Look to the Sky

As I approached the door to my house I heard a familiar male voice that made me want to kick puppies, which of course I would never really do.

"Sorry baby, but I have a dentist appointment on that day. How about next Saturday? Jerry's party is that day too so you can come with me as my date," the male voice said.

"Okay, next Saturday sounds good," my sister's voice answered back.

"Can't wait. I'll pick you up at around 7. See you then."

Just as I was about to open the door, it opened inwards and Caroline's oh-so-wonderful boyfriend stood in the doorway. He smelled of weed and girls' perfume, not a very pleasant scent. He appeared to be initially shocked by my appearance but then forced a smile.

"Nice of you to block the door," I said.

I noticed the smile disappeared and his face darkened immediately at this comment. We were never on much of an agreeable level. He gave a quick smile and nod to my sister before walking out to the driveway where his car was parked. I walked into the house and closed the door behind me into my younger sister's wrathful gaze.

"What the hell was that just now? Look, Max. I know you don't like Jack but couldn't you be a little nicer to him?"

"Yeah sure, if he wasn't a lying, cheating ass," I answered, bracing myself for the explosion that will follow.

"Don't you dare start this shit again! You don't know what you're talking about Max!" she retorted.

And there it was. I've lost count the number of times this happened. I would be filthy rich if I got a penny for every time it did.

"Y'know, I am trying to help. Would you at least listen?"

"I don't need your so-called help! I'm sixteen and old enough to know what sort of people I hang out with!" her voice echoing shrilly.

"Oh really? Going out with a guy who constantly cheats behind your back and picking friends who never support you when you need it? That definitely shows the great people you hang out with," I replied, my voice dripping with sarcasm.

"You don't know anything! I hate you! I really do! Why don't you go and jump off a cliff!"

"Man, Caroline. Sometimes you can be so blind. Did you not notice that he smelled of girls and weed? Speaking of which, you should really stop doing drugs and smoking pot with those so called friends of yours. It's bad for your health."

"You've been spying on me?" Caroline screeched, her face turning bright red.

"It isn't spying when you blatantly come home late smelling of weed. I'm surprised our parents haven't noticed."

"I do not! How could you accuse me of this shit! Just because my friends do it doesn't mean I do! And you need to stop butting into my fucking business!"

At this moment, the garage door opened and my mother stormed into the room in a fit of rage, slamming the door behind her.

"Caroline! I got a call from the school principle saying that you've been suspended from school for doing drugs? How could you ever think about doing such a thing?"

Before I could bear any more of this, I swung open the door and stepped back outside, closing the door behind me. The two female voices continued their heated verbal battle. It always got bad when my parents get into arguments with my sister and it's usually a sign for me to high tail out of the house. Otherwise, I'll never get a break and my ears will become deaf by the end of the night. It's definitely not pleasant. I was also tired of Caroline's constant refusal to listen to reason. So much so that I sometimes ignored her when she did, on rare occasions, ask me for help.

I strode across a huge parking lot of a shopping complex and crossed the street, looking both ways before dashing across without regard to the crosswalk and signs. After passing an apartment complex, I came to a small park. All it had were a few swings, trees and benches. There wasn't even a basketball court, which most others in the suburban areas had. I found it really pathetic and questioned why I bother to come here whenever these arguments between my parents and sister break out. There are also times where I just stay over at Tom's house to get away from all the incessant yelling. You could say he's one of my best friends.

I gave a sigh, slumped down into one of the benches and stared at the blossoming red sky. Everything appeared red; the gigantic setting sun staining the clouds with that awful color, the same red that I keep seeing on my main family's faces, the same red that emanated from the house in the constant heat of anger and dysfunction.

"So I'll be back in around twenty minutes. Just make sure you're careful," a female voice said.

"Don't worry Amy. I'll be fine. It's not like I haven't been here before," another, huskier voice answered.

"Oh, all right. I'm just worried since your cough's been acting up lately and you've been getting sick more often."

I saw two figures approach to where I sat. It was that wheelchair girl again, the one that I always saw here at the park, sitting in her wheelchair looking up towards the sky. I never conversed with her though, since she always appeared to be entranced by the sunset. She had light brown hair that fell just below her shoulders, hazel eyes and pale skin with light freckles. A white sunhat sat on her head with the pale orange sun dress that reached below her knees. I always thought her manner of dress looked a bit old-fashioned, like a seventy-year-old grandma trapped in a body of a teenager.

"Young man, do you mind if you watch out for my sister a bit. She can take care of herself, but, eh, just in case something happens. It'll only be for a while since I should be back in about twenty or so minutes," the older woman asked me as her dark eyes bored into mine.

Talk about awkward and unsettling. I also didn't understand why she asked me to watch over her now when she's never asked before.

"Oh, Amy, I'll be fine. Just go and get the food," the younger girl insisted, her face turning red.

Amy gave her sister one last look, nodded, and walked towards the nearby shopping complex. After she disappeared into a ShopRite, the younger girl wheeled over towards me.

"I'm dreadfully sorry about that. I'll manage on my own. I'm Melody by the way," the girl said with a bright smile, holding out her hand.

"Just call me Max," I answered, as I hesitantly returned with a handshake.

Now this was a rather bizarre situation. It wasn't everyday I meet a person because her older sibling insists I watch over her. Granted, said person is in a wheelchair. It certainly was different from my usual way of meetings people, to say the least.

" 'Just call me Max?' I'm guessing that's not what you usually go by?"

"Uh, no, it is. It's actually short for Maximilian, but I find that ridiculous."

"I don't think so. I think it's a great name. It has such a noble feel to it," Melody answered.

"Hmm, maybe to you, but it's so unnecessary. What did my parents think they were going to give birth to—a prince?" I answered in a wry voice.

Seriously, what were my parents thinking? Max is all right, but who legitimately and legally uses the name Maximilian? I'm neither rich, important, nor a ruler of a country, which is usually the impression I get when I hear that name.

The girl giggled at this response, probably thinking it was a joke. Not that I blamed her, but I was mostly serious about my answer. The two of us fell silent, and I noticed that she was gazing at the orange and red sky.

"Isn't it beautiful? The brilliant blend of orange, red and pink? It's so endless."

"I don't see what's so great about it. It's just a bunch of clouds and colors caused by the setting sun. It's not like people don't see it every day," I blundered.

I noticed her lips curving slightly into a frown and didn't answer, but continued her staring. Maybe that wasn't the most thoughtful thing to say.

"I wonder if you would say the same thing if you suddenly became blind for, say, ten years and then got your sight back," she said.

"What? Did something like that happen to you?"

"No. But it's just another way to look at something. Besides, I find the sky and sunset pleasant and soothing."

What was with this girl? She sure was weird, and she sounded like an eighty year old about to kick the bucket. Then I looked at the sky again, expecting it to look different, but simply saw the gigantic red orb blotting the white clouds with its crimson color. Maybe if I hadn't hated the color so much, I would have called it a "beautiful sight". Without warning, the girl went into a coughing fit. As if an electric shock went through where I sat, I got up and approached her. As she saw this, she tried to brush it off which led to another coughing fit.

A sudden and awful surge of anxiety and fear swept through me as I realized the seriousness of the situation. I was asked to look after her by that older sister. What would happen if she suddenly died because of a coughing fit? Would I be blamed for standing here and doing nothing? Was it even possible to die from coughing? Then again, people died from practically anything. I wanted to do something to help her but felt as if it was out of my control, just like how I can't do anything except watch as my own sister get used and brushed aside by her friends and boyfriend. Then, much to my relief, it stopped. Melody took a few deep breaths before she gave me a weak smile.

"Sorry I got you worried. My health's been poor since I was born with a weak heart."

"I-I see," I said, not expecting this sort of response. "Don't you, er, get scared or worried?"

"I do, occasionally. But I try not to since it doesn't really help my condition if I'm worried all the time. It'll probably make it worse. It's one of the reasons why I enjoy watching the sunset or sky. It makes me feel at ease."

This comment made me wonder how long this girl had left. I then realized her pale skin looked sicklier than that of a natural skin color and her stature was rather small. Despite this, her eyes shined brilliantly.

"Aren't… aren't you afraid of dying?" I couldn't help but ask, expecting this question to scare her.

"I guess," she answered. "But you know, I can't always be all depressed about it, especially since it'll end up burdening my parents and sister, who've supported me though all this. Especially my sister since she has always been supporting and taking care of me, usually when my parents are working."

I stared at the wheelchair bound girl and wondered if she kept her anxiety bottled inside. Sure, it may not cause as much stress within the family, but she was still building it up inside her. It wasn't healthy, especially for someone like her with a heart condition. Then I remembered a time when I had seen her sitting at this park, always staring into the endless dusk until darkness settled everywhere, usually accompanied by her older sister. I remembered the peaceful look I always saw on her face as she watched the sun set into the horizon and her lively laughter and chatter when she was with her sister. How happy they were and how easily they interacted with each other.

"And, you know, when things don't work the way I want them to, I try to look at it in a different way. That's how it's been with me," Melody said.

And then I realized it. I realized how much of an idiot I'd been up until now. How my ways of trying to "help" my sister wasn't so helpful after all. I just ended up sounding like an arrogant, know-it-all ass. Melody's sister probably has it worse than I did. I mean, at least I didn't always have that constant fear of my sister dying whenever I see her. Having that burden, on both of them, must've been really hard. I should've been more supportive than I am being now.

Around this time, I noticed Melody's older sister approaching us with her hands full of shopping bags. Melody wheeled around towards her sister. She then grabbed two of the bags, though her sister gave her a look of disapproval before giving in.

"Thank you for taking care of her," the older sister said to me.

"Er, no problem."

"You seem to come here often. We should do this more often," Melody suggested. "I enjoyed your company. Sometimes it gets a bit lonely watching the sunset by myself. It's always better with more people."

"I'm usually here around this time, so I guess."

"Cool! See you next time then."

I gave her a nod and watched as her sister pushed her towards the parking lot, the two of them talking amicably. I watched as they got smaller and smaller until their figures disappeared. I got up to leave, ready to face that house of anger and dysfunction, but paused as I looked up towards the sky. I no longer saw it, that scathing red which I detested so much. Instead, small, barely noticeable stars twinkled in the surrounding darkness as twilight began setting in. I sat back down onto the bench and stared at the insetting night. Hmm, maybe this sky isn't so bad after all, I thought as my lips curled into a small smile.