Seeing through the snow

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Information about Seeing through the snow

Published on February 11, 2014

Author: kb4421



Full of hospitals, boys who can't talk and a whole lot of snow, Seeing Through the Snow sees Paige deal with friendships and loss as she finds her way through her complicated life.


WINTER 2010 2

WEDNESDAY “Short black with no sugar!” I called out to the barrister who was frothing milk behind me. He nodded in acknowledgment as he continued putting together the drink in his hand. A few seconds later the same cup was placed in my hands. “Decafé cappuccino with two sugars!” I hollered, holding the cup out waiting for the short, grey haired lady who had ordered the coffee to make her way to the front of the line and collect it. Wiping my forehead with my sleeve, I turned around to grab the next cup. This was one of the busiest times of the day as all the office workers from the buildings across the street were on lunch break wanting their coffee and sugar fix, as well as the construction workers from the new supermarket that was being built down the street, and then the usual passer-bys 3

wanting a casual cake and coffee with their friends. In the midst of all the orders I managed a few glances at the large clock hung up behind me. 4 hours to go. I always hated working the extra hours but the thought of the extra money kept me going. Another hour went by and I changed from the front counter to waitressing, handing out the baked goods that had been ordered to those who wanted to dine in. At least this was less hectic; just. Chloe arrived for the afternoon shift at two and I only had two hours to go. As Chloe logged in and grabbed her apron I was heading into the kitchen to collect my next plate, thankful for the time we had together where our shifts overlapped. “Paige! Hey, Honey, how are you?” Chloe was a tall, skinny, 22 year old blonde waitress who was only working at Starbucks to pay her way through Boston University, which wasn‟t too far from the coffee house. She was my closest friend at work and was always there to listen or give advice. Returning from the kitchen with a plate for myself and another for Chloe I responded. “Croissant table 4, and I‟m okay, considering the longer shift.” Taking the second 4

plate from me, she made her way over to the waiting customers, a couple in their mid 30‟s. “Double shift? I didn‟t think you had the time for that. How‟s things with Raegan then?” Her voice was soft as we swiftly walked side by side back into the kitchen. “Of course I don‟t have time for double shifts, but you know I need the money. Raegan‟s parents won‟t help with the cost of the wedding any more than my mother will! And I don‟t know how he is; he left before I even woke up this morning.” My voice cracked as I spoke the last words. I didn‟t dare look Chloe in the eyes, she would see right through my fake smile. “I can‟t believe them! Their only son and they can‟t even help with the cost. We all know they have the money, too. Another morning without seeing him? Paige, that‟s the third time in two weeks, are you sure things are okay?” By this time we were already serving another set of plates, she was practically shouting across the shop. “Of course things aren‟t okay Chloe!” I was getting unsettled now. “I‟m 19 and engaged to a guy I don‟t want to be with. I‟m supposed to be out with friends, going to 5

university, having fun! Not planning a wedding and working all day, every day to pay for it!” A few people turned heads as I started to raise my voice. I hung my head in embarrassment and waved apologetically. Back in the kitchen there were no more plates; yet. “It will be okay, Hon. If you wait a few more months you can divorce him and take all his money!” She giggled. Knowing she was trying to cheer me up, I hugged her. “Thanks for listening.” She hugged me back tighter and just nodded in comfort. Several moments later we were back out serving and were so busy that that was the end of our conversation. Ten minutes left. I did one last round, handing an apple crumble to a young guy at table 2 who had the most amazing emerald colored eyes. Finally the clock read 4:00 and I headed into the staffroom. Hanging up my apron and collecting my belongings from my locker, I sighed, thinking about how I had to do it all over again tomorrow. Logging out, I waved to Chloe and then slowly made my way to the front door. It had started to snow halfway through the last hour of my shift and it looked freezing. 6

The full force of the icy winds hit me as soon as I opened the door. Wrapping my coat around me and zipping it up right to the top, I ran down the street to seek shelter at the bus stop. My hair soaking wet, I sat down on the cold wooden benches, cursing myself for not thinking to bring my other jacket with the hood. A quarter of an hour had passed and I looked at my phone. Raegan should be here to pick me up by now. I unlocked my phone and dialed his number but after it rung five times, I knew he wouldn‟t pick up. Putting my phone back in my pocket I looked at the time schedule for the buses. The last one leaving for Harvard Road had left at 3:50 and then next one was at 5:30. My mood turned sour and, as if the weather understood, the snow and rain starting pelting down even thicker. Giving up, I put my head in my hands and started to cry. I was sick of my life and I was sick of the weather. I was sick of my family and Raegan‟s. I just wanted an escape. I was still sobbing when I felt a presence next to me and, looking up, I saw there was a guy sitting next to me. Wiping the tears from my eyes I now recognized him. It 7

was the guy from table 2 who had ordered the apple crumble. Ashamed, I quickly mumbled an apology for my crying then blushed, knowing I didn‟t need to. When I glanced back at him, he smiled and, in an instant, I was already comfortable around him. After a few seconds of contemplation, I decided to sit closer to him. As I shuffled across, I introduced myself. “Hello, I‟m Paige.” There was no reply. There it was, a moment that I recognized, but I continued. “Waiting for my fiancé to pick me up, but it looks like I might be taking the bus now.” He seemed to frown as I said fiancé; I gave him a quizzical look but said nothing of it. “He must be busy at work and forgot.” I was making excuses now. “And don‟t worry about the crying just before, just a tough day at work, I mean you saw how busy the shop was today, right?” As if he knew I was lying he put his arm around me and, as he did, I breathed in, trying to hold back more tears. Surprised he hadn‟t said anything yet, I pushed on. “Fine, you got me. My fiancé and I have been fighting. I thought he was the love of my life, but now things have 8

changed.” Realizing I was telling a complete stranger my life story I wondered if I should stop there, but for some reason, it felt like I knew him. “It was your typical high school love story. We met when we were 15 and he proposed as soon as we graduated. At the time, of course, I said yes, but if I knew this was what my life would come to, I wouldn‟t have.” Sighing I looked at him again, seeing whether or not I should continue. He nodded, signaling for me to keep talking. “Now we are 19 and he spends all day with his friends and I spend all day working at Starbucks. His parents hate me so I‟m the one paying for the entire wedding and my mom doesn‟t agree with such a young marriage. I‟m now stuck, because I don‟t love him anymore but don‟t have the nerve to cancel the wedding. What can I do? It‟s too late for university submissions and I don‟t have enough money left to buy another place to live. I just want to be living a normal 19 year olds life!” I started to breathe heavy, not looking at the stranger beside me. I couldn‟t say any more; it was too hard. My chest started to heave and I gave in to the emotions. The sobs were loud and painful, making my whole body ache. As if 9

not knowing what to do, the guy still didn‟t say anything and just hung his head. Suddenly feeling like this was all wrong I opened my eyes and stood up. I had said too much. I had pulled down the barriers; I was all exposed. Turning to run off, I felt a tug and, looking around, found that he had hold of my arm, as if pleading with me not to go. Scared, I wrenched it away and his grip fell and his arm rested at his side once more. I had to leave. I looked at him; he looked sad, almost empty, so my eyes flashed upwards to stare at the sky instead. The rain and wind had lessened but the many clouds were still as black as a giant panther that was stalking the sky; hunting the rays of light like they were prey trying to escape its grasp. Even if I wanted to flee, the other worldly being who controlled the skies obviously wasn‟t going to let that happen. Slowly turning back into the confinement of the shelter and pulling my phone out of my jacket pocket, I pressed the lock button, illuminating the screen. The large black numbers read 4:30pm, meaning that there was still an hour until the next bus arrived and an hour I had to spend with this person that I had never met before, yet was closer to than half the people already existing in 10

my life. The things I had shared since meeting him far exceeded what I usually told my friends and, even though it had been barely an hour since I first met him, I felt very much at ease with him, as if I had known him before. There it was again, the feeling of familiarity around this person. Were my feelings true? Had I already met this stranger? I was once again sitting on the uncomfortable seats that jutted out from the walls of the steel, box-like refuge, but made sure that there was plenty of space between us. I wished he would say something, anything, to break the sullen silence that had grown thick in the air, trying to suffocate me. A decision had to be made. If he wasn‟t going to talk then I would have to, before it drove me mad. “There wasn‟t always just Raegan you know,” I blurted out, knowing I would regret this but also knowing it was the only subject I felt the need to share. He turned to look at me, his eyes stayed on my face, as if fixated by every word I spoke. He wanted to hear more. “The same year I met Raegan there was also another boy I met and, if I think back, I‟m sure I met him first.” Forcing my mind to backtrack the years until I reached the 11

memories I wanted, I started seeing things more clearly. I cleared my throat, knowing that this was going to be a long story, and forgetting about being late for dinner, about Raegan and the bus, I brought the memories to life again. Speaking directly to the only person around, my stranger, I told my side of life. My eyes closed. “It was 2006 and just like today it was the first week of winter…” 12

WINTER 2006 13

WEDNESDAY It was the first week of winter and there was snow everywhere. Mom had picked me up from school and we were sitting in the hospital waiting room. A short, blonde haired nurse, accessorized with a pristine badge reading „Monica‟ and the usual mask of happiness, came up to us, helped my mother to her feet and led us to the elevator. The doors reopened on level 5 and Monica continued to lead us down many long and narrow hallways, twisting and turning through the hospital until we finally reached room number 162. It was a small private room, just what my mom had asked for. When we entered, my dad was sitting in the small wooden chair that was placed in the corner of the room. He had the television onto the weather channel but was reading the daily newspaper, totally oblivious to the synopsis charts and forecasts showing on the screen. That‟s when I thought he was going to be fine. He was 14

back to his normal habits already, which made me giddy with reassurance. After ten very awkward seconds my dad realized he had visitors and reluctantly put down his paper and muted the television. I rushed to his side and hugged him. He got up off his chair and hugged me back and we just stood there embracing for what seemed a very long time, but after five minutes Mom called my name. “Paige. We need to go.” Go? How could I just leave my dad here? Didn‟t she understand that he only had a few weeks left? He needed me and more importantly, I needed him! It took Mom several minutes to get me to leave, but when I finally did let go of Dad, I left without a fuss. We walked down the same hallways, each new turn making me that little bit more claustrophobic. When we got back to the waiting room, Mom went off to fill out some paperwork and I went to find the seat that I had sat in before. As I got closer to the chair I saw there was a boy sitting in it. He looked miserable. After a few seconds of contemplation, I decided to sit next to him. As I sat down, I introduced myself. 15

“Hello, I‟m Paige.” There was no reply. So I tried again. “What is your name?” Still no response. I was starting to regret sitting here. Why wasn‟t he answering me? I turned in my chair and faced him. I looked at him and took in what I saw: Messy, brown hair, the color of a grizzly bear‟s fur that fell just below his ears and tanned skin that peeked out of his bulky winter coat, matching the color of his jeans that were a faded charcoal. But it was his shoes that caught my eye. Dirty, old, orange Converse and, as I looked back up, I noticed the long slender fingers that seemed too elegant, too graceful for the boy that owned them. Still looking at his fingers, I saw he was writing on a chalkboard. One that could fit in your bag, it was that small. After he finished writing, he held it up to me. I read it aloud. “Hey I‟m Rory.” Rory. Such an interesting name that was actually quite well suited for him; kind of edgy and rebellious. But there was one question playing on my mind. Why the 16

chalkboard? Was he one of those „silent treatment‟ kids? I didn‟t dare to ask though. I really didn‟t like the idea of offending someone this early in the day. So I sat there in silence, hoping my mouth kept shut, in case I said something I would regret. I sat there next to him in total silence for another few minutes until Mom came back. I stood up, gave Rory a small wave and left. As I hopped in the car I wondered if I would ever see him again. I thought about that possibility and found the prospect of running into Rory in the near future very slim. It started to snow again when we were halfway home. I didn‟t even know if he went to my school or not. If he did, he obviously wasn‟t in my grade, but that might be the case, since he looked a few years older than me. There was a pile of letters in the letterbox that afternoon; all bills I assumed. I chucked the envelopes onto the kitchen table and went up to my room. I had booted up my computer that sat on my huge wooden desk and was just logging into my emails when I heard Mom calling me. “Honey! There is something for you in the mail!” 17

One of those letters was for me? That was strange, I hardly ever got mail. I rushed down stairs and snatched the envelope from my Mom‟s grasp, then ran back upstairs and shut my door. I read the front of it. It was definitely for me. I slowly peeled it open and started to read it. Dear Paige! You’re invited to my big, birthday celebration! This Saturday, 6pm at my place! Love Sasha. xxxxx Ah, Sasha; the class princess. Your classic „It girl‟ who is friends with anyone and everyone. Her annual birthday bashes were huge and this year would be no exception. Practically the whole school gets invited, and of course I would not be going. Well that was a letdown; all that excitement for another „Sasha‟ invite. I scrunched up the paper and threw it at the bin. It went in. I went back to my emails. Like always, there was just spam mail. That night I went to sleep dreaming about Dad. 18

THURSDAY Breakfast and the long bus ride went by in a blur and next thing I knew I was walking down the school corridor. I was coming up to my locker when something slammed into me. I fell to the ground and the thing –now obviously a person- came down with me. I felt them get up off me and reach for my hand. I let them help me to my feet and I looked up to see who it was. We both had the same shocked expression painted on our faces when we met eyes. It was Rory. He walked with me to my first class -which was Biology in the A block- while repeatedly writing “sorry” on his chalkboard. I told him it was okay, and that I was just glad he was okay too. I told him I was a freshman and found out in return that he was a junior. I said (and he wrote) goodbye as I came to the lab, and I watched him go towards the C block. That lesson I could not focus. I kept thinking about how I didn‟t realize that he 19

went to my school. I guess it was because there were over 1300 students at my school, and I didn‟t know most of my own class, let alone any other classes. At lunch, I went and sat at my usual table by myself and looked out over the sea of people for Rory. I didn‟t see him at all so I just sat there, ate my usual ham and cheese sandwich and hoped he would stroll through the huge glass canteen doors at any minute. Sitting in a window seat that afternoon on the bus, I stared at all the people going past as they laughed and joked around with their friends, realizing that I didn‟t have a single friend in this entire place. And in that tiny moment, as the bus sped off and people on the other side of the glass turned into undistinguishable blurs, I felt all alone. On impulse I got off the bus three stops early, right in front of the hospital. The tall, grey building loomed before me and, while I approached the doors, I imagined how much happier the place would be if it were painted a color such as yellow. I entered and went straight to the elevators. The doors shut and I clicked the button for level 5. I stood there silently as the doors reopened on level 2 20

and had to stop myself from staring. A young girl, who wouldn‟t have even seven with no hair, was being wheeled into the elevator. The person pushing the wheelchair was an older woman, closely resembling the girl, who leaned forward and pushed the level 5 button. We rode the elevator in silence and I practically ran out when the doors opened on the 5th floor. I am and always have been scared of sick people; my dad is the only exception to this phobia. It took me a while to find my dad‟s room; I just couldn‟t remember the exact path the nurse had shown us yesterday. I wasn‟t that interested in the route we were taking at the time. When I eventually found the room, I knocked but there was no answer. I pushed open the door and found my dad asleep in the corner chair. I didn‟t want to wake him so I opted to finding Jess to ask for another chair. When I returned, I sat there watching him sleep, thinking of all the memories we had shared when I was younger, before he got sick. Looking at my watch I knew it was time to leave. 8pm was creeping closer and Mom would be expecting me for dinner. I put my chair back in the nurses‟ station, kissed my dad on the forehead and made my way back down to 21

the entrance. Pacing towards the automatic doors, I stepped aside and let a small group of people pass. After going through the doorway, I swore that I saw a familiar mop of grizzly bear brown hair and pair of bright orange Converse. Mom had pasta organized for dinner that night. I was looking forward to it… until I realized she had made the one with tuna in it, so of course I hardly touched it. At least the patterns I made with my fork looked impressive. A few hours later I was in my room, lying on my bed with my stomach grumbling as I grew even hungrier, but it was worth it. I hated that pasta. I knew I wouldn‟t be able to sleep without food though so, grabbing my fluffy, purple dressing gown, I crept downstairs to the pantry. Luckily there was one packet of Oreos left right, ironically next to the tins of tuna, so I stuffed them into my pocket and went back to my room. With the empty packet in the bin and my stomach no longer growling in hunger, I finally found sleep. I dreamt of Dad again, but this time someone else was sitting with him in the hospital, a boy. I couldn‟t see who it was but his presence didn‟t scare me. I was puzzled with this mystery all night long. 22

FRIDAY School the next day was slow. There was no sign of Rory, plus I was bombarded with two surprise tests. My day wasn‟t going well. The class was buzzing with the news of Sasha‟s party, which made my day worse. The usual lunchtime alone gave me time to think about the weekend which started the next day. I didn‟t want to stay around the house in case my mother decided to take the day off work; a mother/daughter day was the complete opposite to what I needed. The hospital? Not really an option either. Dad would be getting his treatment that afternoon and he always was too „out of it‟ to have visitors after treatment. Sasha‟s party? That wasn‟t even an option! I just didn‟t follow that crowd, or any crowd really. The park? Yes, the park! The beautiful nature park that was a short walk away from our house was perfect for my day tomorrow. Not many people go to this particular park because of the 23

animals. A large variety of wildlife run freely on the grass and up the trees, feeding on the rubbish left behind by tourists. It would be quiet and peaceful there, just what I wanted. I could bring some bread for the ducks and nuts for the squirrels. It was just like our old family summer days. The end of lunch bell rang and I was brought back to my „school mode‟. I spent the bus ride home mentally listing the things I was going to bring for my day in the park; Picnic blanket, water, roller-skates, and I couldn‟t forget my camera. At home, Mom tried to convince me that I should stay with her the next day, but I repeatedly told her about my plans to spend the day at the park. As Mom does, she tried to get me to let her come too, but I told her I needed some space to think about Dad. That was the end of that discussion. Mom avoids anything to do with Dad. The news that he was probably going to die hadn‟t hit her yet. She still hadn‟t come back to reality. As I fell asleep listening to the sound of the snow piling onto our rooftop, I was glad that that night my mind was empty and that I slept a dreamless sleep. The mystery of the visitor with my dad could stay away for at least one 24

night but I knew it eventually had to come back and confuse me more. 25

SATURDAY Up early the next day, at 6:30am I was packing for the park. After checking and re-checking my bags, I was out the door before 7:30. It only took a few minutes to reach the park and I got there just before the sun rose. I found a reasonably comfy bench to sit on, wrapped myself up in the blanket I had packed and sat in awe of the sky that was luminous with the oranges, pinks, and yellows of the rising sun that were blending with the cool purples and blues of the night now gone. I must have dozed off while watching the sky because next thing I knew I felt a presence by my side. I woke with a start and saw Rory staring at me. We said nothing as we sat there and smiled at each other. His eyes were a piercing dark green, something that I had never noticed before. Glittering emeralds that sparkled in the day‟s new light; beautiful compared to my very dull steel blue. Looking into his eyes I saw his pain, I saw the loneliness he dealt with just like me and I 26

understood, right then and there, that he made no sound not out of choice, but because that was the way he was. He had been born without the ability to speak, a mute. The rest of the morning went slow, which was really good. Rory and I shared stories about our lives. I found out that he had moved here two years ago. Also, he had a little sister who was seven years old. I told him that I had lived here my whole life and about my older sister, Jess, who was a nurse at the local hospital, just like my mom. He said he also knew her since he visits the hospital quite often. I knew he had something to tell me, the reason why he often went there. But I didn‟t pressure him because my conscience told me that he would share it when he was ready. At midday I opened the salad sandwiches I had packed. We got up from the bench and ate while we walked around the park. Just as we came to the thickest part of the park, we saw some movement up ahead and we both turned to look at each other; we wanted to investigate. As we crept closer, it became clear. It was a squirrel who was foraging in the piles of dead leaves for food. I reached into my bag, grasped the tub of nuts that I had brought and slowly 27

spread the nuts at our feet. After a few moments of hesitation, the squirrel scurried up, sniffed the nuts, then started munching on them. Tiptoeing back a few paces, Rory and I sat down under a large tree that had lots of shade and observed the hungry squirrel as it continued eating. Eventually I got talking again, and when it was his turn to reply I was perplexed (not for the first time though) at the speed in which he wrote on his chalkboard. The next few hours was spent with us exchanging stories and just basking in the joy of conversation. It had been so long since I had talked this normally with someone and had a conversation that didn‟t mention illness or lead to a fight. I definitely hoped that this wouldn‟t be the last day like this either. Just around five it was getting dark so, with Rory‟s help, I packed up my things that I didn‟t even end up using, and we walked back to my place. Luckily, Rory lived only a few blocks away from my house, so walking home with me wasn‟t an inconvenience for him. Stopping at the front gate, he stayed for a few minutes and we started talking again, deciding to meet up again next 28

Sunday. Walking into the kitchen after Rory had left, I found a note left by Mom. Paige, I have organized to run a late shift at work, Will be home at 9pm so cook yourself something for dinner. Love, Mom. Xx I found that note quite hilarious since my mom knew I couldn‟t cook to save my life, and failing Home Economics at school didn‟t help. Toast was the only other option, as the freezer didn‟t contain any instant meals. Turning on the television, I sat down on the couch with my freshly made (and 5th attempt of) toast, and flicked through the channels. Finally finding something half decent, I settled down and let my brain turn off and, by the time Mom came home, I was fast asleep; I couldn‟t wait until next Sunday. The concept of having an actual friend was quite exciting! 29

SUNDAY Sleeping in until lunch was my tradition for Sunday mornings, followed by Mom‟s homemade waffles accompanied with maple syrup. I was just starting to shovel the golden heavenliness into my mouth when the 20 questions started; how was your day in the park? Why were you gone so long? Who was the boy at the front gate? She had seen me talking to Rory? How could she have? She was at work. “I thought you were at work when I got home…” I mumbled, looking down at my patterned pajamas rather than her face. I wasn‟t surprised by her answer. “Mrs. Botany told me.” Mrs. Botany was our neighbour who lived across the street, and she often spied on me. Even with her poor 30

eyesight and creaky old body, she was still very quick – to jump to conclusions that is. “He‟s just a boy from school.” I said to answer her question. That didn‟t satisfy her. “He looks quite old. Why was he hanging around with you at our house?” I hesitated before I replied. My response had to be good. It couldn‟t leave her asking more questions. “He‟s a junior. He lives near here and was walking past and stopped to say hello; must have recognized me from school.” Finally she left me alone and went back to her office. Sometimes having a Mom and a sister that are both nurses was nice because, except late at night and early in the morning, they were never home. I am one of those people who would rather be left alone. Not left alone from everyone, just family. They can get so suffocating sometimes. Having them away from home gives me room to breathe. The rest of my Sunday was spent watching movies and surfing the net. At about 4pm I went for a light jog around 31

the block then retreated back to the warmness of our lounge room. Once again, I dozed off on the couch, not wanting to leave the spot where Dad always sat, which was something that had been reoccurring many times since the first episode with him. It was last year in the summer. Everything was like normal; Jess and I playing in the park all day, Mom and Dad relaxing on the bench watching. But that year Dad didn‟t come to watch us every day, only some. He told us it was because the pollen in the park was giving him severe headaches so we all just passed it up as extreme hay fever, even though we knew he didn‟t have hay fever. It was only after he fainted one day that we started to sit up and take notice. Mom got him booked in for an appointment the following week at the local hospital and he got the all clear. Things went back to normal and the headaches weren‟t so regular but the next month, Dad got worse. Jess and I were getting worried; he had never gotten this sick before. Because of this, Mom got him 32

booked in to see a specialist whose practice was in the city centre. The doctor there ran some tests, took some scans of his brain and drew some blood, which took a long time. The results would take three weeks to arrive, the secretary said, so we took him back home and waited, as nervous as ever. When they finally arrived in the mail, we all sat down together and watched Mom open the letter with shaking hands. When she looked up, she wasn‟t smiling. I braced myself for the worst and grasped Jess‟s hand in mine. Dad had a brain tumor. I couldn‟t believe it. We were all numb as we sat there in silence. Mom took action first. She stood up and snatched the phone off the hook and dialed the doctor‟s number and, first thing the next morning, the whole family drove down to the specialist‟s office to see if there were any treatments available. The doctor told us that there were several we could try, but the chances that they would actually work were very slim. Apparently we hadn‟t discovered the tumor early enough. He gave him 8 months to live. To this day, I still blame the first doctor at the local hospital who gave my dad the all clear. 33

I‟d never told anybody about the tumor. I guess I haven‟t had to. No one is interested in your life these days; it was all about fashion, parties, money and possessions. Those material people made me sick. I tried to mimic their pathetic complaints. “My daddy wouldn‟t buy me the really expensive dress I wanted last night. He obviously doesn‟t love me!” My dad was dying of a brain tumor. Theirs wouldn‟t buy them a dress. I know my dad loved me with his whole heart. They base their fathers love on how much money he spends on them. Selfish, selfish people! My dreams that night were strange. The one that disturbed me the most was one where my mother had five other children all younger than me. She soon died after the last one was born and Dad also died a couple of months later, leaving me to stay home from school and look after all my siblings, sinking into a dark hole of depression. The dream seemed so real that I woke with a start and, after coming back to reality, I calmed down, but it still took me 34

hours to get back to sleep. How would I cope, having to care for someone or something other than myself? 35

MONDAY Monday morning I didn‟t go to school. I was tired and not in the mood for interaction with people I didn‟t like. Mom had left early that morning and Jess had spent the night at her boyfriend‟s place so, as long as the school didn‟t ring their mobiles, I would be fine. As soon as I knew I would get away with staying home I went back to bed. I reemerged sometime around midday to get some lunch. As I couldn‟t cook, or go outside for fear of Mrs. Botany seeing me, I found some frozen pizzas in the freezer that I put in the oven. After finishing the pizza I spent the afternoon on the couch watching the olden day movies. Late in the afternoon I decided to get ready for my daily run when the phone rang. I picked it up expecting it to be Mom or Jess. But unfortunately it was the school secretary. I sat down at the kitchen table and, putting on a nasally voice, made up some story about me having a one 36

day cold and that I would be back at school the next day, which got me off the hook. At quarter past 4 I finally left for my run. The track I followed wasn‟t long but went around the block and down near the park. As I was turning the corner to come back up my street, I saw something lying on the ground. I slowly approached it and found it was a squirrel. Wondering why it was just staying there I gradually reached down to touch it. The squirrel recoiled away from my touch but, as it went to run away, it tumbled over back onto the ground. I went around to the other side and saw that one of its legs was badly injured, knowing that it shouldn‟t be bent the way it was. I wondered if it was broken. I thought for only a moment before I took off my coat and picked it up gently in the warm material, then jogged back to the house, hugging the bundle close to my chest as I went. After grabbing my wallet, I hopped on a bus that would take me to the nearest vet and got the little guy checked out; one of the many moments in my life that made my want for a license and a car grow bigger. The vet spent several minutes looking over him and concluded that he had a broken leg, but nothing that was too serious. That 37

was a relief. After bandaging the area tightly, giving me the consultation bill and some care instructions, the vet disappeared into her office. On the way home I decided I would have to keep the squirrel until his leg was fully healed. A few people were giving me weird looks on the bus when they realized what I was holding, but I didn‟t care. At least I was taking the time to care for an animal that needed help, and it wasn‟t like I was going to walk to the vet‟s. When I got home, I found a large box in the back of my cupboard that I filled with cloth, a small water container and some mixed nuts for the squirrel. It took me a while to get it to settle down and stay in the box, especially since my touch scared it away, but eventually it rested. A few minutes later Mom came home and I introduced her to my new little friend. She told me that he had to stay in my room and, as soon as he was better, he had to leave. I agreed and spent the rest of the night in my room eating Oreos that I had stolen again and blasting music from my stereo. I had finally found my favourite album by The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus that I had lost a few weeks ago and put it on repeat, then laid on my bed singing all the words 38

off by heart. After the 2nd time through the album, I turned the volume down just a little bit, cuddled up under the covers and slowly drifted off to sleep. 39

TUESDAY I knew I had to go to school the next day, as I told the school secretary on the phone that my cold was only a one day thing, and, honestly, ditching was something I didn‟t usually want to do. Sitting on the bus I hoped that the squirrel would be okay alone. I had put it in my bathroom so it had more room but made sure it couldn‟t get out. I glanced out the window to look at the pedestrians walking past when I saw Rory up ahead. As a last minute decision, I tapped the stop button above me and the bus pulled to a halt at the bus shelter in front. I grabbed up my bag and got off the bus. Crossing the street, I looked for Rory. He was just a few people in front of me, hands deep in his pockets and hair rustling gently in the morning breeze. I caught up with him and said good morning. He turned to face me, his green eyes bright, then wrote on his board. 40

“Why weren‟t you at school yesterday? I was looking for you.” I read off the board, my eyes following the loops of his o‟s. “I was pretty tired and didn‟t feel like going to school, so I skipped.” I replied, trying to keep my heartbeat steady when his words sunk in. Someone cared. “Fair enough.” Was all he wrote in return, though I could see he didn‟t believe me; a certain expression painted on his face. We walked the rest of the way to school without discussing anything else and I watched him walk away as I walked into home group. The morning passed without anything eventful happening and I was surprised when Rory joined me for lunch. No one had sat with me for lunch in a long time and I wasn‟t used to it. But it was only Rory, so I enjoyed the normal silence between us as the usual buzz of the rest of the school grew louder in the background. After my afternoon classes, I was walking out of the front office and heading towards the bus when I saw him walking home. I wondered why he didn‟t take the bus. It was quicker and it went straight past his house. I casually 41

started to follow him and when he saw me behind him he slowed down so we were in line. It took nearly double the time to get home, but I enjoyed the walk and, as I turned into our driveway, asked Rory if I could join him in the morning. He agreed and then I walked into the house. Once again Mrs. Botany had dobbed me in to Mom. So when she got home more questions erupted about Rory. In my mind I laughed, surprised that she cared so much. I eventually told her that he was a friend of mine and since he didn‟t know many people at school, I decided to walk home with him so he wasn‟t lonely. She wasn‟t too keen on the idea of me hanging around a guy two years older than me but she seemed to realize that I actually had a friend now so she let the issue go for the night. After finishing the talk with Mom I remembered about the squirrel! I raced up to my bathroom and when I opened the door I found the little guy on top of the shower staring at me with wide eyes. I had obviously scared him and he scurried -half limping- into its box. I gave it some fresh water and more food then went out of the room and shut the door. Mom called me down for dinner and while we 42

ate I asked her about her day. After helping with the dishes I went into my room and got out my homework. Dreaming that night I finally saw who was sitting with my dad in the hospital. At first all I could see were two figures, but then they became clearer and it was my dad and who I thought was me sitting in the chair in the corner, but as the person became in focus perfectly I straight away could tell it was him. It was Rory. The mystery in my dream was solved, but another one had surfaced. Why was Rory sitting with MY dad? I had heard that dreams were strange but I didn‟t get this at all. 43

WEDNESDAY Realizing that I needed to get up earlier I changed my alarm the night before and, when it rang at 6:50am that morning, I instantly regretted organizing the walk with Rory. Not only would it be freezing outside, but it would be dark and I would still be half asleep! After a few minutes I decided I couldn‟t stand Rory up so I got up and had a warm shower before making my way downstairs for a quick breakfast. Instead of attempting to cook something, I put the coffee machine on and was out the door with coffee in a takeaway cup within five minutes. I only had to wait a few minutes until I saw those orange shoes turn onto my street. I walked up to him and said hello, wrapping my coat more tightly around myself. I got a small nod in return and we started off down the road. Halfway to school I started telling Rory all about the injured squirrel that I had rescued and, after sharing the “I found him on top of the shower” incident, he couldn‟t 44

remove the smile from his face. I suddenly didn‟t regret coming on this walk anymore. As we walked into the school grounds a small wave to each other was all that was needed as we went our separate ways. Entering the first lesson I remembered the movie we were watching, some 100 year old film that we were to study in English. I slowly sat down on a seat in the back row and waited for the boredom to set in. Emerging from the classroom after the double lesson, I stretched and walked down to my locker. As I grabbed my money for the canteen I yawned and then shut my locker, eager to get some food and find Rory. I saw the line as soon as I came into the cafeteria. It was extra-long today and I wasn‟t happy. Walking over to join the line I saw Rory further up in the queue. After several minutes of me staring at him he eventually turned to face me, then raised his hand and beckoned me to come over to him. Reluctant to lose my spot in the line I hesitated but still walked to him. When I reached him he stood back, leaving a gap in the line for me. I smiled at him and took my new place. I waited for him to retrieve his food then we walked over to an empty table. 45

The rest of the afternoon was filled with quizzes I wasn‟t ready for and reading books that I had no interest in. The bell rang for the end of the day and I gathered my things from my locker. Out the front of the school I looked around for Rory, but I couldn‟t see him. I waited for a few minutes and the bus left, meaning I had to walk home by myself. Deflated by his no show I didn‟t particularly want to walk home and my mood turned even sourer when it started to snow three blocks from home. After arriving home I shrugged off my coat, shivered and walked into the kitchen. Mom was in the lounge room watching a movie and I could hear Jess‟s stereo playing from upstairs. I didn‟t want to talk to them and I didn‟t want to bother them either so I turned around, grabbed my wallet off the hallway table, picked up my coat again and walked out the door. I jogged to the bus shelter and caught the bus just in time. I sat looking out the window until the bus pulled up in front of the hospital. I hopped off the bus and went inside. Glad by the warmth that greeted me, I took off my coat and went to ask if it was okay for me to visit Dad. 46

The receptionist told me I could go see him for half an hour. I thanked her and went to the elevators. Finally when I got to his room I knocked and waited for a reply. He summoned me in and smiled when he saw it was me. “Paige!” he exclaimed. “Hey, Dad.” I replied, concerned about the weakness of his voice. “So what brings you here on this cold day? Everything okay at home?” asked Dad. Of course everything was okay. “Everything‟s fine, Dad,” I explained, “I just haven‟t seen you in a while, that‟s all.” “Well, that‟s good then,” He said, smiling. Since he was in the bed I dragged the chair from the corner and put it next to his side. He looked at me and asked about my week so far. Glad for a topic to talk about, I happily sat there and told him everything that had happened: About school; Sasha‟s party; the squirrel; my day at the park; I also told him about Rory. Dad just sat there and listened while I talked and talked, smiling and nodding at the good parts and offering sympathy and 47

advice at the hard parts. It was almost like old times. Almost. After three quarters of an hour had gone by a nurse came in and told me visiting hours were over. Dad could tell I was disappointed by the fact that I had to go so soon so he reassured me that he was up for another visit on Friday, two days away. I said goodbye, hugged him and left the room with the nurse, then made my way down to the entrance of the hospital to hop back on the bus to go back home. By the time I got home I could see through the front window that Mom and Jess had started dinner early and were sitting at the table eating. I walked in, grabbed a plate and served myself some dinner. As I sat down both of them stopped talking and we finished the rest of the meal in silence. Jess helped wash up that night so I went up and fed the squirrel. I really needed to give it a name, poor thing. After putting the mixed nuts back in the pantry, I was about to climb back up the stairs when Jess called my name. I stopped and waited as she walked up to me. “Can we talk?” she asked. 48

“Umm, I guess?” I replied, intrigued that she actually wanted to talk to me. I led the way up the stairs then she guided me into her room. I hadn‟t been in her room for about two years since we rarely chatted to each other anymore. As I entered, the first thing I noticed was the strong smell of a very sweet perfume. I quite liked it. Her walls were the same coral shade as mine but had multiple frames hanging on them. The pictures were of her and Liam –the boyfriend- and pictures of sunsets and other scenic things. Her quilt was a deep purple. We sat down on the edge of her bed and Jess was the first to speak. “Take me and Mom next time you visit him.” She was obviously talking about Dad. “Why? It‟s not like I know when I‟m going to visit him; they have been spontaneous visits so far,” I argued, even though this wasn‟t completely true. I had promised to see him on Friday. “Well, if you do decide to visit, ring me up. I would love to see him,” she replied. “You work at the hospital!” I exclaimed. “You can see him every day.” 49

Her answer surprised me. “I never get to see him; I only work on the 2nd floor.” I mumbled that I would think about it then stomped out of the room. I went straight to sleep, not wanting to think how bad my day had turned out after being so good that morning. 50

THURSDAY I didn‟t bother setting my alarm the night before because I had no intention on walking to school in the freezing cold, not knowing if Rory would show up or not. I got up at my usual time and had toast for breakfast before wandering down to the bus shelter. Getting off at school I saw Rory coming up the street just before I walked into the corridor. Deciding to get to home group quickly, I managed to avoid seeing him before lunch. He walked towards my table as soon as he entered the cafeteria and sat down. I watched as he wrote as much as the board would let him then held the board out to me. “I guess you‟re angry at me for not showing up for the walk yesterday. I‟m sorry I wasn‟t there. I left early in the afternoon because of family reasons. I‟ll tell you when I‟m going to be away next time.” I accepted his apology and promised I would walk with him that afternoon. I still didn‟t buy the “family reasons” 51

but, as usual, I didn‟t say anything about it because I didn‟t want to intrude on anything. That afternoon I kept my promise and walked home with Rory, though neither of us made any attempt to start a conversation. Coming towards the park I turned to my left and started down the park bike track. Rory started to follow but I turned and shook my head. I didn‟t want company. We went our separate ways and I spent the rest of that late afternoon sitting on a bench, just taking in the view. I knew I had to fix this minor problem with Rory. We were going to be spending tomorrow with each other at school, and then again on Sunday, and I didn‟t want all of those experiences to be full of awkwardness. Getting home early I heated up some leftovers for dinner and ate in my room. I noticed that the squirrel was quickly recovering, and that I probably could let it go that Sunday in the park. I checked my emails, searched the weather forecast for that weekend then turned my light off at 10, but sleep didn‟t come until many hours later. 52

FRIDAY Joining Rory on his walk that morning had turned out to be a very good decision. I had walked out the door still feeling nervous about being with him for the long trip to school. When I saw him leaning on my gate there was a smile on his face as if he was happy to see me, and I couldn‟t help giving him a small smile in return. It was another silent walk but it wasn‟t awkward as we were both happy in each other‟s company. Every few minutes we would turn our heads and both give a smile. Walking past one of the bus stops, a large bus rushed past and, as it did, it showered me with a heap of icy cold slush. I screamed in shock then, after a few seconds, realized how cold I now was. Sitting down on a nearby bench I removed my jacket and contemplated walking the rest of the way without it on. Just as I was about to get up Rory sat down next to me and removed his jacket too and I watched as he turned and put it in my lap. 53

“I can‟t wear your jacket.” I said. “You will freeze!” I added quickly. “So will you. Just take the jacket,” He wrote back. “I‟ll be fine until we get to school.” Unwillingly I gave in and pulled on his jacket. It was still warm from him, and it smelled nice. Getting up I smiled at him, moved by the gesture of the jacket. On the rest of the way to school we walked faster than before so that Rory didn‟t have to face too much of the harsh wind that was arriving. As soon as we walked into the school corridor I wriggled out of the oversize jacket and gave it back to him and said thanks. He smiled, waved then turned and walked towards his classroom. As usual, my classes were boring yet very challenging but my breaks were spent with Rory, which I found fun. I found Rory outside the school gates that afternoon waiting for me. As I caught up to him, he turned to start walking. I saw that the sky was quite dark and it was probably going to snow quite heavily soon so I grabbed Rory‟s arm. “Look, a storm isn‟t too far off; you won‟t make it home in time if you walk. Want to catch the bus?” I asked. 54

He looked up, then nodded in agreement. I hopped on the bus first and grabbed the last double seat that was free. He slowly walked up behind me and slid into the seat next to me. We both spent the trip looking out the window. A few kids behind us pointed out that they hadn‟t seen Rory on the bus before and noticed his shoes. A few rude remarks got passed around and I looked at his face to see his reaction. It remained the same content expression as always so, soon after, the boys gave up and put in their earphones again. Getting off at my stop I found it strange to be getting home so early. I saw that Rory, too, was feeling at a loose end. Usually we wouldn‟t get to this stop for another 4050 minutes when we walked. Approaching my house, I suddenly stopped. Rory stopped too and looked at me questionably. “Would you like to come inside?” I asked bravely, nervous for his answer. “Sure, I guess” He agreed. This was the first time I had ever had someone other than family inside my house. Rory walked in slowly and took in my kitchen and lounge room. I offered him a drink 55

and got him a glass of water. After a few minutes, he finished his drink and we sat down on the couch. We chatted for a bit then, after looking at the clock, he had to go. I walked him to the gate and waved goodbye. As I shut the door, I noticed Mrs. Botany‟s car was gone, meaning that she wasn‟t home so she couldn‟t blab to Mom about Rory coming inside. YES! I walked into the kitchen and started getting some dinner out of the freezer, finally completely happy with all the things that had occurred that day. Mom and Jess got home just as I was serving up the microwave dishes that I had thawed out. I ate and listened as they both talked about their days. Sometimes I didn‟t mind hearing about what they did during the day when I was in a good mood. I helped with the dishes without complaint, then went up to the bathroom to have my first bubble bath in a long time; the perfect ending to a perfect day. It wasn‟t until morning that I realized what I had forgotten. That night the only dream I had was a short snippet of the little girl I saw in the wheelchair at the hospital. I 56

didn‟t understand why she was in my dream, but she was sitting next to her mom and she was smiling. 57

SATURDAY It didn‟t dawn on me until I opened the kitchen cupboard looking for the Pop Tart packet when I saw a container on the top shelf. I reached up on my tippy toes and grabbed it, then realized what it was. “Ooooh no. No, no, no, no!” The bottle was one of Dad‟s old medicine containers, and I was meant to visit him yesterday! I leant against the kitchen bench and sank to the floor, putting my head in my hands. I had never forgotten to go see him. NEVER! I sat there for ages not caring about the time, or the fact I was starving. I finally started to rise up as I looked at the clock. It was 11am, which meant Dad would be in the middle of having his treatment. But if I had my breakfast and got ready within the next half hour I would be able to get the hospital just after he finished. Now energized, I put some Pop Tarts in the toaster and ran upstairs to get dressed. I almost forgot to chuck some 58

food to the squirrel. Coming down the stairs a few minutes later in jeans and a sweater, I grabbed my Pop Tarts and ate them while I tried to tie up my shoe laces. I then rushed to the bathroom to clean my teeth. Eventually finished with my teeth, I grabbed the essentials that I needed from the bowl on the hallway table and put my hair in a messy bun before slamming the door shut and running to the bus stop. I made it on the bus just in time and sat in the closest seat I saw, trying to catch my breath. As the bus started rolling again I sat and looked out the window, hoping my dad would forgive me for forgetting. My head filled with even more worry every mile we got closer to the hospital and, by the time we pulled up in front of the huge glass doors, it took all my strength to get off the bus and not go back home. Coming up to Dad‟s room I could hear the TV on. At the door I knocked lightly and waited for an answer. “Come in, Paige” Dad said softly. I walked into the room, “How did you know it was me?” 59

“I figured since you didn‟t come yesterday, you would come as soon as you could today to make up for it,” he said. “And besides, who else would come to see me?” I had forgotten how well my dad knew me. I smiled back, all the previous worry and dread gone. “So what have I missed in the past three days?” prodded Dad, trying to start the conversation. “Well…” I said, then continued to recount the past days, but the main topic that had Dad interested was the dreams. I was so glad to finally have someone to share the dreams with! I wasn‟t yet ready to share them with Rory, and Jess and Mom had their own lives to worry about. After a few hours I went downstairs to the small food court and bought myself some lunch then returned to Dad‟s room, where I ate and he told me about his days in the hospital and some of the other patients he had befriended. We didn‟t talk about Mom much, not that I didn‟t want to but there wasn‟t much to tell. Dad seemed to understand and was happy enough to ignore that fact. As I glanced out the window, I saw a bundle of angry grey clouds closing in on the city. Knowing this meant a storm was approaching, I quickly wrapped up the 60

conversation so I could get home before it hit. Agreeing that this was a good idea, Dad hugged me and said goodbye. We didn‟t make any more promises about meeting up again, which made things a lot easier for the both of us and I left the room with just one more little wave towards Dad. It was nearly 5:30 by the time I reached the front gate and was glad that I had made it home before the storm had hit, and for the sudden wave of warmth that came over me when I entered the house. Noticing that, once again, no one else was inside, I knew I would soon have to find my own tea. But first I had my Science, Math and English homework to do. The thought of homework deflated my good mood just a little, but with my music going and occasional internet breaks, I had it all finished in under two hours. Now realizing I was getting hungry, I turned everything off and went downstairs. After a while of searching I found nothing substantial to eat in the cupboards or fridge so, looking out the window to see that the storm was now well over, I once again donned my jacket and shoes and, with my wallet, I 61

walked outside and turned the opposite way to the park and headed down the street. Approaching a tiny cluster of stores, I slowed down and surveyed the area: picnic tables full of young families laughing and talking to my right; a group of kids around my age huddled around the front window of the surf shop a few meters away; university students tapping away on laptops on the benches under the trees next to the picnic table and a few stray pedestrians eating in the restaurants or strolling in and out of the boutiques on my left. Twinkling lights hung from the trees that lined the street and the atmosphere felt great. I continued to walk closer until I turned into a small Chinese restaurant. I ordered a stir fry and chose a picnic table to sit at. The food was delicious and the heat of it warmed my insides, taking the shivers of the cold air away. After finishing, I moved from the picnic table to a nearby tree and sat down under it. Just sitting there watching the other people, I remembered the first time I came here. 62

I was five at the time. Mom and Jess were out for the night at one of Jess‟s many dance recitals and Dad and I were at home. I was starving and Dad didn‟t know what to make me. He settled for spaghetti but I didn‟t want it, he tried to make me eat it but I just threw it on the floor. Staring at the mess on the floor Dad grabbed my arm, walked into the hallway and threw my jumper over my head. Confused, I put my jumper on and followed him as he went out the door. We were silent as we walked down the dark street and I didn‟t know if he was angry at me or not. Then, just ahead, I saw tiny specks of light; little dots all huddled together. Intrigued, I walked faster, pulling on Dad‟s hand. Finally we were close enough and I could see that the mysterious lights were in the trees, all strung together. I turned to Dad and smiled; he grinned back and swooped down to pick me and put me on his back. I was so high up that I could touch the twinkling lights and I felt like I was touching the stars. He finally let me down and, hand-inhand, we found an ice-cream parlor and ordered my 63

favourite dessert, double choc, banana, cherry and whipped cream sundae, eating all of it in a matter of minutes. The next hour was spent running around in the park and looking at all the shops. The shop that I liked the most though was the one that sold dolls. It had dozens of dolls in all different styles from all different countries. Wooden, glass, porcelain and rag dolls filled every inch of the boutique. I had just turned into one isle when I saw it: a tiny doll that would fit in the palm of your hand. It was wearing a beautiful purple dress and had the reddest lips I had ever seen. I felt Dad standing behind me. “Do you want the doll, Honey?” he asked, looking down at me. “No, not really,” I lied. I really wanted the doll. “Oh. Okay then,” replied Dad, amusement in his voice. Skipping away, I went and explored the other dolls in the next isle then, after a while, I heard Dad calling me. I quickly found my way back to the entrance of the shop and found him holding something. He held the small paper bag out to me and I took it. I peered inside and beamed. It was the doll with the purple dress. 64

Once again hand-in-hand, we waltzed out the door and down the street, heading for home. We got back quite late so I placed my new doll onto my bedside table and hopped into bed hurriedly and started to drift off to sleep. But not soon enough as I heard the muffled shouts of Mom and Dad. “You shouldn‟t have taken her out so late!” “Why not?” Dad questioned, “She was perfectly safe with me!” “It's just that…” I heard Mom start, but she dropped her voice and I couldn‟t make out what she said. I looked over at the doll, gave a tiny smile and drifted to sleep. Getting up off of the ground I brushed the dirt from my pants and stretched. Looking at my watch then the sky I decided I had better get back before it got too late and before the snow came again, so, slowly I walked back down the street towards home. Just as I stepped inside I saw the first few specks of snow start to fall and I shivered as I quickly shut the door. 65

I knew that Mom would be asleep so I tiptoed upstairs and headed for my room. After a hot shower I put on my fluffy cupcake patterned pajamas, fed the squirrel then wrapped myself up in my blankets and started to fall asleep. But just before I fell into unconsciousness I blinked open my eyes, rushed out of bed and into my closet where, right at the back, I found the purple dressed doll. Dusting it off and sitting it onto my bedside table as I had done all those years ago I finally slept. No dreams came that night. 66

SUNDAY I woke up late that morning; I guess that forgetting to set my alarm wasn‟t such a good idea. I sprang out of bed and stumbled downstairs to gather together the various items I needed for the day. Quarter of an hour later I was headed out the front door carrying a bulging tote bag on one shoulder and a small cat carrier -which I borrowed from my year old Persian, Woogey- that encased my squirrel in the other hand. Even though I knew that I was probably late I still took my time in getting to the park, gazing at the houses opposite to me as I was walking past them. I knew that I didn‟t live in one of the more “richer” suburbs in the city but as I saw the arrays of beautiful roses, tulips and pure green lawns that accompanied the many two-story homes that I passed, I could have sworn my neighbors were the lawyers or doctors who had money to flaunt and were found in the mansions on the other side 67

of the river. Realizing this, it surprised me how much I didn‟t take notice of in my own street. But turning my attention gradually back to the path I was on I could now see that the park was just up ahead. Rory was sitting on one of the old, rusty benches when I approached him. He smiled as he looked up at me then he stood up, motioning his hand toward the picnic tables next to the benches. Walking up, I saw that he had laid out piles of different colored paper and assorted stationary across the table; there was even little pots of glitter. My mind raced through the possible reasons why he had done all this but I could not come to a conclusion. I turned and faced him. “What‟s all this for Rory? Are we making birthday cards for someone or something?” I said jokingly. He gave me a serious look. “It‟s for your dad, Paige. And Bianca,” he replied. I stared at him, trying to understand what he meant. “Bianca? Is that your sister?” He nodded. “So we are making them get well cards? But you never told me your sister was sick…” 68

I trailed off and waited for an answer but he just sat down at the picnic table and started to assemble his pieces of paper. Silently I sat down next to him and did the same, secretly glad he had thought of such a thing. It was the most marvelous idea I had heard of, yet so simple. We finally decided to take a break for lunch after a while and I had time to take a peek at our handiwork. Rory‟s card was a simple one, light purple paper with a teddy on the front, and mine, a dark blue card, had a cutout of a boat on it. Thanks to Rory, our lunch was homemade ham and cheese sandwiches and choc chip cookies, which were so good! Then after my suggestion we went for a walk to release the squirrel. Finding a shady spot under a big oak tree, I unlatched the cage door and watched the little creature scurry up as fast as it could and swiftly disappear behind the huge, heart shaped leaves. As we started back to the table, I started thinking about Bianca, Rory‟s sister. I knew nothing about her, except that I now knew that she was sick. Could that be the reason why he was constantly at the hospital? Visiting her? 69

The courage that I had been wishing for arrived as we sat back down at the table. “Rory, what‟s wrong with your sister?” I asked in a small voice, looking him in the eyes. It took him a few moments of hesitation before the writing appeared on the little chalkboard. And all it took was one word: “Leukemia” My words, I knew, couldn‟t comfort him, so not saying anything I stood up, went beside him and wrapped my arms around his shoulders. He didn‟t cry or move away. Instead, he held my arms as we embraced and I knew I had done the right thing. By the time the sun started sinking and the dark hues of the night arrived, we had made a bunch of cards each and had cleared the table, ready to leave. Slowly we strolled up the hill towards the street and were greeted by a gust of wind that chilled me to the bone. I wrapped my thick scarf tighter around my neck as we continued and gradually came in sight of my house. But, instead of turning down into the driveway, I pushed Rory forward and we kept

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