I was halfway through my hot chocolate when the door to the my room swung open. There in the doorway stood my older sister. Now, Kayla was a full fourteen years older than me. Growing up, I rarely saw much of her, save those rare visits around the holidays. So, around three times a year if I was luck, those three times of course being Easter, Thanksgiving and finally Christmas.
"So." She said taking a deep breath as she moved into the room and looked around her. "My little brother is going to be my little sister hmm? We'll blood is blood she said." She smirking a little as she peered toward me sitting up in bed and sipping my hot chocolate. Her eyes traveled from my the very top of my head to my face and from my face to my pigtails. And finally they traveled down to pink hospital gown I was wearing.
"Cleary she taken after mum. Has mum's face and eyes. Even her hair. That nose though, that paw's nose." She said smiling as she moved toward the railing of the bed. She placed her hands on the railing peered into my eyes. For what seemed like forever and a day are eyes meet each other's gaze. Then finally she switched her gaze to something else.
"We'll Madeline. I gotta say as far as little sisters go, your adorable. The pig tails suit you and so does the pink gown. I guess you know, your going to be living with me now. Now, Benton it's a small town. The population's no more than five thousand. There no big chain stores there, no malls, no big movie theaters. The Yazoo Delta- Valley Railroad does make daily stops there. So if you ever have twelve dollars to burn you can ride the rails into Jackson." She paused and started to look out the window. Outside the window you could see the skyline of Jackson. The skyline was dominated by tall building made of steel and glass, Gothic Revival style churches, and square office building. And from the streets below, one could hear the footfalls of a hundred thousand pairs of feet.
I blushed, both at the praise and at the feeling of having my sister peering at me. As she started to talk about Benton, I started to pay closer attention and before I could help myself. I found myself asking her.
"Could, you please tell me a little more about Benton?" I asked.
My sister smiled and pulled up a chair and crossed her legs and gave me a nod of her head.
"Sure can. So sis, what do you want to know?" She asked me as she reached over and took my hand into hers. I blushed again, as I felt her strong, loving fingers surround mine.
"Everything." I said taking a deep breath as I peered toward my sister. "Start from the beginning."
And so she did.
"We'll as you know, mom kicked me out of house when I was fourteen. She discovered I'd been exchanging messages with other girls on the internet. And she also at that time discovered I was gay. So her being her kicked me out of the house and tossed my stuff out on the curve." She paused and shook her head. She then drew in a deep breath and pushed on.
"Now, Grandpa heard about this. And he and grandma decided that no matter what I was, I was still there grandchild and no grandchild of there was going to go homeless. So they drove up and picked me up and took me in. It was grandma who taught me how to cook, how to sew, how to clean and how to garden. Grandpa taught me how to raise a garden and how to hunt and fish. I was a tomboy yes, but grandma made sure that I attend every dance and social the town hosted. She taught me.. How to be a lady.." My sister paused and smiled. And kind of off handily she said. "Just like I'm going to teach you to be a lady." She said giving my hand a firm squeeze.
I could only sip my hot chocolate as I nodded my head. I was just a babe when all this happen.
"Grandpa and Grandma also made sure I my fair share. I'll be expecting you to do the same. You'll have chores to do. But, like grandma and grandpa you will be paid for chores. And your going to have your free days. Grandpa was a devoted Episcopalian, Sunday's for the most part where a day of rest for his household. Save when there was cotton that needed to be harvested or crops in the garden. Then all wages paid on a Sunday where doubled. So expect to have about every Sunday off and one other free day during the week." Kayla paused and smiled.
I finished my hot chocolate and tossed the paper cup into the paper waste basket by my bed. I then leaned back and nodded. My eyes started to grow heavy and I fell asleep coming over. My sister looked over and smiled as she reached down and pulled the blanket over me and tucked them in.
"Anyway. You look tired." She stood up and gave my forehead a kiss. "You need to rest. I'll be back in a few days. Some of the Winter Wheat I planted is coming in. And its all hands on deck." She said in a matter of fact tone of voice.
I don't remember much after that. For I feel into a deep sleep. And for the first time in a very long time, my dreams were filled with promise and hope. For I dreamt of the new life I was about to have with my big sister. The dreamscape conjured by my mind was I slept was one of a small town, one with brick building, mom and pop owned shops. The streets were paved with red brick and brown round cobblestones in some parts. The houses where all neat little cottages with black, slated roofs. Each house had a balcony that overlooked the cobblestone street.
As promised a few days passed before the doctor in charge of my ward gave his approval for me to leave. The nurses by that point had taken to calling me "Madeline". The time of my departure was set for seven O'clock in the morning. And so around five I was woken up, given a nice hot bath. My finger nails where clipped and my hair brushed out. Once brushed the nurse on duty combed it back and tied it back in a high ponytail. A new pair of white panties with a training bra was provided by the staff. And Aunt Isabella had provided me with a ruby red turtleneck sweater, a black skirt and legging. For shoes, she had gone with the basic looking Mary-Jane's. And with my sisters approval, she even dapped a little lip-gloss on my lips and applied a little bush and eyeliner. I felt like a true "Princess" if you will.
The nurse then loaded me up in a wheelchair and left. She needed to attend to somebody else, but she promised she'll be right back. Not that it bothered me, I could finally walk again. So if push came to shove then I could always walk out of here. I wanted too, but hospital policy said all wards had to wheeled out. And so I sat there twiddling my thumbs.
Then something happen, In the doorway another nurse appeared. She wore pink scrubs and had honey blonde hair and blue eyes. And wore a knowing smile and in her hands it seemed she was caring a book of some kind.
"Wow." She said taking a deep breath. "When you clean up, you clean up. Finally getting past that tomboy phrase ay?" She said walking toward me and once she was a arm's reach away she kneeled down and gave me a small smile. "You look beautiful darling."
I blinked and blinked again.
"Nurse Mindy?" I said blinking. "But the other nurses said.. They said you where a ghost. Your not really a ghost are you?" I asked as my eyes traveled up and down her body. She seemed pretty solid to me.
The women only giggled and only gave me a smile that was full of mischief.
"Life full of little surprises." And with that she placed the book she was caring into my lap and winked. "I gotta go sweetie. My shift is over, and I have another night of patrolling the ward ahead of me tomorrow. And Nurse Mindy needs her rest. But, you be good and stay sweet." Her voice then changed. "And if you ever visit us again. I expect you to obey all the rules too. That includes staying in bed. I might not be so gentle next time." And with that she vanished into the shadows.
To stay I was stunned is a underestimate. I wanted to put it down as a hallucination caused by the painkillers was still being pumped into me. But the book, the book felt real enough. Gathering my courage, I peered down at the cover of the book. The cover showed twelve little girls in two straight lines, walking toward a old house that was covered in vines. The title of the book "Madeline" with each letter spelled out in gilding letters. I flipped open the cover and on the first page. Somebody or something had written.
"For Madeline D. Brewer. May all your dreams and hopes come true. Love, Nurse Mindy."
And with that, my adventure ends.
To be continued.