Who says that you deserve this, and what kind of god would serve this?
* * *
“You know, you should really get a frame for that.” Wyatt says as I fling a blonde lock away from my face, my sea-colored eyes being caught off guard as the paper that contained photographic color on one side, and a blank image on the other, moved from its original place.
I rotate around to see the snapshot of my sister and me flailing around with the wind, due to the fact that our next customer had pushed the door a little too hard, and the wind continued to rush in like kindergarteners going to recess.
“I know,” I snarl lowly in an “I-know-he’s-right” sort of way and rush through the gate that led in and out towards the counter; I rush passed the open door to where the treasured photo lay flat on its back, sinking into the sand.
In the picture, we wore our favorite dresses: mine being olive green, hers being white. We had our arms wrapped around each other and we contentedly stood in front of our favorite place in the world: “our” rainforest in Hawaii. The picture brought such glee, but a wave of envy always overcame me when I even peeked at it: Cassie was abnormally gorgeous. Her beautiful dirty blonde hair and aqua eyes that matched mine were somewhat radiant, when mine were just normal. That was definitely one thing that we didn’t share.
Even as children we shared everything. If I had a toy, she had the same one of a different color. If I was sick, she’d be sick too. And, this being more recently, if I went out for a sport or club, she’d do the same one. For example: one time I joined the school club called “Dream” --and she joined too. It was a program for anybody and everybody that had anything to say to younger students. “Dream“ was about telling them motivational words and quotes that reinforced them being kinder to themselves and others. Surprisingly enough however, it never got bothersome because when I thought about it: she was just another player in the game, just another voice waiting to be heard, and just another remedy trying to cure the “sickness” and discontent of life.
I pick it up, look at it briefly, and then shuffle my Converses inside. Grasping the cold pipe-like handle I calm the door as if it were a lion and I was its tamer, grab another piece of tape from the lonely dispenser on the top shelf and then slam it down onto the countertop’s corner in an area I could call mine and moved on to serving my next fruity drink.
* * *
“Hey Mom, hey Dad,” I called out and walked through the hallway to my room.
Shutting the white door behind me, I turn to see two different colored beds, the white window curtains flowing freely along with the sea’s breeze, and a small pink-topped container that carried the rubber bands for hair in it. “Cass?” I drop my messenger bag and examine the trail of colorful ponytail rings, all leading to a closed door that uncovered the bathroom.
I knock three times, and by the fourth time, a voice chokes out. I twist the knob and see my sister hanging over the toilet like a leaf about to fall, drop, be non-existent and nonmoving.
“Cassie!” I exclaimed and ran to her, “what’s wrong? Did you eat something bad? Or did one of your friends get you sick?” I put a concerned hand to the small of her back.
“All I had was that wheat bread you brought home yesterday, and then a few minutes later I got really nauseas like I was going to throw up, so I tied my hair back just in case, and then I did.” she perks her head up, allowing me to notice that tears were streaming from her eyes, sweat pouring from her entire face, and that she was as green as Kermit the Frog.
I grimaced and pursed my lips in discomfort for her and walked out of the room after she’d told me to do so. I waited thirty minutes on my bed until she came out from the bathroom with a pasty looking complexion, deep frown and swollen eyes.
“Do you feel any better now?” I question, seeing her color returning, and looking more of something a human would display, rather than the green of an alien.
“Maybe a little,” she sniffles and gracelessly sits next to me, looking weak and fragile, as if blowing air on her would crack her body, shatter it to a million pieces. But instead, away from my fantasies, she throws her limp body back to lie down.
“Dinner!” our mom bellows clearly.
“Do you want to eat Cass?” I ask. She shakes her head and closes her eyes to go to sleep, most likely until tomorrow when she’d wake to the sun shining into her eyes, that resulting in her feeling copiously healthy.
After I went into our beige-walled kitchen with the same wooden cabinets I’d always encouraged people to look at, and the same simple, yet exciting white tile, I explained to my parents what was wrong with Cassie--they just told me to not worry and then my mom had scheduled a doctor’s appointment that I’d be accompanying her to the following day.
* * *
“Hey,” I say to Wyatt.
He turns around from wiping off the orange counter and looks into my hazel eyes with his dark blue ones. “Is everything okay?” he asks thoughtfully.
I turn around to see my spring green car parked with Cassie in it: who was slowly dozing off, not feeling better to the bright of the sun; or any medication for that matter. Brushing my bangs out from my face, I twist my body back to be parallel with his, “I hope so. Cassie was sick yesterday and my mom wanted to me to take her to the doctor to see if she had some summer sickness or something,” he nodded and told me not to worry, forcing his eyes deeper and deeper into mine as he spoke the words, making my body shiver. “But I do worry, she had the fresh bread on Monday and she got sick yesterday, it doesn’t make sense. We get fresh, high quality foods every three days!” I cry and examine the bowl of fruits on the counter, waiting for them to suddenly turn green or explode.
He chuckles at my choice of adjectives and waves goodbye, leaving our chained eyes to dissipate in thin air as I checked my watch, seeing the appointment was in five minutes.
I amble to my car, thinking intently about Wyatt, to the point where I could probably identify, verbosely, every characteristic to him, inside and out. We’ve been friends since first grade when he told me my drawing of the elephant I named “Phanny”, was pretty. And ever since then, which felt like forever, I’d had this strong, warm, safe feeling whenever I was around him. Basically, I liked him, but just a little, sort of. Focusing back on the important things, I cocked my head to the side, ducked and shoved the keys into the slot, hearing as the engine roars quietly: it was no lion or tiger; it was more of a kitten.
“Remedy,” Cassie slowly says, he voice sounding as if someone punched her in the gut.
I jump a little, noticing how hard I dove into the deepest layers of my subconscious, “I’m right here, Cass.” I say turn the corner into the doctor’s office as slowly as possible, trying to avoid my sister feeling the sensation to vomit again.
Killing the purr, I open my door, hastily walk to Cassie’s and assist her until we got into the waiting room. We sat for fifteen short minutes until a nurse with a gentle blue matching outfit calls Cassie’s name. I follow her back and patiently kill time by reading a magazine in the doctor’s office as she played twenty questions with Cassie until making her dismissal.
Peering at Cassie, I had noticed something different, her shining features were somewhat dull, and she started to look sickly again.
“Hello hello!” a short Japanese man walks in, interrupting my thoughts, and smiles towards me and Cassie. “I’m Doctor Gifu.” he shakes our hands and begins taking her medical history, then continues probing, and testing her. An hour passed of nothing to do until Doctor Gifu came back in with the same smile, “Well, Miss Parker, it appears that you just have some type of virus. Nothing to worry about, it will pass in a few days.” he says and walks us out.
* * *
“…it will pass in a few days…” but it didn’t. Cassie was vomiting, getting major skin rashes, and losing more weight than a bulimic person does.
We had taken her to multiple doctors, but now…it’s to the point where she can hardly get out of bed due to her major fatigue that was taking over her body. At times I’d think she’d be faking it and that she was being a hypochondriac, but today, we’d find out the real answer. We were going to take her to the best gastroenterologist in all of Florida.
* * *
“Hello Mrs. Parker, Mr. Parker, and…” she stops at me.
“Remedy,” I say and shake her hand as she nods.
“So, let me see, what symptoms are you having my dear?” she puts her glasses on and holds up a clipboard.
The gastroenterologist whose name I had missed had curly dark hair, dark eyes to match, and small, undeveloped wrinkles around her mouth. She purses her mouth as she listens to Cassie, concentrating so hard that I was afraid she’d shoot lasers out of her pupils.
“Vomiting, other stomach problems, fatigue, oh, I got these strange skin rashes that itched very much, and that’s about it.” Cassie says and uncomfortably shifts on the loud paper.
“I see you’ve lost a significant amount of weight too, someone about five foot three should be more than you look,” she inscribes something down on the board. Looking up, she flinches slightly to knock a piece of dark brown hair away from her glasses and sighs deeply, “Mr. and Mrs. Parker, Cassie, your symptoms are consistent with Celiac Disease,” she says and explains that celiac disease is a disease that cannot break down anything with gluten, such as wheat, rye and barley. “This means that every time she’s consumed anything with gluten her body is essentially attacking itself. Now, I’m going to run a few tests to see how damaged the villi of the small intestine is. That’s where the problems occur.” she stands and Cassie and my parents follow her looking scared and unprepared to deal with this news.
“Mom,” I shuddered, “I’m going to go home,” she nods and puts a hand lightly to my shoulder.
* * *
“Wyatt?” I call out in the bland orange room. I look around throughout the closed store until I hear rattling in the back room. Moving towards it, I wiped the almost tears from my eyes and found the source of the noise, “Wyatt?” I question as he has a suitcase next to him and a sketchpad in his lap with paints and pieces of styrofoam next to him.
He sat in the storage room, munching on a small piece of bread, just calmly sitting. “Remedy,” his eyes got wide and he set his belongings on the floor. “What are you doing here?” he asks, smiling wryly.
The frown on my face grew larger as he asked if he did something wrong. “Are you leaving?”
“Well…” he sighs and offers me a chair, sitting down on it lightly, he responds, “I got accepted into this great art program called Nakaya. It’s for very advanced students in art; I get to go all around the world, Rem!” he puts his hands on my shoulders and his grin developed wider, and he spews... “I was so happy when I got accepted. I didn’t even enroll to be in it, my parents told me that I should’ve applied, but I was too nervous that I would get denied, but remember that one night how Willow High School hosted an art festival?” he questions and I nod, thinking back to when it was, remembering the amazing sculpture Wyatt had created. A scene of a fish, coral, starfish, the ocean waves, and even the fish’s bubbles. But it was no small phenomenon, it was a life-size piece. He continued, “Yeah, well, the main professor of Nakaya had been there for some reason, and he saw my sculpture and I guess he liked it a lot! And when I got home to tell my parents they already knew and were more than happy to allow me to go on this trip, this could get me into something bigger!” he says with his last breath and takes moments to gasp for air.
“Cassie is sick. She could possibly…” I say, and both his excitement and smirk disappear.
“I’m sorry Rem, but I have something else to tell you, it’s good news.” I throw my head backwards and look at the ceiling, spotting the orange ceiling with the abbreviation FTJ on it. FTJ stands for the name of the juice bar, Fruit To Juice.
“Since I’m leaving I’d tell you to take care of the Fruit To Juice by yourself, BUT, I got two complementary tickets and I want you and Cassie to come.” he practically bounces.
“Wyatt, that’s too much, bring your family or someone important…” I reply.
“You are important, Rem. And so is Cassie, please ask. Please,” he sticks out his bottom lip, and I smile slightly, making my teeth show at his laughable facial gesture.
After Wyatt had told me the good news, I went home to find my answer. But when I opened the door, I only found two crying parents. They wouldn’t tell me what had happened with how much damage she had in her villi, and I could see they were desperate for some happiness. I explained to them what this meant, and they debated the answer. I told Cassie and she obliged with more than a smile. It was always one of Cassie’s and my ambitions to travel around the world.
Encouraged by Wyatt’s art scholarship, Cassie applied to address high school students as motivational speaker throughout the world through the National Celiac Foundation. Ever since she’d been diagnosed a month ago, her symptoms had weakened due to the fact that she was now on a gluten free diet, and she was going to a counselor to keep her healthy and happy, but one day when she came home, she didn’t do it peacefully. She bursted through the door with such happiness it could’ve made a new illness, she said that her counselor had found a letter in her mailbox from some National Celiac Disease place accepting Cassie’s application. They also granted one person, that unexpectedly being me, a complementary trip to Hawaii if she spoke to different groups of people about dealing with CD, and at the end of the summer, we’d be going to Hawaii together.
* * *
A few months passed of Cassie’s new gluten-free diet, which led her to be more educated, tolerant and patient with her disease. That also led to our parent’s inspiration to say yes. I, however, was still more than worrisome about the matter at hand. I never knew when her last breath could be.
“Here’s the schedule for where and when we will be at the listed places,” Wyatt generously hands a pamphlet to my parents.
“Excited?” he asks and smiles towards me.
“Very much s-“ I rotate away from him to see my mom and dad with sad but also whimsical expressions on. “One sec,” I say and advance towards them.
“Oh honey,” my mom hugs me, “Please watch for bugs, and take care of your sister. I know this will be hard for you, but you’ll get through it alright?” she whispers, as I felt tears falling innocently onto my shoulder. “We’ll meet you next month,”
And with that, she pulls away, kisses my forehead, brushes a stray hair behind my ear, and spots Cassie, immediately changing her quality of paying attention.
“Remedy,” my dad speaks from behind me. I turn on my toes to face him, “Please take care of Cassie,” he adds dolefully.
“Of course,” I reply slowly with a confused expression and play with my dark scarf, “It’s not like anything is going to happen to us, dad. It never does,” I believed and then hug him goodbye.
I walked back to my suitcase and other baggage to find Cassie and Wyatt waiting patiently for me. I followed close behind until reaching our seats on the plane that had seats facing towards ours, which were apparently assigned to two squealing, tan girls that kept to themselves the whole way there.
* * *
The remedy is the experience…
“Um…hello students of Shikoku!” Cassie says and waits for the translator to interpret.
I sat behind Cassie in an uncomfortable bamboo chair, seeing as the Japanese boys and girls smile and focus more intently as Cassie’s speech went on, and by the time the speech ended, students came up to her, hugging her, thanking her and giving her kind words of comfort. She looked so blissful, which put a smile on my face.
After her speech, we met Wyatt in the hotel and went to a nice Japanese restaurant where we got sushi, and afterward, Cassie went back to the hotel to relax, while Wyatt and I went for a walk.
“So, what did you sculpt today?” I ask and brush down my blue sundress.
“Well, I went to an elementary school, and they didn’t want to have me sculpt, but just paint a huge mural of a panda bear. Today I was just doing a rough draft with pencil on the wall.” he says as a cool breeze comes by.
Shivering slightly, I hastily walk up the small, sudden bridge and lean up against it.
“Are you cold?” he asks and I do less than a nod.
He wraps his arms around me and I twist away from the water that flowed under the bridge to face him. His beautiful eyes held mine like a mother to its new baby until I pulled away strangely and said that we should go back to the hotel.
* * *
This happiness in Cassie continued to spread, and not only to her. The students were thinking more positively, as I was too.
Maybe Cassie getting this disease wasn’t so bad, I think to myself and put on X on London, hold up the map with a small picture on it and place the paper next to the actual thing.
“It’s amazing!” I’m mesmerized by the picture of the Sydney Opera House and the real thing that shined in front of me.
Sydney was absolutely gorgeous. The city, the schools, the wildlife and even the people looked friendly and welcoming as we walked out and about throughout the metropolis, and even into the main entrance of the school.
“Hey Cass,” I whispered and leaned in her ear before she began to talk. “Is it okay if Wyatt and I walk around Sydney? And how are you feeling?”
“Of course sis, you don’t have to ask. Bye, have fun!” Cassie replies and smiles, neglecting to tell me the answer to my question.
“No murals to paint today?” I chuckle and he nods a cheerful no, “You know,” I start, “I can’t tell you how much I want to thank you for inviting us, I mean, spending ten days in different places of the world is way better than sitting at home boiling to death. And Cassie’s been ten times better-off since this happened, and so have I. We got to spend time together away from me taking care of her, and I’m happy I’ve been with you a lot.” I smile and swirl around in my olive green dress, the one I’d wore in the photo.
“There’s one way you can thank me,” he says and twitches as a bug lands on his shoulder. Shooing it away, he leans in towards me but his actions are cut off by a loud ringing.
“Sorry, it’s my phone,” I take it out, seeing it as an unknown number. “Hello?” I ask and hear beeping and shouting voices in the background.
“Remedy Parker?” the voice sounded low and grave like it had been doing an investigation and I was the victim.
“Yes?” I point to the phone and pull my shoulders up to let Wyatt know that the voice was unidentified.
“Please come to the Sydney hospital immediately, your sister Cassie is here.” and it clicks itself off.
My mouth gets wide and I drop my phone at the moment when time stopped and tears dropped from my eyes.
From that moment on, everything went in slow motion, nothing made sense, was this real? This couldn’t be. But still, I kept moving with Wyatt. He grabbed my hand after I muttered it out somehow and we rushed to the hospital. He was like the little kid, and I was his rag doll.
* * *
When it all amounts to nothing in the end…
“Cassie?!” I cried and hugged her limp looking body.
I looked up and through teary eyes I could see the life monitor was still in mountains but then it started to straighten and then it…
“Remedy…” Wyatt says and pulls me to him.
Arms were wrapped around me, I felt Wyatt’s arms hold me up, and then I felt four other limbs. It was my parents who were sobbing as much as I was.
I felt like the moment was never going to end, and the worst part was that I left, and she passed out, if I had been there… this is all my fault.
* * *
“Hey,” Wyatt says as I gape at the shimmering, dancing ocean waves. I gaze away from it and rub my hurting eyes, “This is all my fault.” I cough and fight back tears.
“No, no, Remedy,” his gentle tone turns sharp, “This could never be your fault. Don’t blame yourself, sometimes things happen for a reason. In fact, they always do. Yes, this situation is completely horrific, but it’s meant to make you stronger.” he says and I lean my heavy feeling head on his shoulder. “I have something for you,” he takes out a red-brown wooden square and hands it to me.
Sliding my head off his shoulder, I noticed what it was. “A picture frame?”
“Yeah, you always needed a frame for that picture.” his vibe became serene again, “You need to be like the picture frame. Right now, you’re like the picture. You’re weak and able to collapse, be torn to shreds by anything, but you need to make this situation your frame. You need to make this your strength.” I move the frame from my lap as he leans in, “Oh and, the only way to enjoy life is to be happy that you’re living it, okay?” he says benevolently and pulls me into a hug and kisses my forehead. I won’t worry my life away, I think to myself and close my eyes as the warm water falls again.
Who says that you deserve this, and what kind of god would serve this?