Part I of this story was called [Jenny On the Side]* * *
I woke up with a start at the edge of a dream with silent screams until I could feel cold sweat dripping down my forehead and my spine. The room was quiet, peppered with the sound of children snoring, but not much else was going on. The wind had died down, so even from the height of this fourth floor children's ward, you could hear no whistling against the windows as usual and the tips of branches swayed only gently on occasion. It seemed everything was quieting down for the moon to rise and take center stage, spilling its soft glow over onto our bed covers, silver plating the metal IV stands, and rescuing the concrete floor from its ugly day dress of harshness and bland into a soft pattern of spots and shadows.
I focused on breathing deeply like Jenny had taught me, but my thoughts were so jumbled as I had dreamed about her. I had convinced her to become my sister so we could play together all the time. But when I took her outside to meet my friends and play jump rope, she had collapsed, grasping her heart, her face so pale, eyes closed, no matter how hard I shook her and called her name.
I turned to see Jenny lying safely in the bed next to mine, and when I concentrate, I could see her chest rising and falling under the covers just so slightly but evenly. I knew I just had a bad dream, probably because of what happened earlier that day.
Tommy from across the hall had been released in the morning, and when nurse Yang had taken him around to say goodbye, I was sitting next to Jenny playing cards. She looked up at him, recognizing the packed up bundle nurse Yang was holding, and the plain clothes Tommy was wearing, and her face turned dark like the once blue summer sky covered by rain clouds minutes before the storm. I imagined she was going to cry next, but she smiled instead. She walked up and punched Tommy lightly on the arm, and said:
"Hey, now we could finally have some peace around here. No more Tommy trucks coming through, huh?!"
Tommy had been a very talkative eight year old, and he snored so unabashedly we could hear him on warm nights when the doors are left ajar. We teased him relentlessly but he just put up huge grins on that ruddy red face of his. His voice may have been a bit too loud, but his friendly and hearty laughs stuck with us. Though it's only been a few days since I'd known him, I was not happy to see him go either.
Tommy returned Jenny's touch with a gentle pat, uncharacteristic for him but not surprising either, considering how frail Jenny looked. We said our goodbyes, and just before he turned to leave, he looked at us and said:
"Please come and visit me when you are better, I live on the street right next to the bell tower, number 79, just ask around for me."
With that, he was gone. I blinked my eyes a few times to check if he was a dream, but I knew he wasn't when I looked at Jenny. She was even paler than before, her brows twisted into a knot and her eyes hollowed out like two bowls of emptiness. "Tommy had only been here for two weeks..." she later said. It occurred to me then that she hadn't seen her parents for as long, and that she was wondering when would she finally "be better" and be released like every other child into the arms of family and, more permanent friends.
The thought had cut into me like when I stepped onto a piece of broken glass the other day. I could only imagine how Jenny felt watching everyone who came in here leave so quickly. I wanted her to stop hurting, but I did not know how.
* * *
I had always wanted a sister. The courtyard I lived in housed fifteen families, nine of which had sisters in the family, the other five had brothers. My brother was the "cool hand Luke" of the neighborhood, regardless of biological relationships, the boys living in the 200 yard vicinity followed him around like puppy dogs. The girls however, made me envious of their sisterly bond. Somehow, my brother was always too far away to rescue me from the younger sister who slapped me for grabbing her tea cup a bit too harshly, or from the older sister who double slapped me for making her younger sister cry, even if she was just faking crocodile tears.
So when I saw Jenny blue over the departure of Tommy, or any children for that matter, I had an idea.
Why couldn't she be my sister?
In my mind, it was the perfect solution to everything. She would go and live in my house, and we'd play and go to school together. Mom and Dad are so busy with their work, they'd hardly notice it and we'd take care of ourselves even better with Jenny around.
But Jenny had pointed out she still needed to stay in the hospitals and in my zealous attempt to help with her sadness, I had forgotten how ill she was at the same time.
Next day at my check up the doctor gave me a clean bill of health, and that meant soon it would be my turn to say goodbye to the gang at the hospital, and to Jenny.