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The Last Leaf (continuation)
Johnsy was shocked. She couldn’t believe that the old man living downstairs would risk his life for her. But shock wasn’t the only emotion that filled her: she also felt guilty. She felt so guilty that she began to cry; she felt that it was her fault that Mr. Behrman had died. Sue, seeing Johnsy cry, made her cry also. They sat their together and cried until they fell asleep.
~*~*~FIVE YEARS LATER~*~*~
Sue woke up to the sound of a crying baby. She opened her eyes, and climbed out of bed. Sue walked over to the crib where her baby girl of ten months old, Abigail, slept. Her husband, William, or as she called him, Bill, remained asleep in bed. Sue looked into the crib and picked up Abigail. She held her in her arms and rocked her. Abigail began to quiet down, and after another ten minutes of rocking, fell asleep again. Sue put Abigail back in the crib and walked into the kitchen to make some tea.
Meanwhile, Johnsy, Sue’s old roommate and friend for five and a half years, slept peacefully in her room on the second floor. You see, when Sue married Bill, she moved with him into Mr. Behrman’s old apartment downstairs. A year and a half later, they had Abigail. They made Johnsy the godmother, and ever since, they have been closer than ever. Anyway, Johnsy slept peacefully in her room, dreaming about the past. Because on this day, five years ago, Mr. Behrman, the old man who had lived in the apartment downstairs before Sue and Bill moved in, had given his life for her. As she was dreaming of that terrible day five years ago, she flipped over and fell off of her bed and onto the floor. She opened her eyes, and pushed herself up. Then she walked over to her window and looked outside. There she saw two things: snow falling down from the sky and the painted leaf that had kept her alive five years ago. When she saw the leaves, she became sad and walked into the kitchen for breakfast.
Back in Sue’s apartment, everyone was awake. Bill was getting dressed for work, and Abigail was sucking on a piece of bread. Sue was sitting at the kitchen table eating her breakfast. When Bill was fully dressed, he gave Abigail and Sue a kiss.
Sue asked him, “When will you be back from work?”
Bill told her, “Hopefully by five, but no later than six.”
Sue replied, “Okay. Remember to take your coat with you!!! I don’t want you getting sick.”
Bill grabbed his coat and said, “I won’t. I love you.”
Sue said, “I love you too,” and Bill came and gave her another kiss. With that, he walked out the door into the snow.
Sue then took Abigail and dressed her. After they were both ready to go, Sue grabbed their coats, left the apartment, and headed upstairs to Johnsy’s apartment. She reached the door and rang the doorbell. Johnsy answered the door with a smile on her face.
She said, “Hello, Sue!!!” and gave her a hug. She also gave Abigail a kiss and hug and welcomed them inside the apartment. She took their coats and hung them on the coat rack.
Sue walked in and sat down at the table. Then she asked Johnsy, “What are we going to do today? I was thinking of passing by the cemetery later to pay respects to our old friend.”
Johnsy smiled back at Sue and said, “I was thinking the same thing.”
Sue smiled back and put Abigail down on the floor. She crawled around for a while as Sue and Johnsy talked about current events and things going on in their small little town of Greenwich. They made lunch around 12:30. When they finished having lunch, they decided to go to the cemetery. They grabbed their coats and headed out the door.
They walked through the snow covered streets for about fifteen minutes, Abigail snuggling tightly against Sue’s body. When they arrived at the cemetery, they looked for the tombstone that said, “Michael Behrman.” They found it near the front of the line of tombstones. Johnsy knelt down and read the tombstone inscription out loud, “Here lies Michael Behrman, the old man who kept me believing.” Johnsy herself had chosen this inscription those five years ago. She began to tear up when she finished reading the epitaph. Sue also began to cry. They stood there in the cemetery, tears silently rolling down their faces. They were there for thirty minutes, and then it began to snow. They didn’t want to get sick, so they exited the cemetery and walked back home. When they reached Johnsy’s apartment, Johnsy walked into the kitchen and started a kettle for tea. They waited for the water to get hot, not saying a single word.
Then all of a sudden, Abigail began to cry. Sue rushed over to her, and picked her up from the floor. She looked closely at Abigail but could not see anything wrong. Then Sue touched her forehead; it felt as if it was burning. Sue told Johnsy, and Johnsy’s face became grim. She remembered that five years ago, when she had gotten sick with pneumonia, extreme fever had been the first symptom. Johnsy took the kettle off the stove and grabbed a bowl. She filled it with ice and water and grabbed a small kitchen towel. She rushed over to Sue, who took the towel and put it on Abigail’s forehead. Sue then told Johnsy, “I’m sorry, but I have to go. I don’t want to risk anything with Abigail. I’ll see you tomorrow, God willing.” So Sue took Abigail, holding her tightly to her chest, climbed down the stairs, and entered into her apartment. She rocked Abigail for a while, trying to put her to sleep. After about an hour and a half, Abigail fell asleep. Sue put her in her crib, walked to the dining table, sat down, and waited for her husband, Bill, to get home.
When the clock stroke exactly five o’clock, Bill walked into the apartment, a smile on his face. He hung his coat on the coat rack and gave Sue a kiss. Then Sue told him the bad news: Abigail was sick. When Bill heard that, the smile on his face disappeared. He asked Sue, “What does she have?”
Sue told him, “I don’t know yet, but it could be pneumonia. Johnsy had the same high fever five years ago. But I really hope she doesn’t have it.”
Bill said, “I hope so to.” He walked into their room, and took a look at Abigail. He put his hand on her forehead and felt the burning that Sue had felt in Johnsy’s apartment. He left Abigail to sleep and changed out of his work clothes. The he walked into the kitchen to start dinner.
At around 7:30, Abigail woke up crying again. Sue had the bowl with ice water ready. She picked up Abigail from her crib and walked her into the kitchen. Sue put the wet kitchen towel on Abigail’s forehead for a couple minutes. She rocked Abigail until she fell asleep. By the time Abigail was in her crib, it was already ten o’clock at night. Then Bill walked in. He tells Sue, “I think I’m also coming down with something.” Sue was surprised; Bill had never been sick for the three years they had been married. She touched his forehead and felt the same burning feeling. She gave him the bowl of ice water and told him to go to bed. He went without complaining. Fifteen minutes later, Sue joined him in bed, silently praying to herself that her family would get better.
Abigail and Bill were sick for the next four days. Throughout those four days, the same routine took place: Sue waking up to a crying Abigail, Bill putting the cold towel on her forehead, Sue rocking Abigail to sleep, Bill putting the cold towel on his forehead, Bill laying down in bed, Sue making tea for Bill. For Sue, it felt like a year had passed. She was so sleep deprived on that fourth day, that she fell asleep with Bill.
On the fifth day, however, everything changed. Abigail didn’t’ wake up screaming. She stood up in her crib and said her first word, “Mama!!!” Sue heard Abigail calling and shot up out of bed. She rushed over to the crib, but then she noticed that Abigail had spoken her first word. Even though she was under a lot of stress, Sue couldn’t help smiling. Then she felt Abigail’s forehead and noticed that she was no longer burning. She was so happy she couldn’t help exclaiming, “Thank God!!!” She rushed over to Bill and tried to wake him up. He wasn’t responding. She tried again, but again, he didn’t move. Sue’s happy mood suddenly left her. She put Abigail back in her crib and went over to Bill. She kept shaking him and calling out to him. Then she ran to the phone and called the town doctor. She told him what was happening and he promised he would be there as soon as possible. Then she called Johnsy. Johnsy told her that she would be down in five minutes. Sue was grateful that Johnsy had stayed so close to her; she had no idea what she would do without her.
Johnsy and the doctor arrived at almost the same time. Sue told the doctor where Bill was, and the doctor rushed into the bedroom. Sue left the doctor in the room with Bill, holding Abigail tightly to her chest. Johnsy put her arm comfortingly around Sue. After about five minutes, the doctor came out and delivered the bad news, “I am so sorry, Sue. Bill has entered eternal rest.” Sue put down Abigail and wailed as loud as the roar of a lion. She couldn’t believe that her Bill, her strong, fit, completely healthy Bill, could die of a sickness. He hadn’t been sick for three years, and she couldn’t believe that he was gone. Johnsy joined in the sobbing, embracing Sue as tightly as she could. Sue stood there sobbing for half an hour, not stopping for anything. When she stopped sobbing she picked up Abigail and held her tight. Then the doctor told Sue, “I am so sorry for your loss. May Bill rest in peace.”
Sue muffled out a quiet thank you, and the doctor left. Johnsy asked her if she wanted to be alone, and Sue said yes. So Johnsy left Sue there, tightly hugging Abigail to her chest.