The Empty Window

I trudged down the snow covered pavement. My shoe caught an icy chunk and it whistled through the air. The shrilly noise resounding through the streets, disturbing the quiet tranquility. As if picking up on my thoughts the frigid air blew around me, jostling my hair against my face, making it swirl around my head and creating a halo of frizz. I adjusted my scarf and kept my head down as I walked.
I had never been used to silence; and the lack of noise was like an obnoxious fly that you can’t quite catch. I squeaked my feet against the concrete and it echoed twice before it was collected by the wind.
I turned my thoughts to other things as I tugged my sleeve down to cover my hand. Mother would be worried about me. Or maybe she hadn’t even realized I was gone. Either way it didn’t really matter. The houses looked like gingerbread, each iced with a fresh layer of snow and ornamented with flashy lights. One house even had a Christmas tree outside. Bedecked in glass balls painted in whimsical gold and white. The tree was definitely something the neighbors would be talking about. A lovely angel was at the top, peering down at the world through her golden curls and big blue eyes, her pure white wings fluttering in the breeze. Her hand painted face was lovely, even from the six foot distance, her eyes hypnotic. I was entranced. My eyes finally traveled up to her halo and I tore my gaze away, coming back to reality.
I quickly stepped off the sidewalk and sloshed my feet through the thick blanket of white. Soon the houses changed to stores and office buildings. The flashing lights alerted me that I was at the heart of the city. The shops were dark, yet signs were left on. The only buildings that showed signs of life were the large hotels at the center of downtown. I slowed my pace, knowing it was just around the corner.
I halted just a foot from it. Without even looking up I knew it was the right one. How could I not? Lily had dragged me here everyday afterschool all year. She had spied her bear one day in the summer and had been enraptured by the chestnut stuffed animal ever since. I hated crowds and shopping of any kind, but somehow she had always managed to convince me to take her here just to get a glimpse of it. I told my friends that I went to the Empire State Building everyday because my mom was the head of security there. She was a stay at home mom.
I bowed my head, trying to shake out the memories. I could almost hear the people milling through the streets, chatting on their cell phones and the honking of taxi cabs at the intersection. I could smell the aroma of the hot chocolate that Lily would beg me for when it was cold out, and the feel of her hand clasped in mine.
I looked up at the windowpane of “her” store. Tears welled up in my eyes.
Lily in a white shift, lying on a hospital bed, she smiled at me as I stood in the doorway. She had such a cheerful disposition. I always felt better after a hard day at school by just seeing her. She had a special way with people. Somehow even the most cantankerous old man would dote upon her as if she was his own grandchild. And not just people, animals loved her too. There wasn’t a week that went by that she didn’t save some bedraggled dog or chewed up stray cat. I thought she would get better, fight it off like she always had, but the cancer had its own plan.
I began to hate the hospital: the staff, the room, the smell of disinfectant. She grew paler and thinner. I told her stories. To keep her mind off things, but really, it was more for me rather than her. I told her about dragons and princesses, fairies and unicorns, funny things my classmates did, anything that I thought would interest her. But after each one she would request a bear story. So I weaved tales of an adventurous bear and his beautiful friend Lily. They would travel the world and save it everyday before bedtime. She ate them up, so I gave her more. Somehow it was medicine for the both of us, and I hoped that maybe, miraculously, it would heal her.
It was a week until she would turn seven and I would turn twelve. She had been put on less medication the past week and I was hoping she would be discharged on our birthday. It was a Saturday. As soon as I got up I rode my bike to the Children’s ward and popped in with the intention to tell her a new story I had had a dream about the night before.
She was smiling when I came in, her face turned towards the window where a stream of sunlight poured in. She didn’t hear me and didn’t turn as I stopped in the doorway and stared at her. Her golden curls were mussed from a restless night’s sleep and her cheeks were stained a slight pink, which they hadn’t been for several months. She turned her big blue eyes to focus on mine as I stepped into the room. Her smile widened and she offered her hand to me as I sat in the white plastic chair beside her bed. I rubbed my pinky over her tiny hand. For a minute I tried to believe she was healthy again; that I had come into her bedroom to drag her out of bed for some of our mom’s homemade pancakes. I looked back down at her frail fingers, so weak compared to mine. She was watching me calmly and I raised my gaze to hers. In some ways she was older than I was at that moment. We both knew what was happening, and yet she was undaunted while I was petrified. She had experienced so much more than I had even though I was five years her senior. And in that moment we completely understood each other. We knew what the other one wanted and what they had gone through these past few months. And she smiled at me; there was a light in her eyes that had not been there for a while. Then it began to fade. And she was gone.
I looked back up at the toy store’s window and my eyes roamed for that bear she had adored. I felt the on pour of tears bubble to the surface and I let them flow, blinking through them, to stare at the empty space, in the window and in my heart.





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