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Allergic to the Cold

Marla gazed in amazement at the wonderful snow-cloaked world outside just outside the window. It was the first grand snowfall of the year. She couldn’t wait to go sledding with her big brother, Lyle.

Marla hopped from the windowsill and stealthily tiptoed past her parents’ bedroom where they were napping. She slinked through the hallway and then barreled excitedly up the stairs, filled with giddy anticipation. She crashed through the door of her brother’s room and saw him playing a video game in front of his TV. He looked over his shoulder at her. “Marla,” he acknowledged her, and then he paused the game and held up a second controller, “this game is really fun-”

“Lyle!” Marla cut him off eagerly. “Look at the snow! Let’s go sledding! We can have races and go all the way to Mountain Hill and…” She trailed off. She hastily turned around and was about to run out his door and to the garage when she realized that he was not following her. She inched her head over her shoulder and saw that he was facing the TV dejectedly. “Lyle? Come on, let’s get the sleds!”

Lyle did not get up. He only sighed patiently and pinched the bridge of his nose. He said, “I want to go sledding with you. I can’t.”

“What do you mean?” Then she realized.

Lyle was diagnosed the last year with having a severe and peculiar case of Raynaud’s Syndrome. The disease limited blood circulation to his hands, feet, nose, and ears whenever he was exposed to even moderately cold environments. When faced with cold temperatures, his hands swelled terribly and he suffered from major aches. He had to wear gloves around the house sometimes, and when going outside on cool days. It was nearly unheard of for a nine-year old boy like Lyle to suffer from Raynaud’s, and there was no known cure for the disease. Ever since the diagnosis, Lyle, Marla’s once daring and adventurous brother, had been distant and he stayed in his room. Their parents, ever worrying, kept him inside as often as possible.

Marla was seven years old; she always depended on her brother for games and adventures. She still couldn’t really grasp the idea of the diagnosis. How had the brave and bold Lyle been reduced to such a state? When she asked him, he said he was allergic to the cold. He said he could still do a whole lot but some things he just had to avoid.

“You mean… you’re not allowed to go sledding anymore?” She was dumbfounded. “But we always go! How could you not go this year? You’re not going to sled down Mountain Hill? How could you-

“I want to go!” He snapped furiously. Marla was taken aback. He never really got mad. “I can’t! Leave me alone! Go sledding by yourself!”

Marla was shocked and than outraged. Why had this happened to her? Why had her cool brother gotten allergic to the cold? No one else was! And why did he yell at her? She felt so sorry for herself. Why was she so unlucky?

“Fine!” She yelled. “I will go sledding by myself! I’ll go on Mountain Hill without you!”

She raced out of his room before hearing his frantic “Wait! I didn’t mean it!” and threw on her sledding clothes. She tore threw the house and to the garage where the sleds were, took Lyle’s sled, and slammed the front door behind her. She did not enjoy the beautiful fantasyland of her neighborhood as she stomped through the snow straight to the distant Mountain Hill.

Mountain Hill was the biggest hill in the neighborhood. Marla had only been sledding for two years. Lyle had taught her everything she knew and had explained to her everything there was to know about it. Marla had only sledded Mountain Hill once, on a double sled with her brother. The hill spanned a great slope that had a small section of flat land for slowing down and then dropped off mysteriously, but Marla felt like she could handle it. It was a real monster, but it was exhilarating, and Marla wanted to erase her seething anger with some other emotion. She didn’t need her brother to sled! She threw herself onto the sled, and with a shout akin to a battle cry, she started down the hill.

‘Stupid!’ Marla reflected frantically. ‘What a terribly stupid thing to do!’ As soon as she took off she cascaded violently down the hill. She was going way to fast and she had no idea how to stop. She screamed an “Ah!” as she flew down the hill, past the desired stopping zone, over the drop off, and up a newly visible miniature hill. She was shot into the air, her sled thrown somewhere from beneath her. She crashed at the edge of the forest into the scraggly bushes.

Her stomach burned everywhere the brambles had slashed it. She painstakingly wrestled herself out of the bushes and landed with a thud on her leg in the hard packed snow. Tears sprung to Marla’s eyes. She picked herself up slowly. Where was the exit? How was she supposed to leave again? She couldn’t remember. She turned to the woods and couldn’t discern a reasonable path. She began to crawl up the mini hill but was immediately sent tumbling back down the slippery snow. She tried again and got the same results.

“Help me! Someone!” Marla cried frantically. When there was no response, alarm and despair set in. She clawed at the snowy slope, desperately trying to gain traction, but it was too slick and she stumbled back. After a few more attempts she gave up. She plopped down in the snow and started to wail. Her stomach burned, her leg throbbed painfully, and she did not have the will to make an effort at crawling up to Mountain Hill. She knew she was a weakling- and a fool, for not listening. Marla flopped down on her back and looked skyward. The snow had started to fall amiably again. Her mind raced as she panicked. She wondered if that snow would bury her alive and her family would only find her body in the spring. Or maybe she would get frostbite and keel over. Or maybe her fingers and toes and ears would swell and pain excruciatingly just like Lyle’s when he had a Raynaud’s attack, and the spasms turned deadly…

She bolted upright when she heard a faint shout. “Marla! Marla!”

“Lyle!” She called back

“Where are you? Marla! Come back inside already! Where did you go?” It was Lyle! But how? He wasn’t even allowed to go outside. And he was very far from the house.

“Lyle! I’m here!” Her voice came out as a strangled but blaring sob. “I’m here! Below Mountain Hill!”

She could imagine his surprised if not alarmed face and him sprinting as fast as he could towards her in the deep snow. After an agonizingly long wait he materialized on the little hilltop. Lyle was decked out in a humorous amount of winter clothes, appearing like he had gained several pounds, but Marla thought he looked like a hero. When Lyle spotted her by the snowy brush he began skidding down the hill at a cautiously measured pace; he didn’t want to slide down the hill without a sled beneath him. Marla laughed hysterical when he finally reached her.

“Idiot,” he hoisted her up by one arm, “What were you doing going down Mountain Hill by yourself?” Lyle dusted some snow globs off her puffy coat. He sighed. “Did you get hurt anywhere.”

She nodded and attempted to control her runny nose and tears. “I fell on my leg and my stomach’s scratched up.” She lifted up the bottom of her coat and shirt to let him see. He appraised the injuries.

“Yeah those are pretty bad. But, oh, you’ll be okay.” Lyle smiled lopsidedly. “You are really stupid though.” He gave her some awkward pats on the head. Marla thought his hands had started swelling already.

Lyle led her through a simple path in the bushes that looped back around to the road. Marla felt shamefully stupid for not remembering the way back but he didn’t say anything. It was a long and hurried walk back to the house. He pushed her along as they walked and said that if she wasn’t limping her leg was fine.

When they got back, their parents had apparently woken up and were worried sick. They crowded Lyle and yelled at him in worry and made him peel off all of his snow-soaked clothes two pairs of gloves, two pairs of pants, two heavy-duty jackets, two hats, and a scarf. Marla wondered if he had put all those on just to look for her. Lyle’s hands and feet had swollen terribly and turned blue and their mom wrapped him in practically all the blankets they had in the house. He giggled and disappeared under them but their mom made him come out so she could rub his
hands and give him a monologue lecture.

“… How could you go outside like that? That was incredibly stupid. We still don’t know how this condition could affect you…” They only scolded Lyle. She watched dismally and didn’t mention her stomach or leg like she normally would have. A curtain of guilt hung over her.

After a few hours the Raynaud’s spasms had nearly subsided and Lyle assured their parents that he was be okay. He came up to Marla and asked if she wanted to play the video game. She was surprised but nodded dimly.

When they got to his room she plopped on the ground and stared at the wall. “Do your hands hurt?” She asked blankly.

“Nope.” He lied. He demonstrated by enthusiastically punching the power button of the console. “They’re just a little puffy.”

Marla started crying. “I’m sorry-” she rubbed her eyes profusely- “that I’m the worst sister you could ever have!” Lyle sighed and sat down by her and patted her on the back and waited until she stopped crying. “You’re not a bad sister. You’re a good sister. I try to be a good brother, too.” She nodded and they sat for a while. Eventually his hands warmed up. When they played the video game and had a great time, Marla realized that her brother was not inhibited by any weakness. He was strong. She also realized that anything was fun if she did it with her brother.





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