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I feel the sun beaming down on me as the rays penetrate my skin. The only thing keeping me from her is the slow and steady beating of my broken heart. I've lost a part of me; it’s missing, and I can't get it back. I watch the waves coming closer and closer, but crashing right before they hit my feet. The world goes unmoved but I am irreversibly different. Her soul floats above us all while her body is far beneath us being decomposed and spread among the environment. I keep seeing her reflection in the water. Her smile. Her eyes, deep pools of green and brown subtly mixed together. I fear that I will forget the sound of her voice and that she will become but a distant memory of my past. Lily left me all alone in a world that does not let you get past your mistakes. I dig my feet deeper and deeper into the sand. I love the way it feels when each grain jumps from my feet to the ground. I can’t help but think about her. Lily loved sand. She always said it could wash people of their regret, yet it doesn’t seem to be working for me.
Her funeral is tomorrow and as her big sister I am expected to make a speech. I have so many things to say but will she hear it?
I shared everything with her. From who I crushed on to when Mom and Dad were being annoying. Whatever it was, she was always there to listen. People said we looked alike. Others said we didn’t. Long chestnut hair, olive colored skin tone, and big eyes. Lily was short for her age though. It’s not like we had the perfect relationship; we fought like all other siblings. We shared each other’s clothes except for that one shirt that she would never let me wear. It was white with three black lines surrounding a gold heart. It was her favorite. Car rides were our favorite time together. Blasting music that would make our parents’ ears explode. Every weekend we would get frozen yogurt. She would get the same thing every single time. Strawberry with strawberries, blueberries, and gummy bears.
She never did anything the typical way. Three months ago she sent in an application for a summer art program. She went ahead and did the work herself rather than asking my parents for help. She wanted to surprise them.
“Come on Lily, get in the car”
“Let me just check one more time.” Her little legs sprinted to the mailbox.
“Lily, you checked four times today!”
“Its still not here!”
She looked upset. I wanted to say something to her but I didn’t know what to say.
“Lily can you turn on the radio?” Instead she put in the CD she made for me.
“Tomorrow! Tomorrow! I love ya, tomorrow, you’re always a day away!” She was belting out her favorite song. I should have known she would put it on the CD.
She was diagnosed with leukemia four months ago. The doctors told that her case was very treatable, but they were wrong.
Two weeks ago, we learned that her chances were slim. The drugs had stopped working. The news hit me like a flash flood in a desert. My world had been turned upside down. Lily had leukemia. Who was I if not Lily’s big sister? She kept me sane. She was my good luck charm. She was my sister. My best friend. They told us to pray. Pray? What does that mean? At that moment, I felt my stomach drop. No more Lily, no more me. She was a part of who I was. The doctor’s were giving up on my sister and I was not going to let that happen. We made a plan so that we could all spend as much time with her as possible. I skipped school some days to spend time with her and my Dad skipped work.
I walked into the room and Lily’s face lit up.
“Hey Lil! How are you feeling?”
“Alright I guess, I’m super bored though and there’s nothing on TV.”
“I bought cards in the gift shop, we could play spit.” We played card games all the time. Spit was her favorite. She always used to beat me but as she became sicker, her reflexes have slowed down. I tried to slow myself down too so she wouldn’t get the impression that it was just her.
“Really? Do you want to deal or should I?” I knew she would have trouble so I offered and I tried to make the game go on as long as possible.
“1, 2, 3, spit! I have no more cards! I win!” she yelled.
“Good job Lil! I just can’t beat you.” I noticed her drawing notebook on the bedside table. I reached for it but she stopped me.
“Don’t look at them.”
“Why not, I love your art.”
“I’ll show you when I finish,” Lily said. “So Rachel, what are you doing tonight?” She always wanted to know what I was doing, where I was going, and who I was going to be with.
“There’s a huge party tonight.” Her eyes widened and she smiled.
“Where is it? Who’s going to be there? Is Peter going to be there?” the questions wouldn’t stop. She just kept firing one after another. Suddenly, my phone rang.
“Dad’s calling, one minute” I walked out of the room. He was held up at work which sucked because I needed to go to this party. I walked back in.
“What did Dad want?”
“He won’t be home till late so I’m staying for tonight.”
“But the party! You have to go!”
“Lily, its fine.”
“No, please go, I insist! Just promise me you’ll tell me everything!”
“Are you sure? I mean, of course! Just don’t tell Mom and Dad.” She was so cool about it.
I was getting ready at Julia’s before we went to the party.
“Is Peter going tonight?”
“I think so, I hope so.” I couldn’t have sounded more desperate if I tried.
“You have no idea how much he likes you.”
We arrived at the party and walked around back where everyone else was.
“Rachel!” Peter called from across the backyard.
“Peter! Hey… I mean, what’s up? “ I was such a dork. He handed me a beer.
“I’ve had like five already, I’m pretty wasted. I’m glad you’re here.” He stumbled over me a bit. I took a sip but ended up chugging the whole thing in under three minutes. I needed to cut loose a little. I walked over to grab another and Peter followed.
“So, have you done the English assignment yet?” I didn’t know what else to say.
“Let’s take a walk.” He said in a very smug tone.
Julia dropped me off at home and I snuck into the house making as little noise as possible. I walked into the kitchen stumbling over a chair; I was completely drunk. I saw a letter on the table. Struggling to make out what it said, I couldn’t wait to see Lily. It was the letter she had been waiting to get for months. I jumped out of my clothes and took a shower before going to bed. Tomorrow couldn’t get here fast enough. “The sun will come out tomorrow.”
I jumped out of bed awakened by my ringing phone. Where did I put my phone? The sound is coming from the floor.
“Rachel, will you please drive to the hospital?” My Dad sounded gloomy.
“What? Its four in the morning.”
“Rachel, please do not fight me right now, just get in the car.”
I was still so hungover, driving should not have been my first activity. I made myself a quick pot of coffee and took two aspirin before I left. I remembered to take the letter. I knew Lily would not mind waking up to see it.
I pulled into the parking lot at the hospital, hoping it wouldn’t be difficult to find a spot. I was walking at the pace of a snail because of my raging headache but it was worth it. I saw my parents huddled together in front of Lily’s room. Lily was not there.
“What’s going on?”
“Rachel!” My mother cried as she ran to me. I dropped my coffee. Man, I really wanted that.
“Mom what’s going on?” I asked again.
“Spit it out Mom!” I knew what was coming but I didn’t want to hear it.
“Gone.” She fell to the floor.
Gone? What did that mean? Gone. I was speechless, but I wasn’t crying. Everyone knew I wasn’t big on crying but I couldn’t even shed a tear? Something was wrong with me. Why was I not crying?
The coffee was spreading on the floor, I really should have cleaned it up. It moved very slowly as it enveloped the entire tile. The mess got bigger and bigger the longer I stalled from cleaning it up.
“When did it happen?”
“We estimate it to be around 12:30 this morning” the doctor responded.
“Rachel, how late were you here?” My father asked
“Oh, um, only until 11, I was exhausted.” Lie. I saw Lily’s notebook still on the bedside table and dashed to it. As I flipped through the pages I saw drawings of her and me and Mom and Dad on the beach with little quotations surrounding them. “Nothing can tear us apart” and “Together Forever.”
I lie down on my towel and listen to my music to try and drown out my thoughts. “The sun will come out, tomorrow” begins to blast in my ears. I sit up and rip the earphones out. The sun will never come out. Not tomorrow, not ever. Especially not tomorrow.
I still haven’t written my speech. What am I supposed to say? Anything I want to say would be to Lily and no one else. My mom and dad have prepared their speeches. The typical “We’ll never forget you, you’ll always be in our hearts” kind of thing. I’m not saying they don’t care about her but their speeches are just so superficial.
Step by step, one foot in front of the other, I walk to the platform. I don’t have a speech prepared but I guess I’ll just have to wing it. "Thanks for coming everyone.” Solid start. “I’m not going to stand up here and tell you all about what I thought of Lily because no offense but, I find that quite useless and waste of my time.” Where did that come from? That was really rude. I see my parents glaring at me. I see a punishment in my future. Do I step down or say something? The letter. I run off the platform and to my seat next to my parents. I take the letter and run back up, tripping in my black heels that are way to high for my level of coordination. I begin to rip it open being extremely cautious not to rip the actual letter. My hands are shaking, my heart’s beating.
“We are pleased to inform you, Ms. Lily Lerner, that you have been accepted into our summer program. This program is for the students with exceptional artistic talent that need to be separated from the rest. Our students choose to go the extra mile and explore their full potential. We are excited to have you join our student artists and know you will be a great addition to our program. We expect to see you here with us during orientation in early June. We cannot wait to meet you.”
She was accepted. I knew she would be.
“See Lily, I knew you would get in. There’s nothing in this world that you cannot have when you strive for it. Your ambition is one of a kind and you have taught me so much. Although you can’t physically be here to share the perks that life brings, just know that you are here with me all the time and that I love you.”
The entire room was silent, even the annoying bratty twins I have to call my cousins. I look down at the letter and notice little drops of water. I’m crying? Everyone is staring at me. My mom nods with approval. My dad can’t look at me. I walk down to sit next to my parents and regain control of my emotions. Actual tears are falling from my eyes. It’s as if all of the tears I never cried are all pouring out now. It won’t stop, It’s becoming hard to breathe. People are still staring and it’s still silent. I can’t handle this. I need some air. I hastily walk outside to bright sun blinding my eyes. For a second, I saw her. She smiled at me as she faded away with the wind. I was scared I would forget her but now I know that she will always be alive within me. Lily isn’t gone, she’s still here.