According to all reports that they’d heard about the epidemic that had hit Annica’s city and other, more far-off areas, this was certainly it. The symptoms were all they’d been told to fear: mainly high fever sometimes accompanied by delirium, intense coughing, a terrible bodily weakness necessitating bedrest, and a strange sallowness of the skin. Because of this last, many referred to it as the “yellow plague”. Another fearful aspect was the speed with which it spread, and within a couple days half the village was laid up in the Pipes’ inn-turned-hospital. No one was sure where it had come from, but the one thing they all knew for certain was that it had come rampaging into their peaceful little world and was tearing it apart in the blink of an eye. Annica and Mistress Pipe decided later that the only reason most of the village wasn’t carried off by it as had happened in the city, was that village folk were much hardier than the more pampered city dwellers. Otherwise, the whole community may have been gone in a matter of days. Instead, the yellow plague lingered as the villagers fought it with all their strength.
It affected more children than anyone else. Mistress Pipe enlisted every still healthy person she could to help nurse the ill.This included Annica, and she threw herself into the work with a dedication that almost worried Mistress Pipe. She barely slept or ate, only helped in every way she could possibly find. Mistress Pipe realized that, naturally, Annica felt this was a chance for her to make up for her failure to help her family. Annica became particularly attached to a sick boy of about four or five named Ethan, one of Mae’s little friends. During the night, unless she was needed elsewhere, she could always be found at his bedside. He reminded her of one of her brothers, Trystan. Even during her meanness, she’d always had a special bond with him, been almost a second mother to him. Thus, when she saw little Ethan, a boy of about the same age, with similar eyes and almost the same brave smile showing through his suffering, her heart was his and she became devoted to him. His mother, who was also ill (although deemed likely to pull through) was very grateful to Annica for her attentions to her little boy, and the three became very close. In fact, whether she wanted it to or not, the epidemic was bringing Annica closer to everybody as she nursed the sick, assisted the healthy and consoled those whose loved ones didn’t make it. Her natural kindness and compassion won out over her fears and her reserve; she recognized that, at least as a helping hand, she was needed, and she clung to that.
Then, one night, Death seemed to be hovering around Ethan’s bed. He had been starting to come around, but suddenly his symptoms flared. He fell unconscious and delirious and breathing became difficult. His little body struggled all night, and almost everyone gave him up for dead. Everyone but his mother and Annica. His mother was still laid up herself however, and could do nothing but watch and pray and hold his hand. Annica, meanwhile, stayed up with them through the night and never gave up on him.
“I will not,” she said to herself again and again, “I will not lose him. The world can not be so cruel as that…it can not, no, he can’t leave.”
She did everything possible; she ladled medicine down his throat, she held him, wiped his forehead. She didn’t know how much any of it helped, but at last, in the morning, the fever broke. He opened his eyes.
Ethan and his mother both survived the illness, and eventually Annica gave in to their invitation to come live with them. The village lost many loved ones to the sickness and would mourn for a long time to come, but the beauty of how it brought everyone together was not lost on Annica. She began to realize how much people need each other, always. Of course there is always the risk of losing them, and people are not always kind to each other even though they love them, but it is worth every risk simply to be loved. She wasn’t quite there yet, but there was hope now; hope that Annica’s heart could someday heal, and that she might accept her newfound family.
I've never really been happy with how this part turned out. As my professor pointed out, it feels very summarized. Input and advice for improvement are very much welcome. :)