Dante pushed open the hospital door and slipped into the room. Windows lined the walls, casting a harsh light on everything in the room. The walls were turned to ash, the tubes were icicles, the bed was granite, and Gianne was swallowed up by the dull blue hospital sheets. The icicle tubing stabbed through her skin, pumping clear liquids into her fragile arms. There was an oxygen mask over her face, covering her thin mouth and nose.
As Dante approached her, her eyes turned towards him, the blues vanishing into white by the harsh lighting. Pulling the little plastic chair closer, Dante sat down at her side. "Hey Sunshine," he said quietly. "How you holding up?"
She took a few breaths, allowing the faint beeping of the machines a chance to talk, before she shakily pulled the oxygen mask off enough for her to whisper, "I'm doing all right. They're pumping so much stuff in my system that it's impossible not to do fine."
Dante nodded. "They take health pretty seriously here," he said, and looked over her. Her body was so small and so fragile, that Dante wondered how he had never seen how thin she was. He could easily wrap one hand around her thigh, and it would only take his thumb and forefinger to wrap around her upper arm. "Hell, Sunshine, how'd you get so small without dying?" he asked, wincing.
She turned her head away, before tugging on the oxygen mask with a shrug. He reached forward, and laid his hand on hers. It was tiny under his, all bone and fine skin that made him afraid to even wrap his fingers around it without breaking her. She turned her head back to him, and whispered through the oxygen mask, "I'm not sure I'll be able to keep that up." Tears rose in her eyes, and she took a huge, shaky breath of the oxygen before pulling off the mask and whispering harshly, "The doctors want to make me gain weight. They want me to put on over twenty pounds, Dante," she said, pulling the mask on again and taking another breath, her hands trembling. "I can't do that. I've spent so long getting this far, it's impossible for me to go back," she said, and tears began to spill over.
To Dante's eyes, even her tears were thin. "You can try, though, right?" Dante asked, his voice quiet and desperate. "You can try your best?"
Gianne let out a choked little laugh, nothing like the ones she used to let out. "I've tried before, Dante, and I've failed miserably each time. I tried for my parents, I've tried for my boyfriends, I've tried for my friends, and it's never worked."
Quietly, Dante suggested, "Have you ever tried for just yourself?"
Gianne was quiet, but she shook her head. "No. But I'm not cut out to be normal, Dante. They say I'm hardwired this way, and they're right. I can't beat this."
Gripping her hand, Dante leaned forward until she had no choice but to stare into his eyes. "Gianne, that's not true. You're the toughest girl I know, and I've met a lot of girls in foster care. You're stronger than anyone I know, including myself. I've seen you pull your way through hard times and survive everything high school or life has to throw. There is no way in hell that you're going to die because of this. You will make it; you're a survivor, not a quitter."
Tears flowed down her face, and Dante reached out to brush a few away. "Dante..." she said, but her voice was brittle and she dragged the oxygen mask back on to breathe.
"You're going to make it, Sunshine," he said softly, resting his hand against her face. "But you've got to do it for you and no one else. Not even for me or for Charlie, but for you. You got me?"
Tugging her oxygen mask off, she whispered, "I got you."
Leaning back a little, Dante wrapped both of his hands around her small one, letting the warmth of his skin flow into her cold hand. Looking out the window, Dante was struck by a memory of his mother from when he was young, when she would sing to him when his father had fallen asleep in a drunken stupor. It was after his father would beat them, and her eyes would be blackening as she would sing, but still she would croon the little lullaby to him, comforting him in the only ways she knew how.
Grasping her hand in his, Dante sang in a cracked, soft voice, "You are my Sunshine, my only Sunshine. You make me happy when skies are gray." Gianne's eyes squeezed shut, trying to prevent the tears that were pooling. "You'll never know dear, how much I love you." The tears poured out, and Gianne's shoulders were shaking. "So please don't take my Sunshine away." Dante reached over and gently hugged her, and her frail little arms wrapped around him with so much force that it hurt him, but he was glad of the pain, glad that there was still strength in her little frame.
"Please don't take my Sunshine away," he whispered, holding her close as she cried.
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