Jamie twirled the spoon through her coffee, the white swirls of cream fading into their steaming brown surroundings. “The doctor said it’s not working … I’m getting worse.”
Paul stretched a ribbon of tape from the dispenser. “What’s that mean?” He sealed a piece of snowflake paper around a large box. “Perfect.” He smiled, admiring his wrapping skills.
“Dialysis isn’t helping.” Her cup rattled on the saucer as her hands trembled. “My kidneys are…” She closed her eyes squeezing tears down her face.
Paul set another parcel on the table in front of him and grabbed the roll of holiday paper. The parchment rattled in the uneasy silence. He avoided eye contact with his older sister.
“I need a transplant.”
Paul fumbled for the roll of tape.
Jamie stared into her cup of coffee. “They say the best chance for a match is from a family member.” Her voice cracked. “And without one I won’t…”
“Look, sis.” He peered over the top of the unwrapped gift. “We’re heading to Rachel’s family for a couple weeks … and then up to Aspen for the new year. We’re doing our family gifts there.”
“I’m family,” she huffed.
“The kids are really looking forward to this.”
“I’m scared, Paul.” Jamie pushed her cup away. “I need to know you’re here for me.” Her fingers caressed the oak tabletop. “Ever since mom…”
“We’ve been planning this trip for a long time,” Paul interrupted. “You don’t expect us to cancel everything now.”
Disappointment mirrored in Jamie’s eyes. “At least get the test done before you go.” She grasped her brother’s hand. “Please … See if you’re a match.” A hint of hope chimed in her voice. “We’ll worry about the surgery after…”
“You’re asking me to give up part of myself.” Paul pulled his hand away. “That’s asking a lot.”
Jamie scraped up a dollop of mashed potatoes and plopped them back onto her plate; a handful of peas scrambled about the entrée. The flickering glow from the television illuminated the dining nook like a nostalgic color-wheel. A tear glistened in the muted hues as it to the table. “I don’t want to die.” She dabbed a tissue to her nose. “Why?”
A muffled tap at the door startled her; she pushed away from the table. Turning toward the door, she paused at the sight of her Bible on the end table. “I don’t understand,” she murmured in silence.
She cracked the door open. “I’m sorry. I’m just not…” She gasped as she looked into the hall. “Paul?”
The younger brother extended a small, wrapped gift toward the opening. “I brought you something.”
Jamie pulled the door open. She gestured for him to enter. “But, what about…”
“The kids opened their gifts this morning.” He handed his sister the present. “I asked Rachel if I could run this up to you.”
Jamie removed the tape and pulled the paper back with care. “A children’s story?” She slid the book from its wrapper. “Bushy Bear goes to the hospital?”
“You read that to me the night before I had my tonsils out. I was so scared.” He forced a nervous smile. “You sat beside my bed and we prayed until I fell asleep … You practically raised me after mom died.”
“I remember.” Jamie nodded. “But you didn’t come all this way to reminisce about a bedtime story.”
“I went to the lab after we got to Rachel’s folks.” Paul pulled a folded piece of paper from his back pocket. “I’m a match.”
Jamie raised a hand to her quivering lips.
Paul embraced his sister. “It’s my turn to be there for you.”
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