Two nights later, she snuck into my room between check-ins by the nurses.
It was about two in the morning when I heard the knock on my door, and that wasn’t unusual. But when Phoenix came in and flicked on the lights, I knew something was up.
“I couldn’t sleep,” she said, though not apologetically. In her hand, she held a new cap. “And I made you a better one this time.” (And, no, Ellie, she never did stop making her caps.) It was a green, blue, and purpled striped cap this time.
“Phoenix, you need sleep. Not more caps,” I scolded gently. I slipped from bed and took the cap from her. “You can sit on the bed if you want. It’s softer than the couch.” She nodded and pulled her frail self onto the bed and fell back onto the pillows.
I settled on the couch and pulled the window shade up so I could look out at the cars below in the parking lot.
“Did you need something,” I asked as I pulled the old fire-theme cap off and tugged on the new one.
“Thanks for the new colors,” I added.
She nodded. “No problem. Got any of those “Lucy” DVDs you always bug me about?”
“I don’t always bug you about them.”
“Do too,” she said, matter-of-factly.
“Don’t,” I muttered and retrieved the DVDs from on top of the desk. “Which one you want?”
She shrugged. “Whichever you want.”
I popped one in the player and rolled my eyes. “Sure, Miss Picky.”
“Who’s being picky?” She glanced at me and pulled the covers over her and turned to sort the pillows out around her head to get comfortable—and to tell me that she was staying the rest of the night without actually saying anything.
After about two episodes, I fell asleep on the couch, but was soon awakened by the nurse who was checking in on me. She smiled and went about her business, clicked her tongue in disapproval at Phoenix, and left without a word. I was glad for that, at least.
After a while, Phoenix fell asleep too, the covers pulled up tight around her chin, the perpetual flat-lined lips still in place. I turned the TV off and was just about to go back to sleep on the couch when she suddenly jerked awake.
“I was watching that!” Her eyes were the widest I’d ever seen them and when she looked to me, all I could see was the fear.
“Phoenix . . . I turned it off—“
Her eyes darted around the room and I guess she must have realized where she was, because she settled back against the pillows and sighed. She didn’t say anything else except “I want to watch ‘Lucy’.” So I turned it back on and we watched the same disk twice over before she fell back to sleep.
I was able to get two hours of sleep that night. The slept through most of the next day, except for chemo and Ms. Ryder’s visit to thank me for taking care of Phoenix the night before. I could only tell her that it was no problem.