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Emmaline and Ellison Pt. 2
I can tell that Mother isn’t okay. She isn’t going to get better, I can feel it in my gut. The doctors will try. I know they will. But I can tell that she only has a couple of more weeks of living. And I want to make it the very best for her.
I make it my goal to try and visit Mother every day, because I know she doesn’t have much time, but it doesn’t work. Daddy and Emmaline move me into their tiny apartment in Emmaline’s tiny bedroom. Suddenly, my whole schedule was thrown off course; I wasn’t happy in Connecticut at all.
Daddy brings home bunk beds the next day and sets them up in our tiny room. He sits me down on my new bed and explains the new school. I’ll be working with a new special education department, in a little class with kids who have Autism, like me. Dad thinks it will be better than my old school.
I want to visit mother the next morning, but I have to go to school.
“We have to go to school Ellie,” Dad explained to me, “we will go to the hospital afterward.”
The first four classes aren’t normal classes like my old school. They’re odd. We’re in smaller classes, and I’m in a class for kids with “autism.” At my old school, I was the only one. Now, I’m one of many. I don’t feel special anymore.
We visit Mother after school. We go into the hospital room one by one to make it more special. I’m first. Her heart rate monitor hasn’t improved in the past couple of days; it’s getting slower. None of the nurses notice, but I do. Mother is slowly drifting away.
Mother, I love you. Please wake up, I think.
And then the most amazing thing happens. Her eyelids flutter open like she had heard my pleas. She doesn’t say anything. She just looks at me and gives a loving smile. And I feel a lot better.
Daddy calls me out of the room. I walk slowly, looking at mother one last time. She winks and gently closes her eyes. She worked so hard to open her eyes and smile at me. I’m really going to miss her.
We were walking back to the car when I tell Emmaline and Daddy about Mother.
“She opened her eyes today! She smiled.”
“No, Ellie,” Daddy says solemnly, “she didn’t. The nurses say she hasn’t been conscious since the crash. She’s been too weak.”
“But she opened her eyes and smiled. She winked when I was leaving the room,” I said sadly, “she did. I promise.”
Daddy kneels down and puts his hands on my shoulders.
“I know you want her to be okay,” he says, tears in his eyes, “and sometimes that strong emotion can overtake reality.”
I don’t respond. We get into the car. There is no more talk about my hallucinations.
Daddy, Emmaline and I continue to visit Mother every day after school. The doctors whisper worriedly to Daddy after every visit. She doesn’t have much time. Emma doesn’t know it yet, even though Daddy doesn’t hide his worried face.
School isn’t any better. None of the other kids with “autism” seem to like me. They all ignore me like I’m not there. I can’t help but wonder why. My thoughts are all jumbled, between hospital visits and stressful nights without sleep, so I don’t give much thought to it.
Daddy decides that I should see a therapist in Connecticut. I want Lorelai, but she’s back home in New Jersey. Daddy spends days searching for the best therapist in our area, one who will help me the most. He finally finds one. It’s a man. His name is Dr. Lupin. His office is white. Everything in the room is white. White books, white chairs, white desk, even white pens. I wonder if the white pens have white ink. But then it wouldn’t show up on the white paper, would it?
“Hi Ellie,” says Dr. Lupin, “my name is Dr. Lupin, but you can call me Oliver. I’m going to be seeing you every week.”
I shake his hand but don’t make any eye contact. Confrontation makes me nervous. I want my coin. My coin! I’d forgotten all about the coin after the crash. I still have my purple cast on my arm to prove it.
“I see you had another therapist. Lorelai. Yes, I’ve met her. Wonderful woman,” Oliver says to himself, “could you tell me how you got that cast on your arm?”
I shake my head.
“You were in a car crash,” he says, looking at my file.
“Why did you ask me to tell you if you knew what happened?” I said.
“You asked ‘could you tell me how you got that cast on your arm?’ When I didn’t respond, you said ‘you were in a car crash.’ Why would you ask if you knew the answer?” I repeated.
“I can tell that this experience has been traumatizing. One of the ways to feel your emotions is admitting things you’ve been through.”
“I don’t want to admit things. I’d rather go home and look for my coin.”
“My coin, my special coin. The one from my grandmother who died. It makes me feel safe,” I continued, “we were driving here to look for it when we got in the crash.”
“I’d like to go home now,” I said, “and look for my coin.”
“I think that’s a good idea,” Oliver says quietly, “I’ll see you next week.”
Ellie comes home from her therapy in a grouchy mood. It wasn’t helping my completely horrible mood, either. My leg braces have been getting in the way of my volleyball practice, so I’ve been benched for the time being. Ellie has been bugging me at home, Dad hasn’t been happy with me since the crash, and the stress of Mother’s life hanging by the thread hasn’t helped either.
“Where did you put my coin!” she screams at me.
I was reading my biology notes for the test tomorrow at my little tiny desk when she burst in the room in a panic.
“I don’t know,” I lied.
Since I’m on the top bunk of our bunk beds, Dad built a tiny side table to the wall by my bed. I used a hollow book from Aunt Abigail to hide the coin. The book is among my crazy stack of books. I imagine the soft velvet bag with the rusty old coin on it, hidden among other knick-knacks in the book.
Meanwhile, Ellie has begun to tear apart our tiny room. She is opening every drawer and throwing out its contents, and taking all of our clothes out of the closet.
She pauses with all of my books in her hands and says “what?”
“You can’t just come in here and tear apart the bedroom,” I explain, “it will take hours to put everything back again.”
“I don’t care!” she said, crying by now, “I need my coin.”
She drops the pile of books and collapses on the floor in a messy, sobbing heap.
I put away my biology notes and go give her a hug. I can’t give her the coin just yet, or else they’ll realize that the crash was all my fault.
On top of my stack of books in the book Wishtree by Katherine Applegate. Then a horrible thought comes into my head.
“Ellie, C'mon, we have to go!”
“Why?” she asks, sniffling.
“Because!” I say impatiently, “we’ve forgotten about Wishtree!”
Soon we’re in the car, on our way back home to New Jersey. Ellie is still bawling, and I’m sure that Dad feels like an idiot for forgetting about our dog. We’re all praying that some miracle will have allowed him to live through the weeks that we were gone.
When we get home, Ellie and I are out of the car before Dad takes the keys out of the ignition. Inside the house, it’s still and silent. Memories from this house come flooding back. Most of the things inside haven’t been touched and are collecting dust. Magazines on the end tables. Permission slips for field trips on the counter. Fruit in the fruit bowl, rotting by now. Moldy bread in the breadbox. Books, laying around without bookmarks that Mom refused to buy. Normally, when we walk into the house, Wishtree comes running. But there’s nothing but our footsteps and soft breathing. I pray that somehow, he’s okay, and just hiding because he thinks we’re intruders.
Ellie and I begin looking. We open cabinets, look under furniture, and fling off pillows and blankets. I go into the backyard. There are trees everywhere from Dad’s obsession. I begin to wind my way to the back of the yard, the white fence wet from recent rain. Then I see a lump by a fence.
Wishtree. He looks to be dead. But as I shout his name, he perks up. He’s alive! He’s skinny but still healthy. He bounds over to me, and I start yelling for Ellie and Dad.
“It’s a miracle,” Dad says, tears in his eyes.
“How could he have lived? He needs to eat,” Ellie asked.
“Maybe we could ask the neighbors,” I suggested, “they might know what happened after we left.”
Our neighbors, for as long as we’ve lived here, have been an elderly couple named Ben and Jerri. They’re often asked if they are the owners of the ice cream company, but they aren’t. They’re just Ben and Jerri. When Mom and Dad were working extra hours, we’d go over to Jerri’s house in the afternoons after school. We’d play in the woods in their backyard, have ice cream, play board games, and Jerri always had a candy dish. Sometimes we would make homemade goods, like an apple crisp or chocolate chip cookies on rainy days. There are so many good memories from Ben and Jerri’s house, too.
Ellie knocks on the door and Jerri answers.
“Girls! It’s so good to see you!” she says, giving us hugs, “would you like some ice cream?”
“Sure,” I said.
“Come in, it’s cold outside,” she beckons, “I see you brought little Wishtree. Yes, I’ve been taking care of him.”
“Really!” Ellie said, “that’s what we were going to ask.”
“A couple of days after the crash (which we didn’t hear about until a week later) we were about to go to bed when we heard howling in our yard. Wishtree had come out his doggy door and dug through the fence to get into our yard!” Jerri said, scooping the ice cream into dishes, “once we heard about the accident, we came over to feed him every day. He’s been so worried about you that he refuses to leave your yard, so I feed him there and he sleeps in the yard.”
“Thank you for taking care of him for us,” Dad says gratefully, “I feel kind of guilty that we didn’t think of him until three and half weeks after the fact.”
“It’s quite alright. We don’t mind,” Jerri said, “it makes us feel like we’re doing our part to help your family during this rough patch.”
We eat our ice cream and say goodbye to Jerri. We pack a bag full of Wishtree’s things and then drive back to Connecticut. We’re nearly home when we stop at the hospital. We leave Wishtree in the car and have a quick visit to Mom. We tell her that we got him, he’s alright. As usual, she doesn’t respond.
Days go by, the same every day. School, homework, dinner, hospital visit, walk Wishtree, more homework, and then bed. I never expected that the bad news would come so quickly.
I was doing my homework at my desk while Ellie sat in bed reading. Dad came in, silent tears streaming down his face. We knew exactly what had happened.
“It’s happening,” Dad said, “your mother is almost gone. She only has a few hours left, and we need to go to the hospital.”
The day has finally come. The vibe in the hospital is sadder, and air more still than normal in mother’s room. Her heartbeat is slow, her pulse nearly gone. She’s white in the face and looks very tired, even though she’s been in a coma for the past six weeks. Her time is running out very quickly.
Emmaline and I sit on either side of Mother’s bed, holding her weak hands. Daddy takes one last picture. The nurses leave the room, and her heartbeat dies out. Emmaline and Dad begin to cry. I don’t cry, but my whole body feels numb. My mother is gone. Now it’s just me, Emmaline and Daddy.
We go home and Daddy begins all the calls to our extended family members to tell them the news. Daddy is crying the whole time. Emmaline goes up to the top bunk and hides with her phone under the blankets. I just sit on my bed, my whole body still feeling numb. What am I going to do without Mother?
After a couple of hours, Daddy says that he’s scheduled an appointment with my therapist. I still have a cast on my wrist, and I desperately want to get it off, but we probably won’t be going to the hospital anytime soon.
Daddy took me to see Oliver the next day. He stays in the lobby and makes calls to more family members. Daddy won’t be starting funeral arrangements for a couple of weeks, he wants to let the news all sink in.
“Hi Ellie, it’s good to see you again,” Oliver said, “I hope that you’re feeling okay. I heard about your mother, and I’m very sorry for your loss.”
“Thanks,” I mumbled.
“How do you feel?”
“It’s weird. I feel...numb, all over.”
“It’s probably because of the shock,” Oliver says.
“No, no. I knew that she would never recover.”
“Could you expand on that, please?”
“When mother and I were first in the accident, mother was hospitalized while I was getting my cast,” I explained, “at my first visit with her, I could tell. She was sending out this...vibe. Like, sick and injured vibes.”
“Interesting,” Oliver commented.
“It’s like I could feel that she’d never get better,” I said, tears filling my eyes.
“It’s okay to cry,” Oliver said gently, “when children suffer losses, such as a parent, it is especially normal to feel sad. In fact, it might not go away.”
“I hate this feeling! I really want it to, but it never will! Mother was my rock. Even if my world was chaos, she was the one thing that was always there. The one thing that was the same...until she wasn’t.”
“It’s okay to be sad and uncomfortable. But if you ever feel depressed or suicidal, it’s important to let me or your daddy know,” Oliver said.
“Okay,” I said quietly.
“Look, I think you need some time to recover from your loss, maybe find some closure. Your father scheduled this meeting very early,” Oliver said, “once you get over the shock, we can talk again.”
“Okay,” I repeated and rose from my seat.
Oliver got up from his desk, came over, and gave me a hug. Then he took me back into the lobby, where Daddy was on the phone. He was talking to Grandmother and Grandfather, mother’s parents.
“I know, it was very sudden...yes, we told you, of course, we did!...no, I’m sure we told you about the accident...well, yes, it was odd that you-oh, sorry but Ellie is done. I’ll call you back later,” Daddy said, “goodbye..”
I gave Daddy a hug, and he shook hands with Oliver. They discussed our little meeting, and then Oliver retreated back into his office. I held Daddy’s hand as we left Oliver’s office.