I pried my left eye open, trying not to wince against the pain. My four-year-old stood next to the hospital bed, swirling in a haze of bright lights and white walls. I managed a grunt in response.
“Is there anything I can get for you?”
He was so grown-up. Tears spilled out of my swollen eyes and left a burning trail down my cheeks, soaking into the bandage that cradled my face. I struggled to clear my vision, to see my little man who had aged so much up in that fateful moment when he had lost his father. When his mother had nearly been burned away.
He had become the man of the family. I was so proud of him. So proud of the way he had stepped into his role the minute the babysitter had told him. The way he held my hand through the pain, and touched me ever so gently.
Now he reached a tiny hand and patted my leg. It was one of the few places that I could handle the slight pressure.
“Don’t worry, Mom. God’ll heal you soon, and until then I’ll take care of everything.” He stood up straight and tall. His head reached halfway to the top of the bedrail.
Pride mingled with sorrow and pain in emotions so strong I could hardly breathe. I wanted so badly to reach out to him, to wrap my Danny into a tight hug.
The nurse entered then, holding a Styrofoam cup.
“I’ve brought you some more ice chips.” Her voice was cheerful, but I could read the pity in her eyes.
“Thank you.” Danny took the cup and clambered onto a chair next to the bed. The nurse didn’t try to help him. Perhaps she understood how important this was for both of us.
I shifted toward him and pain raced over my body at the movement. I closed my eyes against the sharpness, but my vision filled with flames. They consumed me, covering every inch of my body with a fiery pain so bad I thought I couldn’t stand it.
A tiny prick of coolness reached my consciousness. Slowly my mind cleared enough to be aware of Danny slipping an ice sliver into my mouth. A little hand, still cool and damp, rested on my forehead.
I focused on him. On the coolness. The pain began to fade, the fire subside.
“It’s okay, Mom. It’s okay.”
My little man. My little firefighter.
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