“No physical activity for a year”

She had to take small steps, as she walked from the car to the hospital building. Her legs and waist were wrapped tightly in a warm slightly stretchy fabric of her new skirt. Her mom got it for her to celebrate the end of the hospital stay. The department store that her mom was the manager of was now overflowing with  clothes, shoes and accessories that would make any twelve-year old thrilled. And everything was at her fingertips, as her mom was the boss.

Now she was walking in her new grown-up skirt, following her parents to the doctor’s office for a check-up. Severe headaches started one afternoon when she was home alone after school, watching once again her favorite musical ‘Grease’ and dreaming of her dancing like Olivia Newton-John with John Travolta. This time the glamour and rousing rock’n’roll rhythms did not excite as much.

Headaches were followed by the several days of high fever. It turned out to be meningitis that needed hospitalization. She missed the month of schoolwork, badminton trainings, and, most regrettably, dance practices, but now she was feeling well, and it seemed that all was getting back to normal. The headaches were gone and she was glad there would be no more needles pierced into her spine to extract cerebrospinal fluid for examination, after which she had to lie flat for 24 hours. Now only the new skirt made her walk bit awkwardly, but so proudly at the same time; black, long, narrow, high-waist skirt that she felt made her look classy. The stretchy fabric was giving in a bit, but it was still constraining the movement of her legs during the brief routine doctor’s examination on the medical table. She did not take it off though. She sat then next to her parents on the chair, listening to the doctor report and the instructions for the future. Staring at her skirt-covered legs, all she heard from the doctor was the clear and firm: “no physical activity for a year now”, immediately followed by her father reassuring her, with a slight sense of satisfaction: “and that also means no dancing”. Through tears, from the corner of her eye, she could see her mother disapprovingly looking at the father. Maybe she knew nothing in her big department store could help here.