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A Slight Breeze
It was the last shift for my job that day. I was shelving books at a rapid rate hoping for a chance to go home early. I hated what I was doing, but I needed money to save up for college for the following year. Slowly, fatigue took over my body. I sat down with only one thing on my mind: college. It was paradise to me. Anything away from my hometown was paradise. You see, I have cancer. Melanoma. It sucked. To everyone, I was the girl with cancer. In college, I could be anyone.
I had applied to about 6 colleges, but I was only worried about one. The Savannah College of Art and Design. I loved art and everything that came with it. I didn’t care about any other schools, but my mom made me apply just in case. I haven’t gotten my acceptance letter yet. Before I got cancer, I would paint every day, as long as I could. Now, I can barely walk down the hall without having to sit down.
You would think that everyone would feel bad for me seeing as I was dying, but at school, I was hated. The constant teasing because of my shiny, smooth, bare head was getting to me. I was pushed and shoved without concern for my weakening body. Chemo really had me beat. One girl in particular had the utmost hate for me. Mandy Reeder. Holding the most popular title in the school was all that was on her mind. With this standing, bullying me was something that others dismissed.
Although most of the school disliked me and my appearance, I had my best friend, Quinn. She was the greatest human being on earth. She didn’t care that I had cancer. She treated me the same. She was pretty, but she was afraid to show it. Her boyfriend Mark was also a part of our geeky group. Mark and I had been best friends since kindergarten, but Quinn transferred schools in the eighth grade.When Quinn came, they fell in love almost instantly. I still long for someone who would love me. I had too many diseased cells and too much hair missing for that.
I woke up the next morning to my phone buzzing furiously. It was Quinn. She was texting me that she was coming over in 20 minutes and that I had to be ready. I hurried up and put on some clothes that didn’t look unwashed. I went downstairs to find my mother cooking some bacon and eggs. My favorite. Using that mother instinct, she knew I was there even when she didn't look up from her activities. I was showered with questions ranging from “Are you tired?” to “Did you take your medicine?” I sat down without answering a single one. My meds were in a neat row waiting for me. I downed the pills without thinking twice. In a similar way, I devoured my breakfast. Quinn barged through the door screaming, “Guess what?!” Reluctantly, I uttered, “What?” She told me, “We are going wig shopping today!” All of a sudden, my dread for that day was flooded out of my system almost as fast as my hair. I ran up and hugged her so tightly that I was tired by the end of our little moment.
Walking into the store, my head wrap attracted many stares. I walked to the back and was surprised by the various types of wigs they had. Every color and length you could imagine. My real hair was beautiful. Full, flowing, blonde hair with striking golden highlights. My mom cried when it was gone. I did too. All of the wigs were dull and frayed, but there was one wig that stood out. It was exactly like my real hair. My eyes teared up a little. I grabbed it and put it on my head. I looked like myself again. My skin was still dull, and my body was still weakening, but I was me. I started to remember everything I could do before I had this curse. I had a boyfriend. He treated me right. We were in love. When I got the news, he could not handle it. He broke up with me after my first chemotherapy session. My world came crashing down more than it already was.
Upon reflection, I decided that for the few months I had left of senior year, I would be the old me. I ran up to the counter and threw my mom’s credit card down. I was taking my life back. With a worried look on her face, Quinn asked me if I was feeling okay. I told her that I felt perfect. She suggested that we go home so that I could rest, but I was just getting started. I made her drive me to the shopping mall. Before I walked in, I put on my wig and smiled. It was magic. No one stared at me. Nobody knew my secret. I walked into a boutique that Quinn said had “cute clothes”. I had stopped worrying about things like that. She picked out what seemed like 20 outfits for me to try on. We were laughing and having a perfect time. I picked my favorite clothing items, and I bought them. I told Quinn, “Just wait until they see me on Monday!”
Monday morning came, and I put together the perfect outfit. I threw on my wig and went downstairs. My mom gave me a look I could not figure out. She started crying. “You look beautiful,” she said. Looking at her with a big smile, I said, “I’ve got to go to school. Quinn is picking me up.” I heard a distant honk, and I swung the door open. Quinn yelled, “HOW PRETTY!!” so loudly that I think the whole neighborhood heard.
Pulling up to school, I started to change my mind. Thoughts were racing through my head. Were they going to laugh at me? Do I look stupid? Quinn automatically knew what was going on. She said, “Get out the freaking car before I yell again”. I grinned and said, “I hate you and love you so much.” My comment needed no response. I walked through the halls and got almost as many stares as I did when I was bald. My heart went into my stomach. They hate me. Then out of the corner of my eye, I saw everyone smiling and nodding their head.
In English class, Mandy Reeder was gossiping to her boyfriend about me. She opened her mouth to say something, but before she could get her words out, I said, “Shut-up Mandy.” Everyone gasped, and I was laughing because of how much it mattered that I dared her to shut-up. I had bigger things to worry about. The bell rang, and as soon as I walked outside the classroom, I was stopped. Josh Zimmerman asked me how I was doing. I rolled my eyes and tried to walk away. He said, “Addy, I know I made a mistake. I was stupid. We had something good, and I don’t want to throw that away.” I chuckled and responded, “ You know Josh, it's pretty funny how you want to get back together now. Is it because you love me? No. It is because of my fake hair and my new clothes that aren’t a sweatshirt and jeans. You only like my appearance, and it isn't going to last. I have cancer. Oh wait! You already knew that because you dumped me the same week I found out that I was dying. I needed you!” That was the moment when I realized I was shouting in front of the whole school. Everyone was whispering. I was starting to feel dizzy. Josh’s surprised face faded slowly, and then everything went black.
I woke up to bright lights shining in my face. My mom was sitting next to me sleeping. I tried to sit up without waking her, but a shooting pain made me cry out. She woke up and hugged me. I asked, “Why am I here? I was at school and…” With tears trickling down her face, she told me, “Honey, the cancer has gotten worse. Your body is shutting down.” The horrified look on her face made me realize that I was really dying. “I thought I was getting better,” I muttered. As tears rolled down my face, she said, “I know baby. I’m sorry”. Quinn and Mark walked in with flowers. They were confused by the look on my face. I leaned over and whispered to my mom, “Can you please tell them? I can’t.” She nodded and lead them out of the room. Mark’s face went white. It looked like all of his feelings were choking him. On the other hand, Quinn’s face turned red, and her cheeks were flushed. That happens when she cries. She looked at me, and when she did, my heart broke into a million pieces. I felt her pain. She was crying because of me, and I couldn't help but feel that it was my fault. Oh wait. It was.
Later that day, my mom was in the cafeteria. Quinn and Mark had left, and my favorite nurse visited me. She asked me “What are you back here for? I never like to see you here.” I started balling. She ran up to me and said, “Sweetie are you okay?” I told her my most recent diagnosis. She would usually tell me that my sickness sounded worse than it was and that I would be out of here in a week, but this time, all she did was hug me.
I was sound asleep when I heard some people talking outside my door. I got up after a few tries, due to the pain. I walked up to the door, and I heard my mom and doctors talking. My mom was crying. “I’m sorry Ms. Crawford, but she only has a couple of months left.” I felt like I died right then and there. I might as well have.
A month later, I was still in the same hospital bed. Mark and Quinn made daily visits, and I was keeping up with my school work. Everything was fine, but it wasn't. At my rate, I had about 4 weeks left. Graduation was around the corner, and my mom promised me that I could go, even if I were in a wheelchair. Acceptance letters were being delivered this week. I was still excited to see if I could get in. Even if I would never go.
The next morning, I woke up the the most unbearable pain. It was like I was being stabbed repeatedly. It wouldn't stop, and I wanted to scream not only out of pain, but out of frustration. I knew that I was getting worse, and fast. I was in the process up getting up to call the nurse, but I sat back down. It wouldn’t help. I had accepted the fact that my weeks had turned into days. I called Mark and Quinn and told them to come over. Using my lifeless arm, I poked my mother awake. When Mark and Quinn got to the hospital, I sat them and my mom next to me and said, “ I love you. I always will, but when I am gone, you have to take care of yourselves.” My mom wanted to stop me, but I started talking again before she could. “When I am gone, don’t be sad. Celebrate my life. That is what I ask of you. Please don’t be miserable over me. I will be happy if you remember me for me. Not ugly, cancerous me. Remember the vibrant me. The one who you could and can always turn to.” They all nodded with tears streaming down their faces.
My mom went home to get some clean clothes for herself. My limbs were weak. I could barely move. Despite these things, I was happy. All the people that I loved were around me. I had gotten used to my pain, so I just was. My body was comfortably covered in hospital sheets and blankets. The lobby was quiet, and I could hear the beeping on my heart monitor. My eyes were closed, and I felt a warm presence. A safe haven. It was my time. I walked into the light, and I was content with the world I had left behind. No regret. My mom ran in the room looking down at my acceptance letter. “ Honey, you got in!” she exclaimed. When she looked up, she called my name with a quiver in her voice. I wasn’t on earth anymore, but I felt her touch. She was crying. Her hug was more powerful than any before. Only a few words flowed out of her mouth, “Goodbye, baby. I love you.”
Graduation day was here, and I was looking down on the ceremony. Everyone was so excited to be out of high school. Each name called brought back a memory for me. When Quinn and Mark got their diplomas, they looked up at me and smiled. They knew I was there. Finally, Principal Vamor called my name, “Adeline Crawford.” I chuckled a little and wondered if my mother had not yet told the school. To my surprise, I saw the most wonderful thing that could have happened. Mandy Reeder, Josh Zimmerman, Quinn Marvel, Mark Larson, and the entire faculty and student body stood up on my behalf. They all looked up at me and said in unison, “We love and remember you, Addy.” To show my appreciation, I sent a small breeze down on everyone on that blazing, hot day. I was loved, and I was remembered.