Chapter 59 – Silent Girl
There were four beds in the ward, but the other three were empty. Only a young girl lied on the bed next to the window. Her dark, long hair was spread out on the pillow like a fairy tale princess, wrapping around her delicate and frail body. The contrast between her strength and fragility was striking. Her pearl-white face was covered with an unhealthy glow.
The sound of the door opening didn’t catch her attention. She just looked quietly at the pale blue sky outside the window. Sparse sunlight lingered around her pale lips, and faint signs of life could be seen slowly flowing, but everything else around her looked like it was dead.
Her name is Hazel Cross, only fifteen years old, suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as “Lou Gehrig’s disease.” This is the cruelest disease Renly had ever seen.
Patients gradually lose control of their muscles, and their motor neurons eventually completely atrophy, similar to complete paralysis. This can even affect basic bodily functions such as eating, breathing, and speaking. However, this disease does not affect the sensory nerves, so the patient’s intelligence, memory, and five senses are not affected. In other words, patients can only watch themselves lose control and slowly move towards death, powerless to stop it.
The entire process is slow and lengthy, and the accumulating pain makes every day excruciating. Generally, patients can only survive for two to five years after the onset of the disease. So far, there is still no effective treatment, and even slowing down the progression of the disease is extremely difficult. In 2014, the “Ice Bucket Challenge” that swept the world was initiated to attract more attention to ALS.
Hazel was the first patient that Renly took care of when he arrived at Mount Sinai Hospital.
They got along very well at first, and Hazel maintained a positive attitude even after learning about her illness. However, when Renly left for filming for six months and returned, Hazel had become silent and refused to talk to Renly, ignoring his presence every time.
Renly knew that this was Hazel’s way of protesting.
“The weather in New York has been unusually bright lately. It’s been sunny for a whole week, and I almost doubt whether this is still New York.” Renly received no response, but he didn’t mind it and continued speaking to himself, “Did you listen to the record I brought last time? I told you, the British rock from the 1960s is the true classic. Just pick any band, and it will be memorable. If you like it, I’ll bring you Joy Division’s first album next week. It only has four songs, but it’s experimental and interesting. It represents the sprout of punk in the 1970s.”
Renly was rambling on and on like he was talking to himself, completely engrossed in his own entertainment. Occasionally, he would glance over at Hazel, only to find out that she still had no reaction and was staring out the window, as if Renly wasn’t even here in the room.
Watching Hazel’s childish behavior, Renly couldn’t help but smile as he sat down at the bedside, taking out the materials for making kites from his backpack. Spring had arrived recently, and the wind on Manhattan Island was particularly strong, making it the perfect season for flying kites. Renly had already prepared the materials at home last week, so all that was needed today was the final assembly.
“Renly! Renly!” The shouting from outside the ward gradually grew louder and louder, until it stopped at the door. A small head cautiously poked in through the crack, and who else could it be but Alex. He flashed a big smile and said in a soft voice, “I finished taking my medicine!” He stood up straight, his chest puffed out with pride, waiting for Renly’s praise.
Renly gave him a thumbs up, which made Alex shake his head and wiggle with delight. But then his gaze fell on Hazel, and he hesitated, afraid that his behavior might have startled her.
Renly rubbed the little guy’s head with his big hand. “Do you want to join us?” Alex’s attention was immediately drawn to it, and he nodded vigorously. Renly took out a stack of pre-cut paper from his backpack. “You can draw on it, and then we’ll make it into the tail of the kite, one that is long…”
Alex didn’t immediately take the paintbrush, but pondered for a while, and asked seriously, “So it’s going to be like a Chinese dragon, right?”
Renly raised an eyebrow and smiled, “Yes, why not?”
After receiving a positive response, Alex took the paintbrush with a joyful smile, and then supported his chin very seriously, contemplating what to draw. This attitude made Renly unable to hold back his laughter. “What are you doing?”
“I’m thinking about what to draw. I can’t just scribble something randomly.” His self-evident expression made Renly speechless. He hesitated for a moment, nodded seriously, and then said, “Yes, of course.” Then Renly also remembered to give Alex a fist bump to cheer him on.
Looking at Alex’s serious expression, as if he was painting for an international competition, made Renly feel envious. Often, children are the most pure, persistent, and simple group of people. Perhaps their behavior seems childish, always wasting time on “unnecessary” things, but it is precisely this childishness that makes adults lose the source of happiness.
Without thinking, Renly took out a camera from his backpack and aimed it at Alex, pressing the shutter button. The experiences of his past life taught Renly to cherish every moment in life.
He felt a gaze on his back and looked up to see Hazel hastily turning her head. Her soft hair flowed like a waterfall, reflecting the flowing light and revealing her little movements. Renly’s mouth couldn’t help but curve up into a smile as he picked up the camera and aimed it at Hazel, recording another moment.
Hearing the “click” sound, Hazel turned her head sharply, glared at Renly and then she shouted, “What are you doing?”
Renly didn’t get flustered at all. He checked the photo he had just taken and answered calmly, “I’m taking a picture.”
This answer made Hazel choke for a moment. “Don’t you know that taking pictures without the consent of the person involved is very rude? If I want to, I can even sue you!”
Renly looked up and showed a shallow smile to Hazel. “I know.” This made the flames of anger in Hazel’s pupils burn even hotter. Renly shook the camera in his hand and said, “If you don’t like it, you can come and delete it yourself, or even smash the camera.” Then, he casually put the camera on the white sheet with an indifferent expression.
Hazel gritted her teeth, wishing she could bite Renly’s neck directly. “You know damn well…” But her words came to an abrupt halt. As time passed, Hazel’s illness became more and more obvious, and now she was starting to have difficulty walking. This is also why she has been lying in the bed and refusing to get up and walk.
Renly didn’t understand Hazel’s current mood, but he knew that Hazel would regret it in the future. Because at least she can still walk now, it’s just a bit inconvenient. Once she can no longer walk, time will not be able to reverse.
“We all make choices and pay the price for our own choices.” Renly shrugged. He didn’t directly lecture Hazel because they both understood these principles. However, in practice, these so-called principles were just another form of torture for patients.
After saying that, Renly didn’t continue to pay attention to Hazel. Instead, he lowered his head and continued to work on the kite in his hand.
Hazel glared angrily at Renly; her chest was filled with overwhelming emotions that she couldn’t swallow. She could only gasp for breath, her chest rising and falling. She clenched her fists, wanting to sit up and punch Renly, but in the end, she turned her head again and looked out of the window, letting the silence in the ward start to spread once more.
After a while, Hazel even forgot the passing of time. This kind of quietness gradually calmed her restless mood. Time seemed to be no longer boring, nor unbearable, even the unchanging scenery outside the window changed into different colors.
Suddenly, Alex’s happy voice came over, “It’s done! It’s done!” Hazel used all her strength not to turn her head. Then she heard Renly’s calm response, “Before a kite flies, it can’t be called a kite. Do you want to be the one to make it come alive?”
“I do, I do!” Alex shouted impatiently, followed by a series of footsteps that gradually faded away until they disappeared.
Hazel was stunned. Was that it? Shouldn’t have Renly invite her or at least say a goodbye? No, Renly must still be in the room, waiting for her to turn around and admit defeat. She wasn’t that stupid! In their game of patience, she isn’t worried that she would fail. Let’s see who will bow down first!
Unconsciously, Hazel clenched her fists, forcing herself to keep going and not turn back, otherwise it would mean giving up.
The passage of time began to become clear, as if she could hear the sound of an hourglass slowly falling, but the silence in the ward made Hazel feel uneasy. Despite the same silence, Hazel felt a thin layer of chill on her skin at this moment.
“Hazel!” A voice came from behind her, startling her. But before the joy in her heart could rise, she realized that the voice calling her was not Renly. Within her line of sight, Renly and Alex had already gone downstairs, accompanied by a group of little ones, just like a mother hen with her chicks.
“Hazel?” The voice behind her called out again. Hazel sighed deeply, trying to suppress the disappointment and an indescribable desire in her heart. “The nurse just told me that you were doing really well today!”
Hazel lowered her eyelids to conceal her emotions, turned her head, and pulled the corners of her mouth into a weak smile. “Jennifer, good afternoon.”
Jennifer Lawrence also showed a smile. “Good afternoon.”
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