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Forever and for Always
The linoleum floor was like ice under my bare toes as I stood in front of the silver mirror. I had waited for this day, hoping it would never come, but of course it had to. My last hair, dark and silky, floated gently to the floor like a delicate rose petal. I stared at it on the ground, and then looked back up at the stranger in the mirror. She was hideous. She was skinny and frail, with gaunt, sickly skin, hollow amber eyes, and a smooth, hairless head. I closed my eyes and saw the girl this stranger used to be. The beautiful Kanah Marshall, with long, silky, dark curls, delicate curves, full, rosy cheeks, and bright, almost golden eyes. She was lost to me forever.
I felt a prickle on the back of my head and whirled around, staring at Dad. He looked away, fidgeting with his slender fingers while his cheeks flushed under his scruffy five 'o clock shadow.
"Yeah, Dad?" I asked, standing tall with my shoulders back.
"Oh, um...I--I...the...b-breakfast..." His small voice trailed away when he couldn't find the words.
"Is breakfast ready?" I saved him. He nodded vigorously and then, with one last look behind him, strode away. As soon as I knew he was downstairs, I rushed to my door and closed it quietly, sliding down the smooth wood and sobbing on the floor. I hadn't realized how this loss would affect me. I felt so...so empty, like I had nothing left of the old Kanah. There was nothing in me anymore that reflected that popular, confident girl with the winning smile and bright future. All my "friends" had left me as soon as I started losing my beautiful hair, I had had almost no time for school since the chemo started, so my grades have tanked, and I don't feel pretty at all anymore. I was a different person now, but even though it affected me, I wouldn't let Dad see me like this.
For him, I put on a brave face, shoved my warm, knit hat over my shiny, bald head, and marched down the stairs for breakfast. Looking straight ahead, I sat down forcibly in my chair next to Dad's and dug into the scrambled eggs, jelly toast, and greasy bacon. Dad was still cooking, and the soothing sizzling sound of frying bacon helped my muscles to relax. I wanted to act normal for him. I wanted to be brave, like Mom had been.
Breakfast was a silent event, as was the car ride to the hospital. I stared out the window and watched Ocean City go by. It was one of the biggest tourist sites in all of Maryland, with its sunny, sandy beaches, beautiful, rolling waves, restaurants and stores galore, and even a carnival. And yet, the place still depressed me. How was it even possible for such a happy place to make me so sad?
Finally, the awkward silence ended when dad stopped the car and we got out, hurrying into the cool hospital. It was scorching hot out, and the humidity was so awful we were practically breathing water, but of course there were still tourists out and about.
We were supposed to find out today if the chemo had worked or not. I'd had nightmares about it all night, but I tried to be optimistic while I let them test me. Then, after what felt like hours of waiting, Doctor Don came into the small room, staring at my test results. His face betrayed no emotions. As he looked up at us, I wanted someone's hand to hold, but Dad was all the way across the room, staring down at the floor while he pulled at his fingers. Mom would've been here for me.
"I'm sorry, Kanah." Doctor Don finally spoke.
"W-what?" I asked. I hadn't been paying attention as I wandered in my thoughts.
"The chemo didn't have any affect. I'm sorry, honey." He repeated. I stared at him in shock, remembering that day when we came in here with Mom. He'd said the same words. He'd given her the same diagnosis.
Terminal cancer. Leukemia.
When I woke, I could just tell, without even looking outside for his car. I was alone. He'd left me alone when I only had months left to live. I hadn't slept well of course. I had kept hearing those words, over and over again. "I'm sorry, honey."
The shrill ring of the phone cut into my thoughts like a knife. It was such a sudden interruption that I was frozen in place for almost 3 rings before I finally picked up the phone.
"Hello?" I asked shakily.
"Hey, Kanah, it's me." His voice sent a shiver down my spine.
"H-hi, Baron." I blushed.
"I was just calling to check up on you. I'm at the shop and your dad says he's sorry for leaving without telling you, but he didn't want to wake you." Baron said. I was ashamed of myself now for being angry at Dad. I'd forgotten he had to go to work today.
You know, to pay for your medical bills? A tiny voice in the back of my head added.
"Kanah?" Baron asked.
"Oh, sorry. Yeah, tell him I said thanks and I love him." I said.
"Sure thing. So how are you? Do you feel any better?"
"I...No, I don't feel any better at all." There was silence on his end. "It's terminal, Baron." I added quietly. There was a thick silence.
"I'm coming over." He said after a very long while, and then he hung up. Baron was the only one of my friends who had stood by me, even when I started to get ugly. He was the only one who had actually ever cared, I think. It felt like ages as I waited for Baron, but finally I heard a rap on the door. I flung it open and didn't even get time to say hello to him before he flung himself at me and I was trapped in his embrace.
"I'm so sorry, Kanah." He whispered in my ear.
Everyone was sorry, weren't they? But somehow, Baron's sorry meant more.
Days passed, as they always will, and each day changed me. Each day made me weaker. Each day made me sicker. Each day brought me closer to death. But one thing I could always look forward to was Baron's visits to me every day after school; 3:00 on the dot.
Sometimes we did things. We would watch a movie or go out to the beach. But usually we just sat with each other. We talked, but we both knew we didn't need to; silence would suffice. The doctor had told me 6 months, but by the time the first one was over, I was almost positive I was in love with Baron. I was only 13, but I felt much older. I felt 110 years old, with only a few months left of my life. And I felt like I had a right to love one boy before I died.
Dad was a male, but I wasn't quite sure how I felt about him. I wasn't quite sure how he felt about me either. Before Mom had died, he had seemed to love me. He used to read me bedtime stories, kiss my boo-boos when I fell, and entertain me when I was sick. You know, dad stuff. But then Mom was diagnosed and he gave more and more attention to her, taking more and more away from me. Then when Mom died, he was just empty.
I couldn't blame him, though. Mom had been amazing. She had been beautiful, with long, dark curls, fair, flawless skin, and golden eyes. She had loved to paint, and she'd taught me quite a few things too, but Dad stuffed all of her beautiful paintings in the attic to gather dust after she died. She had been kind, smart, and vibrant, and there would never be another woman as amazing as her ever again, but the way she had left the world was awful. She had wasted away. She chose to live out her last six months, and at the end, there was barely anything left to bury.
I didn't want to do that to Dad, like she had.
After two months, I could feel the very thing I had been working so hard to prevent creeping up on me. I started to feel like I couldn't even get out of bed in the morning, and every once in a while I didn't. Dad was never there; he was always at his souvenir shop, avoiding me. The only person I had real conversations with was Baron. He was the only one left.
"Kanah, please stop sulking." He said to me one day.
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"Don't you want to make your last months here happy? Stop lying around in bed all day and do something with me." He said.
"But I'm so tired, Baron. I can't do anything." I sighed. He took me to the beach that day, and I swam with him in my clothes, too ashamed to put on a bathing suit. After that, we went to the park and lay in the grass, watching the clouds go by. It could have been the best day of my life, I suppose; if you looked at it the right way. And then, we stopped by the shop.
"Dad?" I asked as I walked in. Business was obviously slow, and the place felt cold, despite the heat outside. "Dad?" I asked again when I got no answer.
"Kanah? What're you doing here?" Dad asked, coming around a corner. The way he looked at me was strange, like he didn't want me to be here. I was avoiding you for a reason, his eyes said.
"Do you love me?" I found myself asking. I had planned on asking him if Baron and I could ride bikes down to Assateague Beach, but then the question that had been on my mind for so long just slipped out of my mouth. He hesitated.
"Of course I do." He lied.
"No, you don't." I said, finally realizing it.
"If you loved me, you would be at home right now, and so would I, and you would be making me chicken noodle soup to make me feel better. If you loved me, you would've been home all along. You would have done anything to make me happy on my last days. You don't love me! All I am to you is a reminder of Mom, and why would you want that around? You don't, so you avoid me! You hide in your rinky dinky little shop and wait patiently for me to waste away! Well did it ever occur to you that I don't want to waste away, like I was never here? I want to stay here with you and Baron and one day I want to get married and have kids and bring them down to the beach to visit you in your shop! I want to be a bestselling author, and I want to change people's lives with my books! I want to change people! I don't want to waste away." I sobbed. I backed away from Baron and Dad, shying away from their shocked stares.
"I don't want to waste away!" I shouted, and then I fled.
I could barely see anything through the tears in my eyes as I sprinted down the boardwalk. People stared at me and some shouted when I pushed them out of the way, but what did I care? I was a dying girl. I would soon be leaving this world, so why not go out with a bang? Why not make people remember me?
"Kanah!" Baron yelled behind me. I sprinted headlong, but Baron was much stronger than me and was gaining fast. Why couldn't he let me make my dramatic exit? Why couldn't he just let me be remembered?
Finally, my weak body could no longer run and I collapsed in a heap, trying to catch my breath under the scorching spring sun. Baron caught up with me and picked me up like a child, carrying me back home. I struggled weakly, but it was no use; I was too sick to be strong. So instead of fighting, I just cried in his arms and let him hold me, even after I was already home. Then, when the sun began to set, he said he needed to leave or his mom would be worried. Before he could pull away from me, though, I kissed Baron Carmichael right smack dab in the middle of his lips.
"Good bye, Baron." I sighed in his ear, hugging him, and then he pulled away and left in a daze.
"Kanah, I made dinner!" Dad called from downstairs. He had been trying to make up for earlier all night long. I felt awful about the things I had said to him, but I didn't need to tell him now. I had already written to him.
"I'll be down soon!" I lied.
I opened the cabinet, careful to be quiet, and pulled out a small bottle of sleeping pills. Dad hadn't been able to sleep for weeks after Mom died, so his doctor had prescribed him sleeping pills to help.
I grasped onto the childproof lid and turned sharply. The bottle flipped out of my hands and twirled in the air like a dancer before it fell to the floor, spilling the pills everywhere with a sound like rain on the roof. I winced and waited.
"What was that?" Dad called from downstairs.
"I...I spilled a pack of Skittles, that's all!" I said. Sweat pooled in my hands while I waited for an answer.
"Don't eat those before dinner! You'll ruin your appetite!" He said. I sighed, smiling weakly. With the danger of discovery almost gone, I bent down and picked up 10 of the small capsules, just to be safe. I stared at their oval shape, watching the light glint off of their shiny exteriors.
It reminded me of sunlight glinting off the ocean...
Jacob, The Father
"I'm so sorry, Jacob." They said. "I know what you're going through, Jacob." They said. "She was such a beautiful girl, Jacob." They said. But did any of them really mean it?
I looked out over the sea of black, searching for her. Everybody was in my way, handing out meaningless condolences. It was just like Kara's funeral. Nobody really meant it; they didn't feel what I felt.
"First Kara and now poor Kanah? How tragic." I heard someone say. I ignored them all, still searching. I'd told myself I wouldn't look for her. I'd said that I didn't want to see her that way, but I couldn't help it. I just wanted to see her, once more.
"Mr. Marshall, this way." Baron said quietly, taking me by the elbow. He had been her friend; the only one she'd had left. She had liked him very much. He led me through the blackness, towards an opening. As soon as I saw it, I pulled away from the young boy and broke through, finally, finally seeing her.
She was so beautiful. She'd thought she was ugly, but she was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen; even prettier than her mother. They'd put a wig on her that looked exactly like her real hair; long, silky, and black as a raven's wing. Her skin, despite its cold paleness, glowed like a goddesses. I walked up to her and traced her gentle features; the curve of her lips, the slope of her nose, the edge of her jaw bone. She looked like she was sleeping.
I held her hand and the young boy, Baron, took her other one. Then he took my hand and I cried with him.
"Such a waste." Someone whispered from behind me.
I'd found the journal with her. She was just lying there, so beautiful and pale and cold. She looked asleep, so I tried to wake her, but she wouldn't stir. Then I cried, and I called the hospital, but it was far too late by then.
She had been holding the journal over her stomach, waiting there for me. I sat down on the edge of her cold bed and began to read. She had written so much. There were books and poems and short stories and diary entries, all crammed into a tiny journal. I intend to publish what she had finished, for her. She had said herself she wanted to be an author. She wanted to change lives.
She had changed mine, though. From the moment I held her tiny, warm body in my hands, she had changed me. I had always loved her. I don't know why I didn't show her that like I should have. But there was a note in the back of her journal, addressed to me, and I knew that she had known all along, really.
I got a lot of things from Mom. My hair. My eyes. My freckles. But one thing I did get from you is an inability to express myself to a particular person, such as a loved one. So, because of you, I have no idea how to say this in an articulate manner, so I'm just going to write what comes.
First of all, I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry for making you so sad and making you go through all you've gone through, because no matter what I've done or said or how I've acted, I have never once stopped loving you. You've given me everything You've given me all that you can give me, and I know it must hurt that I left of my own I chose to leave you, and I'm sorry but I'm not sorry for that. I wasn't going to let nature take its course. I wouldn't do that to you.
Secondly, I'll make sure to tell mom how much you miss her. I wonder how she'll look. Probably the same as she did before she was diagnosed. I hope. I've missed her so much it feels like my heart is being I can't breathe sometimes.
Thirdly, make sure to let Baron know how sorry I am and how much I really did like love him. I feel awful for leaving him, too, when we still had time.
Fourth and finally, I love you. I always have and I always will. Understand why we had to Accept what you've lost and move on with life, but don't you ever forget how much I love you, or how much Mom loved you.
It's starting to get dark now, and I feel so tired I can barely write. It's nice to think that my last act will be writing. I'm starting to hear music now. Remember how mom used to always march around the house and play her piccolo? I think that's what the music is. I hope so.
Good bye, daddy. I love you, forever and for always.