"Higher, Reid! I have to get a
better view of the sky!"
Reid Garwin, nearly eleven-years-old, pushed himself as high as he could go with his eight-year-old sister on his shoulders. As he was nearly on his toes, there wasn't much further he could go.
Samantha Garwin giggled as her big brother hoisted her into the sky. Her white hair shone in the sunlight, and happiness was apparent in her face as she grinned to the sun. Reid knew that she shouldn't be outside for too long, but he promised her that he would help get a better look at the sky, and so he did.
Sam bent her head, her long hair tumbling into her face as she looked down at her brother. She bent over, kissing Reid's nose.
"Thank you," she said simply. That was all she needed to say. "Thank you." Those words made Reid's heart swell, and he knelt down on the ground so she would be able to climb down. Even at eight, Sam was still too weak and small. Reid looked down at his little sister. Outside, in their yard, Sam looked like a typical, if small, little girl. Her pale, colorless hair hung low on her back in the light flaxen hair that most children have. Part of it was held back with a pale pink barrette that matched her shirt, and she wore a pair of blue jeans for resistance to the wear and tear of a child's everyday life. Inside, though, in her room, one could see Sam for the sick little girl that she was. Machined lined her ballerina-pink walls, and her bright pink bed's canopy had been ripped down to make room for the IV that Sam sometimes had to be plugged into for days at a time. The floor was padded for her falls, and every sharp edge had been softened.
Reid let Sam swing her hands between them as they walked inside. As long as it was just her, he would let her do anything that she wanted. Sam was the most important thing in his life. When he was three, and Sam had just been born, the doctors had told his mom that she wouldn't survive the night. Reid didn't remember anything, but he did remember when he was younger, everything was filled with tension as Sam survived night after night, and hope on every birthday that she had. Each year, though, the doctors told his parents that it wasn't likely she would have another birthday. Sooner or later, Reid knew, they would be right.
Sam smiled all the way back inside. Reid was always fascinated by the sheer will that his little sister had. He couldn't remember a time when he saw her frowning in frustration at being so sick. He couldn't remember her ever being angry that her insides hurt her sometimes. He never, once, saw her cry. Sam let go of their hands, running in front of him as they came in view of their mother. Sam looked back once, grinning widely, expectantly, at Reid, and then turned, hurtling herself into their mom's waiting arms.
"How are you feeling, Sam?" their mom asked while smiling down at her precious daughter. Sam smiled widely.
"Reid helped me see the sky in the best way I had ever seen it!" she exclaimed, turning to show pure gratitude to Reid. "It's exactly the way the sky should be every day. It's exactly the kind of sky I never want to forget," she said.
Reid frowned at those words, as did his mother, but the little girl seemed nonplussed by everything around her; she seemed to only see the happiness in the world. She seemed to only see the beauty.
Sam laughed as she wiggled out of her mother's arms and ran away. Her mother silently sucked in some air, and Reid knew that she was praying that Sam didn't fall. He knew she was doing the exact same thing that he did every time he saw Sam running around like this.
Sam turned back to Reid, and ran back to his open hands. Grasping them, Sam started to spin her and her brother round and round in circles, screaming and laughing. When she tried to let go, Reid held on tighter, quickly stopping the spinning, and gripping Sam before she could fall. Sam pouted, but kissed her brother's nose in thanks for not letter her fall.
"Thank you," she said simply, just what she always needed to say. "Thank you." Reid had always thought it strangely comforting how simple Sam could be. She brought everything down to the basics, and didn't live by the same rules everyone else had. She was polite to everyone, mad at no one, and if anyone needed help, she'd do all that she could to help them.
Later that afternoon, Tyler, Caleb, and Pogue showed up, running through the back door, laughing and panting, obviously just having raced to Reid and Sam's house. Reid smiled in greeting, and the four boys all sat down on the big couch in Reid's living room.
"How's Sam today?" Caleb asked, always the responsible one. His face, more serious than any eleven-year-olds could be, become sober until Reid smiled.
"Today was a really good day," he said happily. Pogue and Tyler both also smiled at that reassurance, and Reid turned on the TV, looking for something that the boys would want to watch. The young blond frowned and leaned back into the couch when he couldn't find anything that all four boys would want to watch.
"Don't worry 'bout it, Reid," his best friend, Tyler said.
Reid shrugged. "I just don't like not being able to get everyone to agree," he said quietly.
Caleb smiled. "You're just the nicest guy, Reid," he said, slightly teasingly. "We know that you don't like us fighting."
TWO YEARS LATER
Reid, now thirteen, was staring at his ten-year-old sister in panic. He had taken Sam out, by her request, to their tree house that Sam had insisted their father make for her when she was six. As they were climbing, her first and him behind her in case she slipped, one of the ladder rungs snapped, and Sam had fallen. It had only been a few feet, but it seemed to have shattered Sam's legs and, from what Reid could tell from Sam's experiences, perhaps an arm, too. Sam had cried out once in pain, and Reid could see the pain evident on her face, but then she had passed out, and it was obvious to Reid that the pain his little sister was in was far beyond his imagining.
Reid picked Sam up carefully, making sure not to jostle her, and slowly made his way out of the woods. While he was walking, though, he tripped over a tree root, falling to the ground. In order not to hurt Sam more, though, Reid twisted his body so that he landed only on his hands, and Sam was still secure in the rest of his arms. Four more times, Reid fell, damaging and bloodying his hands more and more until he was almost blind with the pain in his hands. When they were almost to their house, Reid fell a sixth time, this time right on a large piece of broken glass, most likely a jagged window pane, and both hands were opened up far beyond repair, slicing through the muscles and nearly shattering the few bones that weren't broken already.
When Reid finally made it into his house, he immediately called for an ambulance, and it was only when the EMTs had Sam securely in the back of the ambulance that Reid allowed himself to pass out from despair, stress, and blinding pain.
Reid woke up in the hospital, Caleb, Tyler, and Pogue all asleep around him in various, uncomfortable-looking positions. He looked down at his hands, still utterly painful, and saw them heavily bandaged and casted. Reid knew that quite a few of his fingers and bones were broken, but he wasn't sure how many, or what the full damage to his hands had been.
A nurse walked into the room, smiled when she saw Reid awake, and took his vitals. She then left, saying that she would get his doctor for him.
When Reid saw the smiling face of his childhood doctor flowed by a stately woman in a white coat, he was reassured and discouraged at the same time.
"Reid, you gave us quite the shock," his doctor said smiling. Reid shrugged.
"How's Sam?" he asked immediately. The doctor laughed lightly.
"Actually, today, in better shape than you are, you man. We had you in surgery for nearly a day, trying to fix your hands. We're still not positive your hands will ever fully heal again."
Reid gulped, but nodded. "But how's Sam? Where is she? Can I see her? Can she see me?"
The doctor shook his head in disbelief. He just told a thirteen-year-old boy that he may never be able to fully use his hands again, and the only thing that he could say was that he wanted to see his chronically-ill younger sister. Reid Garwin never ceased to amaze him.
"Sam's fine. Se had a few minor breaks, but we patched her up. A few weeks, and she'll be able to leave her bed again. You, on the other hand, we need to talk about."
Reid huffed, and leaned back, looking down at the heavy white bandaging that made up his hands right now.
"That's what I've been trying to tell you, Reid," he said. "I've already spoken to your parents, but they had to return to work and your home to care for you sister, but they gave me permission to talk to you one-on-one about your circumstance. I must say, your story is quite inspiring. Anyway, back to your hands. We worked in surgery to try to reconstruct your hands, because when you were brought in, we could barely tell that they were hands. Every bone was broken, almost every muscle on every join torn through, and there was hardly any skin left on either hand. If you recover, even fully, you will always have some terrible scars on your hands."
Reid shrugged. "As long as Sam's okay," he repeated.
The doctor nodded. "She'll be fine for now," he firmly stated. "She's completely stable right now."
Reid nodded, thanking the doctor as he left the young boy in his hospital bed. Reid fell into an uneasy sleep, but he was asleep.
When he woke up, not knowing how much later it was, Sam was sitting by his bed in her wheelchair the Garwins kept for when she couldn't walk. She was smiling, but both of her legs were in casts, and her left arm in a bright pink cast that had already been signed by Caleb, Tyler, and Pogue, with a lot of hearts, rainbows, smiles, stars, and other designs that Reid's best friends knew from experience that Sam liked on her casts. When Reid opened his eyes, Sam grinned, and pushed her chair as close to the bed as she could. She told Reid to move over, and she pulled herself into the hospital bed with him, snuggling into his side like she always did when she had been hurt, and finally got home. She would curl up with her big brother, and fall asleep.
"Thank you," Sam said simply. "Thank you," and Reid completely forgot about the damage to his hands.
"I would do anything for you, Sam. You're the most important thing in my life," Reid said as Sam grinned serenely, and snuggled closer to her big brother. Reid wrapped his arms around his tiny sister, despite the intense pain from his hands and wrists, and the happy siblings fell asleep together.
When Reid was released from the
hospital, days later, the casts had been removed, but his hands were
still heavily and thickly wrapped and protected. Reid was annoyed by
the wraps, but only for the fact that they majorly hindered his
ability to help out Sam.
Sam took this time to use the mobility of her hands and her wheelchair to, for the first time, take care of her brother instead of the other way around. She doted on Reid, reading to him while he rested in his bed, getting him things from the kitchen or around his room. Sam was loving this, and Reid was content in the fact that, even though he couldn't do anything, he was still making the most important person in his life happy.
Two months later, when Reid's doctor carefully peeled away the bandages, everyone present cringed at his mangled, scarred hands. They still maintained the right shape, and Reid could bend and use his fingers, but the hands were horribly scarred and painful to look at.
That night, Sam snuck into Reid's look when it was very late, and shook him awake.
"Reid," she whispered. "You have to wake up now."
Reid jolted awake, looking intently at Sam, trying to figure out what was wrong. Sam smiled.
"No, there's nothing wrong, I just needed you awake."
"Why?" Reid asked, confused.
Sam pulled out the gift that she was holding behind her back, and Reid stared at her confusedly.
"Go on, open it!" Sam said excitedly. Reid, slightly fumbling with his newly-healed hands, finally unwrapped a small box where a pair of fingerless black gloves were laying. Sam pulled them out of the box, and turned them over to the palms.
There, in black thread that was barely discernable, was the word Sam carefully hand-stitched into each palm.
"You saved me, Reid, too many times to count," said the tiny ten-year-old, sounding much older than her years. "I know that I'm not going to be around forever, but I wanted to tell you thank you for everything that you've ever done for me. Thank you," she said as she slid the gloves over her brother's scarred hands, effectively hiding the damage that Reid had caused just to protect his little sister. "Thank you."
Reid stared at the black gloves, and then back up at his small, pale sister, and pulled her into his arms. Sam fell asleep with her brother again that night, and the two were happy.
TWO YEARS LATER
Fifteen-year-old Reid Garwin stood by his twelve-year-old sister's bed. She was losing the battle, and everyone knew it. Sam was paler than she had ever been in her life, and was barely breathing as she stared up at Reid. She smiled, and grabbed Reid's gloved hand. She pulled off the glove, and kissed every scar on the mangled hand. Both brother and sister remembered the day when Reid had sacrificed his own hands to protect his already-hurt little sister, and though neither had spoken about it since Sam had given him his gloves to effectively hide his scars, both knew that that day had been vital in cementing the impenetrable bond that the siblings had always had.
Reid smiled down at Sam, and knelt down by the bed. He was still pale, as he had always been, but never to the degree that Sam was, the colorless pallor that gave away that she was a sick young girl. He had grown even taller in puberty, and how had strong, broad shoulders from the physical activity he and his friends went through. Sam held his hands, trying to find her breath.
"Reid, I'm dying," Sam said simply. She had always said things more simply than anyone else. "Ever since I was born, I've been cheating death, and it's finally catching me. I ran away pretty far from it though, didn't I? I mean, twelve years is pretty long to run away from death, right?"
Reid, alone with his sister who
knew him better than anyone else, let the tears slip down his cheek.
"Sam, you can't leave me alone. You can beat this. You've
beaten everything else. You can beat this."
"I never would have survived it this long if it hadn't been for you," Sam continued despite Reid. "Thank you," she said. "Thank you."
Reid cried as Sam kissed his hand again, and she moved over, her big brother laying down and holding her protectively in his arms. He kissed her cheek, and said his goodbye, and Sam fell asleep on her brother's chest to the rhythmic breathing, and Reid listened and felt intently to the soft, struggling little rising and falling of Sam's chest, until it quietly stopped. Reid cried into the body of his little sister, and that was how his parents found him- crying while holding the body of his sister.
Two days later, when Sam was buried, Reid stood with Caleb, Pogue, and his best friend Tyler standing around him while his parents held onto each other. Reid stared at the small pink coffin as it was lowered into the ground, and he felt the smooth lines of Sam's name in the gloves where she had hand-stitched her name for just this day, when she wouldn't be around anymore, but when Reid would want to feel something from her.
Every single day after that, without fail, Reid wore those same black fingerless gloves, and only he knew the reason why. None of the other Sons knew that his precious little sister had given him those gloves, or that she had painstakingly stitched her name into the gloves. Not even Reid, who wore and memorized every part of those gloves, didn't realize until a year after her death, that there was something microscopically stitched underneath Sam's name.
Reid squinted, and let a single tear fall in his economics class as he read the two words that were stitched int eh smallest letters Reid had ever seen, in a surprising show of skill from a then-ten-year-old.