The Purple Dress

April 27, 2010
I lay on the ground. I am staring to the distant sunset with my indigo Volvo 740 parked behind me, keys in the ignition, driver and passenger doors left open. I am not alone, not yet. She lays to the right of me meditating in thorough silence, me gazing straight past her dark brown strands of hair at her shut eyelids. Her once well done makeup was now smeared about her face from previous tears.
I look out onto the forest, and back to the small meandering road overgrown by English ivy that we always drive on to get here. It’s her favorite spot in the world. The sunset beams through the trees calmly onto our bodies, all we are, just bodies. And, at that moment in time, I knew that my prayers hadn’t been enough for the girl next to me. All the prayers in the world wouldn’t kill Lilly’s prevailing disease, the girl that meant more than anything to me. Her cancer of the bone killed me as much as it ever would kill her.
But as if it didn’t matter anymore, as if her cancer hadn’t given her just days to live, we lay there in peace. We reflect the shine of the sun enough that we would become inseparable from our surroundings. The leaves, rocks, sticks, and trees were now equivalent, them to us, us to them. We were in acceptance that all we have been built to be is a lie. We are no better than the ground we lay on, it no better than us.
I stare at the oak tree in which Lilly so happily engraved our names seven months ago:
Cameron Williams and Lilly Roe Forever
Those names that our parents chose for us were what the world knew us by for the past seventeen years. But it only took seven months. It only took seven months for our names to just be names. Seven months ago we were happy.

I remember it so clearly. I had on my tattered blue jeans with a short sleeved plain white t-shirt. It was autumn and we had been dating for three months. She wore her purple dress. Oh that purple dress; she used to wear it everywhere. But what no one knew is that she had gotten it for a mere price of three dollars at the Salvation Army. Lilly Roe wasn’t normal. She was industrious, but lazy, serious, but whimsical, and most of all, unpredictable, but she knew just what to say to me at all the right times.
She laughed as I playfully pushed her on the ground. She smiled at me with her freckled nose and gestured towards her shoe laces. They were untied and waving out in different directions.

“Alright,” I maneuvered myself downward, in assumption that she wanted me to tie them, something that was normally practiced in our relationship.

“My dad’s moving out on Saturday.” She looked at me expressionless like she wasn’t hurting on the inside. “I’m glad.”

I’m the kind of guy that doesn’t know how to comfort someone. I don’t know how to hold someone and tell them it would all be better someday. Maybe it’s because the Williams family didn’t really open up to each other as much as Lilly Roe’s did. Maybe it’s because all the screaming that came out of her household made me think nothing was kept swept under the rug there. But not where I lived. Maybe they just made my family look quiet. Then again, that’s why her dad was leaving.

I cannot keep track of the countless times she had shown up at my door in the middle of the night, asking to come in. Every time, she would then later tell me that she needed to get out because, as she so calmly put it, “My dad has issues.” That was it. That’s the most I’ve ever known about the Roe family.

Despite all of this, I could tell that she was truly relieved. She was actually happy. We both were. I could feel the satisfaction of her statement. Just the simple “I’m glad” said enough. And it was all I wanted to hear, but would only once more hear the same words out of Lilly’s mouth again.

“This is my favorite spot in the world.”I loved it when she saw beauty. It was the only time she would ever tell you what she was thinking. I grinned and finished tying her left shoe.

“Not a triple knot, or else bad things happen to good people.” I would always joke to her about my one weird superstition and her face would light up in a smile. I tied her shoe in three knots just to get her to slap the back of my head or playfully shout my name in a humorous disbelief. “Cameron!”

I wish I hadn’t tied her shoe three times. I wish I had just tied a double knot. Or even I denying doing it in the first place would have been enough. I don’t care if she got angry or stubborn at me for not playing along in her cute shoe lace game. Not only is it my stupid superstitious regret that comes upon me now, but knowing that if I had just made one move differently there, it could delay time in seconds, possibly a minute. That would be enough to save us from what was about to happen.

“Let’s go. My tennis lesson is at four.” Lilly lived for tennis. She had made varsity since freshman year. Not me, I was never athletic. “We only have 30 minutes you butthead, drive me home.” I guess you could say she never really beat around the bush.

“Okay dokey.” We started walking towards my car, and then she stopped.

“Wait!” Confused, I looked back at her. “Get in the car, I have to do something first.”

I could see her picking up a small stone from the mossy ground. As she walked toward the old oak tree she looked back and smiled; a smile that she wanted me to have forever, a smile that could only ever be conveyed as a look of undying love. At the time it was completely unclear to me that she had carved our names into the tree, mostly because of my view of the oak from the driver’s seat. But looking at it now, I have deeply pondered what she wrote. The word forever was put after our names. One simple adverb could outline the expectancy of our future together. Just one word, forever, is all it took.

She skipped back to the passenger seat and said to me, “Look at it next time you come!” She was so apprehensively at ease as she made her last leap into my Volvo. I wish I could freeze time there, go back and look at her; her hair waved, her freckled nose crunched up, and most of all; her purple dress was worn beautifully, clean and without a scratch, not a stitch troubled with harm.

Close the door. Turn the keys already placed in the ignition. Buckle my seat belt. Put the car in reverse. Reverse. Back the car up. Put the car in forward after I rotate my wheels to correctly make my turn. Forward. Avoid the bushes. Go forward. Go forward carelessly.

My thought process haphazardly drifted through my mind. I started to drive forward along the narrow dirt trail. But then seeing Everblue Avenue approaching through my windshield, the end of the tunnel of escapement from life to our afternoon respite, a mistake was made. Funny, to think that something could decide the fate of Lilly and I by just turning a key, changing something simple like the shift of a car, or even unintentionally pushing down the gas pedal a little too hard as we turned the corner on Everblue.

“Damn it, damn it, damn it.” I cursed repeatedly as the car accelerated well beyond 60 miles per hour. Something was wrong. The pedal was more sensitive than usual. The consequences of my actions flashed before my eyes and my heart sank as my breaths became shorter. Frightened; in that moment what I felt could only be described as fear for our lives. Fear for our lives because of me, my mistake, and the guilt would take over and engulf me to the point of loathing myself to a very passionate hatred.

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” Lilly yelled. Lilly yelled louder than I’ve ever heard her yell in my life.
I stopped my mind from racing into the guilty outlook on myself in the future. It was a good second and a half that it all spun around in my head. But I soon got a grip on the horrible reality that the pedal was not determined by the pressure that my foot applied.
The pedal was stuck. Accelerating Lilly and I to what I swore would be our atrocious and quick death at 85 miles per hour, the pedal wouldn’t budge. The Avenue was but 10 feet wide and trees tightly hugged each side of the road. I couldn’t steer inside of it.
“I can’t stop it,” I blurted out piercingly glancing at Lilly who was now crying appallingly. She opened her mouth and could only find stutters.
“P-P-Please stop it! J-J-Just stop it! CAMERON.” I wish I could do something. Seeing her crying made me explode into millions of pieces inside. I didn’t want this ever. This is worse than death. I didn’t want to see her cry. I didn’t want to see her in so much severe pain with desperate tears of regret dripping down all the way to her chin. Regret to even get back into the car with me.
We were both completely convinced that our death was inevitable. But I didn’t want to accept it. I dried my eyes frantically and focused as hard as I could on steering our swerving deathtrap to some sort of rescue. But I couldn’t. When the blackness of what I thought to be finally a relieving death came to me, I recalled three things.

I recall looking at my shaking hands. I was so scared for my life, and in the midst of all of this I had left my body to not even realize what I was doing. I recall glancing over at Lilly, only for half a second, but it was enough to see that she had stopped screaming and was now paralyzed to the spot. And the last thing I recall, clinging to the thought of my existence, was how I was going to miss all the small things; all the quiet things that I would take with me to the grave that no one would ever know; Like tying Lilly’s shoes, or her perfectly worn purple dress.

They told me I was asleep for three days. In my unconscious world I dreamt. I dreamt to almost crystal clear flashbacks of when I was in 5th grade. And as I entered my English class, for the first time, Lilly looked at me and turned away timidity, too shy to make eye contact. But I soon overcame her wall of nervousness. Sitting next to her I got her to laugh, or occasionally chime in on one of my dumb jokes to the whole class. They all thought I was such a bonehead, except Lilly. She thought I was funny. She thought I was clever. She didn’t talk, but at times, I could see her hiding a smile from everyone else.

But over time I had watched her face loose its child. Baby fat to beautiful high cheek bones and her adolescent voice into a teenage facetious attitude, I watched her transform, as she watched me. And I just had to have her. Six years of being a matter of who would make the first move, I was ready. She needed me, I needed her.

But my pleasant dreams of Lilly couldn’t prolong.

I woke. The stabbing pain of my lower right side made me yell in pain. I felt as if my body was gruesomely broken in all places. I couldn’t move. There were people surrounding me, running to my side hastily like my life was on the line. My vision went blurred and faded out to the comforting blackness once again.

I then woke for the second time. Not in so much pain, I breathed deeply in relief and observed the white room around me. I was in a perfectly white hospital bed and tubes were stuck deep into my arms. I had never been to the hospital. There was a man, a doctor perhaps, sitting to the right of me in a chair. His face glimmered with a smile and then he spoke to me.

“Cameron Williams?”

I tried to speak; nothing came out but a quite whisper. “What-Where?” I couldn’t make sense out of words, or anything.

“You were in a car accident three days ago Cameron.”

My mind suddenly came to the realization of what had just happened. I recollected everything. I remembered the day and what exactly happened to Lilly and me. It was a Tuesday afternoon, was it really Friday now? I was driving her to tennis, the pedal was broken down to the floor, and I crashed Lilly and myself. My mind sprung into an immediate worry of what had become of her.
I sat up quickly in reaction to my vast concern for her life and the wrong I had most certainly caused her, and then it struck me. The pain in my lower right side hit me with such a powerful throb, it left tears in my eyes. I slammed myself back down to the bed in hopes that it would relieve me of this horrible pain.
“Cameron, try not to move, please. You’ve been badly injured…” He paused as if it was harder for him to say than for me to hear. “Your Spleen is ruptured. The day after your accident you almost bled to death, you’re lucky to be alive. The blood traveled under your left rib, making you go into shock. I don’t know how you made it.”
I was completely and astoundingly in disbelief. I watched it in the movies, read about it in books, heard about it from my friends, but things like this just didn’t happen to 17 year old kids like me. I only let the fact that it had just happened take over my mind for a few seconds, till I thought of Lilly.
“Where is she?” I whispered to the doctor. It’s all I cared about. I cared more about her than I did myself, some might call it love.
It looked like he was caught off guard as he put on an expression of difficulty to answer my question. Could I have killed Lilly Roe? Was it me who accidentally plunged her into a horrific unpredictable death on a random Tuesday afternoon? These questions only dawned one. Was I the only one left? I couldn’t deal with it; I would without doubt not be able to.
“She’s one floor below.” Oh thank God. I relaxed all the muscles in my body and sighed releasing all my nervousness as the comforting truth was told. “She has just minor injuries, cuts, bruises, and one left arm broken. She’s only been here for three days because she’s traumatized.” I was in utter relief, but I noticed the doctor’s face hadn’t changed. Why was this? Couldn’t he see that I was happy that the consequences of my actions hadn’t rippled too far?
“We’ve had some developments on her, Cameron.” I suddenly froze and the possibilities of what that could mean raced through my mind. “This isn’t easy to tell you;” I shook my head to initially reject what he was going to say, “We took some X-rays for her broken arm and discovered a disease.” I clenched the side of my hospital bed with the little strength I had left. “Lilly has been diagnosed with Osteosarcoma. In other words, she has Cancer of the Bone. I’m so sorry Cameron.”
I didn’t want to believe it. But I had to. What had I done? I felt as if I had given her cancer. I felt as if I wanted to go home, lock the doors, and end my life. Suicidal horrid thoughts I know. But there are no words that can ever be written on this paper to describe the feeling.
That night my parents came in, mother in tears, father standing by the door with his usual loss of words. Oh the way they treated me like a package with the bold letters “Handle with Care” didn’t save me. When they left, I cried myself to sleep learning that Lilly had left with her mom and dad three hours before. Not even hesitating to visit me in my immobile state. Or maybe, like my father, just couldn’t find the words to begin.
But ironic, how I learned that the grievance of Lilly’s cancer to her family had only brought her parents closer together. They slept in the same bed together again. There was now no more fighting in the household. No midnight trips from Lilly to my house to escape from her home life. They wanted to make the last months for Lilly the best, coping together and filling their household environment with love. It was all strangely resolved.
She left that day. I, due to my ruptured spleen, left three weeks later.
The man, Dr. Harvey, gave her 8 months to live. He said it was too late for any treatment to begin. The disease had spread, and will spread, till it murdered Lilly Roe, cold and heartless.


So now we lay. We just lay. Seven months and we had changed. The way I talked to her, the undying random acts of kindness that could very well define love, and how I cried for her every night. The only thing that had not changed was my Indigo Volvo 740, surprisingly not totaled from the accident. For death to be closing in on me ready for cancerous hands to take me at anytime, I did not know the feeling.
I was indeed in love with Lilly Roe. From the very first second I had looked upon her years ago in English class, till I followed her into the darkness of her expected death, it was always her that I wanted.
She turns to me and says something in my ear.
I know that the death is coming upon her soon. She is weak and can barely walk without tiring herself. She just wanted to visit this spot. It seems almost perfect that her journey would end here, right where it had started.

What she says to me was almost the announcement of her leaving. The words that come out of her mouth make me cry: “I’m glad.”

What if the pedal hadn’t randomly broken down and we had not crashed into a tree on the side of Everblue? What if we had never known the deeply buried disease in Lilly? What if the crash had taken me, instead of Lilly, and she had to face her death alone? I don’t know. I don’t know about any of the past’s untaken courses. But I’m sure of one thing. I’m sure that I would have never stopped loving her with all my heart. Cancer or not, the tears I cry now would always and only be tears I cried for Lilly.
I cry because I feel her face and smile and love slipping away. But I ask myself: Will it slip away? I feel like everyone that I had ever loved was dying in my arms. Maybe it’s because I treated every waking person I talked to in the past seven months like they, too, didn’t have much time left. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t ready for her to leave. Maybe it’s because I had led myself to believe that the word “Forever” carved into the old oak tree under our names would come to be true. And then again, I wouldn’t know any of these until she has left.
But I notice something before we leave our perfect overlooking spot of the forest. Volvo behind me, parked off the small meandering road overgrown by English ivy that we always drive on to get here, branched off of Everblue Avenue and the corner turned to get to it, I notice something.
Tattered and ripped from the accident, stains evident everywhere, threads departing from their stitches in every direction; Lilly wears her purple dress; the most beautiful thing that I have ever seen; still the same purple dress that it always was.

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