The car was stuffy and cramped. The rain tumbling down upon the roof of the exhausted Tempo showed no signs of letting up anytime soon. The sheer velocity of the howling wind in conjunction with the sheets rain of spilling out from the clouds above created just enough noise to drown out the music creeping past tired speakers. A little girl sighed in despair as she asked her father why they were here for what was quite possibly the fourth time in the span of a minute.
He said nothing and continued to hum along to music he could not hear.
Clearly frustrated, the little girl tugged at a few loose pieces of thread on the head-rest in front of her. When she had freed a few strands, she twirled them around while in the grasp of two small fingers.
"Lookit." she exclaimed to the little boy beside her.
"What?" he asked.
"It's fairy hair because it's blue." she told him. "That means it came from a fairy."
"No it doesn't." the boy replied.
"Yes, it does."
"You're stupid," he told her. "It came from the seat. I saw you pick it."
The girl flicked the strands of thread towards the boy in typical sibling quarreling fashion and yelped when he began to dig his nails into her forearm.
"Daddy!" she cried out. "He's hurting me! Ow, stop it!"
Hands were swatted away, but daddy said nothing and continued to hum along to music he could not hear.
The fighting eventually subsided and both children went back to their watchful positions beside their respected windows. The girl had the view of the hospital while the boy stared out at miles upon miles of trees and bushes.
Squinting through the rain splattered upon the window, the girl tried to picture what was going on inside the looming building in the near distance. It was massive in size to anyone who stood before it, but to a small child, it was enormous. The rain had soaked into the brick making the entire building appear dark and dreary. Just like a prison, the girl thought. The kind of architectural failure where people limp through empty corridors with debilitating balls and chains strapped around their ankles. The girl wondered what her mother had done to receive such a punishment. Surely she hadn't done anything wrong. In fact, she had let them have chocolate milk before bed the night before. In the eyes of her daughter, she was a Goddess. A Nestlé Quick queen.
"Is mommy sick?" the girl wondered out loud. She never intended for her father to hear her because of the many previous failed attempts to capture his attention beforehand.
"No." he responded roughly.
"Why are we at the ospital?" the boy asked.
"It's hospital dumb-bum." his sister corrected him.
"Your mother is visiting a sick friend."
"Who?" the boy and girl asked in unison.
"No one you know."
"But she didn't bring any flowers," the girl mused. "Why didn't she bring any flowers? You're supposed to bring flowers if someone is sick."
"I've told you two why we were here, now it's time to be quiet."
"Do you know the sick person?" the girl asked, ignoring her father's request for silence. "What's wrong with them? Are they dying?"
Again, he said nothing and went back to humming along to music he could not hear.
"Mommy was sick." the boy whispered loudly.
"When?" the girl asked fearfully.
"Enough!" the father barked loudly. "Be quiet and listen to this song. You'll like it."
He leaned forward and turned the knob on the stereo a little to the right. The music began to overpower the noise of the storm battering the already beaten car sheltering the family.
The girl listened intently as the music quickly filled the gaps of silence her father had so requested.
Gazing at people, some hand in hand, just what I'm going through, they can't understand...
"Who sings this?" she asked timidly. She isn't sure if she is allowed to speak.
"The Moody Blues." her father replied stretching out in his seat once again. "This song is called 'Nights in White Satin'"
As her father hummed along to the flute solo, the girl pictured her mother as a distraught princess being held captive in that ugly building across the street. Squeezing her eyes shut while letting the music gently guide her thoughts, she conjured up images of knights cloaked in white armour riding up to the entrance of the hospital while perched proudly upon silver-haired horses. It was beautiful child-like imagery; so innocent and unperturbed of any ill realism that may come from age and maturity. It would have drove her father to tears had he had an opportunity to peer inside of the mind of his young daughter. But he didn't, not this time. All he could do was glance back at his two children with saddened eyes as they tapped their toes to the melody of a song their father enjoyed. They were clueless, so clueless, and this comforted him.
"I'm going to have to leave you two alone for a bit." the father said glancing at his watch. "You can't go anywhere, do you understand me?"
"Why can't we come with you?" the girl asked in desperation.
"The hospital is no place for children."
"But babies are born in hospitals," the girl retorted. "And kids with no hair have to stay in hospitals until all their hair grows back. That's what my teacher told us."
"Your teacher shouldn't be telling you about stuff like that, you're too young."
"No I'm not."
"Yes you are." he said to her as he opened the car door to escape. "I'll leave this song on for you guys while I'm gone. You like it, right?"
He stood crouched over for a few moments rewinding the song to the beginning as his daughter glared at him.
"I want to see the babies." she pouted.
"There are no babies at this hospital." he told her. "Just lots and lots of sick people. No kids allowed."
And with that, he slammed the door shut and raced towards the hospital with his shirt pulled over his head to protect his hair from the rain.
"Maybe they're bringing home a baby." the boy suggested as the two children watched their father sprint away.
The girl's eyes lit up.
"Yeah!" she exclaimed excitedly. "And it's supposed to be a surprise so that's why they never told us anything. And now daddy has to go in to make sure mommy picked the right one."
"I hope it's a boy." her brother muttered.
"No, it's gonna be a girl."
"Ew, no more girls." the boy said sounding disgusted.
"I really hope it's a baby," the girl says nervously. "I don't like it when people are sick."
"Mommy is sick."
"Why do you keep saying that?"
"Because she was, I saw."
"Maybe she was just nervous about the baby. Like how she gets when she says we can't watch TV because of her head."
"It wasn't that kinda sick, another kind."
"You're just being a dumb-bum again."
"No, you are."
More sibling quarreling ensued until blood began to appear on the girl's hand from the nails of her brother that had pierced her flesh.
"You're in so much trouble when mommy and daddy come back, so much trouble." she said as she smeared the blood around to make the wound appear more severe then it was.
Her brother watched on in fear until he realized he had a scratch on his hand he could show his parent's as well. The car was silent yet again until the girl suggested that they start a "Baby Watch"
"They'll come out from over there," she said pointing towards the hospital. "So if we watch, we can see them when they bring out the baby."
"Okay!" her brother cried out in excitement. "I hope it's not still raining when they come out."
A great deal of time passed before their eyes fell upon anything familiar. But suddenly, there he was - their father, guiding their mother towards the car. She was walking slowly, too slowly the girl thought and there was a stranger pushing a wheelchair walking with them. This confused both children, but not as much as did the absence of any baby.
"Maybe they're coming to get us so we can go in to see it." the boy whispered as both parent's approached the car.
But they weren't.
Their mother, looking ragged and spent, slid carefully into the passenger seat as their father stood by the door and watched on. The girl caught his gaze and he smiled meekly at her.
When the last leg had been swung inside, the door was slammed shut, locking mother and children inside.
"Where is the baby?" the boy blurted out tactlessly.
"What baby?" their mother asked weakly. "There is no baby."
But there had been.
"Are you sick?" the girl asked in confusion.
"No, I'm fine." her mother replied.
But she wasn't.
Their father was inside the car now, looking over at his wife with such hatred that he began to scare his daughter who merely looked on in curiosity.
He looked disgusted.
Because he was.
He looked tormented.
Because he was.
Clueless they were no longer, comfort he no longer felt in their presence. It was all so obvious, even to a child.
During a familiar melody, the little boy in the back-seat named the missing baby "Chuck E." after his favourite place to eat while his sister wondered just what it was they did in that massive building that was slowly fading into the background as that rusty Tempo sped away from reality.