Sneaking Away – Part Two
We were eleven and I loved her. I didn’t care what my friends said, or when they made kissy faces at us during recess when we held hands. She was Maisee Green and I was going to marry her one day.
She was smart and pretty and always wore a daisy barrette in her hair. She taught me to play rummy in her tree house and she listened when I talked about the Yankees. We gathered caterpillars for the birds building a nest in my front yard and did our homework together after school. Maisee believed in magic and faeries and we used to run through the woods searching for them. I would follow behind her watching her hair fly, the daisy bouncing there. My heart was not too young to know love.
One day while we were playing tag in my backyard on a hot summer day, she kissed me. Right on the lips with rosy cheeks and a smile in her big brown eyes. She stole the breath from my lungs. My mouth hung open, my brain unable to process the sheer joy. And then she said ‘Tag! You’re it!” slapped my shoulder and took off running. I stood there in the grass, frozen by awe for only a moment before I went after her.
I found her in our backyard by the fence doubled over, coughing viciously. I ran to her and patted her back like I’d seen my mother do to my baby brother after his bottles. But her cough grew only more ragged. Every time she inhaled, it was sharp and wheezing. Maisee looked up at me, her eyes watery and panicked before they rolled back and she collapsed. I cried for my parents as I tried to drag her lifeless body toward the house. I wasn’t strong enough.
My father appeared after I had screamed my throat raw. He scooped Maisee up and we all drove to the hospital. I held her hand the whole way watching her chest rise and fall. When we got there, some doctors lifted her onto a stretcher and wheeled her into the emergency room. I looked up at the adults. Everyone could lift Maisee. Everyone else could help her but me.
My mother left my father, my brother and I to go call Maisee’s parents. She told me not to leave my dad and I nodded. The doctors told me to let go of Maisee’s hand so they could fix her. I didn’t want to, but I nodded.
My dad held my brother in one hand and furiously rubbed his forehead with the other. The doctors swarmed around Maisee. They brought big machines close to her and shouted at each other. When my brother started to cry, the doctors told my father to leave, but they forgot about me. I was small and easy to overlook so I stood in the corner just watching.
Maisee’s whole body began to shake and they rolled her on to her side. Her daisy clip slipped from her hair and clattered to the tile. I snatched it up quickly, knowing she’d want it when she was better.
“It’s okay, Maisee.” I whispered and she went limp again.
They lifted her shirt and cut into her side. I wanted to look away, but I couldn’t. I was afraid that if I did something terrible would happen. They shoved a tube into her and it filled with red before it sprayed out the other end and splattered me.
“Get this kid out of here!” one of them yelled when they saw me.
But they picked me up. They made me leave her. They dropped me at my parent’s feet in the waiting room.
My mother wept as she wiped the blood from my face. My father scolded me for not following him in the angriest voice I’d ever hear him use. But I just sat with Maisee’s clip in my hand and nodded…
previous: Sneaking Away – Part One
more by NOELLE CURRIE
photograph by Brandon Couch