I knew something would go wrong.
She passed the repetitive small houses, her feet hurting from all the running. She could barely see anything in the dark leading her to step in several puddles, the water splashing onto her blue jeans. Fortunately, the streetlights with a set space between them guided her through the streets. Her loose hair kept being pushed into her face, her cross necklace bumping into her shoulders with every step she took.
I can handle it. She’ll be alright…
She felt her black shirt sticking to her warm skin as she tried to regain control of her breath. She was able to slow a little down when she finally spotted her house. This charming house with old windows and old doors, but impressive in size in comparison to the surrounding homes. She passed the gray mailbox with the number 27 imprinted on it and the names R. Marsh and E. Marsh underneath. As she went to open the slightly rusty brown door, she could finally feel the air reaching her lungs again. She quickly stepped inside and closed the door behind her, water dripping down from her onto the wooden floor. Without wasting a heartbeat, Kate ran at a steady pace through the living room, past the family portrait that showed a group of people presenting insincere smiles.
“Lynn, I’m here!” Kate yelled as she took the first step up the stairs. The lack of response from her younger sister concerned her, but she kept her equanimity and while walking upstairs, she checked her pockets just to make sure she still had it. The house was shrouded in darkness, but fortunately, a sharp light shined through one of the doors when she reached the end of the staircase. Before she even had the chance to open up into her sister’s room, she could already hear the gasping for air coming from inside.
“Lynn?!” Kate pushed the door open as she was met with a frightening sight, her little sister Lynn, lying in her small bed looking as if she was suffocating. Her gasps for air were the sounds of struggling; the little girl lying under her blanket along with her two stuffed animals next to her. “I got you, I got you” The bright light on the nightstand was fortunately on, making it easy for Kate to navigate around the toys on the floor as she hurried to her sister’s aid. She quickly placed herself next to the bed, trying to get Lynn’s attention as she pulled out the inhaler from her front pocket and quickly shook it before taking the cap off. “Okay, breathe out” Kate tried to keep her visible panic level low, trying to seem confident in front of her 8-year old sister, but it was obvious to tell that she was scared. Kate managed to keep her hands steady as she placed the inhaler close to her sister’s mouth and laid her other hand on Lynn’s head. “You ready? Take a deep breath” Just as Kate pressed the top of the inhaler; Lynn twitched and moved her head to the side as she closed her eyes shut as she kept hyperventilating. “What is it?“ Kate felt the sudden realization hit her as she looked at her sister’s frightened face. “Oh God, you need the spacer” the hair on Kate’s neck began rising as she looked around the room, her mind completely blank as to where the spacer for the inhaler could be. She took a deep breath before she looked back at her sister. “Okay, Lynn, listen to me,” she said as she began rubbing her thumb on her sister’s forehead. “You’re gonna have to be brave, alright? We need to do this without the spacer, but I promise it’ll be okay”
Again, Kate shook the inhaler and looked into Lynn’s eyes with a sanguine expression and steady hands. “Okay, here we go, open your mouth wide like eating a big sandwich” Kate spoke in the softest voice she was able to while her little-sister nodded shakily, looking as if she was trying to say something, but unable to do so. Lynn was lying on her long hair going down her back and only the top of her nightgown showing underneath the blanket. As she opened her mouth Kate slowly placed the inhaler close to her mouth and letting her thumb hover on the top.
“You’re doing so well” Kate smiled, letting the light from the lamp on the nightstand light up her face. “Put your lips around and get ready to breathe in” Kate’s comforting eyes reassured her sister that it would be over before she knew it, leading Lynn to unflinchingly tilt her head up slightly and place her lips around the end of the inhaler and as soon as she did, Kate pressed the top of the inhaler to let the dose of medicine pass through. “Breathe” Kate instructed just before she instinctively breathed in herself. “Five sheep, okay?” Kate saw that Lynn understood and removed the inhaler from her mouth after she took a deep breath and held it. “One sheep danced” Kate began, gently holding her sister’s head. “Two sheep danced,” she continued in rhythm. “Three sheep danced, four sheep danced” Lynn was holding her breath with all her might, with puffy cheeks and a slightly red face. “Five sheep danced” she marked the last word to signal her to breathe out and Lynn did exactly that, being able to withstand the urge to cough and instead exhaled slowly. “And they danced all day” Kate smiled brightly with her white teeth and dimples showing. She collected her hands and looked proudly at her litter-sister. After Lynn had taken a few more breaths that she was very focused on, she lifted herself up from the bed slightly, looking a little dazed.
“Sorry,” she simply said with a hushed voice, throwing Kate back in surprise.
“Don’t be sorry” She was quick to respond. “It was me that forgot I had your inhaler on me when I went to the bible study” Kate looked around and saw the small chair in the corner of the room and pulled it closer. “I shouldn’t even have left you alone, mom specifically told me that before they left” She sat down on the chair with careful movements as she removed her bangs from her forehead. “It was really smart of you to call me” An irresolute smile appeared on Kate’s lips. Even though she looked calmer now, Lynn was still showing a disconcert face.
Kate suddenly felt a breeze passing through the room as she looked up and noticed the window on the far wall wasn’t closed shut. She began walking towards the window to close it, fearing her sister catching a cold. As she did, she took notice of the houses next door, turning their lights off, making her remember how late it was. Kate exhaled through her nose as she slid her bangs away from her forehead.
“You should put your hair in a bun,” Lynn suggested while fiddling with her own hair.
Kate smiled. “Don’t you want to go to bed now?” She turned back to her sister, her long blonde hair falling gently down on her shoulders.
Lynn looked contemplative for a while until she made a mischievous smile and said; “I’m already in bed”
Kate couldn’t help but giggle with a grin widening on her face. “Okay, but don’t you want to sleep?”
Lynn began shuffling a little around in the bed and blinked a few times. “Can you read a story for me?”
“Of course. Do you want me to read you one of your books?” Kate asked while slowly walking around her sister’s bed and towards the bookshelf against the wall with stacks of thin children books.
Lynn hesitated while playing a little with her long blonde hair. “Read me one of your stories”
“My stories?” Kate chuckled slightly. “I haven’t written any stories yet, but I can read you this book about The Smallest Mouse” Kate took her chances with a persuading voice as she took out a small blue book with the cover showing a very small mouse amongst reasonable small items, really driving home the point about this being The Smallest Mouse.
Lynn had turned silent as she had brushed some of her hair in front of her face to hide behind. “Um… what about your drawings on the bottom shelf?” She nearly whispered with blushing cheeks, apparently being embarrassed for a reason unknown to the investigating Kate. Automatically, she looked at the bottom shelf and sure enough, a stack of paper with doodles on them was placed neatly in the corner.
“These are just drawings, though. I haven’t thought about any story behind them” Kate slowly shuffled through the papers, getting a warm feeling by seeing some of her old drawings of small critters with cute faces. Kate had to rip herself loose before getting lost in the drawings as she turned around. “And it’s not like I can just make up a story for-“ Kate had to cut herself short as she saw her little sister with a wide and insisting grin on her face before giving a small nod.
Kate lost all the expressions on her face as her body suddenly felt heavy.
I really don’t have the surplus to improvise children’s stories right now… but it’s not like Lynn to take kindly to refusals.
With a heavy sigh and lazy body language, Kate let her head fall down in defeat as she walked over to the chair next to her sister’s bed with the drawings in her hand. It was clearly visible that Lynn was eternally cheering and as Kate sat down on the small chair, the little girl was already shuffling around in the bed, trying to get comfortable. Kate allowed the waiting time as Lynn was now snuggling under her blanket with a soft pillow on the back of her head.
As Kate cleared her throat, she looked at the first drawing she had in her hand. It was a simple drawing of a forest with green trees and a shiny sun.
Easy place to start, I guess…
“In a small forest, away from all the buildings and people, the trees stood tall and proud, with the bright, yellow sun, casting its graceful beams on the wildlife underneath” Kate began speaking with her best narrating voice she was able to as Lynn seemed fully invested already, prompting her big-sister to continue, making Kate switch to the next drawing. It was child-like scribbles of a chubby and fuzzy bear, waving its potato paw with the words ‘Be Happy’ written next to it.
Alright, our main character presents himself.
“In the middle of this lively forest, laid a pudgy, brown bear, having just eaten, ehh… fifty pounds of honey!” Kate stalled a little, the improvisation more difficult than she had initially thought, but at the exclaim of the unrealistic amount of honey, Lynn gasped with her mouth wide open in disbelief.
A good twenty minutes passed by, with Kate feeling she had gotten the hang of it and had used around a minute on each drawing, just shooting out plot development and new characters. “And Susie the Skunk cheered on, feeling immensely proud of her daughter, Mimi, finally having the courage to sing in front of a crowd” Even though Kate herself felt invested in the story now, Lynn seemed to have her tiredness overcome her as she could barely keep her eyes open and with yawns occurring every so often. As Kate looked at her drowsy sister, she smiled gently and put the drawing down on her lap. “How about we finish this story tomorrow?” She suggested as she moved some of her hair behind her ear.
Lynn, not having the energy to protest, managed to mumble something indistinct instead with the side of her head resting gently on the soft pillow.
Kate huffed through her nose with a smile, bending the corner of the paper in her hand to mark the drawing they stopped at and then got up from the chair. “Goodnight Lynn. I love you” She spoke through her breath before placing the drawings on the nightstand and turning off the lamp just to the left, darkening the room and leading Kate having to be careful when navigating through the room to avoid stepping on any noisy or potentially hurtful toys. As she eventually walked through the open door out to the hallway, Kate stretched her body and looked down the stairs, getting the familiar feeling of nausea when seeing the bone-chilling drop. Fortunately, Kate’s room was on the second floor as well, just at the other end of the hallway. She stood still for a while, letting her eyes adjust to the darkness before walking past the pair of paintings placed on the wall and opening the door to her room and walking inside. It was a similar size to Lynn’s, but it felt bigger with the lack of decorations and toys on the floor. Kate took a breath as she walked in front of the mirror hanging on the middle of one of the walls. She watched her tired face, her blue eyes staring back at herself and her hair hanging loosely down her shoulders. With a sideways smile, Kate took a hold of her blonde hair, placing it in her left hand while taking a bobby pin on the stand just next to her. She pulled her hair back and began fiddling a little with it and after a few failed attempts; she succeeded in making a second-rate, messy bun.
She looked at herself again. Her face framed winsomely, her eyes glittering and her shoulders lifted high. The bun was far from perfect, but her sister had a point; it really made her look more vibrant.
Her body accepted the feeling of tiredness that had been lurking over her as Kate did a twirl on her feet and pinpointed her focus onto her soft bed. However, as she was just about the turn off the light on her nightstand, she noticed the pamphlet just next to the lamp that she remembered her parents handing to her just a few days prior. She took a breath through her nose while picking it up, her body loosening up but her heart beating more intensely in her chest. The pamphlet showed the image of a grand building, beautiful with a grassy area outside and the sun shining peacefully just in the corner of the blue sky.
Kate’s grip got a little tighter as her body suddenly tensed before she let go of it, turned the lamp off and turned back towards her bed.
It will be different this time.
All the air in her body was exhaled through her breath as she sat down on the edge of her bed, the moonlight shining gracefully through her window, illuminating her face.
I’ll be happy.