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Lily and Rose

Be Careful What You Wish For

By Catherine KenwellPublished about a year ago 12 min read
2
Lily and Rose
Photo by Adam Griffith on Unsplash

“It’s not fair!” Lily wailed, stomping in circles around the kitchen. “Why does she get a dog? I’ve been the one begging for a puppy like, forever!”

Lily’s mom and dad caught each other’s glances and paused for what seemed like an eternity before Diane, her mom, finally spoke.

“Lily, you need to understand,” Diane began explaining. “Rose isn’t getting a pet…the dog will be a service animal, trained to look after her and to alert us when she’s having a seizure. It has nothing to do with fairness.”

Lily pondered. “But it’s still her dog! What has she done to deserve a dog? She just sits in a wheelchair like a lump all day, she’s not even any fun anymore, and now she gets a dog. She can’t even play with a dog! I would play with a dog, and walk it, and feed it, and brush…”

“Stop!” Lily’s father Wayne shouted. “Just be quiet! Your sister’s stuck in a wheelchair for the rest of her life, and you’re feeling sorry for yourself because you can’t have a dog? What’s the matter with you? Go to your room…I don’t even want to look at you!”

Lily clomped up the stairs to her bedroom, the room she used to share with her sister Rose. Where there had been two twin beds flanking a bedside table, there was now just one, giving the room an off-balanced feeling. Rose’s One Direction and Harry Styles posters were still thumbtacked to the wall, but now her bright pink furry ottoman was piled high with Lily’s Babysitter’s Club books. Lily had taken over the space but left the posters as a reminder for when she missed her sister and their whispered bedtime conversations.

“I hate them,” Lily muttered to her 12-year-old self as she launched herself onto her bed. “I hate them all. They won’t let me have a dog, then stupid Rose gets a dog just because she’s in a stupid wheelchair…ever since Rose got hurt it’s been all about what Rose needs. Rose gets a new room with a TV in it…whatever Rose wants, Rose gets.”

Lily broke into angry sobs and muffled her face deeper into her pillow. “It isn’t fair,” she cried, “…and…I miss the old Rose. I want my big sister back.”

Rose’s new bedroom was Wayne’s former home office. Situated directly off the open-concept kitchen, it provided Rose with easier access to the main floor family room and the newly renovated accessible bathroom. After her diving accident eighteen months ago, Rose had made a remarkable recovery, but nerve and spine damage had confined her to a wheelchair. She was still susceptible to seizures resulting from her brain injury, but they were becoming less frequent as time went on. Despite the severity of her injuries, Rose remained upbeat—and her gang of teenage friends provided the emotional and sometimes physical support that kept the still-feisty 17-year-old active in her social circles.

The long-anticipated service dog finally arrived in the form of Blaze, an 18-month-old Golden Retriever who had been specifically trained to assist Rose. Blaze stayed alongside Rose’s wheelchair and slept beside her every night, attuned to her every move. The service dog organization ensured that Blaze would be able to detect whenever Rose was about to have a seizure, but he could also pick up and bring her items like magazines or her coverlet blanket.

With Blaze came strict rules. Lily was not allowed to touch Blaze while he was working, which was pretty much all the time. Blaze guarded Rose, and only with Rose’s permission could Lily briefly pat and touch the dog. Lily couldn’t walk the dog on her own; her parents were solely responsible for exercising and walking Blaze.

Lily looked up to her older sister and didn’t mind the rules most of the time. Often, Lily would wander into Rose’s room to keep her company, and despite their age difference, the girls shared sister-secrets and giggled together long after Lily should have been asleep in bed.

Now that Blaze was in Rose’s room, there was an added incentive to hang out. If Rose would fall asleep, Lily would curl up beside him on his bed. That was, until her parents told her to get up off the floor and go to her own bed.

One Sunday afternoon, Rose was resting in bed while Wayne and Diane were outside, cutting grass and pulling weeds. Lily was half-dozing in the living room, watching Coraline for the fifth or sixth time. Lily’s reverie was shattered by Blaze, who was suddenly at her side, barking and licking her face.

“What is it, boy? What’s the matter?”

He barked sharply and galloped towards Rose’s room. Lily jumped up and followed him.

“Oh…OH NO! MOM! DAD! Come quick, it’s Rose!” Lily screamed, alerting her parents to join her. “Rose, Rose? Are you ok?... You’re ok, shhh…” Lily stroked Rose’s forehead and held her hand. Rose was convulsing, her body roaring in seizure. Lily’s touch calmed her, but she was still trembling when Wayne and Diane entered the room. Blaze bounced from one paw to the other, quietly whining.

Lily lifted her gaze to her parents, crying as she spoke. “I don’t know what happened! Suddenly, Blaze was…Blaze was barking, and he made me follow him in here!”

Her Mom nudged her aside. “Rose, Rose honey, that’s it…it’s passing…you’re ok now…you had us scared for a minute,” she smiled, trying to reassure her daughter that the worst part was over.

Wayne’s eyes shifted from his daughter to Blaze, who appeared buoyantly happy. “Good boy, Blaze! Good boy! You’re awesome!”

Blaze was a good boy; he’d earned his keep by saving Rose from a more dangerous and lengthy seizure. As his reward, Diane cooked and cut up a steak for his dinner.

Lily slept in Rose’s room that night, and her parents didn’t mind. Blaze dozed on his bed, emitting a contented little snore every so often. As Lily was drifting off, Rose whispered, “Thank you for saving me, Lily. You came so fast. Just seeing your face, it… it made me feel like everything would be alright.

“I know things suck. For you too. I miss the things we used to do together. I love you the best.”

“Better than Blaze?” Lily questioned.

“Like the best sister I could ever want to have, Lil. The best.”

Lily’s soft smile remained as she slept. She awoke once during the night and listened to Rose’s relaxed breathing. She also reached over to pat Blaze on the top of his head. Blaze opened one eye, then dozed off again. “Good boy, Blaze,” she whispered.

###

Despite the extra effort of caring for her older sister, Lily was still earning straight As at school, and she’d been chosen as February’s Student of the Month. The family congratulated her at the dinner table the day she brought home the news, but she’d secretly wished for an ice-cream cake or a pizza night to celebrate.

When Lily made the girls’ volleyball team, she was elated. She’d started playing in gym class and discovered she loved it—and had a talent for it. Lily’s teacher was the coach, and she was selected without even trying out. She ran home after practice to share the exciting news.

“That’s great, honey, congratulations!” her Mom exclaimed. She paused. “But you’ll still be able to be with Rose until I get home from work though, right?”

Lily’s exuberance fell flat. “Yes, Mom. I’ll make sure I am,” she answered as she slipped from the room and into Rose’s.

“Congrats, kiddo, I’m so proud of you!” squealed Rose. “Wow, well done!”

Lily helped Rose position the coverlet over her chair. Even Blaze looked excited, probably because of Rose’s exclamation.

“Lily, I heard what Mom said. You don’t need to stop being excited about making the team when you’re around me. And for goodness sake, I’ll make sure you get to your practices and games. Sheesh, Mom worries too much.

“I can’t play anymore but I can be the proudest, loudest cheerleader sister the Tigers have ever seen!”

Lily loved Rose, and yes, she honestly believed that Rose didn’t deserve to spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair. Rose was the kind sister, the unflinchingly nice and loving one. And Lily…well, she often felt mean towards Rose, and she couldn’t articulate why she sometimes resented her. It was bad enough that her parents gave Rose all their attention, but Lily tried to avoid thinking about Blaze, because that’s when her love and guilt got all tangled up. Lily wanted Blaze as her own. And she knew that was wrong, because Blaze saved Rose’s life. It just didn’t seem like any kind of justice that Rose had Blaze to herself.

Summer arrived, and Lily was home most days. Her mother went back to work, and Lily was charged with caring for Rose whenever her parents were away. Wayne and Diane gave Lily a special allowance, one that paid a small daily stipend for her role. Lily and Rose became even closer that summer, and they spent hours together reading teen magazines, watching Netflix, and playing Scrabble. Lily had to help Rose with her Scrabble letters sometimes, not to figure out words, but to align the tiles on the board. She didn’t mind.

With both parents away from the house, Lily graduated to chief dog walker. Lily cherished those short jaunts, even if she and Blaze walked less than ten minutes at a time. She was careful to watch the time so that Rose wouldn’t be alone for too long.

###

Rose had fallen into a deep asleep. The sisters had shared a lunch of grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup, their common favorite, and the big meal had tired Rose. Lily cleaned up the dishes and returned to Rose’s room. She sat, just gazing at Rose, wishing she could get up and go for a walk with her. But it was too difficult to lift Rose out of bed and into her chair, then manage Rose and Blaze together on their walk.

“Blaze, what do you say we go for a walk?” Lily whispered. “C’mon, we can sneak out and get back before Rose even wakes up.”

Lily led Blaze out of Rose’s room and quietly leashed him. She stealthily shut the front door, and she and Blaze started trotting down the street. The sun was beaming but there was a cool breeze; it was a perfect day for some puppy playtime.

The pair detoured across the street and into the schoolyard. The sports field was empty, abandoned for the summer. As they jogged through the grass, Lily spotted a bright yellow tennis ball.

“Whoa, Blaze, look at this! Today was meant for playing fetch!”

Lily picked up the ball and launched it twenty feet or so. “Fetch, Blaze, fetch!”

Blaze happily darted back and forth, depositing the ball at Lily’s feet and then running out in anticipation of another toss. Lily started running as well, dodging from one area to another to keep Blaze entertained. An hour slipped by.

Suddenly, Blaze froze in his tracks. Panting, he stared in the direction of their house. Lily tried to regain his attention by throwing the ball again, but Blaze was determined. He bolted across the field towards the street, so fast that Lily had no hope of catching him.

“Blaze!” she shouted. “Blaze, wait!”

Lily ran as fast as she could, but she was still two meters behind him. Screaming in terror, she watched as Blaze vaulted across the sidewalk and into the street. A Purolator driver yelled out as he slammed on the brakes, at the very second Blaze flew in front of his truck.

It was one second too late.

Lily had almost caught Blaze in time.

Until the impact.

And Lily was pinned under the front wheels of the van.

Startled by the screeching and screams, neighbors ran from their houses. The Purolator driver jumped from his truck and bent onto his haunches, speaking to Lily, trying to calm her. The impact had crushed her legs, hips, and lower torso, but she was alive and able to murmur through the excruciating pain. “Blaze…” she whispered. “Rose…I’m…” Then she lost consciousness.

Someone called 911. Another neighbor called Diane at work.

“Oh, dear god, Lily?” Diane cried. “She’s alive? She’s alive. I’m on my way. Please, oh god no. Rose? Someone needs to check on Rose!”

“I’ll go right now,” the neighbor reassured Diane. “Don’t worry, just get here soon.”

All the while, Blaze stood guard and barked furiously at the front of the house, desperately trying to get someone’s—anyone’s—attention.

The neighbor strode towards the house, and as she neared the front door, Blaze bounded over and gently licked and nipped at her hands. He realized his call for help had been heard.

“Hello, Rose?” the neighbor called out as she opened the door. “Hello Rose, it’s Margaret from next door. Are you ok?”

Silence.

Margaret couldn’t believe the fracas outside hadn’t woken her. She tiptoed into Rose’s room. First, she noticed the twisted blanket. Blaze was pawing the side of the bed. Rose’s head was resting at an awkward angle at the edge of the mattress. Her mouth gaped open, and a rivulet of spittle had congealed on her bottom lip. Her hands were frozen in place, as if she’d been attempting to grab hold of something. Margaret gasped and tried to rouse her, shaking her gently and calling her name. She checked her breath, her pulse. It was too late. Rose was dead.

Diane’s Prius pulled up into her driveway. Opening the driver’s door, she rushed across the street towards the accident scene. When Margaret exited screaming from the house, Diane turned back to face her and suddenly felt like she’d been kicked in the gut.

Diane fell to her knees in shock, wailing a guttural sound that clawed its way from her belly and echoed through the street. Margaret attempted to console her and guided the distraught mother to the waiting ambulance.

###

The coroner’s report confirmed that Rose’s cause of death was a brain-injury related seizure. It had occurred swiftly and silently, and the report indicated it was unlikely she suffered.

Three weeks after the accident, on a warm early-September afternoon, Rose’s parents held a memorial service. With all of Rose’s friends and schoolmates in attendance, there was standing room only. Blaze lay by Rose’s coffin, despondent and still protective of his human charge. Lily, recovering in hospital, was unable to attend.

###

Five months later, Lily returned home.

Doctors and specialists continue to be impressed with her improvement but have agreed that she will never walk again. Despite the prognosis, Lily thinks that someday she’ll gain some movement below the waist. Her rehab specialists feel that is unlikely. They are certain she’ll be in a wheelchair for the rest of her life.

Lily rests her head on the chair’s headrest. Rose’s chair, it was. It’s Lily’s, now. Blaze is hers now, too.

fictionpsychological
2

About the Creator

Catherine Kenwell

I live with a broken brain and PTSD--but that doesn't stop me! I'm an author, artist, and qualified mediator who loves life's detours.

I co-authored NOT CANCELLED: Canadian Kindness in the Face of COVID-19. I also publish horror stories.

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  • Amy Hallabout a year ago

    I enjoyed reading this piece, well done! I subscribed to you! I am just starting out and would very much like if you have time to read some of my work and if you like it please subscribe! I look forward to reading more of your work!

  • Kat Thorneabout a year ago

    Oh wow, what a story. That ending was incredible!

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