This week’s prompt:
A hospital, a balloon, Hot Pink
Squeak. Squeaka squeaka squeak. The clown stuck the balloon animal around the corner, honking a little horn as he wiggled it. There was no reaction. Usually the kids giggled when he did that. The hot pink he used for the animals almost always got their attention. He peeked around the corner into the room. The hospital bed was empty. The sheets were mussed. The occupant was probably in the bathroom. Most of the patients were children on this floor, and he was surprised not to see a parent or relative there. He stepped into the room fully. The bathroom door was open, and the light was off. No one was in there. He turned back to the bed and jumped in surprise. A little girl, about 9 or 10 years old, stood between the bed and the window. She looked out over the city. The odds were good if she was here; she was not from here. They transferred a lot of patients here from smaller hospitals not set up for pediatric medicine on the same level this one was. Her dark hair was braided into two neat braids, she wore a robe over the hospital gown and the socks with rubber soles they gave to every patient. She turned her head slightly when he looked at her, but did not say anything. He got a glimpse of large dark eyes in a too pale face before she turned back to the window. The sun was not down completely yet, but the lights of the city were already on. It looked like a small galaxy of lights outside. “Would you like an animal?” the clown asked. He had dealt with shy children before. He used his gentlest tone. The girl gave him another brief look, but shook her head. Not a sound came from her. “How about just a balloon?” Again she shook her head, but this time did not look at him. “I will just leave one on the bed here for you then.” He said. He blew up another hot pink balloon and placed it on the covers. He was about to speak again when he noticed something unsettling. The window reflected his image back to him, and a bright rectangle of the door and a spot where the under cabinet light was on over the sink, but the little girl was missing. He stepped back and looked again. The reflection showed only a clown in the room and a lone balloon on the white sheets. “Do you need anything?” He asked. He felt fear and sadness warring for control. He got another look and a small smile before she shook her head again. She pointed to the door, and the clown turned to look. When he turned back, she was gone and a nurse in blue scrubs was coming his way. “Sorry, we should have closed this door,” she apologized, taking the balloon from the bed and handing it back. “I’m afraid she is no longer with us.” He could not speak, the little girl with big serious eyes was all he could think of. Eyes full, and the world swimming, he took the balloon back and moved out into the hall. Maybe it was time to retire.