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More Precious Than Gold
Author's note: I began writing this the day after I learnt my grandfather had passed so in some ways, this is for him. R.I.P, Grandfather, I love you.
I’d never had any friends; I was basically a loner. No one liked to play with me, talk to me or even just hang out with me. I guess my snappy attitude and my disgust for the people around me didn’t help.
Every day was routine. I slugged through it with no purpose and meaning.
Another ordinary day; my alarm clock began beeping at a ridiculous hour in the morning. Groggily, I wedged one eye open and stared at the pitiful red numbers that gleamed at me.
Five thirty. Great. Another one of mum’s stupid pranks to get me out of bed on time.
In order to spite her, I slapped it to stop and rolled over in bed and when right back to sleep.
“Silver! Wake up!”
I groaned and sleepily eyed the clock. It was seven. I was going to be late, like every other day.
I dragged myself to the bathroom and showered before changing into ankle length black leggings, a black dress and a dark blue Hollister hoodie. I tied my black Converse and grabbed my bag before heading downstairs.
My mother was washing the dishes when I walked into the kitchen to grab my lunch. She gave me a narrow eyed I’m-getting-tired-of-this-nonsense look but didn’t say anything. I took an apple and left, slamming the front door behind me.
It was a half an hour walk to school. I loved walking; it was a refreshing journey. It was also great because it meant that I was ten minutes late for school.
“Ms Mysis,” Mrs. Tyson, the schools’ administrator, reprimanded me when I walked into reception to sign in. “You have been late every day for the last month and a half. This is unacceptable.”
“Sorry,” I mumbled, rolling my eyes.
She sighed. It was the same routine every morning.
I dragged my feet to first period. And similarly, I dragged my feet through the whole day.
Someone had sprayed whipped cream into my locker again so I spent most of third period wiping it out. I got tripped over in P.E. and spent the rest of fifth in sick bay holding an ice pack to my ankle.
At the end of sixth period I returned to sick bay to give back my ice pack, insisting that I was fine to walk home.
Muttering to myself about the nonsense of school I walked home, kicking a pebble along the pavement.
As I rounded the corner, I saw an ambulance parked outside my house. Even though I didn’t really like my mother, I couldn’t help the worry that rose into my throat as I saw police and ambulance officers surrounding our home.
“What’s happening?” I asked worriedly as I ran to the nearest officer.
The man looked at me.
“What your name?”
“Sylvia Mysis but everyone calls me Silver. And what’s going on?”
“Olivia Henderson has been found dead in her bedroom.”
I shrugged. Olivia had always been a little psycho. She hated her life more than I did mine.
“Silver!” called my mum.
I saw her running to me from next door. Now that I knew she was safe, the worry that was filling me had disappeared. I shrugged my shoulders and pushed past her as I headed for the house.
“Silver! Don’t you dare turn your back on me!”
I ignored her, slamming the front door behind me.
I think I deserved to turn my back on her, especially after she shut me out the way she did; making me live off takeaway and scraps because she was whining that Dad had left.
It had been a month and a half and our relationship still wasn’t improving and there wasn’t much I planned on doing about it.
I stood in my room, wondering what to do; repaint my nails black- they were beginning to chip- or read and listen to my iPod.
I rotated slowly around my pigsty of a room. As I turned, I happened to glance out the window. Through the drapes I could see the silhouettes of people photographing what I guessed was Olivia. She was hanging from the ceiling.
Lucky her. She’d escaped this horrible life by killing herself.
I froze. What a brilliant idea!
Killing myself- it could be the solution to everything.
A year later…
I was happy.
My life was perfect. If you asked my mother, my stepdad or anyone else I know, they would not agree. But me, I was perfectly content.
Yesterday was the best day of my life. My mother was worried sick, but for me, it was epic.
The doctor, too, wouldn’t agree. She’s the one who told me I have leukaemia.
And it’s killing me.
Within the next six months, I’ll be dead.
I’m so happy.
For the last year or so, I’ve been contemplating the different ways to kill myself. I guess I got lucky.
Sitting on my bed, contemplating the brilliant end to my life, I heard a truck pull into the driveway next door.
New neighbours? That house had been empty for a whole year. No one wanted to step foot into it.
This time it wasn’t my mother that called me but my new stepdad. He-. I don’t even want to talk about him.
Maybe I will. He’s an alcoholic, a smoker and a very rich man who loves to waste himself. Why my mother married him, I will never understand. But she went for a holiday to the Bahamas claiming she needed a break from me and returned with this man in tow claiming he was her new husband.
I never bothered asking my mother why she’d gotten married again. Personally, I don’t care. I ignore them most of the times and whenever I see them making out on the couch downstairs making little happy groans- please!- I always throw up in my mouth.
I pulled open my door roughly. “What?” I growled.
I slammed my bedroom door loudly and trudged down the stairs. When I arrived in the lounge they were standing with their arms around each other. Seeing them all lovey dovey nearly made me throw up my oatmeal.
“What?” I crossed my arms over my chest defiantly.
“We have two things to tell you. Sit down.” My mother gestured to the couch. I walked over to the window and leaned against it.
My mother sat down on the couch. She was moving strangely I realised. Maybe the leukaemia stress had slipped a disk or something. Shouldn’t she be in hospital if that were it?
My stepdad sat next to her and put his arm around her shoulders.
“I know yesterday’s news was hard,” began my mother. I stifled a laugh. Hard? I didn’t think so. “But the doctor only gave you six months so we thought we’d better tell you because we want you to fight.”
My mother took a deep breath. “Silver, in eight months, you’ll have a new little brother or sister. I’m pregnant.”
I looked at her, waiting for the punch line. “Is that all?”
My mother stared at me. “You have nothing else to say?”
Well, it had explained why she was moving funny and the fact that my stepdad was looking at her with puppy dog eyes, but frankly I didn’t care.
“In case you haven’t realised, I don’t really care about life anymore. And I won’t be around to say hi to my little bro or sis, so tell them that I said so. Now if you don’t need anything else, I’ll be upstairs.”
I made my way for the stairs but my mother’s voice stopped me again.
“Secondly, we have new neighbours so please come and say hi to them with us. Oh, and there’s a basket in the kitchen for them. Will you bring it?”
I gritted my teeth. Stomping loudly, I marched into the kitchen and grabbed the basket. Then I headed for the front door.
My mother and stepdad were leaning over the fence talking to four people. One was a middle aged man with greying black hair wearing jeans and a polo shirt. He had kind looking blue eyes and a friendly smile.
Beside him was, who I could only expect to be, his wife. She was wearing white denim jeans with a red sweater. When she smiled it reached her beautiful green eyes and she looked very happy and peaceful. Holding her hand was a little girl. She was wearing a puffy pink dress and strappy white sandals. Her innocent blue eyes were puffy like she’d been crying and her blond hair- that she had clearly inherited from her mother- was perfectly straight and tucked neatly behind her ears.
Standing with his arm around his little sister was a guy. He looked about my age. He had jet black hair, spiked with gel, and breathtakingly beautiful green eyes exactly like his mother’s. He was wearing black skinny jeans and a white t-shirt that emphasised his muscular chest. He was laughing as he talked to my parents, offering a hand to shake with my stepdad.
They looked like an ordinary happy family, like one that had stepped straight out of a movie. They were the exact opposite of ours, the misfits with a suicidal daughter.
I took a deep breath and walked towards them. Somehow I couldn’t force a smile on my face- it had been a long time since I’d smiled or laughed properly.
“This is my daughter Sylvia,” introduced my mother as I stepped up to the fence.
“Silver,” I corrected automatically. I hate my name.
“Well, Silver, I’m Diane Hastings,” said the lady, her smile lighting up her eyes as she introduced her family. “My husband, Darrel, and our children, Nicky and Lisa.”
I nodded, handing over the basket.
“Oh! Thank you. That’s very kind.”
“Thank my mother,” I said, short and sharp.
Diane looked at me in surprise and my mother coughed awkwardly. “Please excuse Silver. We received news yesterday that she was diagnosed with leukaemia and the news hasn’t been easy.”
“Oh. I’m so sorry.” A sympathetic tone touched her voice.
“It’ll be over in six months.” I shrugged before turning and walking off.
I could hear their gasps behind me as my mother explained what I meant.
I heard my name called out. But it wasn’t a voice I knew. It was deep, sultry and very attractive. I turned around to see Nicky running across our lawn to me.
When he stopped in front of me, I couldn’t help notice how his chest was rising and falling under his tight white shirt.
“Hi,” he said after a long pause during which I stared at him.
“Hi,” I replied in the same tone he’d used.
He grinned. “You wanna hang out? I’d like to get to know my neighbour a little and my sister seems to love you.”
I looked over to where his sister was looking at me with a bright smile.
“Does she think I’m her friend or something?”
“Yes. She doesn’t do that to many people. When she does, it means you’re special.”
I rolled my eyes. “No, I don’t want to hang out. Anything else you need? Or are you merely on a mission from my mother to stop me from going and wallowing in my room?”
“Wallowing in my misery. Surely you’ve heard the term before?”
“I have. And what are you wallowing about?”
“Maybe I should rephrase. Are you on a mission from my mother to stop me from going and rejoicing in my misery?”
“I’m going to die in six months. I need to celebrate and the seconds are ticking past.”
He stared at me. Then he whispered. “You’re waiting to die?”
His green eyes bored into me. I shook my head slightly to clear it but he mistook it for disagreeing to his statement and he sighed in relief.
“Yes, in fact I am waiting to die.”
He looked at me strangely.
“It’s the only way to escape the pain.”
I coughed, despite trying to hold it in. The leukaemia was choking me and making me tired as well as killing me. Brilliant, maybe death would come sooner.
“You’re suicidal. You know that?”
It was clearly a rhetorical question as he turned on his heel and headed for his house. But I answered it anyway.
“So I’ve been told.”
Life continued. My guess was right; the Hastings were like a family straight out of a movie. They had a very strict daily routine, beginning with waking up every day at exactly the same time. They each had their own chores that they did before leaving at precisely the same time every day.
Nicky was a typical popular guy at school. He was involved in so many sports I’d lost count and he sat with the jocks and hung out with the cheerleaders. He was in most of my classes, a bit of a teacher’s pet; always finished his homework and always ready to answer a question.
He hadn’t spoken another word to me, but sometimes I caught him staring at me from across the cafeteria. Of course, he sat with the jocks and the cheerleaders and I sat at a table in the corner all by myself. Whenever I caught his eye he would swiftly look away as if nothing had happened.
Sometimes, I thought that he would only speak to me if he were forced to. I don’t blame him; he probably thinks I’m nuts for being happy that I’m going to die.
One day I was sitting in English painting my nails with black permanent marker, when I heard the teacher mention something about paired Shakespeare assignments. I looked up and saw her toss all our names into a hat.
I groaned internally. I hate pair work. It involves actually interacting with someone.
“Colin Jensen, Joanne Johnson.”
Most of the class had been called out already and a knot tightened in my stomach as I realised who else hadn’t been chosen.
“Sylvia Mysis, Nicholas Hastings.”
I groaned again, this one slipping quietly through my lips. I saw Nicky glance back at me, then realising I wasn’t going to move, pick up his bag.
Sighing dramatically, I shoved everything to one side of the desk so he could sit down. He dumped his bag on the floor and slid into the chair. He didn’t say anything to me and we both faced forward listening to what the teacher was instructing.
We were supposed to choose a Shakespeare play, or rather be assigned one, and perform a scene. We also had to write a report on the play we were given.
Mrs. Munroe came around the class assigning plays. When she reached us she paused and looked at both of us.
“I think Romeo and Juliet would be appropriate for you two.”
Without another word she moved onto the next group. As soon as she was gone, I snorted. Did I really seem the romantic type?
“Do you know anything about the play?” asked Nicky, seeming to turn to me somewhat reluctantly.
“‘Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?’“ I quoted sarcastically.
“Great. This is going to be a cinch,” he muttered opening his book.
We didn’t make much progress that day. In fact we didn’t speak another word. After painting my nails black, I began painting with white-out on the black front of my notebook.
He pulled a copy of Romeo and Juliet out from somewhere. Actually, he might have gone to the library but I didn’t really notice. He spent the rest of the period reading.
When the bell rang for the end of school, I shoved my notebook in my bag, threw my bag over my shoulder and walked out without a backward glance.
That night, I was listening to heavy metal on my iPod when I heard something against my window. Correction: I saw something hit my window; my music was too loud to hear anything.
Growling, I pulled my earphones out of my ears, music still playing, and walked over to push slide open my window. Doing so, nearly cost me a pebble to the face.
Looking across, I could see Nicky sitting at his window, pebbles in one hand.
“What?” I growled, throwing the pebble back at him.
“I needed to get your attention somehow.”
Looking past him, his room looked very neat; a stark contrast to the pigsty behind me. Olivia’s room had been more like mine before she died and I could constantly see her mother try to clean the mess but it never worked.
But Nicky’s was picture perfect.
“Is there something you wanted?”
“Well, yes. To talk actually. But I can’t at school. I guess stereotypes are very real here.”
“If you’re saying that your kind and my kind don’t mix, then you’re right.”
“That is, more or less, what I mean.”
“Then you must be meaning that I’m not good enough to talk to you. So, bye.”
I made to close my window but he stopped me by throwing another pebble at me. This one I threw to the ground.
“I didn’t say that; you did.”
I thought about that. He did have a valid point.
We stared at each other for a while.
“Are you going to say something?” he asked, smiling. The smile reached his green eyes, which crinkled and small dimples formed in his cheeks.
I narrowed my eyes at him. “I don’t have great people skills. I don’t talk to them often.”
“And you don’t want to talk to them because you’re just going to have to say goodbye anyway.”
“I was hoping to die a peaceful death,” I muttered, sitting back on the window sill and leaning on the frame.
“Tell me something.” He hesitated.
“Why exactly are you so glad to be dying?”
Now I hesitated. No one had actually asked me that question directly before.
“It’s… complicated. Also, it’s a long story.”
“I have time.”
I sighed. “Two years ago, my father left us. My father and I, we were really close. He took me fishing, sailing even bowling. We went everywhere and did everything together. We told each other everything; we never had any secrets. And one day, out of the blue, he said he was leaving. By the next morning, he was gone. I was devastated. My best friend hadn’t decided to share any of this with me. I felt alone.
“Mum and I never got along after that. I think the only reason we did get along was because Dad was still here. But our relationship became rocky after he left. Then she just had to go and get married again to that vile, cruel bastard.”
“I’m sure he’s not that bad.”
“You don’t know anything.”
“Actually, I think I do. You see your stepdad as a substitute for your father and you hate him for it.”
I considered that. He was actually right.
“I never thought of that,” I admitted.
He nodded, smiling again, this one not quite as bright as the first one.
“And now my life’s a mess. Ever since Olivia hung herself, I’ve been contemplating ways to go, but I guess I got lucky with the leukaemia.”
“That’s not a reason to want to die. I mean, you could finish school, have a great career and live a great life.”
“Without Dad? I don’t think so.”
He opened his mouth to reply but I heard someone call from within his house, “Nick! Dinner!”
I looked at him. “I guess you have to go.”
He half-smiled at me. “Yeah, I guess so.”
I hopped down from the window sill and made to close the window. Nicky followed suit.
“Oh, and Silver?”
“Just think about what we talked about. Maybe you should reconsider what you want. I don’t want you to die. Otherwise what other pretty girl will I talk to on my window sill?”
He closed his window, turned off the light and shut his door.
I closed my window and sat down on the floor, breathing hard.
I don’t think I’ve ever told anybody why I hate my life, not even my mother. Yet, somehow, talking to him had helped. But his words kept repeating themselves in my head.
What other pretty girl will I talk to on my window sill?
I glanced at the mirror. My brown waves were sticking out all over the place. When my hair was brushed, the waves cascaded neatly down my back ending halfway down. But my grey eyes had a foreign sparkle that I hadn’t seen for a while. That sparkle was what made my grey eyes shine silver, hence my name. But recently they had been filled with hate, spite and bitterness.
I looked like a stranger. My eyes were sparkling silver, something they hadn’t done since the day my father walked out the front door.
It continued like that. Nicky wouldn’t speak to me at school. I think his parents have something against me; the suicidal teen.
But he would smile at me every now and again. Those little smiles made my heart flutter; I don’t know why.
And every evening, almost every evening because sometimes he had sport practice, we would sit at our window sills talking. Our parents never found out.
He was the first friend I’d had in years. Even when my father was still here, I hardly hung out with anyone my own age. Nicky was more or less the first friend in my life.
Our English assignment was progressing a little. We didn’t really talk much about it and we only worked on it in class. We had decided to do the balcony scene- or rather Nicky had decided to do the balcony scene- and how I was supposed to pretend I loved him I don’t know.
We continued with a secret friendship- secret seemed to cover it- until the one damned day that Nicky’s mother caught us talking.
It had begun as normal conversation. We were settled on our window sills discussing how some movies ruin the books they are based on, when his mother came in to ask him a question.
The look on her face- a combination of shock, horror and disbelief- made me flinch.
“Good evening, Mrs. Hastings,” I said trying to sound pleasant and failing miserably.
Nicky’s parents refused to call me by my preferred name. Maybe that was one of the reasons I didn’t like them much.
“Nicky, may I talk to you?”
Nicky looked at me and I sighed, closing my eyes. The tone of his mother’s voice told me that our friendship was over.
I heard a sound and opened my eyes to see the window shut and the blinds closing. I looked down. If my friendship was over, I could just fall off the ledge and die a quick death.
Nicky’s words from our first conversation rang through my head and I hopped down from that sill before I dropped out.
An hour later my mother called me from downstairs saying that Mrs. Hastings was here to talk to me. I froze; this couldn’t be good.
I slammed my door and ran down the stairs, halting at the bottom. Mrs. Hastings was sitting on the edge of our couch, eyeing the mess of our house, clearly wondering how we lived in this clutter.
“She wants to talk to you alone,” emphasised my mother before closing door behind her, leaving me with the devil.
Mrs. Hastings looked me straight in the eye. I stared back at her defiantly.
“So I heard that you have been having little chats with my Nicky from your windows.”
I nodded. I had nothing to deny to that.
“I don’t approve.”
“You don’t have to. We’re not in kindergarten.”
“But he is my son and I am concerned who his friends are and how they are influencing him.”
“Are you saying you don’t approve of me?”
I frowned. I knew people didn’t approve of me but none of them ever had the courage to say it to my face.
“Well I’ll be gone in about five months so you won’t have to worry about me anymore.”
She looked at me and her mouth dropped open slightly. I think she had forgotten about the leukaemia and my impending death.
“Your leukaemia! I’d totally forgotten. Honey, I’m so sorry.”
Yes, she had forgotten. Her voice suddenly became sympathetic and it caught me off guard.
“That’s great,” I replied sarcastically.
“But I’d still like you to stay away from my Nicky.”
I gritted my teeth. Now, I was just annoyed. “Leukaemia isn’t contagious, but if you want me to stay away, that’s fine.”
“But Nicky and I do have an assignment to do together.”
“Do it at school.”
“Great, we have that sorted out.”
Without waiting for her to say anything more, I left the lounge, slamming the door behind me.
Ten minutes later, my phone buzzed on my desk and I glanced at the caller ID. It was Nicky, the beautiful picture of him smiling as we practiced our Shakespeare scene, flashing to tell me it was him.
I picked up my phone, my finger hovering over the green button. But his mother’s words echoed in my head.
I’d still like you to stay away from my Nicky.
Without another moment of hesitation, I pressed the red button.
I was supposed to stay away.
Lisa’s, Nicky’s sister’s, fifth birthday was approaching. She didn’t seem to have many friends, I noticed as I sat and dwelled on the windowsill for hours after school. Every day, when she arrived home, she would give me a smile, like I was some kind of secret friend she never got to talk to.
Nicky hadn’t said a word to me. Sometimes I had nightmares. Nicky was the one who would haunt them, telling me that his mother was right and that I wasn’t good enough to talk to him. Then his mother would walk up behind him and agree with him and they’d both smile at me.
The next thing I knew, I’d wake up with a jolt, shivering in bed early in the morning.
One day, out of the blue, Mrs. Hastings came knocking on our door.
“We were planning to have a quiet family dinner, but Lisa insists we invite you all to dinner as well for her birthday.”
Those were the exact words she reeled in a dismayed tone as an invitation.
I had tried to back out of it, but my mother was refusing. She insisted that we go. And that I was coming.
On that evening that I had been dreading for so long, I dressed in black skinny jeans, a black blouse with sequins- my mother picked that out for me and forced me to wear it- and a leather jacket.
We knocked on their front door at seven o’clock, precisely. Nicky pulled the door open exactly ten seconds later- I timed it- and smiled at all of us. He was wearing a formal white shirt with casual blue jeans. He greeted us all by name, and I swear his smile grew wider as he said hello to me.
I didn’t reply when he addressed me. I merely followed my mother into the house.
There was not a speck of dust. Everything was in its correct and proper place, all orderly and neat. Even the people.
Mr. and Mrs. Hastings were at the base of the stairs with Lisa positioned perfectly centre front between them. She gave me a broad smile.
My mother nudged me in the back and I tripped forward.
“Happy birthday,” I said in a dull tone as I handed her the box in my hands.
“Thank you!” she replied brightly. After a glance at her mother, she sunk to the floor and carefully began opening the paper. No rips.
It opened to reveal a set of crayons and a drawing pad. Her smile widened. I have no idea how my mother picked out such a perfect gift.
“Oh, thank you so much!” she squealed bounding forward to wrap her small arms around my waist.
I stiffened where I was and made no move to hug her back. After she moved away from me, I shrugged in response to her thank you.
Mrs. Hastings glared at me through narrowed eyes, but didn’t utter a word. She merely led us to the dining table where everything was set out and ready.
Dinner was spaghetti bolognese with salad followed by cheesecake for dessert. Everything ran smoothly and to a time. I’m surprised she didn’t make us eat faster if we were lagging behind.
There was very little conversation over the dinner table. I did notice, however, that Nicky’s gaze would normally end up wandering in my direction. When he caught my eye, he would smile, like he used to do at school. Then his mother would clear her throat and we’d both look back down at our plates.
Mrs. Hastings cleared her throat a lot that night.
“So, Sylvia,” began Mr. Hastings. “What do you plan on doing after you leave school?”
I looked at him with blazing eyes, not saying a word.
“She’s not even going to finish this year, Dad,” muttered Nicky, quietly.
“Nicky’s planning on becoming a doctor,” said Mrs. Hastings brightly. Like it was supposed to impress me or something.
“Following in Dad’s footsteps,” added Nicky, smiling.
I rolled my eyes.
“What happened to your father, Sylvia?” asked Lisa.
I looked at her. She was looking at me the way she did every day after school. Like we were best friends or something.
“I don’t know, He left.”
Mrs. Hastings looked at my mother. “You have no idea what happened to him?”
My mother glanced at me. I swallowed, trying to keep the emotions in. Talking about my father was hard.
“No. We haven’t heard from him since h-.”
There was the scraping of my chair as I pushed away from the table.
My vision was blurring with my tears; I managed to make it out of the front door before I collapsed onto the porch, my tears beginning to spill over.
Damn. Nicky had followed me out.
He came and sat down next to me.
“I don’t want your sympathy.”
“The thing is-.” He stopped abruptly.
“I- I’d really like to be your friend, Silver. I’d love to get to know you better.”
I looked at him, fiercely wiping at the tears around my eyes.
“I don’t want to get to know you any better. One minute you’re my friend, next your mother’s ruined our friendship.”
“I know and I’m sorry. But she’s my mother and I have to respect her wishes.”
“Have to? If I respected all the wishes my mother had, I wouldn’t be sane today.”
There was silence that followed that. Hesitantly, he lifted his arm to put around my shoulders but I moved away from him.
“Don’t touch me.”
“Silver, come on. I like you and I want to be your friend.”
“And what about your friends at school? They’d never like me.”
“I’m sure we could work something out. I’m sure they’d love to have you around.”
I laughed humourlessly. “Clearly, you don’t know your friends very well.”
He looked at me. “Are you rejecting my friendship?”
“I guess so.”
“Well, I’m just going to keep trying.”
“Don’t waste your breath and your time.”
He opened his mouth to reply, but his sister stepped shyly onto the porch.
“You sound like your brother.”
She looked at my through her big blue eyes. “I’m sorry for bringing up the topic of-.”
“Don’t say it.”
She nodded, closing her lips. “Can we be friends?”
“What is with you all and wanting to be my friends? What would your mother say?”
Lisa’s eyes filled with tears. “I don’t care. I just want to be your friend.”
She burst out crying. I winced at the wailing sound. I was so glad I wasn’t going to be around when my mother gave birth.
The adults rushed outside.
“Silver! What did you do?” gasped my mother as Mrs. Hastings tried to comfort my daughter while throwing death glares in my direction.
“So you’re just going to assume it was me? It could have been Nicky for all you know. But of course it isn’t. Nicky’s the perfect son who does everything you want, right? But what about me? Me, you don’t care about me!”
I was on my feet and breathing hard, my hands clenched into fists.
Nicky jumped to his feet placing his hands on my shoulders. I shrugged them off.
“Silver, take deep breaths.”
“No. And don’t any of you try to be my friends again. I. Don’t. Want. You.”
And I turned on my heel, running without stopping until I’d reached my bed. I collapsed on top of it and cried myself to sleep.
The dreams kept continuing. Meaning they were still nightmares but they were different.
In my dreams, Nicky and Lisa tried to be friends with me. I kept rejecting them and Nicky’s voice would float after me saying he wouldn’t give up.
Due to these dreams, I was either too scared to sleep, or I couldn’t go back to sleep after waking up. Then I’d be tired for the whole day, and for a sufferer of leukaemia, that wasn’t easy as leukaemia left me tired and drained by itself.
P.E. was a struggle, but most of the time the teacher didn’t make me play. I’d sit and watch the rest of the class enjoy the game. Actually, I just watched Nicky run up and down, chasing the ball or throwing it, watching ad the sun glinted off his dark hair and his muscles tense every time he caught the ball. I’d watch him and just remember the night he tried to comfort me and be my friend.
Nicky would try and talk to me sometimes. I’d begun ignoring him as much as possible and he began doing the same in response. But every once in a while I’d still catch him watching me from a distance.
Nicky had a girlfriend now. Isabella was just like him. Her black curls never out of place, her brown eyes always shining. She was a straight A student, always ready to answer a question, always ready to lend a hand. And she was a cheerleader, so they went to most of the school’s sport games together.
But most of all, Mrs. Hastings approved of her. Every so often, she’d come over to Nicky’s house and I’d watched as she smiled and laughed with the family. Even at school, it made me grit my teeth, whenever she took Nicky’s hand or leaned over to kiss his cheek. It was at times like that, I found myself yearning for his friendship too.
One P.E. lesson about a month later, our teacher was away and because I didn’t have a note, the substitute wouldn’t let me sit out. Usually, I didn’t need a note; the teacher just let me sit out.
Also unfortunately for me, we happened to be playing soccer today.
The sports shorts I was wearing were too small and the shirt was a little big. As I never play, I never bring a uniform so I had to borrow one.
The class split into four teams and somehow I ended up on Nicky’s team with Isabella and a couple of others.
I volunteered to be defence and set myself up in a corner where I hopefully didn’t have to get too involved.
For ten minutes, I didn’t have to do anything. Our team had been mostly in attack, but all of a sudden the other team got a break.
“Tackle him, Silver!” yelled Isabella running towards me as fast as she could.
It had been a while since I’d played sport but I ran at him. Trying to avoid me, he attempted to kick the ball to the side but it came off his shoe wrong and ended up hitting me in the stomach.
I collapsed on the ground coughing. I felt winded; I could hardly breathe.
“Silver! Are you okay?” I heard Isabella trying to talk to me. But her voice was faint.
My body was weak. Last night I had gotten hardly any sleep because I’d been kept awake by my mother and stepdad having an argument over baby names or something. My body was happy for this excuse to slip into unconsciousness.
“Silver! Can you hear me?” This voice was different. It was male; it was Nicky. I felt a pressure on my wrist like someone was checking my pulse.
I felt something cool press against my head. I groaned. Someone squeezed my hand.
I forced myself to not slip into unconsciousness. I forced my eyes to open.
I had to blink a couple of times before the scene above me became clear. I could make out Nicky and Isabella’s worried faces as well as the boy who’d kicked the ball into my stomach.
I raised my hand, the one that wasn’t being held, at felt my forehead. There was a cold compress on it which I removed before sitting up.
I coughed; it was a dry, bleak sound- so weak.
“Silver?” whispered Isabella, her eyes brimming with tears.
I felt something snap inside me. “Don’t cry over me, it’s not worth it.”
I shook her hand off mine and stood up before walking to the girl’s bathroom.
I heard someone follow me and turned around to see Nicky.
“I nearly fainted. What do you think?”
He frowned at me, clearly bothered by my attitude.
I shrugged. “Don’t worry about me.”
I pushed past him, realising that he was in the girl’s bathroom when something rose inside me. I ran to the nearest cubicle and vomited up everything I’d eaten that day.
Nicky kneeled down beside me, holding my hair out of my face. A minute later, Isabella ran in to see what had happened to us. When she saw what was happening, she ran for the teacher.
The substitute came and told Isabella to take me to the sickbay.
I twisted myself out of Isabella’s grip, walking myself to sickbay without help. Isabella ran after me, explaining what had happened to the nurse.
The office called my mother who came to take me home. I refused, but my mother dragged me.
When we got home, I showered and changed into track pants and a black t-shirt before curling up on my bed, tired out.
I fell asleep and woke up, some nine hours later, just past midnight. Hearing my stomach growling, I slipped on a pair of flip flops and padded softly to the kitchen.
‘I thought you’d be hungry and come down in the middle of the night. There are some left overs in the fridge. Love, Mum.’
I opened the fridge and took out the plate of pasta that was covered with cling wrap. I warmed it in the microwave before sitting down on the couch to eat it. Within five minutes all the pasta was gone. I poured myself a glass of milk, drank that and then returned to bed. But before I climbed into bed, I saw something strange.
All the lights were on in the Hastings house.
Curious, I picked up my phone and dialled Nick.
Hearing his voice stirred something inside me. I hadn’t heard it for ages over my phone.
“Nick? It’s Silver. What’s going on?”
“Silver? This isn’t such a good time. How about I call you later?”
“Has something happened?”
“Kind of, yes.”
He hung up, but not before I heard someone wailing over the phone. As I brought the phone down from my ear, I could hear the same wailing coming from next door; a woman wailing.
I got into bed, pulled the covers to my chin and attempted to go to sleep but I couldn’t.
I just felt that something was wrong.
Fifteen minutes later, I was still up and I heard cars pull up outside. I padded over to my window and looked out. Those red and blue lights were unmistakable, as were the blue uniforms.
I ran to my parent’s room- sorry, my mother and my stepdad’s room- and yelled at them to get up.
“Mum! There’s police next door!”
It took a couple of minutes but soon they were pulling on sweaters and sweat pants.
Ten minutes later, we were walking up the driveway next door.
“Diane!” called out my mother. Mrs. Hastings was sitting on the perfectly positioned couch in their lounge. Her husband was sitting next to her and Nicky was sitting against the wall on the floor.
“What’s happened?” asked my stepdad, turning to the nearest police officer.
But before he could reply, Mrs. Hastings wailed, “Lisa’s missing!”
I whipped around to Nicky. His phone was on the floor beside him and I moved it so I could sit next to him.
He leaned his head on my shoulder and I stiffened. Then I felt tears drench my t-shirt and I put my arm around him. Mrs. Hastings didn’t seem to notice or care.
“She’s run away?” I heard my mother gasp.
I looked up, away from where Nicky was fiddling with the chains on the pocket of my track pants.
Mr. Hastings nodded. “She’s been acting weird for the last couple of days. Then today, we go out shopping for an hour or so, Nicky’s at home watching her, but he was in his room playing music. When we returned, we couldn’t find her. And that was three hours ago.”
“Is there anywhere she could have gone?”
The policeman was writing down everything they were saying.
“We only have a few friends, but I’ve called everyone within a close walking distance. Lisa’s only five, she couldn’t go far. She didn’t have any friends at pre-school. She suffers from dyslexia and another mental condition that heightens her imagination.”
As they talked, I thought back to all the times I’d been in contact with Lisa. She’d smiled and talked to me like we were best friends. Like there was something I supposedly knew about her and could understand about this.
“Have you checked her room?” I asked. “She might have left a clue.”
“She’s five, and she has dyslexia. Besides, most of it is just Barbie dolls, tea sets and scattered drawings.”
Mrs. Hastings glared at me. Like I thought they were stupid for not thinking of that before or something.
I gently untangled myself from Nicky and got to my feet.
“I’ll see if I can find anything.”
Without waiting for an answer, I took the stairs two at a time. Her room was just opposite Nicky’s. Something had occurred to me. If Lisa was dyslexic and her room was full of drawings, maybe she’d left something behind? I guessed she liked drawing, hence my mother’s birthday gift.
The policeman had been right, the room was a five year old mess. There were Barbie dolls everywhere, clothes and crayons. My guess had been correct.
I began sifting through the stuff. There were scattered papers everywhere. Maybe she had a diary.
“If I was a five year old with a diary, where would I put it?” I muttered to myself. I checked the bed head, under the bed, all the cupboards when loose floor boards occurred to me.
Finally, under the dolls’ house, I found a loose floor board, under which was a pink book. I lifted it out and flipped through it.
Pages and pages of five year old drawings. She had some artistic talent, I could see. But the last few pages told a story. A story beginning with a girl. A girl with wavy brown hair and silver eyes.
In several pictures I was with a boy with dark hair and green eyes. Sometimes we were accompanied by a little girl.
It was me, Nicky and Lisa.
There was a picture of me and Nicky together, several in fact. We were a couple, I could tell, and we were happy. Then Lisa joined us and we used to hang out with her. Just our little threesome.
Then another girl came into the story. A girl with perfect black hair and sparkling brown eyes.
The next was a picture of me and Lisa, crying while Nicky was with Isabella. Now it was just the two of us. Then came a hospital, and me in a hospital bed.
Then a funeral; my funeral. I’d passed away from my leukaemia, leaving Lisa with no friends. Nicky was too busy hanging out with Isabella to notice her and her parents were too busy with their lives. They didn’t care about me anyway, not like Lisa had.
I sprinted back downstairs and showed them all what I’d found.
“She’s basically written our life stories with drawings,” I said, handing the book to Mrs. Hastings.
“And how is this supposed to help us find her?” asked Mrs. Hastings, glancing at the first few pictures and then giving the book back to me.
“She knows I’m going to die. But she thinks I’m her only friend, the only one that will care about her. She wants to be with me.”
“And?” asked Nicky, croakily. He was sitting in the same spot I’d left him.
“After I’m dead, where will I be? I’ll be buried at the cemetery. The last picture in this book shows her sitting by a tombstone in the cemetery talking to my ghost.
“Her mental condition that enhances her imagination? I think it’s made her imagine a future she thinks will happen and she herself has decided to begin what is destined for her now. She thinks she’s destined to be at my side in a cemetery.”
Five minutes later, everyone was wrapped up in coats and carrying flashlights, driving to the cemetery. When we got there, Nicky and I were the first ones out of the car.
“Lisa!” I yelled, praying she would reply.
But no such luck, I got nothing.
“Lisa!” tried Nicky.
We ran into the cemetery, walking in between tombstones, flashing torches everywhere. I could hear the adults following us, but I just wanted to find Lisa safe and sound. In some ways, I felt like this was my fault. My fault that a little girl I didn’t even know very well had run away from home.
“It’ll take ages to cover the whole cemetery,” said Nicky, shivering as he stopped next to me.
“There has to be a quicker way to find her,” I muttered, my breath coming out in a cloud of condensation.
She wants to spend time with me. Where would she go?
Sylvia Mysis. My grandmother had the same name as me, I was named after her because I was born a week after she had passed away. Grandma was buried at this cemetery.
“Mum!” I yelled running back to the adults. “Where’s grandma’s tombstone?”
She pointed in the general direction but before I could run off, I caught the raised eyebrows on everyone’s faces including Nicky.
“Gran’s name was Sylvia Mysis, remember? Dad insisted you name me after her.”
My mother nodded and I ran off, Nicky hot on my heels.
“Lisa!” I called out as I approached my Grandma’s tombstone. “Lisa, where are you?”
“Silver?” called out a soft voice.
“Lisa?” I breathed out a sigh of relief as Nicky’s torch caught sight of her.
“Silver! You’re still here!” She ran at me and I enveloped her in an enormous hug. She was safe.
I felt Nicky wrap his arms around both of us and we held the position until the adults arrived.
“Lisa!” exclaimed Mrs. Hastings as Nicky and I pulled away from her. “Baby!”
I watched as Lisa ran to her mother and I took a deep breath. I turned to Nicky and half smiled. He smiled back and I felt a chill catch in my throat and I froze.
“Silver?” asked Nicky.
I bent over and began coughing. The cold air was giving me the chills and my body was tired after the adrenaline, on which I was running, had disappeared.
I felt myself falling over and a pair of strong arms caught me.
“Silver? Can you hear me?”
Just like last afternoon, Nicky’s voice was faint and I tried to force my eyelids to open but this time it was too hard.
“Silver! Don’t you dare leave me!”
That was the last thing I heard before the world went black.
Things around me were becoming coherent. I could hear a steady beeping as well as someone’s constant breathing close to my ear.
My eyes fluttered open to a white tiled ceiling. Looking down I could see white curtains, a large window and sun streaming through.
I knew this scene all too well; I was in a hospital room.
I groaned. I hated the hospital.
I turned my head to see Nicky’s face lying centimetres from mine, his green eyes filled with concern.
“Nicky?” All I could do was stare at him. Watch him watching me.
“How do you feel?”
A smile played on his lips but the concern in his eyes never left. “At least you sound like yourself.”
“What happened?” I asked him, but before he could reply, the door opened.
I looked over to see a doctor walk in followed by my mother. When she saw me, my mother’s face lit up and she hurried over to my side and took my hand, kissing my cheek.
“Ew, Mum,” I replied raising my other hand to wipe my face. My mother didn’t seem to care.
“Ms. Mysis,” said the doctor. He had salt and pepper hair and dark brown eyes. He was wearing a white coat over black slacks and a blue shirt.
“I’m Dr. Johnson. You go to school with my daughter Joanne? Anyway, I’ve been conducting tests for the last couple of days while you’ve been… well, out. And I’m sorry to say that the leukaemia is eating away at you faster than we thought.”
“Meaning?” I asked hoarsely.
“I give you about two months. And that’s stretching it a little.”
Tears filled my eyes and glancing over I saw the same happening to my mother. The doctor asked for a word and after giving my hand a squeeze. She followed him out.
I turned back to Nicky, the movement making my tears run. He reached out with a sleeve and wiped them away.
“How long have I been… out?”
“A couple of days. Four, maybe five?”
Looking up and down him, he looked tired. “Have you got any sleep?”
“Not much. I haven’t left since I came.”
“You stayed with me?”
I stared at him. Why on earth would he do that?
He seemed to understand the question in my stare. Suddenly, he took my hand and looked me fiercely in the eye.
“Silver. I want you to fight. I want you to fight the leukaemia. I’ve had days to sit here and think and I’ve realised a few things. One of the most important being that I- I can’t lose you.”
I continued to stare at him blankly.
“I-I- I like you. A lot. So much that I’m afraid to say I love you.”
I stared at him, my mouth falling slightly open. Then I realised something.
“You have girlfriend.”
“Isabella? I called her the other day and I broke up with her. I told her I couldn’t go out with her, not when I was in love with someone else.”
It wasn’t until he admitted he loved me that I realised I felt, more or less, the same way. I’d just been trying to keep it locked away. This was the reason why I felt angry when I saw Isabella hold his hand or kiss his cheek, why I felt so upset when Mrs. Hastings ruined our secret friendship, why I yearned to comfort him when his sister was missing.
I shook my head. “You can’t love me Nick. I’m going to die and I don’t want you to tear yourself apart over me.”
“Too late,” he whispered, tears filling his own eyes. “I’m tearing myself apart realising you’re going to leave me.”
The hurt in his voice affected me. And then I realised I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to stay here. With Nicky and Lisa.
“With Mum. She wanted to stay with you like me but Mum insisted she sleep. She’ll be here soon.”
The door cracked open and I looked to see my mother looking in.
“Can I come in?”
I nodded and she padded over to my bedside and took my other hand. Nicky lay his head on the bed next to me and I untangled the hand he was holding so I could stroke his hair.
“Mum? What can I do?”
“There’s one thing that we can do.”
“A stem-cell transplant. Then the hospital will monitor you, see if you need chemotherapy. But you will have to fight and be strong. It won’t be easy.”
I closed my eyes and sighed. “I’ll fight. I don’t want to leave.”
I opened my eyes to see Nicky looking at me with a happy smile spreading across his face. There was an identical smile on my mother’s.
A phone started ringing and my mother dug through her bag.
“It’s your stepdad. I’d better go and take this.”
Once again, she left, leaving Nicky and I alone.
“You’re going to fight?” he asked as if he couldn’t believe it.
I nodded. “Yes.”
“May I ask why?”
“I love you too.”
He leaned over and wrapped his arms around me.
“You’re the most precious thing in the whole world. More precious than gold… or silver.”
A year later…
I shook my head, a smile curling on my lips as I watched Nicky’s pleading face. Next to him, Lisa’s face had the identical expression.
The stem cell transplant had been successful but the doctors had me go through chemotherapy too. As a result, I’d lost most of my hair, but it had regrown. While it had been regrowing, I had always worn either a hat or head scarf to cover it, and now Nicky and Lisa wanted to see what I looked like.
“Does it look better or worse?” asked Lisa, cautiously.
I shrugged. “I think it looks better but your opinions are the most important.”
Nicky smiled. “I’ll love you no matter what you look like. You know that.”
“Me too,” agreed Lisa in her six year old way.
The three of us had become so close. Whenever we weren’t busy off by ourselves, Nicky and I would always take Lisa somewhere new.
Sighing, I reached up the head scarf I was wearing. Truth be told, I was actually excited to show them. My brown waves before had always seemed rather plain and boring but now…
“Wow!” exclaimed Lisa.
Nicky’s mouth actually fell open.
I glanced over at the mirror in my room. My hair had grown back a lighter brown with some reddish tints and it was more straight than wavy. It perfectly complimented my silver eyes, which hardly ever gleamed grey anymore.
I had adjusted a lot about me. I’d thrown out the diary I’d written while I was all depressed. I’d adjusted my whole wardrobe; there were more skirts, dresses and bright t-shirts than black jeans and black t-shirts. I’d begun hanging out with Nicky’s friends at school and we all got along.
Isabella was part of our group too. She was perfectly fine with me and Nicky. She actually had another boyfriend now; one of our friends named Mark.
And my mother and my stepdad, well, I’ve actually begun calling my stepdad ‘Dad’ more. But most of all I love my new little baby brother, Chris. He has the same eyes that I do and I can just tell we’re all going to get along fine.
By some random coincidence, Mr. Hastings happened to bump into my father at a business conference. Since that day, my father has visited a couple of times. He gets along well with my stepdad, but he’s engaged to be married soon. He promised to bring his fiancée to meet us sometime.
Mrs. Hastings has approved of me ever since I found her daughter for her. She has no problem with the friendship between me and her children. She even allows us to use her kitchen to bake with Lisa and she doesn’t even bat an eyelid when she returns home to see the mess we made.
Nicky stood up, pulling me from my day dream. I watched as he leaned down to his sister.
“Can you give us a moment alone?”
She nodded and left after throwing me one last smile.
Nicky walked over to me and put his hands on my shoulders.
“Silver, you are the most beautiful girl in the whole world.”
“Doesn’t every guy think the same of his girlfriend?”
He laughed; a carefree sound that I loved.
“But you’re special. More special and precious than anything else.”
“I say the same thing about you.”
I leaned my head against his chest and he wrapped his arms around me.
Nicky had been supportive through my entire illness. Whenever I slept in a hospital room, the next time I woke up he would be the first thing I saw. Every time I needed something, he would be the first to volunteer to get it for me. He was my helping hand, the one person I could rely on and I knew he’d always be there for me.
After a while, he turned my chin to look at him and leaned down.
Every time we kissed, I felt happy. I’d always wanted our first kiss to be special, so I hadn’t let him kiss me until I had finished my chemo. The first proper date he took me on, a week after chemo had finished, was the best experience of my life. I could tell he’d planned that one for a while.
This time was no different to the rest. His kisses were light and comforting and I felt myself sigh. I wove my hands through his hair and his arms hugged tightly around my waist.
When we finally came up for air, I smiled at him.
He was perfect.
We were perfect.
Life was perfect.
And nothing could be better than that. If there was one thing I’d learnt from this whole experience, it would be to never take things for granted. Because sometimes there were things in our lives that were extremely precious. So precious that there was nothing that could replace them.
They were more precious than gold.