Losing Her

May 21, 2012
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“Hey, Emily.” I greeted my younger sister that first day, as I came home from school. The T.V. was on, blasting Dora the Explorer from the speakers.

The toddler looked up at me, grinning her nearly toothless smile. There was a pattern of bruises forming on her legs, but I didn’t notice.
“Why aren’t you at the nursery?”
“Sick.” Her smile dulled, expression pained.

I brushed a stray curl away from her eyes, not really paying attention to what her gentle mind was trying to tell me.

A knock on the door turns my head, and a familiar long, skinny body crosses the threshold. “Hello Emily, Grace.” A glare could be seen in my eyes, in her direction.
“Why is Emily alone?” I questioned.
“I was only gone for-”
“But you were gone, weren’t you?” She continues to smile despite the resentment in my voice. “No fight.” We both look down, anger disappearing from my mind, but Mom remains in her defensive state as always, detached from her daughters.
“Shouldn’t you do your homework, Grace?” Mom interrupts, forcing my eyes from Emily. I nodded distantly, and forced my legs to cross the wooden floored hallway into the sanctuary that had become so familiar to me.
Some families aren’t close, especially mine. Mom keeps to herself, going out on dates every night, depending on me to take care of her child. Despite this, I am truly thankful for the things that we have. Sometimes.
The long yellow bus turns the corner, and its passengers slide with it, clinging to the leather seats as they endure the sharp turn. Izzy sits beside me, chatting away about boys, or clothes, or school. She can’t seem to decide which, as she bounces from topic to topic. I smile and nod as always, giving her the illusion that I am listening.
My phone vibrates in the pocket of my new denim jeans, but I hit ignore. Mom. She makes more attempts to call during school, which she is ignorantly unaware I can’t answer during class. My thoughts do not drift back to Emily until a teacher calls my name. I slowly lift my brown head of hair from the lunch table and follow her into the old school office.
I’m at a hospital. Nurses rush around, carting patients between rooms, desperately trying to protect them from the hopeless feelings drifting around. Nurses and doctors offer kind smiles, even if the news is grave.
Mom called. Emily fell. It didn’t seem to be grave, but the doctors hadn’t been allowing us to see her because of the tests they were forcing her to endure. Why can’t we be there? I asked myself. A tan skinned man appeared, clutching a clipboard to his stomach, which was covered by a long white coat. When he speaks, the distant ringing of phones are not heard. Nor are the sound of crying people, shuffling shoes. He finishes talking, and I am forced to wrap my head around the news. “We think your daughter might have cancer.”

Mom draws in her breath as he addresses her. She clutches the cheap green cloth of the hospital chair, yet her voice remains calm. “How?”
“We aren’t sure yet, but the results will return in a few days.”

At school they told us about leukemia. Too many white blood cells are created, over taking the red, causing bruising and sickness. We used to have cancer fund raisers. Was this my punishment for not participating? Watching my kid sister suffer and die?

Mom weeps openly that night. She cries for Emily, cries for our family. The strong walls she created around herself are gone, and she is vulnerable, unsure what to do. Emily stays in the cancer ward while we wait for results.

The next day, I return from school. That day I walked, needing to clear my mind with the absence of immature seventh graders. They don’t have real problems like Emily does, why do they complain?

A dark silence had filled the room by the time I enter the kitchen. Mom is standing there, her hair a mess, clothes wrinkled as they were the day before.

“Why don’t they just tell us she’s going to die?” I screamed, allowing tears to cascade down my cheeks. Mom takes a step back, surprised with the emotion that fills my voice.

“She’s not, she can’t.” Mom almost whispers. I threw my backpack to the ground, making a loud cracking noise as it bounced against the tile. “She will, and there’s nothing we can do! Emily’s going to die of cancer! My sister-”

I choke on the saliva that builds in my throat. Collapsing on the ground, I cry. For not being stronger. For not helping Emily. “I love you, Grace. We’ll get through this.” She crouches down to me, and we hold each other as we cry. No longer strangers,but now mother and daughter.

“Hello,” the doctor smiles, holding the envelope cautiously in his hands. Emily in the room, on the bed. She knows what is going on; we all do.

“Ready?” We all silently nod. Emily smiles at me. I smile at my mom and sister, taking both their hands in mine as he opens the envelope.

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