Amazing Kids! Magazine

Remembering Blue

by Ashlynn Janai Kroeger, Age 16, Washington

The river is cold on my toes. The grass makes a whistling noise when the wind rushes through it. I’m on my back, looking up at the clouds. The sun is poking through tree branches, making me have to squint my eyes every now and then.

I’m here alone for the first time. I used to only come here with my sister. Every day after school, we’d walk down to the river with her scarlet guitar. When I was eleven, she taught me a few chords. We’d sing songs she wrote and ones we heard on the radio; trying to decipher the correct notes. She’d sing, while I’d play. Every once in a while I’d chime in too, liking the way our voices harmonized.

We weren’t like most brothers and sisters. We never fought. We looked after each other, taught each other new things. Guitar brought us even closer together. Sitting here feels so familiar, only lonelier. I close my eyes and remember a day about six months ago.

—————————————

When I entered her bedroom, I took a moment to collect memories. She was in bed and rolled over, very carefully, to see who it was. Her bloodshot eyes almost made me forget why I was here. After a moment, her face went soft.

“Gordon,” she said in such a small voice, I wasn’t sure if I actually heard it. “Gordon? C’mere.” She sat up a little, leaning on one elbow. She patted an empty spot on the bed; signaling me to sit down. I sat and looked around the room, not sure what to say. The air had a hint of bleach.

“I haven’t seen you in a while,” this hit me. She waited for an answer, an explanation. How was I supposed to tell her it terrifies me to see her this way? Her young skin was gray and transparent enough to see all her little blue veins. Her eyes held black bags and pain. She was thin to the bone and all her hair was gone.

My face felt hot under her gaze. “So how has my little brother been? He okay?”

No. “I’m fine,” I lied.

She tilted her head and her glance forced me to look down at her. She burrowed her brows together and looked at me hard. “No. No, you haven’t been.” She said this like she could possibly know that it is true. “You’re afraid,” she continued. Am I THAT easy to read?

“Gordon?” I looked up at the ceiling, scared to answer. I didn’t want to see the pain in her face. Hear it in her voice. “You’re afraid I’m not going to get better, aren’t you?” My mouth opened, astonished, but nothing seemed to come out. How was I suppose to answer that?

Slowly, I sat up straight, trying to find my balance. “Blue, I…” but I didn’t know how to go on.

“Sometimes I think about dying…and I think maybe it’ll be okay, you know?” She looked down, almost embarrassed, but continued. “Then everyone can be happy again,” and that was more than I could take.

I stood up and her tiny, ice cold hand grabbed my arm. “Gordon?” she said in a small voice. I shrugged her off and walked to the door; opened it to leave. “Gordon!” and I was gone.

I stopped in the hallway for a moment. I could hear her rolling over in bed, pulling the comforter up to her shoulders, hiding from her ongoing battle, her fourth year with Leukemia.

I drove lifelessly to my high school football field. I walked to the bleachers and just sat for a while. It was raining. The dirt turned to mud as the storm grew stronger. I was absorbed in the quickness of this act. I thought of Blue and how quickly she went from being a perfectly healthy thirteen-year-old, to having cancer. It didn’t make sense.

Searching in my pocket, I found my keys. After a long moment, I bent down to the mud and wrote Blue’s name with the tip of my house key. I wipe my eyes when I see the rain washing it away. Like this, she could so easily be taken from us.

By the time I got back home, it was almost seven. All the cars were gone. Finally it hit me. All the cars were gone! I jumped out of the car and raced up the porch. I fiddled with the house key, not worried about scraping the hardened mud off its teeth from earlier. I’m frantically trying to get inside when the door finally opens.

Aimlessly, I looked around the room. A few lights were still on. The heater was going. I assume the worst. The house was peaceful and warm, but I felt sick and cold. I jumped over the couch and grabbed the phone. I dialed the number of the hospital office.

One ring. Two. Three- “Hello?”

“Hi, is this Dr. Hong?”

“Yes. Gordon?” He sounds worried.

“It’s Blue. Is she there? I was gone and I just got back home and they aren’t here and-“ my words were a train wreck. Stuck together and getting faster and faster until they crashed and you couldn’t make any sense of them.

“Gordon, relax. Blue isn’t here and I’m sure everything is fine. Why don’t you call your folks and see where they are. I’ll let you know if they end up coming in, alright?” I sighed heavily.

“Um, okay. Thanks Dr. Hong.” I hung up the phone. I took a few deep breathes to try and relax. I didn’t feel much better, though. I stumbled into the kitchen, when I saw, there on the granite countertop, a tiny pink sticky-note with my name on it.

Gordon,

Blue wanted McDonald’s and I think it’s about

time we let her have a little junk food =)

Pick you up something.

-Mom

I exhaled the breath I had been holding in since I first saw the note. I looked down at my muddy shoes and soaked pant legs. I put the shoes on the front porch and peeled my wet socks and pants off. I threw them into the washing machine, along with my Jimmy Hendrix t-shirt. I stood there for a few moments and decided to fold a load of clothes. I pulled things from the drier and tossed them into a laundry basket. Searching through the warm clothes, I found a pair of my flannel pajama bottoms and pulled them up over my boxers. Their heat felt good against my freezing legs.

When I got to the living room, I set the basket on the couch and turned on the TV. I put it on That 70’s Show, but didn’t really watch it. I just wanted to hear voices other than the worried ones in my head, asking all sorts of “What Ifs.” The clothes were folded all around me and I was starting to fall asleep against one of the piles. The TV was a constant rhythm, putting me to sleep.

When the door opened, I woke up immediately. Instantly the house smelled of salty fries and greasy cheeseburgers.

“Gordon, honey? We brought you dinner,” my mom held out a white bag towards me, but I ran over to Blue and gently wrapped her in my arms. When I let go, she looked confused for a moment, but then smiled that wonderful smile none of us has seen in so very long. I turned back to Mom, who gave me a questioning look and said, “Thanks. I’m starving!” and for the first time in a long time, we ate dinner together.

————————————

Ever since that day when I thought something happened to Blue, I realized something. I can’t control when she leaves, but I CAN control how much time I spend with her BEFORE she does.

The last few minutes I had with Blue we shared a lifetime of feelings: sorrow, anger, relief, joy, regret, love.

She asked to be taken to the meadow so she could pass in her favorite place. Mom and Dad didn’t think that was such a good idea. They wanted her to have surgery. Blue knew even with the surgery – if it even worked – she wouldn’t be cured. It would only keep her hanging on that much longer. Blue didn’t want to have to “hang on” to life. She wanted to LIVE it. Eventually, they agreed to take her to the meadow. I brought her scarlet guitar.

For being summer, it’s quite chilly today. The meadow is visited by swift winds. My hand sweeps over the guitar strings and I find the chords I want. I begin playing the tune of one of Blue’s favorite bands, Fine Frenzy. When she realizes what it is, she smiles and hums along, too weak to sing.

“I know that we’re different

But we were once cells in the sea

In the beginning

And what we’re made of

Was all the same once

We’re not that different

…after all”

One comment

  1. Kathryn Brown Gilbraith /

    Awesome writing. Sorry you know this stuff though.