What About the Presents?

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic
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Submitted: October 02, 2009

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Submitted: October 02, 2009

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But…what about the presents? The number on question whirling around my mind. Images of presents locked away in a closet waiting for Santa to come. But Santa would never come. Nobody was left to take those presents. So what would happen to them now? Locked away forever with dust twisted across the paper. Colorful edges dying, curling with age. A broken Christmas tree black as night clinging to the air with no needles attached tonight. Tragedy always seemed to strike at the happiest moments in life. It was a few weeks before Christmas when I received the news. She was only eight yet she was incredibly sick of pneumonia. It was the explanation why I hadn’t seen those twinkling eyes full of passion in those bleak hallways of the YMCA. After that news was heard, everything happened too fast. And then I found myself standing there. Where? I don’t know…I didn’t want to accepted where I was located at the time. That would mean it really happened. But in the end, no matter what lies I whispered to myself, I was there…waiting. It no longer mattered that tomorrow was Christmas Eve. I’d wait a thousand years in that spot just to see her again. At least, that was how I felt at the time, standing there. Thinking, waiting, reflecting…
“Hey, real fast guys, what are your name,” I announced over the cheerios shouts of other swimmers. Friday night Team Practice was always the happiest time of the week on the YMCA Swim Team. But things were different this time. All I could do was smile and hold all my excitement inside best as I could. Tonight, I had my own group. It was me in charge of the Minis (eight and unders). Before me stood my little group of about eight girls. Most of them are already bouncing all over the place while they try to stand in line.
The girls squealed their names to me on a frequency that my hearing couldn’t pick up. This meant nicknames for all of them. Noodle. Goggles. Girl. Ummm…soon it came to the final girl who stood there biting her bottom lips she stood there. She hesitated before words slowly drawn out of her mouth, “Michelle,” she whispered.
“Cool…ok well this is going to be fun, girls. Welcome to the B Team.”
What about the presents? I bet her parents traveled everywhere to give her the best Christmas ever since she’s been sick for so long. Lying alone in that hospital bed. Pink balloons floating around that room. Or maybe they were blue. She left that hospital before I could ever visit. Things that had seemed so important got in the way. Next week, I kept telling myself. Next week. Time started to pass, it was all a blur yet it all dragged on. My legs started to feel wobbly although I wasn’t sure if it was because I was tired or if it was because she was coming soon. I didn’t want to watch her come through those doors. It’d be the final thing that actually broke me down. I held on tight yet tears entered my eyes burning there, clinging to my eyelashes before dripping down my cheeks. Oh dear God, I couldn’t cry. No I couldn’t. Because I made her cry…
“Ready? On your marks…” I started to say pausing. Michelle was up on the block now. She leaned forward wrapping her tiny fingers under the block. “Get set…” Michelle looked as if she was actually going to plummet head first into the water. “CHEESE!”
“What?” Luckily, Michelle actually stood up looking over at me cocking her head to the side. At first, I laughed about tricking her but now I laughed because she looked adorable. Compared to the other girls, she was the sweetest and quietest. And looked like a little alien with her white YMCA cap, blue bubble goggles that ate her eyes and freckled spackled face. “Cheese? What?”
“Nothing, nothing,” I gasped through my laughter. “Ok. For real this time. Ready? On your marks…get set…go!”
SPLOSH!
Michelle tumbled face first off that block into the water. Oh crap. She didn’t even streamline; instead, she pulled a Superman and a bad one at that with bent arms. But probably the worst part were her legs. Bent and parted. She was Superman falling out of the sky not an arrow flying free from its quiver. This was a swimming catastrophe!
I raced over to the spot where she would climb out and helped her out of the pool. “Hey um Michelle, we need to talk about your dive,” I told her. This was awkward, normally, I was in Michelle’s place waiting for my coach to say something to me. People in the other lanes started to leave signaling the end of our practice time and this was a matter that could not wait with a swim meet being tomorrow. The clamor of the pool area faded to the near silence as if night. But I did my best to explain everything to Michelle using all that swim technical talk in Mini-World.
“I want to do it again,” said Michelle. She pulled her goggles off and looked over at that block. Tears streaked her face while her eyes were bright red. Shaking her head, Michelle moved toward the block even thought practice time was over. Carefully, she leaned over putting her hands against the block staring forward at the flags. “I can do this.” But she couldn’t.
SPLOSH!
SPLOSH!
SPLAT!
Each time she dove into the pool it seemed as if she were getting worse. Superman after Superman without the Streamline. Shaking my head, I had no idea what to do. Her dad came in there looking at his daughter before turning to me. “What’s going on here?”
“She wanted to keep practicing her dives.”
“She’s only six!” he snapped at me.
Oh crap. Oh crap. Oh crap. It may be eight and under but for the most part that meant the girls were seven and eight meaning they were ahead of Michelle. “She wanted to keep practicing her starts.” I swear! “I’m willing to stay afterwards and help her?” How could I not? A kid actually determined at that age to do something without parents forcing them to. Michelle was an inspiration to me. “We’ll have to go to the A Pool though because the A Team is in here next.”
“It’s ok. You can go home, I’ll talk to her,” said her dad. I lingered there before waving to him and Michelle before I ran out there embarrassed by everything that had happened in there. All I wanted to do was help. Once I looked over my shoulder to see a fiery passion twinkle in Michelle’s eyes while she spoke to her father about diving. Someday she would be a good swimmer…I just knew it.
What about the presents? Her parents were left behind to sit there staring at them. Even her brothers would look at them, all of them wondering what her reaction would’ve been. The expressions on her face as she tore away the wrapping paper….Music started to twist through the air. Here she came. Michelle Deasy was coming back to us all. Finally, I turned around to see the large doors open leading all those outside into the chapel that I had been standing in. A coffin was carried into the room by Michelle’s parents. Tears poured out of my eyes. Never before had I cried over somebody dying before to the point people always pointed out to me the fact that I was Spock-like. I never seemed to care. But Michelle changed my life in more ways that she could imagine. Somehow she gave me that small hope to me no matter how bad things got.
“You’re swimming now?” asked a seven year old Michelle Deasy. 
I looked up grinning at her. There was ferocious passion glimmering in her eyes by now. “Maybe next year,” I told her referring to the obnoxious sling that covered my arm and shoulder. “I just had surgery on my shoulder to make things better. It’s going to take awhile, but I’m coaching the B Team again. Ready for another fun year?”
“I’m on the A Team.”
“That’s amazing! Good luck with everything, I bet you’ll win a lot of races!” All I did was smile at her because I was extremely envious of the girls coaching the A Team. I wanted Michelle to be in my group but alas, I didn’t want to hold her back. “Isn’t your practice now? You should hurry.”
“I’ll still say hi,” she told me. And she wasn’t lying. Michelle never spoke to people. But she was willing to talk to a person like me because out of everybody else in the world. She loved me. She enjoyed my company. As much as a stretch it might sound, we were like sisters who somehow managed to never fight. I sat there watching her disappear into the pool area. That child was going to be an incredible swimmer someday soon. I just knew it.
But what about the presents? I stood there almost falling over just exhausted as I stared at Michelle’s coffin before everybody now.Close to a hundred people filled the pews and the area around them of the chapel. There was no more space to squeeze a person in. Everybody was sobbing. It was Michelle’s family. Michelle’s friends from school. Michelle’s neighborhood friends. Michelle’s soccer team and of course, the YMCA swim team. All of us came here. I had to accept where I was now. It was impossible not to. This was the church where Michelle’s funeral took place. For such a long time she had been sick of pneumonia until she was put on medicine. It was supposed to make her better. But that was what killed her.  Something in it attacked her liver. Even though they were able to find a liver transplant for her. By the time everything was done…it was too late. That little eight year old girl laid in her bed brain dead. It was the reason why she left the hospital before I could ever visit her. The reason why she left all of us. She touched all our hearts and now we were left to go our separate ways remembering her as best as we could…
Leaving the Y’s locker room was always the best part of practice. Finally, I could go home. Swimming, it just wasn’t the same. There was no way that I could ever make it back to where I was. Just before I turned to walk through the hallway I heard a little voice go, “Hi!” I turned to see Michelle standing there with passion sparkling in her eyes. Straight from soccer practice just to dive into the pool. How could I ever forget the time when she was six and struggled over and over again to have the perfect dive? I envied her for that passion, but I would have to search for it. If she could accomplish such a thing so could I.
“Hey Michelle, how are those dives?”
“Perfect. I made the A Team again.” Another year on the fastest team, she was going somewhere with her swimming. 
I just knew it…


© Copyright 2018 Alessandra Fireheart. All rights reserved.

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