastard.”
The man walked back in then, and both of us chuckled. Our faces were back to masks of pain and shock by the time he looked from one to the other. His serious stare would make anyone put their social mask back on anyways. He droned on for a bit about chemo, and surgery, the long road ahead, the uphill battle that Mimi would be climbing and the importance of staying positive. He didn’t look like he had ever been a glass-half-full kind of guy, but whatever. Mimi and I stole glances at each other, sending small smiles at shared jokes about the bastard doctor that we didn’t have to say.
The doctor finished his long rehearsed lines about positivity and the way forward, the tough road ahead, any other tropes and cliches he could think to throw out, and then leveled his granite stare on Mimi.
“Obviously, Ms. Matthews, this will be a hard fight. But if possible you can’t let this disease take over your life.”
Mimi looked back at the asshole doctor, and her chin slowly began to lift. Deep in her eyes, the spark was lit. Nothing like a self-righteous prick to bring back her fire. She leveled her own firework gaze on him, and gave him a tiny smile.
“Yeah, well doctor. Here’s the thing. It’s going to have to catch up with me first.”
And next to the edge of the hospital bed, Mimi began to tap a finger.

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