The Lily Flower

March 7, 2011
The autumn wind rustled in the trees while I was watching my young grandchildren playing in my backyard. As they clambered next to the forgotten bomb shelter, I couldn’t help but remember long lost days. The days when we seemed so innocent yet were so devious. Then I remembered the girl who made it possible for me to be here today.

My best friend.

Niamh. Even the wind seemed to call her name.

That girl whom I never forgot, the one whom I hope never dies from my family’s memory, the one I love. I called my grandchildren over to me and asked, “Do you want to here a wonderful story?”

My little one asked, “Well... what’s it about?”

I told her it was a story of great courage, loyalty, and friendship. And how one girl changed the lives of many.

My youngest boy exclaimed, “DOES IT HAVE BLOOD?!”

I told him maybe, but he would have to wait and see. So they flopped down silently on the grass, all gathered around my little chair in the backyard; in the bright, and me gleaming sun.

“Now children this story takes place during the war and is a true story. It just so happens that I am part of this story so I would like you do listen very closely.

It was a cold rainy day when my mother told me we were going to have a new neighbor. She told me ‘Now Lizzie I would like you to be nice. You and your sister need to welcome these people. They are from America and don’t know much about London, so please, be welcoming. They have a daughter who’s your age and a son who is a little bit older. They also have younger ones but I don’t think you will care to much about them.’ My mother new us well I am afraid.
‘Gosh mum! I don’t want to have a new neighbor and I DON’T need any more friends. I have plenty thank you very much and they are great. And I know a boy who fancies me and I don’t want to waste my time with some new Americans.’

‘Just be nice. You two Adrian.’

‘Oh alright,’ Adrian and I said in synchronation.

Adrian remember is my twin sister but she is long gone, and I do not want to talk anymore on the subject of Adrian.
So let me keep going.. Where was I? Oh yes, well the week rolled around when Niamh and her family moved into town. Adrian and I glared at them as they drove down the street. I would watch her walk her dog and I remember always being jealous of how well she good sing. Her singing was miraculous. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard in my entire life! I remember going in my house and screaming because I couldn’t sing as well as she.
It became harder to snub the family next-door, and not only because my mother expected us to be nice. One day I saw her and her brother outside practicing footbal. They were wearing Liverpool jerseys and red shorts which I interpreted to be the color of the team they played on back in the United States. I had never seen her brother from the front so I didn’t know what he looked like, and I didn’t care. I heard them talking about who they have met so far in the neighborhood. But then I heard my name come up and I started to listen.
“I really want that girl Lizzie to like me. I don’t know why she doesn’t but I want her to.” Niamh had said.
“Well you need to talk to her and try and show her that you want to be friends.” Her brother said reasonably, then they left.
Then the next day I saw Niamh walking down the street, trailing her hand on the iron fence posts and Adrian and I started to make fun of her. In our best American accents we started talking to her.
‘Oh, so, I see you have brown hair…. You know what they say about that here in London..’
Looking stunned and quite frankly scared, she said, ‘what?’
I told her, ‘Oh, nothing… I just wanted to see what your reaction was going to be’ and burst out laughing.
But she didn’t cry, she didn’t even get mad, she started to laugh along with us. I was stunned and I thought wow, she seems like she could be a good friend.. Then I knew, that girl was going to be my friend, because she won’t take anything from anyone.
Adrian, however, became very jealous once I began to chum around with Niamh. She started yelling at me and getting mad at me for no reason. I would always invite her with Niamh and me but she always said she didn’t want to. But, that didn’t bother me that much for the time being in which Niamh and I became closer than sisters. The time where I had found out that Niamh had lost her father the year before.
One day I was at Niamh’s house doing, who knows what when she had to go out and go to the hospital for some reason (which I thought was very strange) and her brother wasn’t going to be home until later. So I decided to look around her room. What I found shocked me.
I had been found medication apparently for Leukemia. I was shocked she had been keeping such a secret from me. I was dumbfounded; I didn’t know what to do.
Then she walked in. I just remember the look on her face; it was of pure terror. I was so mad that she had not told me I just stormed out, no realizing that she had a life threatening disease and what this might be like for her.
When I got home, I realized what I had done was so wrong I couldn’t even live with myself. I went to go talk to her but she didn’t want to talk, but her brother Timothy did. It was weird because I had never talked to him before. He was really calm about everything and I couldn’t believe what he told me.
‘You know she was just diagnosed with it this year.’ He told me.
‘She still won’t talk to you?’
‘She’ll come around, don’t worry.’
‘You think so?’
‘Yes, she did this to her friend back home, but she got over it and they became best friends again.’
“Grandma, grandma! When are you going to get to the good part?” my grandson interrupted my reverie.
“In a second dear don’t worry.”
“While Niamh wouldn’t talk to me, I decided to snoop around my sister’s room. Oh I know you children are thinking: it is bad manners to snoop. And you are right. But I was the most mischievous child ever and I liked to be that way. That day I found a book that included, “Reasons why I regret being a twin.” I couldn’t believe some of the things Adrian had written! They were crazy! I was so angry, and then I read the very last one and it said, ‘Reason number one hundred twenty three- Niamh O’Sullivan. She has completely ruined my life and I know how to get back at her. Adrian had written ‘I will go to their house at night and ruin their bomb shelter. Then I will not have to worry about that silly girl and her family disrupting my family ever again.’”
“Now children, do you know why there were bomb shelters back then?” I asked my grandchildren.
My granddaughter began, “Because the Nazi’s were bombing-“
“NOOOO!!!! It was because the GERMANS were bombing London.” My grandson interrupted.
“They are the same people! Gosh. Anyway like I was saying, the Nazi’s were bombing London and people needed to somewhere to hide. That one over there is the one your family used!”
“Very good dear.” I excitedly told her. “Now, back to the story shall we?”

I was appalled. I couldn’t even speak. I needed to talk to Niamh right now. Then, I heard—the drone, the screams, the bombs. I was scared to death but I knew I had to go help Niamh and her family. I ran across the street and saw Tim looking as scared as ever, and Tim never gets scared.

Then I saw their house in ruins. I screamed and Tim ran over to comfort me but I knew it would never work.

‘WHERE IS NIAMH?!’ I screamed.

‘I don’t know, she ran off to your house last time I saw her, Lizzie I don’t know what to do, its my sister Alice’s birthday and we were having a party for her.’

‘Where are they?’ I asked.

‘In the shelter. Why?’

‘Look there’s Niamh. NIAMH!!’


‘There’s no time for apologies right now, we need to get everybody out of that bomb shelter right now, its going to fall apart. Please, don’t ask me how I know, I just do.’ I said to them.

‘Okay, we got to get going then.’ Niamh said anxiously.
One by one we began to get the children out of Niamh’s shelter and into my own. Then it happened. The shelter started to collapse…. Just as Adrian said it would, while Niamh was in it. She got back up after being hit with a burning beam. We didn’t even hear her scream.
We got the last to kids out and began to run. But that last child was in so much shock, she would not move. We didn’t notice until we were at the bomb shelter. Niamh said she would go back, but I told her no. She kept insisting so I had no choice.
As I saw her run away, I had this gut feeling that I should not have let her go. As she was running back I saw a lone bomb, falling and falling. I didn’t know how close it was so I just kept screaming to run faster. She carried the child on her hurting burned back.
As she got closer she threw the child at us and told us to get inside; I couldn’t let her stay out there. She kept pushing me and pushing me and I kept resisting saying, ‘No, your not going to die today, no you can’t, you’re my best friend, I Love You.’
She was about to speak as she pushed me into the shelter, but it was too late. As she was about to tell me something, the bomb went off and she closed the door. My best friend, died that day, because she saved the lives of others instead of hers.
I couldn’t help but cry. I sobbed and sobbed in front of her family yelling,
Finally, Tim was able to calm me down, but then, her brother, the strongest person I knew, who didn’t even shed a tear when his father died, began to cry. That was the only time I ever saw Tim cry, and also it was the saddest point in my entire life. It felt my stomach was coming out of my throat and that someone had just punched me in the stomach.
‘Lizzie, Lizzie, oh Lizzie, please don’t cry,’ in the sweetest American accent I have ever heard. I then realized it was Alice. Telling me that I needed to be strong. That six-year-old child was telling me to be strong for her family and mine.
That night Tim and I had a deep conversation and I ended up falling asleep in his lap huddled in that musty bomb shelter.
The next morning we I looked around for Niamh’s body. I read a note that Niamh had written me couple weeks before and took that note to heart, and I still have it today. Quite a few years later I married your grandfather. Can you guess who that is?”
“It’s Tim!”
“Your so right little Alice. I don’t know what I would do without him. And now you know whom I’m talking about when I say auntie Niamh. Her body may not be here, but she’s here, you just have to believe.”
“Okay grandma, I do, I believe.”
Then a huge gust of wind come about and brought a gorgeous lily into Alice’s hands. She looked at it in astonishment and had the biggest smile on her face. I hope she has never forgotten the story I told her of my best friend, Niamh O’Sullivan.

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