Hug me to sleep

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Malorie peeled off the mask that had been concealing her lower face for almost ten hours. The inner side of the fabric smelt of sweat and moisture as she had been breathing through the same piece of cloth for the past five days. At least she had a protection while her coworkers had nothing for cover. Swiftly, she got undressed, depositing each garment into the washing machine and watched the clothes spin to get sanitized with soap and water.
The hot shower drenched her, washing away the dirt from outside, while she hoped if the same process would cleanse the filth from inside.
The smell of antibiotics and erythromycins had vanished, instead aroma of roses filled her nostrils as she exited the shower room.

“Mama, you are back!,” shouted Eva excitedly.
“Honey, stay where you are, okay?,” said Malorie hurriedly stopping her daughter’s advancement while sitting five feet away and chewing the last piece of bread from a disposable plate.
“How long is it going to take? I see people dying. Mama, I want you to be safe,” the seven year old whined.
“Mama is safe, darling. Did you not see the mask, gloves and those extra layers over me? All those are safe-guarding me”. Malorie lied as she thought how dreadful the virus had made its way all over the country, affecting millions. Being a healthcare worker and treating patients for days, Malorie knew for sure that she would have already been infected by the deadly virus. The repeated cough was causing her discomfort and she had proactively run the tests on her and was awaiting results in a day. As she kept wiping the spots she had touched with a disinfectant, Carlos joined the conversation.

“Eva, Mama is helping people recover from disease. Isn’t that a proud thing? She’s going to be back with us soon,” assured her dad.

“Carlos, is Sophie drinking from bottle?” asked Malorie with concern.
“Not really. But she will be okay”.

Malorie had stopped breastfeeding her 9 month old, fearing infection. She remembered how Sophie would cling to her and find comfort in her bosom. Caressing her to sleep had been a soothing experience. Now she missed that. She missed being a mother. The mother who would always come home to find open arms waiting to hug her, smiling lips to plant kisses on her cheeks. Will she ever get to hug her children for once? Can she not just hold her baby and sing her favorite lullaby? How again will she bury her head on her husband’s shoulder and fall asleep in their bed. Their bed. Not anymore. Now she had a separate bed, an isolated space where none was allowed. If she was tested positive, she would be moved to the hospital and would never get a chance to look at those faces again; faces that gave her a purpose to live, faces that made her life beautiful, faces that laughed and cried with her, faces that she saw at dawn and dusk. The virus would soon be infecting her lungs and she would have difficulty breathing.Slowly it would find its way all over her body making it worse for her to survive. She too would die like her patients.

Her thoughts were suddenly interrupted.
“Mama, I miss you.” Eva said.
“Some more days, honey, and I will come hugging to you. We can make peppery pastas, complete reading Rapunzel and watch next episodes of peppa-pig,” she promised as her eyes welled up thinking how untrue her words sounded. “And I miss you too.” she whispered, rubbing away a tear that spilled out of her eye.

“Now go to bed” she spoke covering a cough.
“Good night, mom”
“Good night, honey”. They exchanged air hugs and blew kisses.
Carlos reassured that he would keep everything going. He had forever been her support system, the pillar that she leaned on. Now she knew he would be able to play the role of a mother too when she’s gone. Forever gone.

As she kept tossing in her bed trying to get sleep, she couldn’t stop imagining things that were about to come.  Because of the fatal virus, people kept dying in large numbers every day and the worst part was to depart without having their dear ones next to them. For the first time,a strange fear crept within her. Malorie’s eyes overflowed. She longed for one more day; a day where she could simply hold and kiss her children one last time; if they could all sit together in the living room and talk endlessly; if she could pull Carlos into a tight hug. If there was a day more, she would do all the things she wished and only happiness would remain.

Malorie could hear Sophie cry suddenly. It was the time she woke up for mid-night feed. Malorie usually held Sophie tobreastfeed until she dozed back. She felt her heart explode any moment hearing the baby’s non-stop wails. Probably, she was rejecting bottle.She cursed herself for choosing to become an ER nurse. If she wasn’t one, she could have wrapped Sophie in her arms, sipped coffee alongside Carlos, made delicious snacks for Eva. She would remain behind closed doors and never complained about being stuck at home or fussed about not being able to send Eva to school or grumbled about not having great lunch. As she kept coughing, she recalled that life was indeed beautiful but they had tangled things around them. Those unnecessary fights and avoidable arguments meant nothing now. How could she leave her children grow without mother’s love?
She remembered how the couple had talked about growing old together. She closed her eyes and murmured a prayer and fell asleep.

***

Malorie woke up to a buzzing mobile.
“Malorie?” spoke a voice.
“Yes”
“Calling from the laboratory. Can you come to the hospital immediately? ”
“What’s the matter?”
“It’s about your test results.”
She listened to what the speaker spoke next and disconnected.

***

Reference: Story inspired from a facebook post by a ER nurse in some part of America.

Photo by: Luis Galvez

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Varshini Ravindran
Varshini is an IT Engineer by profession who has a flair for writing from a very young age. She is a occasional blogger and writes her mind out in her Facebook and Instagram pages. She has also written nano tales, poems for different online contests and received applause.

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