There a Solution?
Okay, there's a lot of things that are wrong and things that shouldn't be the way they are. Like winter coats. Why do they still put pockets on the inside of the coat when there are already pockets on the outside? Why do they still have the sticky thing that connects both sides when there's already a zipper? But, that's not my point. The most wrong thing of all in the whole entire universe, is my little sister's disease.
She was born normally, as in, nothing with her. She just like other babies: cute, cuddly, crying, fussy. Her name was normal, too: Lily. Lily had a load of hair. Lily had long, black hair and small, chinky eyes like a normal Filipino. But then, somehow, she had cancer. So, her gorgeous, beautiful hair is almost all gone now.
I don't understand how she got it. It just happened. The story really begins right now… Oh, I forgot to mention I dance really good at hip hop. Ha.
* * *
The Horrible Truth
We were both playing in our totally awesome game room. There's this cool game system we have called Dance. It comes with ten multi-colored, big, square boards that we dance on, ten controllers with a strap that goes on your wrist, three CDs called Party in the House, Dance Party, and Dancing in the Spotlight, and the game system. That's basically where I improved my hip hop dancing. I was simply born with the talent.
We just started dancing to one of our favorite songs Down by Jay Sean featuring Lil' Wayne when our dad called us. "Lily! Rose! Come down here! It's time to go!"
I turned the Dance off along with the TV and the light and scrambled down the steps after Lily. I grabbed my winter coat and frowned. Ugh, I thought.
Lily was always sick in one way or the other. She was coughing, sneezing, wheezing, and having high temperatures. Her throat was dry; she had stomachaches and headaches.
I put on my mittens, earmuffs, scarf, and shoes and headed outside to the car. The heater warmed me instantly as I sank into the comfy chair. I stared out of the window as we drove away from our house. It seemed like a millennium until we reached our destination. We went inside.
"Hello, Victoria. How are you doing today?" Mom said in her oh-so-calm voice. Mom is always cautious. She's worried about everything. In Mom World, there's danger lurking around every single corner. Even a car that's driving the other direction 500 miles away. Seriously.
"Fine, Sally. Is it dear Lily once again?" she asked, her voice softening. Victoria a.k.a. Mrs. Carson is always concerned about kids getting sick, especially Lily. When she was younger, Lily came here every week.
"Yes, yes," Mom said, creating messy handwriting onto the paper. She looked in her wallet and handed Mrs. Carson fifteen dollars.
"Thank you, Janet," Mrs. Carson said. "You'll be seen in five minutes."
I glanced over at Lily. She was sitting in a chair, reading the old Highlights magazines. I could tell she was concentrating on the games in there. She was staring hard.
I sighed and checked the time on my phone. 6:31 P.M., it said. It was only six thirty-one.
I decided to text my BFF, Ella.
Hey, I typed. im da doctorz office. lily haz a hi fever.
again? She had dat last week.
I no. *sigh*
any luck so far?
"Lily!" Mrs. Carson called. Lily, Mom, and Dad bounded up from their seats.
Tnx gtg cal me 2morrow.
Ok c ya
I got up and followed them to the Puppy Room. See, there's rooms named after different animals so the little kids will point and say, "Look, Mommy! A kitty cat!", and stuff.
Doctor Goody (to kids. To mature people: Doctor Greg) walked in and shut the door. He was a short, chubby man, no older than forty-six. He was a comedian; he always told jokes.
"Hi, Lily! So, tell me, what did Rose do to you?" he joked, as if I caused her sickness.
"Nothing," Lily replied innocently. "I have a high fever and my throat is super dry."
"Mmm-hmmm………" he said, checking her temperature. "Oh my, 106.8 degrees F!!! You're right!"
He jotted something down. Then, he told her to open her mouth and say, "Ah," and the usual stuff.
I wasn't really paying attention. I was playing Pacman on my phone when Dr. Greg said in a low voice, "Oh… Mr. and Mrs. Gomez, can I talk to you out here, please?"
They hurried out into the hall and I sensed that something was wrong. As in, really wrong. I stopped playing and pressed my ear to the door trying to listen to their conversation. But, they were talking in such quiet whispers that I barely made out any sentences. Only, "oh no", "oh my", "oh dear", and "Really, Doc?"
I heard footsteps coming and sat down on the chair. Lily was busying herself with twirling her hair endlessly and her index finger absentmindedly. Mom, Dad, and Dr. Greg came in looking extremely serious and concerned about something.
"Yes, Lily. Well, I'm very busy right now. I have a lot of patients. Mommy and Daddy will tell you what medicine you need, okay?" Dr. Greg said. He had lost the jolliness in his voice. It had turn into a serious tone.
"Okay," Lily replied. Since she was only eight years old, she didn't notice the stern looks on the people's faces.
"Let's go, Lily." Dad called. We walked down the hall and Lily stopped in the office to obtain a purple lollipop.
We walked in complete silence to the car, and back home except for the constant sucking of Lily's mouth on the lollipop.
I knew something was wrong.
When we came home it was 7:30. While Mom and Dad were tucking Lily in bed, I waited for them in our living room. They came out of the bedroom and saw me sitting on the sofa.
"Mom, Dad, what happened to Lily?" I asked carefully, afraid of what they would say.
"Well, Rose, it might be a bit difficult to be handling this situation," Dad said.
"I can handle it, Dad. I'm twelve years old." I said, trying to act more mature.
"Okay, okay," Mom said. "Lily….. She….has…..well, Lily has--"
"LEUKEMIA!!!!!!!!!!" Dad burst out, tears flowing from his eyes (because he was the biggest softie of all of us.)
"Lily has leukemia?" I asked, with an edge of panic in my voice.
"Yes," Dad cried, sobbing.
This can't be happening, I thought. No way. This can't be happening. Lily does not have leukemia. Yes, that's right. Lily does not have leukemia at all.
But, I couldn't convince myself. I tried to hold back the tears, but I couldn't. They flowed endlessly.
"How?" I heard myself ask. My parents tried to explain, but the thoughts and concerns of Lily blocked out their words completely. The hopes for Lily were now gone.
The next morning, I found myself on the living room sofa covered with a blanket. How come I'm here? I thought. Then, the thought of Lily having leukemia struck me and I took me a full five minutes to recover. Then, I walked to the kitchen for breakfast. On my way, Mom came out and stopped me.
"Rose, I want to keep things as normal as possible for Lily," she commanded before I could even say, "Good morning."
"Did you tell her yet?" I asked.
"No," Mom said, looking away. "I don't want her to feel bad. She doesn't need to know."
"Yes, she does, Mom. You wouldn't keep some awful secret about me from me would you, Mom?" I protested. Even though the truth hurts, you've still got to know what's up with you.
"No, I wouldn't. You're right. I'll tell her this evening." Mom said and plopped a kiss on my head. "Love you."
"Love you, too," I said. "Wait, how do people have leukemia?"
"Nobody really knows, honey. Remember when we thought Lily was cutting her hair? Well, leukemia causes you to lose hair because you have too much white blood cells attacking the normal cells." Mom explained. "The cause of leukemia is unknown."
"Oh," I said, trying not to feel disappointed. I walked into the kitchen. I looked at Lily the whole time I was eating my pancakes. She seemed happy. My heart sank as we had to tell her the terrible news this evening. So, I gobbled up my pancakes, put the plate in the sink, and went away before I could tell Lily the news that lay ahead.
I moaned and groaned as the day closed to an end. Mom and Dad were talking in rapid Tagalog, the language of Filipinos, in the hallway several times. They seemed concerned.
At dinnertime, we served Lily's favorite foods. Then, Mom cleared her throat.
"Lily, we have something to tell you," she began. "Remember yesterday, you went to the doctor's office?"
"Yes," Lily answered respectfully.
She shot a you-tell-her look to Dad. Dad gulped, but he did what she told him to. "Oh, well, I'm sorry to say this, honey. It isn't good news. But, you have-- leukemia..." Dad said uncertainly and looked at Lily. The effect of Dad telling Lily the news was seriously incredible.
Lily dropped her fork so loudly that it clanked against her plate. Dad burst into loud, noisy sobs again because he was the biggest softie of all of us. I seriously don't know why. Mom covered her face in her hands as if she was arrested and put into jail. The cat screeched loudly as Lily threw her food at it. I cried and cried and tried to comfort Lily. Lily kept dumping food on her face and in her hair.
After all the commotion was over, I looked at everyone. Mom was still covering her face. I think she was crying silently. Dad was sniffing; his face tear-streaked. The cat, Bun Bun, was wide-eyed and hiding under the table. Its hair still stood on end and corn was stuck on it. Lily was covered from head to toe in mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, rice, ketchup, and fried chicken. I was covered in food, too, from hugging Lily. Tears were mixing in with the ketchup on my face.
"Go take a shower, okay, Lily pop? You, too, Rose." Mom said, her voice trembling.
We headed up the stairs with food dropping on the floor. When we were in our room getting our clothes, Lily stopped me.
"Do I really have leukemia? I don't even know what leukemia is. I just know it's plain awful," Lily said.
I felt terrible for Lily. But, I guess I have to tell her the truth. "Yes," I admitted. She gasped.
"How, Ate? How?" she asked. Ate means older sister in Tagalog. It's pronounced, "Ah-te".
"It just happened. I don't know how. You should ask Mom or Dad. After all, they're doctors, remember?"
"But --?" Rose asked.
"We love you no matter what," I told her. "'Cause you're the sweetest, little girl in the whole, wide world." I replied and wrapped my arms around her. Yes you are, I thought.
Thinking and Thinking and Thinking
Now that Lily knew that she had leukemia, she was as miserable as possible. At mealtimes, she was silent. While watching TV, she made no comments on the characters. She didn't even laugh at the funny parts. We talked about it sometimes; what she had to go through.
It cost a lot of money to help Lily. We weren't rich or poor, just average. I wish I could help Lily. Not just a little thing. A big thing because I love her so much. Seriously, is there a solution?
So, poor, eight-year-old, sweet, innocent Lily had to go through chemotherapy. "Chemo" is some sort of thingy that helps you if you have leukemia. Sure, it means that you're hair is going away, but it's worth it if the treatment works.
Yeah yeah, I know we have to stay on the positive side. So, what's great is that Lily isn't going through chemo yet because we don't have the money! Woohoo! But, then, she can't get healed sooner. Awww.
Okay, think. That's the word. Think. Sorry, that'll take me a moment. Please stand by….
Ah, perfect! Yes! So, as I told you before, I'm totally awesome at dancing hip hop. I'm not bragging. You should see me strut my stuff. I'm amazing! Tee hee. Well, there's this dancing competition in Trenton: The Dancing Competition. Go figure.
Anyway, the winning dance group gets one million dollars!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I'm not kidding. Anyone can enter as long as you're six years old or older. But, not over twenty-five years old. There are different age sections. The MINI PEEPS are ages six to ten. The COOL PEEPS are ages eleven to fifteen. The AWESOME PEEPS are ages sixteen to twenty. The MATURE PEEPS are ages twenty to twenty-five.
Your group is based on your culture. So, I'm Filipino and so is the rest of my group. So, we're the _______ Filipinos. There needs to be an adjective describing us. I'm not sure what it should be yet.
Our creativity, appearance, skills, and talent count. So, we need to remember C.A.S.T.: Creativity, Appearance (that's clothes), Skills, and Talent.
Wait a second! The money! I can use it for Lily's treatment! Chemo! It's perfect! I'm using my talent to help Lily! Now, it's time to get this plan into action. (I have a hip hop dancing meeting today, so it's perfect timing. Ha.)
Telling My Group
I panted, sitting on the floor in my sweats. I thought of Mom. (Mom made me wear these sweats even though I told her the heater was on full blast. Also, she told me to wear a sweater. But, I snuck a short-sleeved shirt on then zipped up my jacket.) We took five.
"Okay, people," Jake, our leader, said. "We've got the Dancing Competition coming up in Trenton. We need to practice, practice, practice. Don't you guys wanna be winners?" he asked. We answered him with shouts and yells of "Yeah!" and "You bet!".
"Okay, anybody got anything to say?" Jake asked, looking around. I looked around, too.
Here's my group:
1.)Rose Gomez (Me! The Intelligent)
2.)Ella Santiago (My BFFL! The Caring)
3.)Jake Reyes (The Leader)
4.)Sam Martin (The Comedian)
5.)Leah Bautista (The Gorgeous)
6.)Tyler Mendoza (The Serious)
7.)Brianna Soriaga (The Happy)
8.)Kelly Torres (The Shortie)
9.)Joe Dela Cruz (The Forgetful)
10.) Andy Fernandez (The Energetic)
Ella, Joe, and I stood up to say something.
"Yes, Ella," Jake said.
"Do we have to pay to enter?" Ella asked.
"Nope," Jake said. "But, the people who are coming to watch in your family get to pay half the price."
Ella nodded and sat back down. The scratch of writing on notebooks filled the room.
"Your turn, Joe," Jake said.
"When's the competition again?" he asked. "And where?"
Everyone groaned. Joe was so forgetful.
"It's on February thirteenth, Friday. Be there at eight o clock sharp. It's at 67 Summer St. Trenton, New Jersey 48492. Got it?" Jake looked skeptical as Joe nodded and jotted down the information.
"'kay, dude. But, if you forget, it's not my fault," Jake warned him. He turned to me. "Yes, Rose."
I, despite my intelligence, am unbelievably shy at some points.
"Well, you know how the winning group gets $1 million?" I asked. He nodded.
"You know, Lily, right?" I said. Everyone said, "Yeah,". "The doctor said, a few days ago, that she had…" My throat closed. I could feel the tears. I will not cry in front of my friends. I will not cry in front of my friends. I thought. "Leukemia!" I blurted out. "So, I want us to work really hard and use the money for Lily. Not all of it, just my share, though." My cheeks burned.
I stared at everyone. They all had an expression on their face that I couldn't understand.
"'course we will!" Ella exclaimed. Thank goodness Ella was my BFF. "Remember when Lily came here before to watch us dance? She loved us, we loved her. She was funny and appreciated it. So, let's dance our best and show everyone what we've got. Everybody up for winning and for Lily?" she asked.
Everyone cried, "YEAH!" and I grinned, totally relieved. The plan was put into action.
It May Be Hard, But It's Worth It
Since the day when I told everyone in my group about the plan to help Lily, we've been practicing harder than ever. Jake scheduled more meetings and practices. I went over to Ella and the other girls' houses for practice, too.
I didn't tell my parents or Lily about my plan. I wanted it to be a surprise. So, when they would find out, we would be all flooded with happiness. Yay!
So, here's my plan:
1. We practice, practice, practice. (of course)
2. On the third to the last week of the competition, we discuss what we are going to wear.
3. On the second to the last week of the competition, we add more complicated dance moves. Then, we try the whole thing. When everyone gets home, we practice the complicated, complex moves first. Then, we do it altogether.
4. On the last week of practice, we perfect everything from the slightest mistake to the biggest one. We go over it again and again until we get it all right.
5. We leave ten minutes for coming up with a group name. We decide to make it cool, but not too cool.
6. We make the final decisions for our clothing the next day. We decide where to get them, when to get them, etc.
7. On the final day, we practice the whole routine with our clothes on.
8. We hope for the best.
I gave everyone in my group the list of steps we had to take and stuff and all that. Anyway, since it was snowing a lot, we decided to e-mail each other to communicate (some of us don't have cell phones).
Ella and I went over to each other's houses often. Ella has a really spacious basement so we can practice there. At my house, we dance in the game room where we have all the video games like Dance and all that.
Lily didn't disturb us while we practiced our moves. But, she just loves to poke her head in and watch us. Mom and Dad stayed downstairs while we practiced. I was determined to keep working hard. Nothing was going to stop me.
Stuff in the Way? Get Out!
Well, you know how I said nothing was going to stop me? Well! Apparently, snow fell over like three billion feet last night (I'm exaggerating) so our last practice is cancelled! We decided to e-mail each other our plans but it's not the same. Oh, how could this happen?
Mom and Dad won't let me go outside at all. They think I'll have frostbite or some other thing. They won't even let me play in the snow! Which I agree to also, because I'll freeze to death. There's too much snow to even step out of the house and step right back in for a second. I can't even go over to Ella's house to practice our moves and she lives around the corner! Sad.
I can't practice at all today either because we have to go to my cousin's Sweet Sixteen. I have to dress up (ugh!) in pretty clothes. I'm so not a girly girl. I'm a sporty girl, but not a tomboy. Anyway, it'll last all night and by the time we're back at home, I'll be too sleepy to even blink.
I just wish I could practice dancing. I really want to help Lily. Now, my hope just puffed away out of sight. I hope on the day of the competition it'll puff right back out.
A Little Hope, A Little Smiles
I practiced, I practiced, and I practiced! At the party, we danced! I was so depressed that I couldn't practice that I totally forgot about dancing! OMG, I am so happy! I showed off my cool moves to everyone which was supposed to be dedicated to my cousin. But, not the moves for the competition because I wanted it to be a surprise. Everyone cheered and complimented me. I was so flattered.
Anyway, I practiced in this other room because most of my cousins are little kids. The mommies wanted to dance still (line dancing, of course), but their children were tired. So, they needed to carry them and stuff. I offered to take care of them and they said yes since I'm responsible. So, my aunt led me to this small room with the little kids. I showed off my terrific moves to them and they clapped. Really. Also, one kid kept jumping up and down so I had to keep an eye on him before he fell down. One baby said, "Waw!" which I think meant wow.
So, my hope is back. I stayed up late that night to communicate with my group. I wasn't one bit sleepy yet because I was so excited that I could practice dancing. We made all the plans we were supposed to make in those last three days since all our parents wouldn't allow us to go outside. I want to tell everyone the fantastic news, but I'm keeping my mouth shut. I can't wait to surprise them. They'll be so proud. I can't wait to see the smiles on their faces.
The Trip to Trenton
While going to Trenton, I was so excited. It takes so long because I live in north New Jersey, not south. My foot was asleep and I was so delighted that I kept jiggling it. My mom told me to stop although she was grinning and she had that little sparkle in her eye.
This morning, Lily was way happier than she was on the day she had heard she had leukemia. She kept smiling during breakfast at me and laughing randomly by tickling herself. She started coloring her coloring books which is a good sign because she only does that when she's wonderfully happy. Plus, we played Dance again. I let her win on purpose so her happiness wouldn't be spoiled.
Dad cooked my favorite foods for breakfast for the big day; rice and adobo. (Adobo is a Filipino food that's saucy and has meat. Yum!) He kept humming to himself.
Mom gave me a present I had wanted forever. It was a black hoodie with white hearts that looked awesome. I'm wearing it now with my ripped blue jeans. My dancing clothes are in my bag because we're staying overnight at a hotel because it's so long from Elizabeth to Trenton.
When we got there, Dad stopped at the front of the building to drop me off. They parking lot was nearly full. I grabbed my bag, gave my little sis a kiss on the cheek, said bye to my parents, hopped out, and slammed the door shut. I waved as they drove away.
An Unforgettable Night
The loud speakers blasted out modern, hip-hop music and the audience buzzed with excitement. I peeked out of the curtain and gasped at the sight. The whole place was packed! Some people were even sitting on the floor.
My heart pounded harder and harder as the seconds ticked by. I glanced at the analog clock on the wall. I was so nervous. I know that I'm not bad at dancing, I just never did it in front of such a huge crowd.
When it was one minute 'til show time, our group huddled together backstage and became serious.
"Okay, dudes," Jake said, and the girls gave him a look. "And dudettes." he added "We've worked hard for this. We got all the right moves. Now, we just need the attitude and the energy to make it all perfect." He looked at us. "Are we ready or what?"
With all our hands in, we yelled, "ONE! TWO! THREE! FUNKY FILIPINOS!" We grinned. Cool name, right?
While the seconds ticked by, we kept eyeing each other nervously and excitedly. Our outfits were pretty good. The girls were wearing a white hoodie, blue jeans, and sneakers. The boys were wearing a white jacket, blue jeans, sneakers, and a white cap. Our hoodies and sneakers glowed in the dark. We were all wearing cool shades.
Then, the emcee who looked quite interesting in a lime green tux, orange shoes, and a hot pink tie hollered into the microphone, "And now, for the FUNKY FILIPINOS!"
It was time.
The lights suddenly dimmed and the crowd "oohed" and "ahhed". The music started. It was Down by Jay Sean featuring Lil' Wayne. I thought of Lily and me dancing to this song. Different colored spotlights flashed everywhere making our glowing figures look terrific. The lights turned on suddenly and we started the real dancing. We showed off our awesome moves. We did some great flips and turns and jumps. When he sang the refrain, the girls sort of pushed the guys down because Jay Sean was saying, "Down, down, down, down, down." So, we're pushing them down.
I didn't really concentrate on dancing. I knew all the moves by heart. I practiced them each and every day. They were all a part of me. Lily will get cured, I thought. Hope burst in me. My grin was stretched widely across my face. Lily was going to be okay.
Finally, it ended and we posed. The boys crossed their arms and turned their caps sideways. The girls put one hand in the air and smiled.
The crowd erupted in cheers. They clapped whistled, and yelled. We jogged away heading backstage. Everyone was smiling.
"Well, well, well," the emcee said. "Was that awesome or what?" The crowd cheered again.
"Please cast in your vote, if you haven't done so yet." He checked at the board. "Okay, now lemme see the final results," he said. A pretty woman in a sparkling silver mini dress handed him an envelope. "Thanks," he told her.
"In Honorable Mention, we have the… Incredible Italians!" he yelled. A group of Italians came bounding toward the emcee and held up their small trophy.
I was so nervous. As I moved my hand to squeeze Janet's hand, it trembled. My legs were like a phone on vibrate.
"In 3rd place, we have the… AWESOME AUSTRALIANS!" A cheerful group came jogging up to emcee to take their bronze trophy.
"In 2nd place, we have the…JOLLY JAPANESE!" Teenage Asians came and claimed their silver trophy.
OMG OMG OMG, I thought. What if we don't win? I mean, there's the Zany Zimbabweans, the Magnificent Mexicans, the Brilliant Brazilians, and the Fancy French! They're good, too. Andy was pacing back and forth. Leah was squeaking repeatedly. Tyler coughed.
"And finally, for 1st place, the most creative, the most awesome, the best dance routine…" Everyone held their breath except for me. I was hyperventilating. "THE FUNKY FILIPINOS!!!!!!"
I screamed at the top of my lungs and jumped up and down, hugging everyone. I don't care if I made myself hoarse. I could finally help Lily! We all ran onstage to obtain our trophy and it was amazing. It was gigantic and golden and beautiful. The emcee gave us a humongous check that had $1,000,000 written on it! The tears started flowing. It looks like there is a solution for my lil' sis's problem, after all!