“You have to eat, honey. You need your strength.”
But 13-year-old Adalyn didn’t want to eat, never again. Nothing stayed down anymore. She had been unable to keep food down for years.
Just the smell of the homemade chicken soup caused a fresh supply of bile to rise.
She pushed the bowl away and closed her eyes. “I don’t want this,” she said. “Where’s the nurse?”
“She left 30 minutes ago while you were still asleep.”
Adalyn tried to move to a comfortable position, something almost impossible to do with the IV and all the tubes hooked up throughout her body. She groaned and tried to lie down.
“Don’t do that. You need to eat.”
“I’m not hungry.”
“Your lack of hunger is what got you here. Everyone is worried about you. It’s wrong to starve yourself.”
Adalyn sighed. She knew better. Even if she wanted to eat she couldn’t keep anything down. She could never keep anything down, not since she was a little girl.
“Everyone is so worried about you.”
*I bet they are,* she thought.
The nurse walked in, to Adalyn’s relief. “Hello, sweetheart! How’s our patient?”
“Fine,” she said without enthusiasm.
“She’s doing much better,” her mother said as she applied a fresh coat of dark lipstick, “but I can’t get her to eat.”
The nurse looked up from Adalyn’s chart and then placed it back in its spot to the side of the hospital bed. “Don’t worry, Mrs. Anderson. We can put her on a controlled diet here.
You don’t have to keep bringing stuff in.”
“But she's had severe food allergies,” her mother broke in, “and I can’t be sure what you all give her won’t make her worse.”
Adalyn observed the exchange. They had been through this before. She had never been allowed to have hospital food.
Why would she get lucky this time? The nurse gave her a glance, and Adalyn looked at her with desperate and pleading eyes.
“Really,” the nurse went on, “we can take care of her if you want to go home and rest for a few hours.”
The veins in Mrs. Anderson’s face bulged out. “Are you insane! I am her mother! There is no way I will leave her side!”
The nurse shrugged and left the room.
Adalyn blinked back her tears. It was always the same thing. Her mother pushed the bowl of soup toward her again, only this time she wore a look of frightening authority.
“Adalyn Nichole Anderson, you need to eat and eat now. Don’t make me tell you again!”
She reached out with her bony arm, now noticing as if for the first time just how frail she had become. Adalyn picked up the spoon full of soup and raised it to her mouth.
The smell of household cleaner mixed in brought on fresh nausea. By now her mother was busy on phone.
“Yes… thank you for your prayers… I know, but having a sick child is my cross to bear…”