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A Song for a Princess
Come on. Play for me again, Ellen.
The front door shut as I plodded up the stairs to my room. My grandma had just left to go back to New Mexico after living with us for the past month. As I reached my door, I heard my mom collapse on our couch in the living room. I gently shut my door as the sound of crying floated up to me. I laid down on my bed as memories invaded my consciousness. A black dress, tears running down my face, and comforting hands… all of these memories came back with a vengeance that threatened to engulf me.
A small pudgy hand encased in a white glove reached up to me. “Come play princess with me, Ellen!” cried Abby. She was dressed in a pink ball gown with plastic jewelry that matched.
“Not right now. I have to practice for my next recital,” I said in return. Then I turned away from her- back to my piano and a particularly difficult Mozart piece.
“Fine, I’ll go find someone else to pretend with,” Abby retorted.
“O.K.,” I said as I waved her away with impatience, my mind already turning back to my work.
As I resurfaced from my memories, I found I had unknowingly walked from my room to Abby’s door. It stood shut as it had been since she left for dance class that horrible night. I felt compelled to open it; I did and stepped inside. Walking into that room was like stepping back in time; nothing had changed. The bed was still covered in a pink bedspread and posters of Disney princesses were plastered on every wall. As I looked around, I noticed her music box lying on the ground. It seemed it had fallen of her dresser and had been left to collect dust on the floor. Slowly, I bent and picked it up. My hand tipped the lid open and an eerie feeling invaded my body as silence filled the room. No music rose to fill my ears. I tried again; lifting and closing the lid with growing distress. I could almost hear the hauntingly beautiful melody that usually spilled forth from the tiny box. Tears welled up inside me as I was swept away to another time and place.
“What did you do at day care today, Abby?” I asked as we ate the chicken my mom had made us for dinner.
“We talked about what we wanted to be when we grow up,” she replied. “I want to be a princess, but, when I told my class, Charlie told me I couldn’t be one,” my little sister stated fiercely. “He said princesses are only pretend and that I was silly to believe they were real,” she said as she turned her head to look over at me. “But he was wrong, wasn’t he, Ellen? I can be a princess, can’t I?” she desperately asked. Her eyes were large and filled with tears as she gazed at me; all that mattered to her was knowing her dreams were still possible.
“Of course you can be a princess, Abby,” I heard myself reply. “What do boys know about being princesses, anyway?” She looked at me for a few seconds and then turned away; nodding her head as she thought it through.
“You’re right,” she said as she struggled to put Charlie’s words out of her mind. “You’re right.”
I wiped the tears from my face as I got up from where I had sat on Abby’s bed. Slowly, almost like I was old and weak, I walked back to my room and sat on my window seat. As I sat there with the sun on my face, I thought back on the turn my life had taken over the last month.
The hospital, the funeral home, and the return to semi-normal life were blurred by a veil of tears. Suddenly, I couldn’t take it anymore. I just wanted to forget and push those painful memories as far back in my mind as possible. I stumbled to my feet and walked towards my bathroom to wash my face and to collect myself. All of a sudden, I tripped over a box that was on the floor. The box’s contents spilled onto the floor in a jumbled heap. Music scores and pictures littered the carpet. I picked up one of the pictures and studied it. The picture showed Abby’s smiling face and her ever-present princess costume. The music scores were mostly Disney songs- all of Abby’s favorites. She had insisted I learn them and play them for her. I still remember her insistent cry of “one more song, Ellen, please.” I was never able to say no to her when she looked at me with those big brown eyes. Abby would dance around the house with her imaginary prince and sing-along at the top of her lungs. She would get this dreamy look on her little face like she was imagining her future of living in a castle and riding in a horse-drawn carriage.
With that memory, came another. This one was of the night my life changed forever. It all came flooding back in a never-ending torrent. I remembered the phone call that told me my mom and sister had gotten in a car accident. My mom only had bumps and bruises, but Abby had sustained serious brain damage. When I got to the hospital, I rushed to Abby’s bedside. She looked so small and pale beneath the sterile white sheets. She didn’t stir as I took her hand. I learned she had slipped into a coma soon after she had arrived there. My mom and I stayed and slept there on a coach. Then, silently in the middle of the night, she left this world and me forever.
The funeral was the next hurdle to overcome. Mostly I remember the comforting hands but empty words. As life returned to normal for others, I had to return to school. The stares and whispers hurt, but the people who wanted to talk were the worst part. I didn’t want to talk. I wanted to forget… forget the pain and the hole inside my heart. After a while, I learned to keep to myself. When I was finally ready to talk to someone, they no longer wanted to talk to me at all.
I returned from those agonizing memories with a gasp. Slowly, almost painfully, I walked to my piano and sat down on the bench. Sunlight filtered through the dust that filled the air as I wiped away the thick carpet of it that had settled on my piano. My fingers came to rest on the keys. I began to play, slowly at first but then with increasing intensity. The song that poured forth was like none I had ever heard before. It was a song of hope… a song of love. It was a song for Abby.