Oh, sweet and caring Miss "P"
rating: +10+x

Intensive care aisle, room 342, Juárez Hospital, México City
3:02 AM

The digital clock at the desk barely hit 3 o’ clock when Mateo opened his sad, hazel eyes in a twitch.
Scanning the room he was in, the boy found one of the nurses fixing the blinds. Maybe the shuffle was what caused him to wake up, or maybe it was one of the spasms he has been suffering more and more commonly.
Before he could even mutter a word, much like if she heard him as well, the nurse turned around calmly. Her expression was one of surprise, but when she saw the young boy staring at her without an inch of fear in his body, her chapped, grey lips were able to crack a smile. Most people get scared when they see her kind, after all, and finding someone who didn't was always a pleasant surprise.
“…Well, hello, little one.” The woman spoke in a whisper, almost like she didn’t want to startle the others. Droopy, almost watery, tired eyes stared at the child sweetly, glimmering like pearls as she slowly blinked.
“I’m sorry for waking you up. Are you having a nice stay?”
Mateo replied only with a small nod. Even if no words were said, the nurse didn’t care, her smile becoming wider as she got closer to his bed.
“There, I'll fix your blankets now. Just lay back and relax, try going back to sleep.”

Mateo has never been a talkative child, even before he got a proper diagnosis. The shy little thing didn't move a muscle as the gentle woman tucked his bedsheets with all the care of the world, her pale hands shining under the moonlight like freshly poured snow, ironing any wrinkles she saw. But it was not her scaringly expressive eyes, nor her porcelain skin what made Mateo so inexplicably uneased.
It was her clothes, a simple white dress with a dirty, worn off apron that had seen better days, and a white tiara crowning her head, a red embroidered cross in the middle of it being the only thing that gave both her attire and aspect a happier splash of color. A crystal clear contrast against the other nurses’ squeaky clean uniforms he got so used to lately, sticking out of the spectral looking woman like a sore thumb.

Mateo wasn’t talkative. But he was smart enough to notice the little details in life. And thus, his childish curiosity took the best in him.
“…Why are your clothes so weird?”

The nurse stopped her duties abruptly when she heard his question, gripping into the sheets and paying attention to her body language to not startle him. It took her a bit to speak back, hoping her answer was enough to satisfy a child his age.
“…I don’t work here, per se.” Her smile trembled, trying to hide her sudden mood change as much as she could. “But I like showing here from time to time to help my workmates and other personnel during the night. That’s why I don’t wear what the other nurses do.”
“So… you’re a volunteer?”
The nurse chuckled in delight at such an assumption.
“You can call me that, yes dear.”

A short “Oh” escaped from Mateo’s lips. Satisfied with her answer, the nurse’s shoulders relaxed, sitting at the side of his bed. She found his innocence endearingly cute, and if it helped him sleep and forget his pain, a conversation wouldn’t hurt.

“What is your name, little one?”
Now the boy was the one taken a bit back, his own shyness making him remember his initial nervousness despite having heard this question all over. But the nurse waited for his answers with no rush whatsoever.
“Oh, that’s a beautiful name, and how old are you, Mateo?”
“I’ll be either twelve or thirteen next month, on the 17th.”
“Awe, look at you!” She chuckled. “You’re such a big lad already! And really smart too… Nice to meet you.”

The nurse shivered.
He was so young.
She’s never going to get used to this.

“Why don’t you tell me a bit about yourself, Mateo?” The kind lady continued, regaining her posture. “If you want, that is, I understand if you’re too tired for a conversation.”
“…What do you want to know?”
“Anything you want to tell me.”
The young child laid back in silence, thinking of an answer he could give to the nurse sitting by his side. The woman, in the meantime, waited patiently, fixing a strand of messy and raggedy looking hair behind her ear. All her attention shifted back to Mateo when she heard him muttering.
“I like… dogs.”
“Dogs? Oh, I prefer cats myself, but dogs are really nice, yes.” She nodded, smiling. “What kind of dogs do you like?”
“Uhm, I like my dog.”
“Oh! You have a dog? And what's he like?”
“It’s, uhm. She is a girl dog, you know?”
“Oh… I’m really sorry hun. What's she like?”
“Well, she is… scruffy, and brown and white, not really big either. And she barks at the mailman, is scared of the vacuum, and when she was a puppy she peed on my bed.”
The nurse couldn’t help but chuckle slightly again at the shenanigan’s mention.
“Aw, baby animals do that when they are little. Even human babies do, that’s normal! What matters is if you raised her well so she doesn’t do that anymore.”
“Well, she doesn’t pee on my bed now, so… I guess?”
“See? That means you are a really good owner. What's her name?”
“Nuez is an amazing name for a dog.” She giggled. “Do you play a lot with Nuez?”
“Am I going to die?”

What little comfort there was in the room escaped when Mateo made the question.
The dreaded question she heard over and over again, when she had the chance to be around or work with children especially. They always ask, no matter her efforts to avoid it.
Her already wet eyes sparkled more. But she didn't cry. Not yet.

“…What do you-”
“You know what I mean.”
The woman was left speechless, but the worst thing is that she was not shocked in the slightest. The talk had to come eventually, be it by herself or told by someone close to Mateo. What surprised her is how early it came.
She tried talking, finding something quick to distract him and not make him more upset. Unfortunately, Mateo was faster.

“I'm sick. My dad was sick. My grandpa is sick. He told me it’s normal for the side of his family to be sick like this. He forgets things, his legs hurt when he stands, and he can’t move his hands well anymore. My uncles told me he got sick before I was born. He went to the hospital and.-”
Mateo stopped his tale abruptly before continuing. The nurse didn’t even flinch, but if she still had a pulse, her heart would be broken.
“…They took him to the hospital and got told he had something…I heard the doctor told my mom and aunt too. It has a weird name that begins with “J”…The doctors told my dad he had it as well the same day my grandpa got sick, but he got very ill earlier than my grandpa, and he got worse as I grew up. When I was ten, he…”
Another pause, longer and more painful than the last. Mateo spoke with a knot in his throat, his dark hair falling down his forehead like a cascade as he looked down, gripping the blankets as hard as he could.
“…It began when I had a bit of trouble remembering things at school. Mom told me that was normal for kids my age, but I began having spasms and… They brought me here first when I suddenly fell on my way to class and told the teacher I couldn’t feel my legs. They told my mom I had it too, and it will only get worse. She cried a lot, but I think deep inside she knew.”
And now Mateo’s eyes were the ones getting cloudy. But unlike the attentive nurse, he didn't know how to contain it.
“I…Don’t want to forget. I don’t want to make my mom, my uncles and my grandparents sad. I don’t want to make Nuez sad either, I still wanna play with her, and play with my friends too. I don’t wanna be sick. People tell me it will be okay but they are lying to me. I know, I saw. I will get worse and…I won’t be able to walk, nor talk…I will forget everything, and…”

The worst thing you can do to a child is lie to them.
The second worst thing is to give them false hope.
The third worst thing is to take them for granted.
Especially if the child is terminally ill.

The woman knew this really well. She has seen it countless of times, a constant trial and error even back when she worked at the hospital.
That is why she embraced the crying boy without saying anything else.
What more was there left to say, really? This was a kid who knew about death way too soon, letting him be vulnerable was the least she could do.
And thus they were, the little boy and the nurse, in each other’s arms. The woman’s touch felt cold, too cold to be normal, like hugging a storm cloud. But Mateo didn’t care. He needed this.
After some moments that felt eternal, the woman broke the silence:

“…Mateo” Her lips quivered, thinking her answer as best as she could: “I wish I could tell you that everything will be okay. That you will get better and you soon won’t be sick anymore. But…” She tightened the hug, gasping: “…You are a really smart kid, and have seen and lived through things no child your age deserves to experience. You know it already, and no amount of reassurance, neither from your family nor other doctors will change it.”
Now the nurse was the one about to cry. She couldn’t help it.
“I’m really sorry if I made you feel stupid or ignorant, my sweet child.” She shushed in a whisper. “You are neither of those. You are a brilliant little boy and do not deserve any of this, I just… didn’t want to upset you any further. You don’t deserve to hear any more bad news.”

A short silence followed before Mateo was brave enough to break it, even if his sentence was interrupted with sobs and short hiccups:
"What… is your name?"

Much like before, despite how simple his inquiry was, the woman was left speechless.
It was the first time in years someone asked for her name. Her real one, that is.
And right now, she wished she could give an answer to the poor boy in her arms.

Be it in forums, books, or even in real life, people knew about her. In fact, the older doctors and nurses, other patients she visited, and the lucky ones that knew her in person when she was alive yet their times had yet to come were the ones that helped share her story and make her be known for people outside the building's walls. But everyone always used a name that was not hers, for her real one had been forgotten a long time ago, even long before most of them were born.
Not even she was able to remember. But she didn’t mind at all.
In fact, she really liked her new name.

“You can call me Miss P, my dear” She smiled, tightening her hug.
And Mateo didn’t even think twice about his answer.
“…Will you visit me while I’m here, Miss P?”
“Of course I will, sweetheart.”
“And… will my family and friends be here too?”
“They will. You will never go alone through this, no matter how long or short this journey will be.”
“Can Nuez visit too?”
“Sure thing she can. I will make sure of it, don’t worry.”

Miss P then pulled off the hug, but she remained close to Mateo. Her pale hands tried wiping away his tears and combing his now messy hair, but the kid felt nothing but a breeze of air everytime she moved her fingers.
Neither paid mind to it.

“Now go rest, my child” Miss P whispered, her lips quivered as she tried not to cry in front of Mateo. “You had a rough day, and you need to sleep.”
The child opened his mouth to reply, but he realized the truth in Miss P’s words when he let go a yawn by accident. The heavy talk made him forget how much his body hurt and how sleepy he really was. A small nod was all that was needed for the nurse’s smile to grow bigger, helping him lay down on his pillow again.
When the woman made sure the child was as comfortable as he could be, she gently kissed him goodnight, helping him wrap himself.

“Goodnight, Mateo,” Miss P whispered. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“…Goodnight, Miss P. Do you really promise you’ll come back?”
“I very much do.”

And before her voice trembled more and Mateo could see tears rolling down her cheeks, Miss P turned around and exited the room with a slow pace, crying silently to herself.
Mateo laid in the comfort of his freshly made bed, watching his new friend stroll back to the door. But the always attentive Mateo noticed something.
Miss P didn’t even open the door.
In fact, she went straight through it, like if she was made of mist.
… Like if she were a ghost.

He was too tired to care, however. Even if he was lucid enough to process what happened or realize what she was, he wouldn’t mind at all.
Mateo really liked Miss P, undead or not.
Like everyone else does.

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