- Summer Guide
- College Guide
- Author Interviews
- Celebrity interviews
- College Articles
- College Essays
- Educator of the Year
- Personal Experience
- Travel & Culture
- Current Events / Politics
- Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking
- Entertainment / Celebrities
- Love / Relationships
- Movies / Music / TV
- Pop Culture / Trends
- School / College
- Social Issues / Civics
- Spirituality / Religion
- Sports / Hobbies
- Community Service
- Letters to the Editor
- Pride & Prejudice
- What Matters
Cole watched his sister as she built a sand castle in the backyard. At five, Rachel was quite dogged. It showed in everything, this castle she was building, her school work, even her friendships. She never let anything fall apart if she could help it. In her own little world, everything deserved a chance to flourish. As he watched, she completed the sand building with a quaint little yellow rose on top of it. Then she stepped back to admire her work.
“Cole…!” she called, turning around to look at her big brother. “Isn’t this pretty?” she asked with a beatific smile, her blue eyes sparkling with happiness.
Cole smiled back at her, taking in the castle behind her. It really was very well made and the feminine touch of a flower made it quite lovely. That was how she really was, adding a gentle and gracious style to everything she did.
“It is, Rachel. It’s the prettiest sand castle I’ve ever seen. You should be making houses.” He said.
In spite of the huge grin that stretched across her plump face, she said rather sensibly, “Don’t try to butter me up, Coley. You know little girls don’t build houses. It’s architectures like Uncle Josh.”
Cole laughed. “They do, too. Little girls named Rachel do. Why don’t you go call mommy to come and see this beautiful house? I’m sure she’d love it too.”
As the patter of Rachel’s feet faded away, Cole heard the rumblings of thunder. It was still quite sunny but it seemed a heavy downpour was coming. He looked at the sand castle again and thought of how much he loved to watch his sister play. He loved being around her, unlike most of his classmates who saw younger siblings especially girls as a nuisance, always getting underfoot. He’d willingly pass up a chance to hang out with his buddies at the mall in order to babysit Rachel. They never quite understood it. She’d been born twelve years after him, when no one was expecting a new baby. His parents loved surprises and Rachel had been one heck of a surprise.
Huge droplets of rain had begun to drop and Rachel’s castle was the target of many of them. He could hear Rachel and his mom coming towards the patio where he stood. The rain intensified and he could hear strains of Rachel’s chirpy voice.
“…Coley… prettiest…ever saw”.
And his mom’s confident voice.
“If he said it is, then I’m sure it is, honey.”
Just as they made it through the patio doors, a huge clap of thunder sounded and as though it was a heavenly signal, the skies seemingly opened and a flood poured down.
“Oh, look…mom. The castle’s being washed away.” Rachel pointed out sadly.
The three of them watched in silence as the rains swept away the sand house along with the lone rose. A moment later, Cole broke the silence.
“It was really very pretty, mom”. He said.
It wasn’t only the castle that was ruined that day. From that day, Rachel’s life took a dramatic turn. It all began when she asked Cole to take her to visit Darla, her best friend. Darla’s house was only about a six minute walk from theirs so she could easily walk down with Cole. They’d been laughing at a joke Cole told when she saw a frog.
“Oh, Coley…can I look at him? Please, just for a second?” she asked, clasping her chubby palms and looking at him out of large pleading eyes.
“Sure, Miss Do-Little.” He teased. “One second.”
Rachel didn’t mind the name. Like every other young child, animals never ceased to intrigue her. As she stooped to observe the frog, Cole spotted a red mustang which looked like his buddy’s; Andy’s car. He saw three of his football teammates in the car and it looked like they’d been drinking. They were probably returning from a watering hole out of town where they’d gone to celebrate their recent victory over the Malibu Sea lions. Andy was driving and even he looked drunk. They were all laughing loudly and slapping each other’s backs. Andy also turned around to slap another guy, Mike and for a moment he left the steering wheel.
“ANDY, NO!!!” Cole heard himself shout as the car spun out of control and onto the side walk towards Rachel. His heart pounded loudly in his ears and he turned to pull his sister out of the way of the car. Too late, the car was faster than him and the next sound he heard was that of his sister screaming.
The doctors said she was too critical to tell how affected she really was. Cole was devastated. He couldn’t understand why his sister, as young as she was, had to go through something like this. Andy was a wreck. He couldn’t bear to see his friend’s sister in such a state; much less afford to be the cause. For two weeks, Rachel remained critical. It was the worst two weeks of Cole’s life. And then one morning, the doctor told the family that Rachel wanted to see them. Cole was the first person out of his seat.
“Coley…” Rachel managed to whisper as he held her hand. She looked so worn out, so tired. As if she’d been fighting a tough battle. The battle for her life. Thank God she won. Her left arm was in a cast and she had a few bruises on her face. Her eyes still had that gentleness to them and a hint of the faith she had that everything deserved a chance to work out. Cole took encouragement from that.
“I’ve missed you so much, Rachel. Hurry up and come home. But until you do, I’ll come to see you every day, ok?”
“Ok.” She said.
She got better every day and Cole was happier every day, too. Andy also came to see her and had already expressed his profound apologies to the Ryder family. His guilt was enormous and Cole could not bear to keep a grudge against him. He forgave him, as did his family, including Rachel. Her cast was never plain. Various signatures from Cole’s football team always adorned it. It was as though she had twelve big brothers, the way they always hovered around her, bringing her flowers and little treats and titbits. They did for her things they’d never done for their siblings before. They made her laugh and she made them cry as they realised from Rachel’s vivacious life that loving life and the lives in it was deeper than they had thought.
One day, when the sun was shining brightly than ever before, and the birds were chirping gaily and the flowers were looking more colourful than ever; when Cole thought that life could not be more beautiful, the doctor called the Mr. and Mrs. Ryder.
“What did she say?” Cole asked his parents the moment they stepped out of the door.
“She has septicaemia. And they didn’t detect it earlier because of all the complications earlier on.” Dad said woodenly.
Cole found out all about septicaemia and he knew this meant that his sister might die due to bacteria in her blood. But somehow he believed that his sister would not allow death to overcome her.
The symptoms began to show. Rachel looked worse than ever. Sometimes she was confused about whom Cole was and that hurt more than anything else. One day she told him,
“There’s a bird nest in the tree in our backyard. One of the birds keeps falling off. Please help me to always check on him, would you?”
Cole burst into tears. He knew his sister couldn’t fight anymore. She was saying goodbye. The light in her eyes never dimmed but they shone for a different hope now. The hope that she’d soon be in a world far more beautiful than this. A world where she could play with the animals all day long. And eat all the goodies she wanted. A world where everything was perfect and there was no need for hope or faith.
Cole smoothed her cheek and said. “I will. Promise.”