Ruth rocked in the chair, staring at the floor and the sunlight streaming through the windowpane. She had remained this way for some time. With a sudden revelation, she stood up out of the blue and pulled the window curtain closed. The blazing sun disappeared. Darkness spread. She lit two thick red candles in front of her father’s photo. "Just wait. Sara and I are coming to see you."
Tears drew lines on her face like rainwater on windowpanes. She went to the kitchen and filled a glass with water. Ruth wiped the spilled drops, took a handful of pills from the medicine box, and dropped them into the water. She waited for them to dissolve.
In the next room, Sara lay. Unable to move arms and legs. She had been like that since the day she was born. Tetraplegia. Sedation solution in her hand, Ruth came into the room and stood for a while staring at her, weeping.
"Sara, open your mouth."
She turned her head to her mother's face. "Have you made up your mind?"
“Don’t you want to meet Grandpa?
"Didn't Grandpa tell you to meet him in the next life?"
She poured the medicine into Sara's mouth. "Okay, but if I'm gone early, who will look after you?" Ruth asked.
"Isn't living with hope what Gra..." Sara fainted before she could finish.
Putting the glass on the tea table, Ruth kissed her forehead. "I’m sorry, Dear."
Ruth pulled a white pillow from the bed, held it to her chest and glanced at Sara for the last time. She bent towards her face. TRING... TRING... Hearing the doorbell, Ruth gasped for breath. TRING.
She threw down the pillow, went to the door and checked through the peephole. A bald Chinese man stood on the other side. She sighed and looked down, then opened the door halfway.
The stranger looked at Ruth and smiled. "Do you know me?"
She lifted her head and thought for a moment. "Um... Cha... ng?"
"Please come in."
Bowing his head, Zhang stood in front of her father’s photo for a moment and then went to the couch. “Song told me." Zhang said.
"Yes, she was there."
“Is it a power failure?” When Zhang looked at the lamp and the switch, Ruth turned on the light. "When I first came to this city, it was Jacob Pa who introduced me here and everywhere. Pa used to take me when he went out with Sara. He was so nice to me."
"Well, he went to bed and the next morning he was just dead. Silent attack."
"Sorry for your loss. Life is like that."
"Yes, unexpected and unnatural."
"Where is Sara? She was five years old the last time I saw her.”
"She’s sleeping. What do you want to drink?" She asked while putting the tablet strips away in their jar.
"Just a glass of water."
Ruth went to the kitchen. She opened the fridge.
"Are you still teaching English?" Zhang asked
"Yeah... I haven't started again since Dad left," she said while taking a lemon from the tray. "What are you doing?"
"I'm a detective now."
Alarmed, Ruth stopped cutting the lemon and stared at the ceiling. She took a glass of water and rushed to the living room. But Zhang was not there. She went to Sara’s room. There he was, gazing at the girl. She held out the glass. He took it from her and placed it next to the sedative solution.
"She’s in a deep sleep."
"Yes, I gave her a painkiller. Sedative."
"Pa loved Sara so much."
"Yeah, she's feeling it worse than I am."
Zhang turned and went back to the living room. "Grief is natural when those who loved us are gone."
"Well, it was nice to see you… and good to know that old students still remember us."
"How couldn’t I? The only reason I survived back then was your coaching."
"I’ll see you, well where is the next stop?"
"Are you going anywhere?"
"Hmm... I have a doctor’s appointment?"
Zhang got up and walked towards the entrance. “I did have something else to say."
“Mamma... Where are you? Are you dead? Am I next to Grandpa?” Sara began screaming non-stop, breaking their conversation.
Zhang noticed the crying. Ruth saw the doubt in his eyes. "…she’s afraid of the dark." Ruth hurried to her room.
"Mamma is here." Ruth clung to her.
"Are we not dead?" She asked.
The light came on. Sara looked up and saw a man standing in the doorway.
"Mamma’s old student."
"Do you remember me?" Zhang asked.
Sara said nothing. Zhang noticed the glass of cloudy water and misplaced pillow.
"Say goodbye to him."
"Uncle, stay with us today," Sara said.
"Zhang is a cop, he has to work."
"Don’t worry, Uncle is not going." Zhang said.
Ruth remained silent. She laid her on the bed and went out into the hallway.
“I came to tell you... I know a doctor. Hi Rently. He has developed a new treatment for her condition. You could take her to him."
“We took her to a lot of doctors when Dad was here. Everyone said it's impossible to treat.”
“All I know is that Rently treated patients at the genetic level. Isn't anything better than her staying like this? Otherwise our superfluous thoughts will hurt her life."
Ruth looked up at Zhang and asked, "Where is the doctor’s office?"
"A one-hour drive from here?"
Zhang stayed there that day. At night, Sara and Ruth went out to eat with him at the Chinese Oasis. He drove them to the beach where Grandpa used to take them and came home late.
Out of the city, on a densely wooded estate, sat a secluded castle. A plaque on the pillar of the gate read “Rently’s Citadel.” Inside the doctor’s office, Rently pressed the stethoscope to Sara’s chest and listened. After turning away from her, he sat in front of Ruth.
"Tetraplegia is a condition without a cure," he said, "Physical and occupational therapy are all we have for her right now."
"She’s already doing that."
"The good news is, the gene that causes TP has been found."
"If we are able to edit it, the paralysis will change and she should be able to live without help.”
Ruth's face lit up as she turned her gaze to Sara.
"No... let me stay the way I am," Sara said.
"Sara..." Ruth interrupted, "Has anyone had this treatment before?"
The doctor sighed, "To be honest, this would be the first time."
"Would Grandpa have agreed to this if he were here?" Sara stepped in again.
"What's the success rate?" Ruth asked.
"When we used it on a paralyzed mouse, it picked a sugar cube without help."
"Mom, this isn’t natural. I'm not doing it." Sara’s eyes showed fear.
"Ruth, your daughter's consent is more important than anything else,” said the doctor, “Just make your child understands this first."
Sara's resentment did not change when she got home. She didn’t say anything to her mother that day. The next day, when Ruth was feeding her a mashed-up banana, she asked, "What did you decide about the treatment?"