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Ernest Marks to some would be seen as a very grumpy old man. He walks down the busy street with a spurious expression that gives many people chills running up their arms. He wears a plain old trench coat with a ratty hat, and the scruff on his chin is as white as snow. Whenever he passes anyone they give him a fearful glimpse and then quickly look away. Ernest has quite the lonesome life. He lives in a quaint apartment on 3rd Street of New York City, and his only friend is his dirty old golden retriever named Burt. Every day he walks down to the coffee shop, he does not order coffee, but always a medium hot chocolate with a scone. He sits down sipping his hot chocolate then for exactly an hour then goes on to walk around Central Park where he feeds the birds with the small amount of food he has left. Ernest would never expect to talk to anyone, for he does not have the friendliest welcoming.
On one of these very trite days, Ernest was seating on a park bench feeding the birds when a little girl came and sat down on the other side of the bench. She had on a private school uniform that was a blue skirt and a white blouse, her curly blonde hair was in pig tails and her blue eyes could be seen from a mile away. He expected this little girl to be curious about what he was doing so he did not want to seem frightening to this strange little 12 year old. Although Ernest may seem frightening he has a good heart. He just always seems to say the wrong things. He continued feeding the birds and every so often she would scoot closer and closer, right up until she was right next to him. “What are you doing mister?” she curiously asked.
“Why I’m feeding the birds, obviously. Now where’s you momma?” Ernest replied quite harshly.
“I like birds, but I don’t like it when they fly and this gross white stuff lands on your head, my momma always says that it’s the birds just showing their appreciation of what we are doing to their world.”
“Well isn’t that an interesting thought, now your momma is probably looking for you, so…scat!”
“Oh, but I don’t think she’s looking for me at all, she thinks I’m at school.”
“Why you ditching school, if you go to school then you’ll turn out better than me, that’s for sure. I mean I’m out here feeding the birds.”
“What’s the point of school if all the learning I learn I won’t need?”
“Of course you’ll need the learning; you’ll need it your whole life!”
“Exactly.” The little girl responded very grimly, “So anyways mister, what’s your name?”
“Uh…Ernest, but you get to call me Mr. Marks.”
“Marks, like marks on a page? Well I don’t really like those messy marks on a page so I’m gonna call you Ernie.”
“Haven’t you ever heard of respecting the elderly girly?”
“Well you can call me Missy, Missy Thompson; it’s a pleasure to meet you Ernie! I better go though; otherwise the school people will call my momma. Bye, bye Ernie!”
That was the first meeting Ernest had with little Missy Thompson and little did he know that this little girl would change his life. He would wonder every night why this cute blonde girl had talked to him, and every night he would fall asleep with an exhausted brain, for nobody has had any type of conversation with him since Emily.
Emily was his wife, she was his whole life. Throughout all the pain and suffering she was always there for him. About three years before she had died, she got liver cancer; the pain of those three years aged Ernest greatly. He used to be one of the finest men around. When Emily had died he was distraught, his whole life was tumbling down. He always got hot chocolate in the morning because that was Emily’s favorite drink and he always fed the birds because Emily always told him that the birds will only make their beautiful twittering if they were fed by the hands of a gentle and kind being. As the days past after her death each day felt like a year. So as the years passed people thought that Ernest was going crazy. They would see him muttering to himself, when really he was singing the lullaby that Emily would sing to him on his bad days, now he has bad days every day it would seem.
“Ernest, will you be a darling and get me some water to drink?” a soft sweet voice asks.
“Em… Emily, is, is that you?” Ernest stutters.
“Why of course silly, who else would I be? Are you okay? You don’t have a fever do you?”
“But, but your dead.” Ernest exclaims with a wildly shocked look.
“Hmm…well I’m right here aren’t I?”
“But I, I must be dreaming, this is too good to be true!”
“Okay then, wake up Ernie, wake up.” Ernest jumps up to this new voice, “Well you’re a bit jumpy today!” say a very enthusiastic girl.
“Emily?” Ernest questions as he is getting out of his dream.
“No, remember me? I’m Missy, Missy Thompson! I saw you sleeping and well I really need to talk to someone and you are my only friend right now.”
“Friend, I’m your friend?”
“Of course you are! I don’t just talk to anyone! You should feel proud; I only choose the best of people to be my friends.”
“But we just met yesterday.”
“And you made me realize that if I am lucky enough to be your age one day, and I’m a need a lot of luck, that I would love to have a cute little girl as a BFF!”
“What’s a B.F.F?”
“It means best friends forever, duh. Gosh, how old are you?”
“Don’t worry ‘bout that, now why do you need to talk to me?”
“Okay, well it’s about this boy who has this bright curly red hair that makes an afro and he’s like really tall and he is super mean and always pulls on my pig-tails! What should I do?”
“Why should I know, I’m not a kid, obviously. How many kids you know that have white hair?”
“No, no, no, no! You’re supposed to be all wise! I thought all old guys knows everything!”
“Well ‘course I do, so bout this boy, give him a piece of your mind! And if that doesn’t work then tell me and I’ll go straight up to that rascal and tell him that he’s in trouble!”
“Well I just thought you would teach me some karate or something, I guess this works to.” Missy says quite unsure of herself. “I’ll go do that and tomorrow I’ll tell you if you’re needed, bye Ernie!” In fact Missy did come the next day, evidently the boy just had a cute little crush on her and he broke down into tears when Missy told him that he was being a brat. Missy also came the following day, everyday except for Saturdays and Sundays. Ernest now woke up every day with a hope for a better day. Each day when feeding the birds Ernest had a little smile on his face, waiting for his new BFF who had brought him much joy. They continued their little chats for a couple months and then when summer began Missy told him that she would find a way to meet him. Together they told each other everything, Ernest had told her about Emily, although a lot to put on a 12 year old she seemed very mature and handled everything like an adult. When the next school year started though in the middle of November Missy didn’t come, Ernest figured she just had a little cold or something, but when she didn’t return the next day and the next day and the next week he was getting worried. He checked Missy’s school to see what was going on except the people working wouldn’t tell him anything. Right as he was about to give up though he saw a very awkward red hair boy who seemed to tower over everyone else, he believes this must be that boy that had pulled Missy’s hair.
“You there, boy.” Ernest shouted at the boy.
“Me?” the boy replied in a very shaking voice.
“Do you know Missy? Where is she?” Ernest asked as he started his interrogation.
“Missy, she’s gone.”
“What do you mean gone, like moved?”
“No, she was sent to a hospital during gym class.”
“What? Why? Where?”
“The hospital right down the road.”
“Thanks kid, now hasn’t anyone ever told you not to talk to strangers?” Ernest smiled right before he ran out the door to go find Missy. He ran as fast as his stout legs could go, those watching him running may have felt as though he was about to attack them, such a cumbersome man trying to sprint down the street. His hat flew off into the wind and he did not even think about stopping to retrieve it. Once he entered the hospital he realized that the hospital was the same one that Emily was in when she had died, for him it was a house of doom. He stopped right in front of the doors, thinking back to the last time he had entered. He was at work when he got the call that Emily was in the hospital and he had rushed through the hospital doors to find her. He stayed with her until the end, never leaving her side. For four weeks he watched her going through agonizing pain and finally all her pain was gone, she was gone. There were no final words she had said to him. He cried for years. Every night he would gaze at the cheesy yarn bracelet that he had given Emily when they first met, it was a promise never to give up.
Ernest feels the bracelet in his pocket and takes a deep breath and walks into the hospital. He’s in such a weird state that he feels as though he is floating, he is just a little boat being guided by the strong harsh winds. When he finally arrives at room C17 he finds Missy sitting on the bed with a very grim look on her face. “Missy what’s happened?” is all he can muster out when he sees her.
“Excuse me sir, but who are you?” a very surprised mother asked.
“Don’t worry momma. This is my friend Ernie.”
“Uh…yes we met in the park and she is very sweet and when I realized that she was here I came as quickly as I could.” Ernest explains.
“What do you mean you met in the park?”
“Well I was feeding the birds and she came and talked to me, after a while we became very good friends.”
“The best of friends mamma!” Missy exclaims.
“Ernie I need to talk to you out in the hallway right now.” Missy’s mother sternly demands.
“Oh of course.” Ernest replies as he walks out to the hallway.
“What is your problem sir.” The mother asks as she shuts the door.
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“Is this some kind of joke to you? How could you talk to a helpless little girl and not tell her mother?”
“You sick man, messing with a girl who has cancer! Of all the horrible things that one can do, you do this!” she irately exclaims.
“Wait, Missy has cancer?”
“Yes of course she does, don’t try to act innocent!”
“I honestly did not know.” Ernest says in disbelief.
“What kind of so called friend are you? I swear if you touched Missy I will…”
“Momma can I please talk to Ernie?” a soft voice from inside the room says.
“No honey, no.”
“Please momma, please!”
“Yes alright fine, but I am coming in too, I want to get to the bottom of this.” Ernest starts to enter the room when the mother stops him and whispers in a very evil tone, “The only reason you are okay right now is because my frail daughter is right there.”
“Ernie I’m so sorry I didn’t tell you, I just I didn’t want you to worry about me or treat me different. I’m just so used to all these sorry looks. You talked to me pretty mean, but I like that about you. I’ve wanted to hear those types of comments for a very long time, but no one seems to have the guts to sadden a cancer kid.”
“How long have you had cancer?”
“I’ve had liver cancer since I was five.”
“Did you just say liver cancer? That’s, that’s what Emily had.”
“Thanks for coming Ernie I’m really happy that I was able to see you again. I’m really sorry that I’ve put you through this.
“Missy, I would like to thank you. Ever since I’ve met your cherubic little self, I wake up in the morning with a little hop in my step.” At this point Missy’s mother is in tears. “I never thought that I would ever feel happy again and you brought me that happiness.” Missy sits up with all the strength she has and gives Ernie a huge hug, Ernie he hugs back too.
“Ernie, I think you should go now.” Missy mother says.
“Of course, but you can call me Ernest.”
“And you can call me Kathryn. Good bye and thank you for giving my daughter happiness in such a hard time.”
“Good bye. Missy you will get better.” He feels the bracelet in his pocket and realizes that never did he think he would be BFF’s with a 12 year old girl. Gripping onto the bracelet he also realizes that Missy probably feels the same way. Ernie leaves that day not knowing what the future will hold.
As Ernie shuffled home his mind was spinning, wondering if he had made a mistake becoming close to Missy, if she would be better off without him. He wanted his friend though; and he didn’t care how selfish he was acting. Perhaps Missy needs him just has much as he needs her. That night with worry he drifted off to sleep, he was surprised how easily he fell asleep, usually it takes hours, but tonight he fell asleep quickly due to all the stress and events of the day.
“Ernie, I need you to help me.” Ernie hears from a familiar voice.
“Emily, I know now that this must be a dream, I miss you and love you but you can’t actual be here.” He stutters with all his might.
“I know that Ernie, but I need you to help me by letting go.”
“What? But I can’t, I won’t!” Ernie says appalled by even the thought.
“Perhaps don’t let go but you need not to dwell on what’s happened. You need a friend.”
“But I have a friend Emily, little Missy.”
“And how long do you expect her to live, she is but a little girl and can’t possibly fight of her sickness. Growing attached to her will only bring you pain in the end.”
“No, I know that she will make it and I will do everything I can do to help her.”
“What more can you do?”
“I haven’t figured that out yet but I am not letting go.”
“I…I just don’t want to see you get hurt Ernie, I’m sorry I’ve put you through so much pain!” the illusion of Emily sobs.
“It’s not your fault! Don’t ever think that! I love you and don’t worry I will be okay, I think I’m finally finding my way back ever since I met Missy.”
“I love you too Ernie, and if this little girl is helping you then you must help her, good-bye Ernie, one day I shall see you again.” Ernie leans in to give his wife a kiss when he abruptly wakes up. He knows that the dream wasn’t real but he also understands what he must do. At this point only one thing can save Emily. He hurries to get a pen and paper and starts to right, he does not know how long Missy has but he hopes that it’s long enough.
“Hi Missy, hello Kathryn, I would just like to say sorry if I’ve caused any pain to your family.” Ernie apologizes back at the hospital.
“No, Ernie I am sorry that I got defensive, now that I’ve heard the person that you really are I am so sorry I ever doubted you.” Kathryn says.
“Well I was just wondering if there is anything I can do.”
“Not unless there is a transplant with the blood type AB-.”
“How far down is she on the list?”
“She’s number 13. She’s actually very close, compared to most of the other thousands of people but she’s also gotten worse suddenly and they moved her down.”
“I see.” Ernie murmurs to himself and he whispers to Kathryn, “How long do you think she has?”
“I’d say about three years.” Kathryn tears up instantly when she answers. As she rushes out of the room to get a tissue Ernie scoots closer to Missy.
“Remember when we first met, Missy? You sat down on the same bench as me and you started scooting closer. You were probably wondering what a scary looking man I was.” Ernie tells Missy.
“No, I didn’t think you looked scary, you looked sad to me. Every time you took a big sigh I scooted closer. You took a lot of sighs. I remember seeing you gazing out a lot, like you were looking for someone. I thought that maybe you were just as sad as me, we would be the perfect pair.”
“You know what Missy, you amaze me. Although you are only thirteen the insight you have on people, well you are perhaps the wisest person I know. Do you know everything?”
“Almost, but I do have one question.”
“What would that be?” Ernie asks Missy.
“Well, why did this happen to me?” Missy asks with a light colored mist forming in her eyes.
“I think everyone thinks that same thing at least a dozen times throughout their life, I know I did when my wife Emily died. I thought why me, why her? I guess that question will forever be unanswered and what you have taught me is that you just have to find something that makes you happy. Don’t ignore the problem but find peace and eventually someone will come around that gives you so much happiness.”
“You did that for me. Ever since I met you I have been really, really happy.” Missy gives Ernie a hug. “But I’m scared Ernie. What am I going to do?”
“Leave that up to me, I have a plan. Missy don’t you worry a bit.”
“Thanks Ernie, and thanks for loving me, you’re like a grandpa to me. I love you.”
“And you are like the best granddaughter in the world, I love you Missy.”
Missy continued getting sicker and sicker. Eventually she had to shave her head and every day she would get weaker and weaker. She held on as much as she could, she fought with more might than any worrier has ever fought. She had hope, for Ernie had told her she would be okay and that he had a plan to heal her. In fact Ernie did have a plan, before he went to sleep every night he put a letter on the table and headed off to bed. Ernie knew that he was growing old and his only hope was that he would pass before Missy, every night for a year he left a letter on the table and would go to sleep. As he kept aging he also became sick. Unlike Missy though his body could not keep up with it, throughout his last night taking deep painful breaths he did have a couple last words, “I have found peace.”
Missy was too weak to go to the funeral but Kathryn went in her place. A man in a suit and tie walked up to her and told her how great Ernie was, that he was going to save Missy’s life even after he had died, he said there was a transplant ready for Missy’s liver, it would be Ernie’s. He had Type O blood; his liver could help Missy live. Once Missy recuperated she was finally able to read the letter that Ernie wrote it was addressed to her.
My dearest Missy,
The light and brightness that you have given me is something that I will never be able to compensate you for. I have written this letter so that you know that I have kept my promise, I promised you that I would make you better. Missy I am a donor and my liver will go to you, I knew that I was getting old and I knew that without quick action you wouldn’t live very long. I hope you will be able to live a long and happy life, you deserve every little bit. About two years ago you came and talked to me for the first time. Nobody ever talked to me before that, I was just known as the grumpy old man that was mean to everyone. I started believing it myself, but when I met you, when I met you Missy you showed me that I didn’t have to be like that. You showed me that I can find peace and happiness. I never knew I could ever love again, but the love that I have for you is so very strong. You truly are my granddaughter, well theoretically anyways. There is something I want you to know. I did not harm myself at all to do this for you. I simply waited until it was my time to pass, you have no reason to blame yourself, I died naturally. One day when you find a husband to love you I hope you have kids and I want you to teach them the kindness and compassion you have. I do not know what the future holds for you, I do not know the hardships you will go through, and I do not know why things happen. All I know is that things happen for a reason, I did not meet you by accident. Life is extremely erratic and every time you go over a bump you may get a few bruises. Just promise me though, you will be strong and one day after you surmount every dilemma you come across, you will remember me. I know that I will always remember you. Always.
With all the love in the world,