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Author's note: I wrote this short novel last year when I was thinking about how fortunate I am to have a wonderful loving family. There are children all over the world like whose families fall apart and can't be put back together. My message in this book was to show that sometimes what seems like the worst possible situation, can end up being the best. So always look on the bright side of things, and keep your head held high.
A road, a long wandering road that twists and turns around the trees and bushes surrounding it, a road is like a life and Kristine's made an unexpected turn. For a road can crawl, creep, and slither down a dark path known as the future, and the future can hold wonders.
"Kristine, what on Earth are you doing? Did you not here me call you for the millionth time?"
Kristine sighed, closed her journal, and began to head down the stairs of her small brownstone in Beacon Hill.
"Coming Mom!" She bellowed down the hall.
As she trotted down the stairs her long bouncy blond curls extended down to her waist and then sprang back up to her mid-back. Her creamy green eyes blazed like there reflection of the sun off of the grass and her gentle figure eased down the stairs with pure inspirational agility, but there was something we couldn't see. Behind those eyes was a wave of emotion and restless nights due to multiple tears. When she reached the bottom of the steps her mother, Marrie, a strong, captivating woman with short dirty blond hair and bluish, brownish piercing eyes, tapped her foot as if she had been waiting hours.
"Kristine Walters! Hurry yourself up! The Websters are waiting for us and you are taking your sweet, good time!"
"I'm sorry mom, I was just finishing the last chapter," Kristine confessed timidly.
"I'm seriously considering taking away that pathetic journal of yours," Marrie scolded.
Kristine stumbled back and faltered,"Ma, I'm so sorry. Really don't take it away. I promise I’ll come down on time the next time you call."
"Stop your begging and get in the carl" Marrie whaled.
Kristine ran down to the car and hopped into the back, next to her brother, Josh. Kristine was the youngest of four children. The oldest was her sister Isabelle. Isabelle had long, brown, straight hair and humbling brown eyes. She was four years older than her sister at age sixteen. As always she was over dressed for the occasion in a blue halter top and jet black embellished skirt.
Next in line was her brotherJosh. Josh was around 15 years o f age with dark, brown messy hair and blue eyes that glistened like the sea during a violent storm. Due to the close age between Josh and Isabelle, the two siblings got in rather heated disputes, but it was nothing compared to the wrangles that Jennifer and Isabelle got into.
Jennifer was fourteen and had a temper that blazed like fire. She had the same characteristics as her mother, except for her nose. It was pointy and lengthy just like her father's.
Jennifer would brawl with anyone near her and when she snapped there was no telling what would happen.
"Marrie, calm down, it's just the Websters ," Kristine's father, James, ordered.
James, oddly enough, had vivid red hair, unlike anyone in the family. He was a broad man with strict morals, but was silly in his own way. He towered over Marrie, but Josh was beginning to catch up to him.
"James! It's rude, very rude to arrive late, even if it is just the Websters!" Marrie yelled as they began to drive away.
"Marrie, don't yell please!" James said in a harsh, yet baffled voice.
"Ouch!" Jennifer screamed from the back of the Escalade, "Josh pinched me!"
"No I didn't!" Josh assured.
"Both of you shut up!" Isabelle squawked.
"Why don't you?' Josh shot back.
"Please all of you cut it out!" Kristine pleaded.
"Kristine that was rude, say you're sony," Mrs. Walters demanded.
"No ‘buts’ Kristine, now!"
"Sorry," Kristine said lamely.
"That was not fair," Josh mumbled under his breath.
Josh and Kristine were the only two who ever got along. "Josh don't talk back to your mother!" Mr. Walters bid.
"I wonder were he learns it?" Marrie questioned sarcastically, fortunately, they pulled into the Websters driveway, so James didn't have time for sharp reply.
The Websters were old family friends, but none of the children were Kristine's age, and they excluded her in all their chats. So throughout the night Kristine sat on the couch and wrote in her journal.
When Mrs.Webster sounded the call for dinner Kristine slowly rose and tied her curls back behind her. Kristine sat in between her brother and mother, and barley listened to the conversations.
Then she heard her father say,''Why my Marrie does my every call and beckon. She is my maid, right dear?"
Kristine's mother's face fixed into a sharp ravenous glare. Realizing the tension, Kristine began to fake a laugh.
"Oh Dad you crack me up!" she said.
Luckily the Websters soon joined in and James played along, but Marrie's glare did not change for the rest of the evening. When the festivities were done for the night, the Walters climbed back into their Escalade and drove off. The entire car ride was silent, but everyone knew the extreme fury that would soon blow.
"All righty children, it's been a long night, off to bed please,"James barked.
"NOW," Both parents yelped.
The children scattered like mice and ran to the in rooms, all except for Kristine. She stayed at the top of the staircase and listened to her parents bicker. They normally argued in rage at night, but this was different.
"I'm done James," Her mother's voice began, "I can't handle you anymore. Heck, with you, the kids, and a new job it's hard to find time to breathe in between arguments."
"So what do you want to do? Just ignore each other and move on?" Her father inquired.
“James, I want a divorce."
Kristine's heart skipped a beat her eyes could no longer hold back tears.
"Ever since Kristine was born, life has been, well, tough," Marrie continued, "and what you said at dinner hurt me."
"I didn't mean it to be hurtful it was just a joke,"James stated.
"Exactly James, you don't know when to stop!"
"Well, if you feel that way then I agree we should end our marriage. Apparently, you don't know me for who I am," James said with a harsh rasp voice.
"Fine, we will break it to the children tomorrow and call our attorneys."
"I guess I’ll be sleeping in the guest room tonight," James noted.
''That would be a good idea," Marrie ended as she turned to walk up the stairs.
Kristine ran down the hall as quickly as she could and nearly toppled over when she bumped into a familiar face.
"Kristine,"Josh whispered,"What are you doing up?"
They both had the same red eyes from the same painful truth. For a moment the simply gazed into each others eyes and then in one swift motion Kristine flew into his arms and dried away her tears in his dark navy t-shirt.
“Josh, I heard it! Every word and it's all my fault," she cried.
"Shhh, don't think that. Come on, let's go talk in your room."
Josh swept the young frail Kristine off her feet and cradled her in his arms. Then they reached her room Josh closed the door and sat on the bed listening to Kristine's sobs.
"It's my entire fault," She moaned, "didn't you hear Mom say,“Ever since Kristine was born...”
Poor Kristine then broke into a vast series of weeps and closed her eyes as her brother tucked her in bed.
"You listen here Kristine," Josh commanded,''You are not the reason at all! Without you Mom and Dad would have split long ago.
“Not everything is perfect, and sadly, in this case, there is nothing any of us can do. Your life will move on, along with all of ours even though we may live in between Mom's and Dad's homes. You will go on to be that Newbury Medal author, for that story in your
journal, and the rest of us will go about our own business. It is anything but your fault, do you understand?"
Kristine nodded her head in agreement and closed her eyes. Over the last couple of months, she had been in a constant state of fatigue. Her bones ached and her body trembled; she needed more rest. Josh bent down and kissed her damp cheek goodnight.
Kristine tried to let her mind float off to the land of dreams, but she couldn't fall into an easy slumber. She turned her head towards the alarm clock and watched the numbers go by: 1:05, 1:06, 1:07. Finally her eyes became heavy and she fell into a restless sleep.
"Children, come down please, we need to talk," Mrs. Walters called from downstairs.
Kristine, knowing what was to come, grabbed her journal and began to walk down the steps. As she gazed at her feet, she noticed a massive bruise she had gotten on the side of her calf.
''Wow'' Kristine thought to herself, "I guess that girl at soccer kicked me a little harder than I thought."
She ran her fingers through her blond tangled hair as she hopped off the last stair. As she expected, her parents and siblings were already gathered around the dining room table waiting to discuss the predicament. During that hour or so of talking, Kristine zoned out. She didn't want to hear anymore details of her family's depressing fate. She simply sat there and stared at a blank space on the wall.
"Umm...what?"Kristine mumbled, snapping back to reality.
"Where do you want to live?" her mother asked halfheartedly.
"Umm...,"Kristine hadn't thought of that.
She figured she would spend one week with her mother and then one week with her father and alternate each week.
"Umm, well, can I go one week Mom, one week Dad, one week Mom and so on?"
"That is fine with me," her father said.
"Okay then that settles it. I’ll go call the attorney, and you make arrangements for where to sleep. Then, possibly, you should call your attorney," Marrie told James.
The family disbursed leaving Kristine alone at the kitchen table.
"Maybe this is for the best," she thought, "everyone has been fighting for so long, maybe this will bring more joy." A long tear slid down her face without her knowing it.
"HACHOOO!" Kristine sneezed.
She sniffled and took a deep breath through her nose. It was stuffy and runny. Kristine decided to move herself over to the couch and watch TV nestled in a warm woolen blanket. Flipping through the multiple channels, she got a shiver down her spine. It was snowing outside and millions of minuscule snowflakes drifted swiftly though the air and gracefully landed in small heaps of white soft bundles. Kristine turned on the fireplace and went to get a larger blanket from upstairs.
"HACHOOO," She sneezed again.
Kristine soon began to feel immensely dizzy and nauseous. She stopped in her mother's office where she saw her mother talking on the phone in a very serious voice. Kristine sat in the chair and closed her eyes. Her head was throbbing and her fingers were frozen. Marrie hung up the phone.
"Sweetie, are you okay?" she wondered.
"Yeah, I... I just feel..." Poor Kristine then threw up and began to moan.
"Gross," Kristine squealed, "I guess I'm kinda' sick."
Kristine's mother helped her up the last set of steps and tucked her in bed. Kristine had a temperature of one hundred and one, yet somehow was sneezing and sniffling.
"Mom, I have a headache; can I have some Advil or Aspirin?"
"Of course, but then you can't have anything else for another four to six hours." Marne walked to the bathroom to retrieve the medicine while James visited Kristine. "Hi honey, how are you feeling?"
"Okay, I could be much better though," Kristine jest.
She signed and then gazed out the frosty window wide eyed, "Dad, can you pass me my journal please."
"Sure," Mr. Walters walked over to Kristine's desk and grabbed the notebook, "What do you write in here?"
“Just a story," Kristine said slyly.
"Will I ever get to read it?"James wondered.
"In time," Kristine proclaimed, "In time."
Her mother came back with a glass of ice cold water and a pill.
"Have you made arrangements to leave?" Marrie muttered to James. "I'm on my way out, just saying good bye to my girl,"James confirmed.
"Bye Dad," Kristine grumbled.
James walked out the room and down the stairs. Through her window Kristine saw his silhouette trudging through the snow.
Kristine took her Advil and the cuddled deep in her covers.
"Mom, I'm going to take a nap. Can you turn off the lights?"
Marrie walked back in the room talking on her cellphone. She swiftly kissed Kristine's forehead, shut off the lights, and closed the door.
On a road there are bumps and potholes. In life there are steps and obstacles. They both share characteristics, except a road can go on and on in circles, a life must come to an end.
Kristine's illness continued to worsen through several more days causing her family to get rather worried. After considerate deliberation, they decided it was time for Kristine to visit the doctor's office.
"Ahh... Kristine, I can see that you are obviously not feeling very well," Dr. Walls exclaimed.
She then went over the usual questions such as, "Have you had a runny nose, trouble sleeping, vomiting, or anything else I should no of.
"Okay, well," Dr. Walls continued once she finished examining Kristine's symptoms, "as far as I can tell, you have a bit of a virus. We can do some blood testing and make sure it is nothing serious.
"Do you suggest that?" Mrs. Walters inquired.
"To be on the safe side, yes."
"Okay then, Kristine is that okay?" Marrie questioned.
"Sure," Kristine mumbled.
The nurse came in, drew blood, and then said, "All righty, the results should be ready by tomorrow. In the meantime, I suggest you get some more rest."
That night Kristine bundled in her bed and wrote in her journal. She had been feeling relatively well since her trip to the doctor's and was prepared for a good night's sleep.
"Hey sister,"Josh called from down the hall,"How are you feeling?"
"Much, much better, though I think I may...may.... HACHOOO! Still have a bit of a cold," Kristine replied.
"So I can see,"Josh laughed.
They both ran down the stairs and sat at the breakfast table.
"Ring, ring!" The phone rang.
"I've got it," Kristine said as she made her way towards the phone.
"Hello, this is Kristine speaking," She answered.
"Hi, this is Henry Jones from the doctor's office. Is your mother there?"
"Yes, one moment please."
Kristine called for her mother to pick up the phone. Marrie took the phone from Kristine's hands and placed it to her ear.
"Hello, how are you?" Josh and Kristine went back to their fussing.
"What?" Marrie bellowed.
Marrie then plopped down on the couch and continued to listen "Okay. Yes. Will she be all right?" More silence spread. "Sure. Okay. Bye," Marrie hung up.
"Ma, what's wrong?" Kristine inquired.
Marrie soared into Kristine's arms and embraced her tightly. Kristine hugged back, but it was clear she was confused.
"Kris... Kris... Kristine, the blood testing... you... you have... leukemia," Marrie wept.
"Marrie, Josh, and Kristine sat there in silence as tears streamed down there faces.
''That's okay," Kristine began wiping away a tear, "I’ll be fine."
Josh sat in a world of sorrow and somehow managed to smile at his sister's spirit. Even though she had just figured out she had cancer of the blood, she was looking at the bright side.
"Okay, well you should pack your things. We are heading to the hospital. They want to begin Chemotherapy immediately," Marrie proclaimed, "Isabelle, Jennifer come down stairs we are going to need your help, and Josh call your father and tell him about the news."
Everyone went to work. Both Isabelle and Jennifer were rather bewildered having not heard of her sister's terrible fortune.
"Kristine dear, I believe we shall be there for around at least three days. So, gather any belongings you may need and don't forget clothing for the way home. Listen, it is going to be very hard for you. You are going to lose your hair, you won't be able to eat, you will vomit consistently, and have many sores in your mouth. It will be a very uncomfortable situation, but sweetie it cures around seventy percent of leukemia victims. Over all it is worth the pain."
"That's fine, it's just I don't feel ill and I mean is it possible that they made a mistake?" Kristine mumbled.
"Oh, I wish Honey, but they tested your blood three times. They said it was definitely leukemia. They also said you had all the symptoms, constant fatigue, easy bruising, and could easily catch a cold or virus. Honey you have cancer."
Kristine did not respond she quickly hopped up stairs to collect her belongings. She assembled two outfits, figuring she would be in a medical gown, and then went to go find her journal. She frantically searched every nook and cranny, but was having no such luck finding it.
"Looking for this?"
It was Isabelle. Her long hair gently fell against her shoulder and her dark blue jeans and pink camisole were very sliming. In her hand was Kristine's journal.
"Kristine," She cried as she swung her arms around Kristine in a warming clench. Jennifer too come in and squeezed both of her sisters in her arms.
"You’ll be fine," Isabelle assumed as she handed the journal to Kristine.
"Please Bella, she’ll be much more than fine," Jennifer joked.
"Thanks guys," Kristine muttered, "I am sure I’ll be back to normal in no time!"
But as Kristine said this, she could not help but wonder if she spoke the truth. Once again, she felt fine, but somehow Kristine knew she was in for a ride. By the time they arrived at the hospital it was one o'clock.
Kristine changed into a medical gown and lied down in the bed as they placed IV's and other needles in to her arms. She felt silly just sitting there as her family sat and watched her.
"Hello, I'm Dr. Peterson."
He was a short thin man with a large bulky nose and mustard brown eyes. He wore scrubs and white lab coat looking thing. Around his neck was a stethoscope and earphones for his iPhone. Kristine could tell he was sweet and gentle.
"Hello, Doctor," Kristine greeted.
Then Dr. Peterson went into great detail about her condition and how long her treatment would take. Then there was a knock on the door and James barged into the room.
"Where is she?" He asked.
"Here of course," Kristine answered.
He gave her a long heart warming hug and struggled to hold back his tears. The family played around and jested while she received her first dose of the chemo. Kristine had stage four leukemia, so she needed to take chemo for nine hours every two weeks for five months.
For those next five months every time Kristine was in the hospital the family would get together beside her hospital bed, playing games, talking, and telling stories and jokes. They would sing, laugh, and dance. To Kristine this meant everything. Her family was finally bonding together. She couldn't even remember the last time any one fought. At one point, about three months in to the chemotherapy, her family, including father, decided to play and old time favorite, Apples to Apples, the card game. Kristine had never seen her family laugh as much as they did then. The laughter echoed down the hall as they continued to kid and tease. Even her parents were getting along! The divorce papers were postponed!
Though Kristine enjoyed her family's jocundity, she was very uncomfortable. Her long golden curls had fallen out long ago, her stomach ached, she had nasty sores in her mouth, and she was continually sleeping due to the immense exhaustion.
Luckily, Kristine was the type of girl who cared about anything and everything, but herself. It was not until Kristine's chemotherapy was done that she hated her condition.
“Walter family can I see you outside? I'm so sorry, but Kristine did not react to the chemotherapy. I mean we could try it again, but with the time it takes, if it does not work then she may be in too bad of a state for us to help her,” Dr. Peterson proclaimed.
“Oh my God, Oh my God! What else can we do?”Marrie wept into James arms.
“Well, the other option is a bone marrow transplant. Bone marrow is the inside of the bone. In order to do the transplant we will need someone with the same HLA. The best people for this would be siblings, but before you commit to this, I must warn you it is extremely painful, and may not save your daughter.”
"I'm willing to be tested,"Josh volunteered.
He could not think of a world without his Kristine. Every time he looked in her eyes his heart swelled with warmth and his mind filled with bliss.
Kristine had never left his side and was always ready to sacrifice. He thought it was simply not right if he did not endure a little pain for her.
"Me too," Isabelle said.
Isabelle knew that Kristine meant everything to her family. She knew that no matter what Kristine put a smile on her face and that if she was to never see Kristine again, she could not handle it.
"Me three,"Jennifer exclaimed.
She was not thrilled for the pain, but she knew that Kristine would endure much more pain for her. Kristine made her family happy, and without her love it could fall apart.
"Well, that settles it let's go get the testing done.”
Josh ended up having the same HLA as Kristine and was willing to go through with the procedure. When Kristine heard what he was going to do for her she felt butterflies in her stomach and shook her head.
"What if something goes wrong," Kristine moaned on the day of the process, “Josh this is unreasonable, they can just try the chemo again."
"No way Kristine, I'll be fine and with luck so will you."
Kristine and Josh awoke the next day very sore and in a mammoth amount of pain. Josh's bed had been moved into the same room as Kristine's. The family sat around the beds and made marry conversation. At night Josh would read and Kristine would write in her journal. Days and weeks passed and Kristine and Josh were both doing very well, so well, they would soon be released from the hospital. Then things went down hill.
“Hello Kids,” Dr. Peterson greeted, “How do you two feel?"
"Hi Doc, I'm feeling great!"Josh shouted happily.
Dr. Peterson turned towards Kristine. “I'm very well, but doctor I have a rather irritating rash on my neck and chest,” She mumbled.
"May I have a look?"
After Dr. Peterson examined the rash, a sorrow face fell upon him, "I'm afraid that is Graph versus Host Disease."
"Is that bad” Josh questioned.
“Very. It happens after a bone marrow transplant. It begins by forming an abrasive rash on the skin. Then it soon spreads towards the internal organs. Basically, your immune system, Josh, is eating away hers," The doctor explained, "I'll go speak with your parents."
"It's just not meant to be, what a pity," Kristine said lamely.
"A PITY! A PITY! Kristine, I'm killing you,"Josh bellowed.
"Are you kidding I'm fine!" Kristine assured.
But what Kristine said was anything but true. As she spoke the disease was spreading towards her heart, and little did she know, she had scarce time to live. Two days passed and Kristine had grown frail, ill, pale, and fragile.
Her eyes had blue bags around them and her breathing was slow. That night she sighed, closed her journal and gazed over at the snoring Josh. Even in her state she could not help but laugh at Josh's funny snoring.
Doctor Peterson then walked in, "Hello."
"Hi," Kristine grumbled, "Doctor, I have a very large favor to ask you." She handed the journal to him.
"My family must see this. It means a lot to me. I'm ready to go now, far away. Thank-you for all you've done."
Dr. Peterson, knowing that her passing was coming, nodded his head and walked out the door. Kristine took in one last deep breath and closed her eyes.
"I'm so sorry, she wanted you to have this," Dr. Peterson noted as he handed the journal to
Marrie flipped through the pages and came to one that made her burst into tears. She silently handed it off to James who read aloud, "Dear loving and amazing family, I'm so sorry it had to be this way, it was my time to go. There are a few things I must ask of you and I truly hope you all can help me with them. The first is, in this journal is my first and last novel. I would like this to be published. I've worked very hard on it, and with some luck it may become a success. It is called The Road Long Before Heaven.
"The second is, Josh, no matter what it is not your fault. I love you and I know that you will realize that you had no part in my death. Do you remember the lecture you gave me when I over heard Mom and Dad talking about their divorce? Well, the same principal is applied here. Without you I would have died long ago.
"Finally, love each other as I loved each and every one of you. Mom, Dad, please give it another try. If you decide that you are meant to split then there is nothing anyone can do, but please, for me, try to love each other once again.
“Isabelle, Jennifer, you were great role models and older sisters. I love you both with all my heart.
“Josh, thanks so much for always being there. I love you all and I hope you all adore each other.
"With lots of love,
"Kristine Emma Walters," James finished with tears vigorously falling from his beet red eyes.
Thirteen years Later
"Congratulations, it's a girl!" The nurse said.
"And I know just what we’ll name her,"Josh said exclaimed, gazing into his wife's eyes, “Kristine.”
The Road Long Before Heaven won a Newbery Medal and the Walters family was as happy as ever, with many new additions.
A road is like a life; you chose its path.