I sat at a table by the window in The Candy Shoppe. I had a little bag of gummy bears but I really wasn’t interested in eating them. They were a free gift from Sally. Sally owned The Candy Shoppe. They were a pity gift. An “I’m sorry for your loss” gift. I was sick of the pity. It had been two years since she died and I needed people to stop reminding me. I wanted to forget. I swiped angrily at the tears that had started to form in my eyes. I stood up, and pulled my sweater over my head,, shoving the uneaten bag of gummy bears into my kangaroo pocket. I pushed my chair in and nodded at Sally as I walked out. As I let the door slam behind me I knew that she had a sad smile on her face and was shaking her head. Everyone had that look when they saw me.
I took a deep breath and headed towards the stream. I walked briskly down the dirt road and luckily for me, not many people in our small town of were out so I didn’t have to deal with anyone. There’s a small problem with living in a small town. That problem that everyone knows your business. No matter how hard you try to hide everything from them. Suddenly, I was at the stream. I sat down on a log and buried my face into my hands.
I walk back and forth and back and forth. I can’t stop thinking about the worst things that could possibly happen. I wring my hands. My mom sits next to my dad in the crappy plastic things that the hospital thinks are chairs.
“Chloe Reeves, If you do not sit down right now, I swear to God!” my dad growls angrily.
I sit down right away. My dad has a right to be angry. Right now, at this very moment, my big sister is in a hospital examination room, and he has no idea what is going on. She’s been feeling really sick for way too long. I stare at the sign above the receptionist’s desk: Jackson Hospital-Tennessee. The nearest hospital to our middle of nowhere town. A man wearing a long white jacket walks into the room. He looks at his chart and then looks up.
“Family of Drew Reeves?” he asks.
My mom and dad stand up quickly. I stand up with them. If Drew were here, she would have come up with something funny to say, she probably would have quoted Looney Tunes.
“What’s up Doc?” I repeat in my head over and over again. My dad has opted for a more serious approach to the doctor.
“We have discovered a growth in your daughter’s stomach. We’ve scheduled s biopsy to be sure, but there is a chance that Drew may have stomach cancer.” the doctor says solemnly.
My head shoots up and I look at the doctor. Did I just hear the word cancer? My mom stifles a sob, and my dad wraps his arm around her. I stand off to the side not knowing what to do. How could Drew have cancer? She’s the healthiest person that I know!
I looked up at the sky. My sister would be down here telling to get up off of my sorry butt and move on with life. I just couldn’t. Every little thing in town reminded me of her. The kids outside on their lawns. Drew used to gather them all up and have them all play together. The adults sitting on their porches. My sister never failed to make them smile. The Candy Shoppe is the worst one out of them all. I had just recently been able to sit in their again, and it still wasn’t for very long periods of time. My sister loved the gummy bears there. I suddenly became very aware of the bag of gummy bears sitting in my pocket. I dumped the bag into the stream angrily. I took a couple of deep breaths, something Drew taught me to do whenever I got emotional. I stared sadly at the gummy bears floating down the stream.
Drew holds up a gummy bear. It’s green and the sun is shining through it. We are at a table in The Candy Shoppe.
“You see this gummy bear?” she says raising an eyebrow.
I nod eagerly, then I look out the window and see a car drive by. I am fascinated by it. I know that it is just a car, but anything interests me. I have a really short attention span.
“Hey, pay attention. What I’m about to tell you is very important. More important than anything that you can think of.”
I look up at her with a look on my face as to say “go on…”
“This is how you eat a gummy bear.” She bites the head off, and then pops the body into her mouth.
“There is a special way to eat gummy bears?” I ask. No way. It’s just a gummy bear.
“There is a special way to do anything Chloe, you just have to be able to find it.” She says with a know-it-all smile. “Your eight year old brain just doesn’t understand that yet,”
“Even homework?” I say smugly.
She sighs, ruffling my hair.
“Yes, even homework.”
The memory made me smile. That had happened before we knew that Drew was sick. 5 years before she died. Remembering that made me angry once again. I pulled off my shoes and stepped into the water. The water barely reached my knees. I kicked my leg back and forth. There was a special way to wade in the water. There was a special way for everything.
We are at The Candy Shoppe again. My sister absentmindedly runs her fingers through her hair. Very soon, she will start to lose it, and though she tries to hide it, you can tell that it is not something that she wants to do. I however, am growing my hair out as long as I can per my sister’s request. She says all the time, and I quote-
“Chloe, you are going to grow your hair out as long as you can, and then you are going to donate it this year. I don’t care what mom and dad say, you are going to do this for me.”
I sit across the table from her with my sketchbook in my hands. I’m drawing her, not that she can tell or is paying attention. My sister is the subject of most of the art in my book. I’m enjoying the silence when Ms. Harrington comes up to our table. Drew doesn’t seem to notice. She’s too busy staring out the window. Inside, I groan. Ms. Harrington is the town gossip. The person who is able to talk your ear off.
“Probably because she has nothing better to do” I think to my self. I smile. I can’t help myself.
“What are you smiling at girl?” Ms. Harrington looks at me with a look of pity. I look back with a questioning look. The look on her face is starting to bug me.
“Am I not allowed to smile?” I ask sweetly
“No, of course you are allowed to smile. I just can’t imagine someone smiling at a time like this!” she says
“What kind of time is this?” I ask with a big fake smile on my face to hide my annoyance.
“Well, your sister is going to die and-“
“Excuse me?” my sister whips around. “Did you just tell my little sister that I was going to die?”
“Yes. It’s the truth.” Ms. Harrington says smugly “You’ve got a 28% chance of survival.”
My sister clenches her fists.
“Listen up. First off, your statistics are wrong. The doctors caught my stomach cancer in stage two. That gives me a 56% chance of survival, which is more than a 50% chance. Your statistic would be if the cancer had spread from my stomach to almost all of my body. So get your facts straight before you go and blab your big mouth the other people.”
Ms. Harrington gasps. No one has ever had the audacity to stand up to her. That’s my sister though. She will defend anything she cares about.
“Also, the fact that you could say that to a 12 year old girl is even worse! I don’t mean to be rude ma’am, but maybe I do when I say that you need to get a life. You may wonder why you don’t have a husband or children and you live at home with God knows how many cats, but I know the reason, it’s because you are a rude, and disgusting lady, who finds joy in other people’s pain. Now excuse me, we are leaving.”
The whole shop has gone silent. My sister grabs my hand and pulls me out of the shop.
Ms. Harrington sniffs and says “Stupid girls” as the door slams behind us. .
That was the first, and only time that I had ever seen my sister yell at anyone, let alone get angry. I walked over to our tree and traced my finger over the heart that surrounded our names. Drew had dragged me to that tree and carved our names into it after she yelled at Ms. Harrington. She said,
“This is our tree, and whenever you are feeling down in the dumps, come here.”
I grabbed onto the lowest branch and pulled myself up to the top of the tree. The sad thing was, Ms. Harrington was right, and it hurt to say that. My sister had fought and fought and fought, but it wasn’t enough. She died the year after that conversation. I was 13. She was 23.
My father, uncles, and some of my cousins carry the casket down the long path. The path is too long in my opinion. Who wants to watch that? I think the casket should be set up by the time you get there. The casket looks pretty heavy too. My mom is crying next to me and so are my aunts and other cousins. I don’t get it. My other cousins are older than me, yet younger than Drew and they have never wanted anything to do with us. They just want attention. I guess that that could help me. As far as I'm concerned, I don't want anything to do with anyone. I want people to leave me alone. Fat chance of that happening. The casket has been placed at the foot of the stairs at the altar. The priest gives a speech about how much Drew gave to the community as if they were best friends. I rolled my eyes. These people knew nothing about my sister. Absolutely nothing. My dad stands up to do the eulogy. He clears his throat and wipes his eyes.
“Drew was the happiest girl I knew. She was the best daughter anyone could ask for. She was sweet and caring and never failed when it came to making people smile. Some of you may know that she was studying to become a lawyer at Harvard. I know that she would have been the best of the best. She never gave up. Once she had her mind set on something, she wouldn't stop until she reached her goal. I love her so much. She did nothing wrong with her life. It was cruel and unfair what happened to her. She fought until the very end-“
My dad’s voice cracked. I could see that he was about to break. I knew that there was still more of a speech left but he ended it there.
“I miss her so much.” He quickly said and he stepped off of the podium.
I miss her too.
As I climbed up the tree, I remembered how Ms. Harrington was right. I lost my footing and I clung to the branch thankful that I hadn’t let go. I pulled myself higher and higher until I reached the top of the tree my anger at Ms. Harrington making me climb faster. By the time I reached the top of the tree, I was nearly out of breath. Drew was the athletic one out of the two of us. To my credit, it is a very tall tree. I sat at the top of the tree and let the wind cool me down. I thought about the last time I was up here.
Drew races up the tree and it seems like she forgot about me being there too. She has been doing that recently. Normally, her hair would be flying behind her but there is no hair there. She lost it during chemo, and I know that it hurts her. She just doesn’t let it show. The doctor says that she shouldn't be over exerting herself, but she says
“I have a life-threatening disease. I want to live my life to the fullest, not be stuck in bed.” My parents seem to agree with her as we have been taking a lot of family vacations recently. I lose my footing again and cling to the branch for dear life as I regain my footing. I scramble up the rest of the tree until my head it poking through the leaves at the top of the tree and I'm sitting next to Drew. She clears her throat and looks at me. Her eyes have welled up with tears. She pulls me close and hugs me. I don't try to resist because I’m confused as to why she is crying, and because I'm about to fall out of the tree and I don't want to risk it by moving. She lets go and I slowly go back to where I was sitting.
“Chloe, have you heard what the doctors have been saying?” She asks while wiping her eyes.
I shake my head. Mom and Dad haven't been telling me anything. They do seem to be more distant as of lately I suddenly realize.
“The chemo isn't working sweetie and cancer has spread to other parts of my body. I lit up like a Christmas tree.” She says smiling sadly as she continues “The doctors gave me two months to live.”
Tears are threatening to spill out of my eyes. This wasn't supposed to happen! Drew was supposed to be a cancer survivor! She was supposed to live to tell her story! The tears fall out of my eyes.
“Why?” I ask “You never did anything wrong!”
Drew is trying not to cry agin, I can tell, but eventually, the tears fall out of her eyes too.
“I don't know. I just don't know”
"It’s not fair!” I shouted to nothing in particular “It's just not fair!”
I buried my face into my hands. My life was horrible. Dead sister and pity looks everywhere I went. My parents didn't even seem to care anymore. They were too busy dealing with their own grief. Up high in the tree, I thought of the things I could do. One leap. One leap and I would be with my sister. I looked down at the ground. My mind was all jumbled. Should I do it? I leaned back against the branches in the trees trying to make up my mind. A blast of cold air hit me, and shoved my hands into my kangaroo pocket on my sweater. I always left things in there. Little candies, money, anything really. I didn’t expect there to be anything in there, but something was. I reached in and pulled out a piece of paper. Confused, I unfolded it.
You’ve finally reached into your pocket. Thank god you didn't wash your sweater with this note in it. Anyways, I just wanted to let you known that I love you so much and I am definitely watching you from up here. You're young, make sure that you live life to the fullest as you know, it can be cut short in an instant. Don't worry. I'm not actually all that mad about dying anymore. I made my mark on the world and I did the things that I wanted to do. I have to say though, my biggest achievement was probably being able to be a good ( I hope!) big sister to you. I don't know if you are still mourning me, but if you are, stop trying to forget me (that’s impossible. I'm that special. Haha) and what happened, instead, you should move on. In the words of Porky Pig “b-b-b-big deal!” I don't mean to sound harsh or anything but I'm gone, and I'm not coming back. I've had my th-th-that’s all folks! moment. I love you to the moon and back again.
I held the paper in my hands and cried. I hurried down the tree, knowing my decision. Drew was right. I had my life to live, and her legacy to carry on. I stood at the base of the tree and kissed my fingers, then touched the heart carved into the tree. One of Drew’s many permanent marks on the world. . I walked back into town and see Ms. Harrington coming towards me, and it’s obvious she has something that she wants to share with me. In the words of Speedy Gonzalez, “Grab your sombreros amigos, here we go again.”