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I grip the wheel and stare ahead at the red light. It feels like days have passed since I have been at work, I can’t believe that just nineteen hours ago I was on the plane. The last day- has it seriously only been one day? - Has been a whirlwind of emotions.
The week had started like every other, a quick shot of coffee in the morning to help me bear the Monday morning traffic and from there, on to work. As I pulled into the parking garage I got a phone call.
“Hey sweetie, its Mom. I’ve got some bad news…”
“What happened…? Are you okay? Is Dad okay?” I asked as my heart sped up.
“Yes, we are fine, but…. Your sister is having some complications with her pregnancy. We will keep you posted, but we just thought you should know.”
“Is she going to be okay? Do you want me to come up there? I was planning on coming tomorrow, but I can come right now if you all need me.”
“For right now we don’t need you, but we may need you later. I’m not going to lie to you; Kasley is losing a lot of blood right now, the doctor said that she could…” her voice caught, “ … not… right now he is saying there is a 80% chance we will… have to pick between… her and the baby, but you know your sister… This baby, it means the world to her. She says she’s going to go through with it, even it means she might lose her life. The doctors weren’t sure before, so I didn’t want to worry you, but the baby is going to come early, probably early tomorrow morning, so we don’t have much time left.”
“Okay,” I said. It was all I could say.
“I know this is hard news, and you can come up here if you want, but you don’t have to leave right now. Your dad and I are going to buy you a ticket that leaves tonight if that’s what you want. Remember, I love you and so does your dad and your sister.”
“Love you all too, and yeah that would be fine,” I whispered as my face paled even more then hung up.
I got out of the car and closed my eyes as I stood in place, my hands gripping each other fiercely. I pushed this to the back of my mind. I didn’t need to think about it, but as I was about to open my eyes, a long-forgotten memory popped into my head.
My sister and I were sitting by the lake and I wanted to see what it would be like to swim with the ducks I was seven and she was eleven.
“Kori, don’t do it! You could get hurt! Plus you would get wet! You don’t want that to happen! Mom and Dad are gonna KILL YOU!!!” She screamed as I skipped down into the lake. Slowly, I walked closer and closer trying to catch the beautiful brown and orange-flecked duck I had my eye on. I ignored the fact that the water was now up to my chin and that my sister was now frantically racing after me. Then I saw it, only a few feet away, if I jumped, I could catch it, so I leapt forward. Suddenly, everything went dark, when I opened my eyes they began to burn and all I could see was a swirl of brown and black. I tried to put my feet down, but realized too late that the ground was far away from my feet. I desperately tried to push myself up, but my efforts only resulted in a mouth full of water. I then attempted as a last resort to swim to some place with land or something I could push off of, but I found nothing. I inhaled another gallon of water as I tried to break to the surface, followed by darkness.
When I awoke from the darkness there was a sharp pain in my chest and a dull aching all over my body. I coughed hard releasing what seemed like the whole lake. My eyes stung, but I pried them open, trying to see where I was. The first thing my eyes found was the soaked, dirty face of my sister looking down at me with her hands on my chest.
“Thank God you’re all right!” She exclaimed, sitting back and wiping her forehead with the back of her hand. “We are taking you home right now! You know you could have died! What were you thinking?!? I’m just glad that you’re all right!”
Without a single thought, I wrapped my arms around her. “Thank you Sissy, thank you thank you thank you. I’m so sorry. I’ll do what you say from now on. I promise, I promise. I love you thank you thank you. You’re the bestest sister ever.” Before breaking down in sobs. Instead of going home and telling my parents, she held me, rocking me back and forth and wiping the tears from my face until I stopped crying. After that we snuck in the back and she gave me a bath and took a shower before we snuck back downstairs and told our mom that we had had a perfectly normal day at the park.
I opened my eyes and I felt my stomach churning, but I shook it off. Don’t think about it. When I walked in, I greeted everyone as usual, and had a mundane, quotidian day at work. At the end of the day I knocked on my boss’ door.
“Come in!” She called
“Hi, I’m sorry to disturb you, but I was just wondering if I could get tomorrow and Monday off.” Putting on a stoic expression.
“What’s the reason?”
“Family emergency,” I said, keeping it concise as I blocked the details from resurfacing in my mind.
“Oh, well then yes, you can have those two days off under family leave.”
“Thank you so much, I really appreciate it.” I said, giving her a minute, artificial smile before I walked out of her office.
After that I sped home without paying much attention to the road. My mind was already on what I was going to pack. From my car I raced upstairs, ripping out a suitcase and stuffing it with all my comfortable clothes. After double-checking my email for the details of the flight, I zipped up my suitcase and looked around the house and rushed out the door once again. At the airport I sped through security, luckily, my bag was small enough that I didn’t have to wait it the long line to check it in. Once I was on the plane I could finally relax. Closing my eyes I began to drift off.
I was sitting in my room, sobbing, because my first boyfriend had just broken up with me. There was a soft knock on the door and my sister entered. She didn’t ask any questions, instead she just sat there, stroking my hair and holding me. After an hour or so I stopped crying.
“Do you wanna talk about it?” she asked concerned.
I shook my head as the tears began to fall again, but I explained the whole situation through my sobs anyway. She nodded her head supportively, and gave me what advice she could until she figured out that I didn’t want to talk about it anymore. After that, she spent the rest of the evening cracking jokes, and telling funny stories, doing everything she could to make me smile. By the end of the night, I was laughing so hard my stomach was hurting. I reached out to hug her, but she began to fade. She has the same serene look as always. She sat there looking caring and smiling, blinking her eyes, like she was listening to someone tell a story. “No!” I yelled, “Where are you going? Don’t leave me! I need your help! You need to help me! Where are you going??”
“Goodbye,” she whispered as she turned around and walked away, into a giant, growing light.
Tears started gushing down my cheeks and sobs broke through my body as I began to shake.
I awoke with a start and realized that I must have been talking in my sleep again. I looked next to me to find a young man shaking me awake. He was tan with a chiseled jaw and dark wavy hair that fell just below his ears, and he had soft green eyes that reminded me of an old meadow by my house.
“Are you alright?” He asked, a look of concern on his face.
“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine.” I said turning away. I stared out the window, trying to stay awake, but the apathetic way the clouds caressed the plane as they passed made me even sleepier, and I began to drift off again.
Soft light shone through the thick overlay of trees in the lush, youthful meadow. My sister and I sat on a rock by a small serene, cerulean pond under the setting sun, gossiping and talking about pretty much everything and anything. It brought back memories of when we were younger, when we used to go down to the ocean and talk for hours. Suddenly, we heard crying in the distance. We stood up and began walking closer to the sound. We crept up to a small bush as the volume of the crying amplified. Behind the bush was a small, cherubic baby. It had big brown eyes that were a carbon copy of Kasley’s. Then the baby started growing bigger and bigger. I looked back to ask Kasley what we should do, but she had vanished.
“Kasley! Kasley! Where are you? Where did you go? Why did you leave me? Kasley! Kasley please, please come back! Please!!”
An overhead voice called to me. “We are sorry for the inconvenience…”
Once again I was jarred awake, but this time, it was by an announcement from the flight attendant regarding the turbulence we were going to experience shortly. I decided to read a magazine to elude the aura of sleep around me. I picked up the copy of Vogue sitting in front of me and decided to leaf through it. I perused the usual articles about makeovers, new hairstyles, hot new fashions, and the typical star gossip, but none of them intrigued or amused me. I put in my headphones and tried to focus on the movie, but it was just some mindless comedy about two people who are trapped together at an airport. Usually, I loved stuff like this, but today, there were too many things on my mind, threatening to overflow. I continued to push all my thoughts back, hoping that we would land soon. Finally, I felt the rumble of the wheels against hard ground and sighed, now, I was home. I rushed off the plane as fast as I could, but of course, rushing off a plane still took at least 20 minutes. I heard crying and turned around to notice a small baby in the seat behind me. Her mother was holding her, rocking her back and forth. I swallowed hard as I thought about how my big sister would never get to do that. I could see Kasley and her baby, holding her and playing with her. I ignored the nausea in my stomach as I squeezed my eyes shut, and began humming. Once I exited the plane, the first face I saw was one of an old, tired-looking woman with eyes as blue as the ocean. She had a few wrinkles on her face and her silky auburn hair was streaked with gray and white and pulled up into a tight bun that had partially come out.
“Mom!” I called, running into her arms.
“Kori!” She called, squeezing me tightly.
“How is she?” I asked earnestly, despite my attempt to stay composed.
“She’s hanging in there; she was sleeping when I left.”
The car ride was a bit long and the silence created a tangible awkwardness.
“So, “ my mother said, trying to piercing the quiet lull. “How’s that boyfriend of yours, Jordan?”
“Oh,” I paused. “He’s… fine. We broke up last week.” I said as the feelings from the breakup resurfaced and I shoved them back, this was not the time. I had bigger things to worry about. After that, we didn’t say anything.
When we got out of the car. I saw it. The hospital. Why is this so weird? My head suddenly began to spin. As I entered the hospital, a wave of realization hit me. This whole time, I never realized the magnitude of Kasley’s situation. I walked though the hospital, following my mother in numb haze. I saw my father and Jason, Kasley’s husband, and my mother in the waiting room, but I ignored them, heading straight for the door. When I got there I took a deep breath and clutched the doorknob, holding on with all my strength; it was all I could do not to be completely break down as I felt a giant wave of grief I hadn’t anticipated hit me square in the chest. I stood there for a minute or two, hoping the door would open on its own, but finally, with all the willpower inside me, I pushed the door open.
When I entered, I couldn’t believe what I saw. Kasley was lying there, looking so petite and vulnerable. Her beautiful strawberry blonde hair was tangled and strewn across her pallid, pasty face. There were a myriad of ivies and machines hooked up to her, her eyelids and lips were purple and blue, and her whole body was still. All I could hear was the constant beep of the heart monitor. I sat down on the chair next to her and suppressed tears as I took her hand in mine. I pushed away the hair from her face, kissing her on the forehead. Suddenly, I was overwhelmed and tears began cascading one by one down my cheeks as I quickly batted them away. This can’t be happening! This is just a dream; please, get me out of this dream. I cried out a prayer to nobody in particular. Kasley began to stir so I quickly attempted to collect myself.
“Kori?” She whispered weakly.
“Yes! It’s me. I’m here to see you. How are you? Is there anything you need? Can I do anything?” I asked sincerely.
“No, no, I’m good for now, “ She replied smiling her beautiful smile, voice unwavering and tranquil. “How are you baby sister?”
“How do you think I am?” I replied, giving her a half-hearted smile.
Nobody came in for a few hours, giving us time to catch up and talk. In the middle of one of her stories about one of her co-workers, she put her hand on her stomach and let out a short cry of pain, and she pressed the button for the nurse to come.
“Ooh, I think the baby is coming, can you call Mom, Dad, and Jason? Hey and listen,” she said suddenly grabbing my hand, “ I want you to know I love you, a lot. No matter what happens, I love you, a lot, and… I was wondering if you would like to be this baby’s godmother, and if you would name him or her. Jason is not the most creative and well, I don’t,” her voice caught and I squeezed her hand “I don’t know where I will be after the baby is cleaned up. Plus I mean, we’ve been through a few names, but nothing seems to fit, we thought you might be able to think of something when you see its face.”
“I would be honored, and I love you too, more that anything,” I said and I couldn’t hold my emotions in anymore as I exited the room.
“Mom, Dad, Jason, Kasley is going into labor, she asked me to call you all in there.” I called as I made a quick dash for the bathroom on my left. I immediately broke down as I fell to the floor. My body shook with sobs and I couldn’t control them. I couldn’t take it anymore. The walls in my mind extirpated and my mind was swimming with a mixture of all the sentiments I had hidden and pushed back. I put my head between my knees and shook vehemently. The tears gushed down my cheeks, soaking my shirt and the floor around me. My nose was running heavily and I felt sure that my tear ducts would dry out any minute now. Just the thought of how small and feeble she looked in that bed made my heart break. It took me a few minutes to calm down, but I knew that I needed to sort everything out. I couldn’t push everything back anymore. It was just too much to take when it all came out. As I got up and attempted to wash my face, I noticed the red blotches on my face and the purple shadows under my eyes. I grabbed some paper towel and attempted to wipe all the tears from my face, and get rid of the redness in my cheeks as well as I could and took a deep breath as I exited the bathroom.
As I sat outside the room, for once thinking about everything that was happening, a memory popped into my head.
“Her name is Enkeli” Kasley said as she showed me the minuscule white, porcelain guardian angel statue she had bought. We were visiting our grandparents in Finland over summer break and we had stopped at the mall. “It means angel it Finnish. She is gonna be out guardian angel from now on.”
“What’s a guardian angel?” I had asked.
“A guardian angel is your best friend. She is always watching out for you, and when you are gonna get hurt or when you are sad, she will save you. We can share her. She can be both our guardian angel.” She had remarked beaming. From that day on for the next seven years, every night they had said a small prayer of thanks to Enkeli and asked her to keep them safe every morning. Whenever they were sad or lost or hurt they would ask Enkeli to help them, and she never failed to. Their family wasn’t particularly religious, but this was their little secret. They kept it up until Kasley left for college and they moved. Somewhere in the mess of boxes, Enkeli was lost and forgotten.
Then it hit me, in a last desperate attempt I clasped my hands and squeezed my eyes shut.
Enkeli, Please keep my sister safe. Please keep her alive. Please, please, please, please please keep her safe through this. Please.
Suddenly, I heard a soft indistinguishable whisper in my ear. I opened her eyes, but no one was nearby. I attributed it to my lack of sleep and my desperation for an ounce of hope. Hours passed by as I sat in suspense, waiting for any news. My mother and father sat across from me, holding hands and whispering softly to each other. Suddenly, we saw the door burst open as paramedics rushed Kasley’s motionless body to the ICU. We entered the room to see Jason holding a small angelic baby in his arms. She looked just like the baby in my dream; she had the exact same big, chocolate brown eyes that belonged to Kasley. Jason handed the baby to me. I stared down at that miniature, picturesque face and saw Kasley written all over it.
“So, Aunt Kori, what are you going to name her?” He said, trying to fight the feelings of joy and grief trying to overcome him.
“Enkeli,” I said, not even thinking, “Enkeli,” I whispered this time, and I knew it was perfect.
The doctor came over taking Enkeli from my arms and carrying her off to run tests. I closed my eyes, tears welling up inside me once again.
“What’d they say, Jason? Is she going to make it?”
He swallowed hard, “They don’t know; she passed out halfway through so they had to do a C-section, but the doctor said that there might be hope.”
Tears flowed down all of our cheeks as we walked to the nursery. I decided to head down to the ICU, so I would be the first to get the news. After an hour my parents and Jason arrived as well. I sat there for a few hours, sorting out the worst and best case scenarios and what I was going to do, but keeping hope the whole time. It’s going to be okay. Poor Kasley doesn’t deserve to be in this state. I got up and paced back and forth. She had to make it. Enkeli was watching over her. I let the tears pour down my cheeks as I walked around the ICU, listening to the rush of doctors speaking in soft voices. I heard someone talking to my mother and turned around to find a man in a clean white coat beaming.
“I am happy to inform you and your family that Kasley has made it. She has recently awoken. She has had major blood loss, but due to some sort of miracle, we were able to save her. She will be able to make a full recovery, over time of course, I would say about six months, and we are going to need to keep her here for another week, but she is doing fine. She is conscious if you would like to go see her. She really is lucky, she must have had a guardian angel or something watching over her,” he said winking before he walked away.
Running into the room, I looked at her. She looked the same, but some of the color had returned to her cheeks.
“Hi!” I exclaimed. “Did you hear? The doctor said you are going to make a full recovery!” Tears began to roll down my cheeks again as I ran up to her hugging her, not fully believing the news.
“I heard,” she said, tranquil as usual with a hint of playful sarcasm. “So, Aunt Kori, what did you name her?”
“Enkeli,” I said softly.
“That’s perfect,” she replied, squeezing my hand.
My parents and Jason were behind me so I stepped back and let them talk to her. My eyes twinkled as I stared at her through the blur of my tears.
“Hey! I just had an idea! I’m going to go get you some stuff from yall’s house. I’m sure you don’t have enough clothes and the hospital food is awful so I’ll be back in an hour or so.” I called, slipping out the door. The truth was, I didn’t want to be in there anymore. I had been overwhelmed by so many emotions in the past eight hours and I was beginning to feel claustrophobic.
As I sit in the car, staring at the rising sun in front of me, I can’t help but smile. I have been through an emotional rollercoaster, and I can hardly control all the different emotions welling up inside of me. This time though, I’m not going to shove them away. “Thanks Enkeli,” I whisper as I drive away.