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It was a hot and muggy morning as I sat by the river waiting for the world to turn. I used to come up here every bright summer sunrise to smell the sweet flowers and breathe in the crisp morning air. This place everyone calls the valley. But there is nothing valley like about it. It’s a long clear glassy looking river with many cattails and a little island in the middle. The valley is surrounded by old dirty woods and just outside of the woods is a farm land plain area, which is where I live. My house isn’t too big or too small. I guess you could say it’s toasty. I have five family members: Ma, Pa, Eddie, Sam and my soon to come baby sister. Ma does the cooking, gardening, and cleaning. Dad does the hunting and the farming with the help of Eddie. Sam plays ALL DAY and sometimes I help mom with cooking dinner and on Sundays to clean the house. I guess you could call us your typical “Ranch” or “Farm” family. There really isn’t anything too darn interesting about my family. But, that’s not what I am here to tell you about. I am going to tell you about Catharine Valley.
It all started on one of my summer morning adventures out to the valley. This time for breakfast I brought a toasted pbj sandwich and some milk. As I sat down I heard a moan coming from the island. I didn’t think much of it until I heard it louder again. So, I picked up my overalls and tucked my hair up in my hat and began to step into the chilling water. As I took my first step onto the island the moaning stopped and instead a screeched toned voice said, “GO AWAY!” But, I didn’t want to go away and I didn’t. It yelled again,“GO AWAY!” I stepped closer and closer to the center of the island. Then I saw a girl maybe my age with freckles on her nose and on her rosy red cheeks, her hair was strawberry blonde and her eyes brown as the tops of the tall cattails. She was up in a tree hunched over like she was crying. So, I began to say, “Hi” but she interrupted me with a moan, “Go AWAY!” I stood my ground. She began to mumble again in a nasty tone, “Why aren’t you going away?”
“Well, because I heard you crying and I thought that if you were hurt I could help.”
She was silent for awhile as if she was thinking of what to say, “Well I am not hurt I am just crying because I have no place to go,” Another pause and in an even quieter voice she whispered, “I am homeless.”
Around her was a fort just big enough for her a bucket of water and a fire pit surrounded with rocks. I could tell she was shy so I went closer to the tree and said, “Hi, I am Ellen but you can call me Ellie.”
The girl smiled as if nobody ever introduced them selves to her before and wanted to do it right. “Hello, I am Catharine, Catharine Valley.”
We talked on and on for awhile about my family, and then we talked about how she has lived on that island for 2 days, and in a few more she would try to find somewhere more safe for her to live. By the time we where done it was past dinner time and I knew I was going to be in horrendous trouble by the time I got home. “I will come back first thing in the morning,” I told her.
“Wait; don’t tell anyone, well, you know, about me living here Ok?”
I ran as fast as I could off the island and into the cold waters of the river, then through the woods until I could see the smoke come out of my house.
I flung the door open and slipped off my shoes. Nobody was there but I could hear the TV going. So, I took off my parka and hung it up in the hall closet. My dinner was on the table. It was a brown stew, with milk and a piece of chicken on the side. It was cold, but I ate it anyway. After, the dishes were done I tiptoed upstairs to hop into bed. Right as I was about to turn the light off, I heard a noise hit my window. I lifted up the old dusty blue plaid curtains to see Catharine standing there shaking and waving to me, gesturing for me to come outside. Instead I opened the window. It was freezing outside. I felt like a human ice-cicle and the wind blew so hard I could feel it almost knock me out of my window. She was about to shout but I had already figured out what she wanted, to come and spend the night inside. I went down stairs and open the door, it flew open and hit me in the arm. Cat ran inside. I got her a fuzzy robe and a hot cocoa. She sat by the fire for a minute and then came upstairs and laid in the sleeping bag and extra pillow I got her. She was out even before I lay in bed.
The next morning I got up and she was gone. The pillow was under my bed, along with the sleeping bag. I checked my clock, it was 9:32 AM, and I heard my mom making breakfast downstairs. It smelled like pancakes and eggs. So I hurried down and grabbed two helpings of eggs and two milks and said, “Thanks Ma,” and went out the door. When I got on the island I saw my fuzzy robe on a tree branch and Cat up in her tree. She pounced down and walked over to me. I gave her some eggs and her face lit up with delight as if she had not had a good healthy breakfast in a while. I began to eat mine and when I looked up, her eggs and milk were gone. She didn’t say a word until I was done eating.
“Can I show you something?”
“Why not!” I replied
We walked to the other side of the island and off into the waters, then onto the dark brown dirt that was on the ground in the woods. I couldn’t figure out why she was taking me to the woods. I mean, I have been to many, they are all quite the same to me. But, then through the canopy I could see a glimmer of sun shine and just below it a water fall and a rainbow above it. The birds where chirping and humming and the wind whistled. The frogs croaked and the bees buzzed all around. “So what do you think?” Cat asked. I didn’t know what to think.
“Whoa,” Is all I said. “Whoa”.
She began to speak like she was going to tell me something very important “Can I tell you a secret?”
“I don’t really know my real name. The reason my name is Catharine is because of the cattails. I thought my hair was the same color as them.”
I spoke, “Well, ya it is, that’s what I thought when I first met you yesterday.”
“O, ok,” she said back, “Well, that’s good!”
The time flew by. I was outrageously happy to have a friend that wasn’t a cow or some random pig. Maybe she was the best friend I have always wanted. The sun was going down quickly as the fall drew near. I thought that today was going to be the best day ever. But, I was absolutely wrong.
“I better get going! I will bring you breakfast tomorrow, k?”
She replied, “Ya, thanks.”
I skipped over the logs, twigs, bushes and branches till I got to the river. I stepped slowly into the water left, right, left, right. Then I stepped my cold wet feet on to the dirt again and began to sprint home.
When I arrived at home all of the plates were still at the dinner table, cold and unfinished. The warm smell of pot roast was gone, but the fire was still burning to a crisp, orange as ever. The windows were still left open and the truck was gone off the dirt road. It seemed as if they all left on a whim. I couldn’t think of why, though, and where would they go anyway. I sat by the fire thinking and thinking. Then it hit me, MA! SIS! I was finally getting the sister I had always wanted. A rush of joy ran through me! Without thinking I ran to the cupboard and rummaged through all of the boxes until I found the tape, markers, and a long piece of white cardboard. I made a BIG sign that read:
Happy Birthday Sis!
It was all different shades of pink and yellow. I hung it up right above the fireplace. I couldn’t wait to see her beautiful face! I couldn’t wait to hold her. Then I heard the old truck bump up the drive way, the hairs on my arms sprang up and the goose bumps followed.
The first to come in the door was Pa; he was very depressed and glum. All he did was look at the sign and after, stared deep into my eyes, and then he walked up to me, very slow and calm. He gave me a bear hug, and held me like he was holding on for life. When he let go I saw Ed walk in. He didn’t even give me a cocky smirk. Sam followed right behind him with one crystal tear drop that ran down his face.
“Dad, Sam, Eddie...”
“What’ going on? Where’s Ma, where is sis?”
Ma walked through the door. Trying not to sob, but she was not succeeding.
“What’s going on?” I asked, but I already thought I knew.
Ma grabbed my wrist. I thought that she was cutting off my circulation. She slowly sat down on my bed and I plopped hard onto my bean bag chair.
“Honey, your sis, your sis is umm… has passed away.”
Shocked I said, “What? NO!”
I had already figured it out, but I didn’t believe myself. This tiny helpless baby that I had never met made me sob continually. The evening went by slowly as if counting the teardrops. It was thundering outside and the trees were blowing side to side. I heard a rock hit the window, and 2 more, one after the other. It was Catharine. I walked as fast as I could without tripping, I couldn’t see through the blur of my tears. I opened up the door and let her in. I didn’t realize my parents were still awake and they asked:
“Who is that Ellie?”
I didn’t know what to say so I began to mumble things, “Ug ei um a.”
“My name is Catharine,” she spoke.
My dad spoke up, “Well, (sob sob) Catharine (tear), this really (sniff) isn’t a good time.” (Deep breath)
I replied for Catharine, “Pa it’s ok we are friends, don’t worry about it.”
Ma said in a shy sad voice, “Well all right then dear.”
Catharine and I walked up to my room. I told her about my sister and how this whole evening had gone. She seemed actually very interested. I finally knew we were best friends. I went down stairs and asked my parents if Catharine could spend the night and they didn’t respond because they had fallen asleep on the couch. We stayed up all night, mainly talking about my sister, if she would have been alive or what we thought she would have been like. Every time I mentioned her, it felt like my heart was broken even more.
The next morning I woke up and Catharine was actually there. It was very peculiar because she was standing up looking at the books on the book case, turning her head back and forth. It was almost like she didn’t know if she could touch them or not. I said, “You can read them if you like.” No answer. She just picked up the story and began to read. I went downstairs. Mom was making breakfast, eggs, bacon, and hash browns. It smelled so delicious. I turned around and Catharine was behind me.
“Ma, this is Cat, she is my best friend!”
When Cat heard that her face was full of joy and her eyes were gleaming with happiness.
Ma replied, “Well it’s nice to meet you Catharine, can you tell me a little bit about yourself?”
“Well, I love the woods and I also enjoy water falls. My favorite food is fish and pbj. I enjoy swimming.” Then in a soft quick voice she spoke, “I am an orphan and homeless.”
Ma; was shocked. Then I knew she could tell that Cat was wearing some of my old pjs and believed that she was telling the truth.
“Ma; why don’t you talk to Cat more? I will set the table for breakfast.”
They walked into the living room. I could see that they were hitting it out of the park. Maybe Catharine would be able to spend the night again! But, even with all the happiness I felt it hit me again, the sister I had always wanted was gone. Then one tear drop fell down my face. Then I checked back on Ma and Cat, they were still talking. Pa marched down the stairs like a general in the army. You could see he was still overwhelmingly tired. He didn’t see me, but that is common in the morning. He walked over to the living room, then plopped down on a sofa and started to talk to Ma and Cat. Breakfast was already finished and it was almost freezing, but I didn’t care, I was having a great time just watching and occasionally nodding my head when they were talking.
The day flew by after that, it seemed as if they talked for hours. Then Cat and I played board games and watched some TV. Later in the evening my dad lit an orange bonfire outside and we roasted marshmallows. Cat, Ed, Sam and I stayed out later than my folks. When I went inside to get a drink I heard my parents talking about something serious. It was about Cat. Then I heard the word adopt. A joy filled me and I popped up out from under the table saying, “Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!”
They spoke back, “Don’t tell Cat, we want to surprise her in the morning.”
“Ok, I promise!” I ran back outside skipping and running and jumping.
“Hey Cat do you wanna go to bed? I am tired. Aren’t you tired? I am really tired!”
“Ok sure, bye guys,” Cat said.
I said, “Goodnight Ed, Goodnight Sam.” It turned out to be that I was actually really tired and fell right asleep, -and I think so did Cat. That night I slept well; but so excited to have a sister, but still so upset about the one that I had lost.
The morning came quick as lightning and I couldn’t wait to wake up Cat!
“Wake up sleepy head WAKE UP!”
“What?” she yawned.
“Just come downstairs.” Everyone was awake and we had a great celebration that day. Catharine was ecstatic to have a new family and I was excited to have the sister I had always wanted. I will never forget about my little baby sister whom I never got to see, but I will always remember that summer when I finally got the sister I had always wanted.