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It was a simple red bow, really.
It was red, but not a bright kind of red. The kind of red that makes you think of roses full in bloom. Of a nice wine, or even a really dark nail polish. It had polka dots too, white polka dots that stood out like stars in the dark night sky. Simple enough, but that bow had more stories to tell than a WWII veteran.
I was seven when I first saw the bow. Second grade, also known as The Terror at that time, came and I entered it with no friends to stand by me. I, fortunately, sat near this one peculiar girl. Her name isn’t important. I’d rather she remains an enigma. She would’ve liked that.
She had the red bow in her hair, and when I asked her about it, she would always come up with a new fantastical story on how she had come to own it. Once, it had been given to her by aliens from Jupiter. The next time I asked her, she said her father won it for her in a face-off with a cloth monster. She was weird like that, always filled with stories. And even the bow changed with her. One day, it would hold her hair up. The next, it would rest on her head, with her hair all down. It was always changing, the bow, changing alongside its owner.
But one day, she didn’t wear the bow. The next day, she didn’t come to school. And the next, and the next, and the next. I asked my teacher if she knew where the girl with the red bow was. She did. She told me to ask her parents. The next day, a Thursday, I did. I wish I hadn’t.
When I visited her at the hospital that Saturday, with my mother in tow, I saw her lying in bed, deathly pale. She still managed to crack and smile. And she still managed to have the bow in her hair. I asked her what was wrong; her parents had only told me she was very sick. Of course, she had a story ready. The aliens who gave her the bow had also injected her with a substance designed to test human medicine, she said. Now I’m mature enough to realize that she had leukemia. And the substance that floated in her blood, as she swore it did, slowly zapped the life out of my only friend.
I only visited her at the twice: when I first found out and when I was invited by her parents to see her. They asked me to not talk about her state of health; I was too young to realize that she was too sick for any chance of a recovery and her parents wanted her to go peacefully. I was only allowed to see her for half an hour (the doctors insisted no non-family visitors, but her parents broke him down). When I walked in, I saw that she was even paler, her hair thin, nonexistent in some places, and she had thick black rings under her eyes. She smiled when I walked in, and then she winced. Her breathing was labored and her eyes no longer had the spark I had grown to love.
She spoke surprisingly fast. She told me that her parents told her that the aliens responsible for her condition would come take her away very soon, and that she would miss me dearly. I didn’t cry; I laughed. It was one of her stories, I decided. And after our customary goodbye (a secret handshake we came up with and a mutual kiss on the cheek), she gave me her red bow, as a reminder. Then, I left. I never saw her again.
I didn’t go to the funeral. My mother decided I was too young to go. But I still have the red bow. And I, for the first time, visited her grave. I took the bow with me, so it could see its owner, the girl who had changed my life forever, even if she hadn’t realized it. It was cold that day. I stayed huddled to myself, my thick scarf choking me as my throat shook with the power of my sobs.





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