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Only the Beginning
Kathy finished the painting and began wiping her brushes. The life-like portrait seemed to be looking right at her. “This is weird,” she thought. Just then, out of the corner of her eye, she saw a figure approaching her door. “Just in time,” Kathy whispered to herself. Walking barefoot across the cool hardwood floors she reached up and pulled open the old creaky door. There on the other side stood a man with a sad far off look in his eyes. She couldn’t help but notice how broken he looked, but she guessed that anyone who was about to lose a child would look that way.
He was the one who had brought the small, worn picture to her only one week ago and asked her to paint the small, giggling child the photo captured. His wife wasn’t able to look her in the eyes when they first showed up on her doorstep and it didn’t surprise her that she wasn’t with him when it was time to pick up the finished painting. Dragging herself out of her thoughts, she ushered him in and began walking to the room she had just left. He looked over the painting with tears that threatened to fall at any moment. Then with one last sorrowful look he turned to Kathy, thanked her, and paid her for her work. With a heavy heart she took the money and went over to wrap the delicate painting in its packaging for safe transport. In the short week she had known the family it was clear that their life was far worse than her own. Their daughter was dying from a heart defect and there was nothing they could do to help her. They had wanted the painting for her funeral when it was time, as their daughter had requested they remember her from happier times.
As he walked out the door, her mind wandered back to the life she had before coming here. The multiple foster homes and orphanages were pictures of the past and yet they always came back to haunt her, but nothing could be as hard as the loss of a child. Breaking away from her thoughts, Kathy goes back to her paints and stairs at the blank canvas she has just laid in front of her. Dipping her brush in the wide array of colors she let herself get lost in thought once again.
When the peaceful chimes of her grandfather clock played its sweat song, she was pulled from her thoughts once again and looked up to see what she had created. The work of art in front of her showed what only a memory could. The delicate brush strokes that made up the elegant shades of green made a fresh summer grass swaying in a delicate breeze. The trees surrounded the peaceful looking meadow, casted a protective shadow letting the occasional delicate patch of sunlight shine through. Then, in the center of it all was a small, wooden swing that showed its years with its discolored wood and fraying rope. However, the most intricate of all was the little girl that sat atop it. She was wearing a white sundress that looked as though it danced in the wind. The girl’s dark curls cascaded over her shoulders, showing its beautiful shades of browns, amber, and a tint if red as it flowed around her like water in a small stream flowing over the landscape. But, the most intriguing and beautiful sight of all was her bright blue eyes that cut into heart like a dagger.
She had seen those eyes, they were the same ones she had spent the last week staring at. They were hers, the little girl lying in some hospital bed slowly dying. She was at a loss for words, as she just stared into the piercing ocean blue eyes that told a story all their own. It broke her to think about what the tiny child might be going through and she wasn’t about to dwell on it. With the painting still on her mind, she cleaned her brushes and got ready to try to get some sleep. Kathy let her eyes slowly drift close, and allowed herself to fall into what she hoped would be a blissful sleep, if only she knew how wrong she was.
Blinding lights, the sound of tires skidding across pavement, shattered glass flying in all directions, and then nothing. Everything went dark, there was no sound and everything seemed at piece. The only thing that went through her mind was how she never wanted that feeling to end. Then when Kathy thought she could let the world slip away forever her eyes shot open. She awoke in a white room that looked as though it was a blank piece of typing paper. The walls looked thin, almost transparent, and the floor was a smooth, cool piece of marble that didn’t have a single imperfection on it. As she looked around the room she noticed a small mirror leaning against the wall. Walking across the room she felt as though there was someone watching her but her own curiosity got the better of her making keeping her on task.
Finally having reached the other side of the room, with a very delicate touch Kathy picked up the small hand mirror. The small trinket seemed to catch the light that was emanating from the room. It looked as though it had come from a child’s toy chest and wore its years with pride, from its chipped paint to the slight crack running along the top of its glass almost cutting itself in half. However, Kathy didn’t seem to notice these things because she was transfixed with the face that was staring back at her through the tiny piece of glass. Where she thought her face should be was the face of the little girls, her blue eyes conveying all of her fears and emotions all in one glance. Kathy looked frantically around the room searching for her but when she looked back she noticed the girl was holding the same expression as she was. As she slowly reached for her face the little girl followed, only then realizing that the girl was her.
She looked down and where her old tattered pajamas had been only moments ago was the same pale white sundress that she had painted on the girl in the swing. Only then did she see it for what it really was, it was a delicate lace Victorian nightgown. Where her sandy blond hair had been was now the same dark curls that seemed to cascade across her shoulders. Her eyes were no longer a striking green but that same blue that had viewed the world with such innocence. Shocked with the transformation Kathy dropped the fragile mirror onto the hard floor and watched as it shattered into tiny pieces, flying in all directions. That’s when she heard it, a small voice calling her name. It was so familiar to her that it made her heart ache. Slowly turning around, Kathy saw the familiar face of her little sister on the other side of the room. Tears filled her eyes as she gazed upon the face she thought she would never see again and when her sister spoke she felt her heart stop. The sweet, angelic voice of the little girl who stood before her was like a dagger, piercing her heart and what she says tares her to pieces. Her soft voice is barely a whisper as she says, "Why did you leave me? You were suppose to look after me. What happened to forever?" Kathy felt tears fall down her face as she tries to get control of her voice once more. While it is only a whisper Kathy manages a few words saying, "I'm sorry. I am so, so sorry Emma. I know that I can't say it enough but please forgive me. I tried and tried to fix it but I couldn't." As another tear escaped and slowly slid down her cheek she heard the rustling of her sister's dress as she turned away and started walking back from where she came. Seeing this Kathy called out, "WAIT! EM PLEASE DON’T GO! DON’T LEAVE ME AGAIN!" "Like you left me?" was the only reply Kathy received as the floor opened up beneath her, engulfing her into darkness once more.
Bolting upright out of bed Kathy screamed as she fell off of her bed and hit the cold floor with a audible thump. Crying, Kathy pulled herself off the floor and stumbled out her front door. She ran across her yard in the pouring rain not caring that she was soaked to the bone. Kathy slid into the drivers seat of her beat up Yugo, stared it, and took off down her old broken down road. Images of her parents flashed in front of her. Them in the old Christmas cabin, sitting in front of the roaring fire. Then the image of their bloodied faces showed up next as they laid on the ground after being thrown from their car on their way home from picking up her birthday gift. Next came the worst memory of all, the day she caused her sister's death. She was suppose to watch her, her little Em, to make sure she stayed out of trouble and didn't get hurt. Emma had been wanting to play all day and was about to drive Kathy insane. They had only been living at their grandpa's house for a week and already Em had explored every inch of the place, so finally Kathy gave in. She decided that they would make cookies and that Em could choose. Squealing with joy Emma ran to the kitchen and grabbed the old tattered cook book. Their grandpa wouldn't be home for another hour anyway so they had plenty of time to cook and surprise him when he returned. Kathy noticed that they were low on flour and instead of telling her sister that they would have to bake another time she decided to run up the road to the store and buy some. She told Emma that she would only be gone for a minute and that she promised to return. Emma cried for her not to leave her alone but Kathy just thought that she would slow her down. Kathy gave her a hug and said, "Remember I said I will always be with you. We are sister and I will always be there to protect you." "Forever?" came a small sniffling sob. Kathy pulled back from the hug smiled down at her and whispered, "Forever." That was the last time Kathy saw her because when she came back from the store the old farm house was engulfed in flames. The fire chief said that it was a short in the electrical box and that there was nothing that she could have done to save her sister, but Kathy knew that she was the reason her precious Em was gone.
Wiping away her tears, Kathy had no idea she had drifted onto the other side of the road. Blinding lights, the sound of tires skidding across pavement, shattered glass flying in all directions, and then nothing. Everything went dark, there was no sound and everything seemed at piece. Kathy woke up in a hospital bed, the thin scratchy sheets did little to cover the multiple tubes and wires that seemed to be covering every inch of her broken body. The steady beeping of the heart monitor told her that she was still alive but it did little to make her feel like she should be. A nurse came in shortly after Kathy woke up and began talking endlessly about anything and everything that came to mind. When she seemed to run out of things to talk about and checked all of the beeping machines that surrounded the tiny bed, the nurse said that she had to go check on one of her other patients, Lilly. Kathy's eyes grew wide as she realized who the nurse had been going on and on about. It was the same little girl she had been seeing all week, the one that seemed to haunt her dreams and reminded her so much of her own sister. Then it clicked, that was why she had lived, why her sister had come back and why she kept seeing the little girls face everywhere. Kathy was suppose to save her, she was supposed to save Lilly.
Kathy looked over to where the two large hospital windows were, she noticed her sister's smiling face. Her sister giggled saying, "It took you long enough to figure it out." Then as fast as she had appeared she vanished again. Kathy smiled to herself as she looked out the windows once again watching the golden sun slowly dip into the horizon leaving the sky painted in pinks and reds until the stars littered the night sky and the soft glow of the street lights gave the peaceful city its nightlight. The memories of her past came back once again as she remembered the good time she shared with her family.
Kathy had been passed from foster home to foster home until she turned eighteen then she left and kept the only promise she made to Em that she could keep and that was to paint the world as they had seen it. So that is precisely what she did, paint. She painted everything she could exactly the way she saw it. Emma had shown her a whole new world that had existed within their own, from the softness of every color in a sunset to the way the wind played with the water and trees. Kathy painted to show the world what an amazing, energetic, sensitive little six year old could see all around them. It wasn’t long before someone saw her paintings for what they really were and that was how she ended up where she was today, well not in a hospital bed, but the small town that she fell in love with that allowed her to paint what she saw and send them to where they were wanted or needed.
As carefully as she could Kathy reached over to the small bedside table and grabbed the paper prescription pad and ink pen that had laid there. Scribbling only a few words on it she folded it up into her hand and placed the pen and paper back where she hade found it. Then letting her eyes fall close she allowed the darkness to consume her as the beeping on the machines slowly died down and faded away. Once the monitors stopped their beeping the doctors and nurses on staff were alerted and came running from ever direction to try to get them going again. When they were unsuccessful they called the time of death and that was when the babbling nurse from before spotted the small, folded piece of paper clutched in Kathy's hand. There scribbled in Kathy's hand writing were the simple words Save Her. Upon showing this to the doctor on duty they immediately went to work to save her heart.
Kathy smiled as she walked over to where her sister waited for her, reached out to take her hand. Looking down at the little girl in front of her, Kathy knew that she had made the right choice. The last thing Kathy did before leaving with Emma was look back at the little girl laying in the hospital bed smiling as she hugged her parents, knowing that now everything was going to be ok. As Kathy and Emma stepped into the light the little girl looked over at them and gave a silent thank you. It wasn't long after that Kathy's painting were discovered hidden away in her house by none other than Lilly only a week after they had moved in. They were placed in proper homes to help show how wonderful the world could be if you only opened your heart. Kathy was finally reunited with her family and things were just as they had been. As she looked down watching over Lilly, she knew that the life that special little girl was about to have was only the beginning.