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Nichole Dunst

Katelyn Dixon slammed her locker shut and ran to her homeroom class. The bell would go off any second now. As she ran through the door, the bell gave off its final warning. She took a seat at her desk after mouthing Hey to her best friend, Tammy. She and Tammy had been friends ever since third grade. Somehow, they ended up in a lot of the same classes together, although all of the teachers knew to separate them, so they never sat together.

Katelyn's homeroom class was Science, which just so happened to be her worst subject. She was lucky to get by with a 75 on the easiest of the quizzes and tests. The most recent quiz she took was on 'cell separation.' There was no way she would pass that one. As her teacher, Mrs. Knox, passed back the quizzes, she could have sworn Mrs. Knox passed her a dirty look. The moment the paper was placed in front of her, she turned it over to the front. In big, red, sloppy penmanship, it said 71%. Not too bad compared to some of the work she had been performing the past few weeks. Still, she knew she could have done better.

As her teacher started babbling on about something having to do with bacteria, Tammy threw a crumpled up piece of paper at her. Katelyn cautiously peeked at Mrs. Knox, to see if she was looking, and then slowly opened the paper, so that it didn't make too much noise.


I got a 58 on my quiz. Mrs. Knox told me that I have to do extra classes after school with her until I improve my grade. That means I can't do soccer! What am I going to do?

She signed her name with a sad face next to it. Tammy had to do soccer. Katelyn had no one else to talk to on the team. If Tammy had to quit, then she would quit, too. When class ended, Katelyn rushed over to her friend.

"It's okay Tammy. If you can't do soccer, then I'm not doing soccer anymore, either."

"No, Kate, don't let my sucky grades keep you from finishing up the soccer season. It only lasts like 3 more weeks anyway. I just don't want to have to stay after school with Mrs. Knox. I hate her." She made a disgusting face as she said Mrs. Knox's name. They both went their separate ways, Katelyn to History, and Tammy to Phys. Ed.

The day went by pretty quickly. At the end of the day Katelyn said her farewells to Tammy and her other friends and then went off to soccer practice all by herself.  As she passed the ball back and forth to a girl named Laura, her coach came over and asked where Tammy was.

"She has to stay after school with Mrs. Knox until she improves her grades." Her coach grunted and ran off to check on other players of the team.

"Tammy can't play soccer anymore!" Katelyn whined to her parents after they asked her how her day was.

"Why not?" her mother, Dianne, asked.

"'Cause Mrs. Knox is making her stay after school to improve her science grade."

"Shows you not to let your grades drop for sports. They really take action for that kind of stuff these days. Well, I have to go take Ashley to the doctor for her physical."

"K. Bye." She waved goodbye to her adorable nine-year old sister, Ashley, and threw herself on the couch. She must have dozed off, because when she woke up, it was already 7:00. She wandered into the kitchen to find something to eat when she saw her mother, her father, and her sister eating at the table, deep in discussion.

"What's up?" she asked suspiciously to her family.

"Um, Katelyn, dear, can I talk to you in the kitchen for a sec?" Mrs. Dixon asked, in her sweetest voice.

"Uh...Sure," Katelyn said, with a questioning voice.

When they went through the swinging door and into the kitchen, her mother sat down in one of the chairs at the little round table and gestured for Katelyn to do the same. When Katelyn sat down, her mother smiled at her and began to talk. "When we went to the doctor today, you know, for Ashley's physical...."


"Well it's really not that big of a deal, but we just don't want to upset Ashley, being such a little girl and all. Anyway, the doctor noticed something wrong with her leg, and that is when Ashley told us that it had been hurting the past month or so. He said he would check it out and they took Ashley to another room to examine it more thoroughly. When he got back, he said we wouldn't know exactly what it was until about a week. I asked him if something was broken or anything, and he said if it was what he thought, than it had nothing to do with anything being broken."

"So, he's gonna call back and tell you exactly what's wrong?" Katelyn questioned.

"Yes, within a week."

That week went by pretty quickly. She didn't mention the odd conversation she had had with her mother to anyone, not even to Tammy. Her mother seemed to just stand by the telephone all day. Every time it rang, she grabbed the phone as quick as she could, and when it wasn't for her, she looked like she would start crying. Then she would notice me, Dad, or Ashley looking at her and make what seemed like a huge effort to smile. None of us talked much that week. There was a weird sense of sweetness and silence in the house, which had never happened before, that Katelyn could remember.

Exactly six days after Ashley's visit to the doctor, the call from the doctor came. Like always, her mom had been hovering around the phone when it rang, so it got picked up quickly. The whole family watched and listened to the phone conversation.

"Yes it is... okay... yes... uh huh...." Then there was silence. Mom hung up the phone slowly and burst into tears.

"Momma, what is it! What did they say?" Katelyn demanded. Mr. Dixon took Dianne by the shoulders and led her over to the big, blue reclining chair. She sank into it.

Between sobs, Mrs. Dixon managed to say, "The doctor... the doctor says that... that Ashley has Leukemia."

Katelyn walked into her sister's room that night. Ashley was lying on her bed, no emotions on her face. She looked so blank. That was the first time Ashley had ever looked blank. She was always so giddy and cheerful. Now she just looked lifeless.

"Hey Ashley. Look, don't worry yourself; this is all going to be taken care of. I promise you that, and I never break promises." Ashley smiled weakly at her. Katelyn glanced around Ashley's room. Even her room was full of color. Ever since Ashley was born, when Katelyn had been four years old, there was this strange obsession with rainbows. The only thing she drew were rainbows, the only thing that filled in the walls of her room were rainbows. Every time there was a rainbow in the sky, the brightest smile would spread across her face. She would just stare at it until it disappeared into thin air. "Well, you go to sleep now. Sweet dreams." Katelyn looked at her little sister one last time before she closed the door behind her. 

"What's wrong?" was the first thing Tammy asked Katelyn the next morning.

"Nothing," Katelyn answered. She questioned herself after she responded. She wasn't exactly sure why she didn't tell Tammy. Her and Tammy usually shared everything with each other.

"Uh, okay." Tammy shrugged and they kept on walking.

That was the slowest day that ever went by in her life. Twice she had been called on by a teacher and hadn't even known it. At the end of the day, Katelyn's favorite teacher, Miss Roberts, came up to her.

"Katelyn, you seemed to be a little out of it today. That's a lot unlike you. Is there anything that you would like to share with me?"

"No. I'm fine, really."

"Okay, well, there's definitely something on your mind. Just remember that anything that you tell me is one hundred percent just between you and me. Don't be afraid to talk to anyone if something really is on your mind, okay?" She looked Katelyn directly in the eye and for a moment Katelyn thought about telling her everything, but then she came back to her senses and just nodded.  As she started walking home from the bus stop, she felt her eyes water up. She knew that it would upset her sister if she saw Katelyn crying, so she held back. She slammed the front door behind her. There was a little post-it note on the counter. She picked it up.

Kate, We are at the doctor's right now. Don't worry, it's just some check ups. Ashley is okay. We will probably be gone until late, so feel free to make yourself some dinner. There's some leftover pasta in the fridge, if you can't find anything else. Love ya!  * Momma & Dad.

Finally she was alone. She let the tears slide down her cheeks that had been there ever since that morning. As she reached inside the fridge, she heard the doorbell ring. She opened the door to find Tammy standing on her porch.

"Kate! What's wrong?" she shouted when she saw Katelyn's tear-streaked face.

"I stubbed my toe. It hurts real bad," Katelyn lied, with hope.

"Yeah right, nice try. What aren't you telling me, Katelyn?" She couldn't not tell her best friend what was going on, so she told everything that happened, and realized once she was done that Tammy was in tears, too. They must look like quite the pair, Katelyn thought to herself, the two of them just standing there, one on the porch and one halfway in the door, bawling their eyes out. Katelyn invited Tammy in. It was a Friday night, so they walked to Blockbuster and got a movie, and ordered a pizza, just like they usually did every Friday night. Everything had changed now, just in a matter of a week. Tammy called her mom to have her bring over her stuff for a sleepover.

"So, Tammy, what did you come over here for anyway?"

"To tell you the truth, I don't even remember." Katelyn giggled, then punished herself for laughing, when at the same time, her sister had a deadly disease running through her veins. She looked at the clock. It was already midnight. She hadn't expected her parents to be this late.

"I'm kind of tired. I think I'm gonna go to sleep now," Katelyn yawned. She snuggled up in her sleeping bag and went to sleep within seconds. That night she had a dream. She was in a hospital bed, with tubes connected to all different parts of her body. People swarmed around her, yelling, shouting orders. The heart rate monitor kept getting slower and slower, until it was just one long, drawn out beep. She woke up in a sweat. The clock said 4:36 in big red numbers. She tried to go to sleep, but gave up when she noticed the clock said 5:58. She quietly crept out of her sleeping bag, went out of the living room, and into her room. She took out her big photo album and looked through all of the pictures. There were various varieties of her, Ashley, Tammy, and her parents together. There were a couple of her, Ashley, and her grandparents. Her grandparents were dead now, both of them. Would that happen to Ashley? She quickly shook that thought out of her mind and felt extremely guilty for thinking that.

The next month or so went by in a rush. Her parents kept the family extremely busy, going shopping, going to see all of the movies that came out, even the ones that looked extremely stupid, and ended up being extremely stupid, too. Her mom had planned a trip all the way across the country to Disneyland, in California. She knew why her parents were doing this, but she was too shy to say so out loud.

One day, Katelyn took a good look at her sister. She noticed that all of the baby fat that used to sit on Ashley's stomach was all gone. Her shirt draped over her belly as if there was nothing underneath. Her usual pale skin looked white, now. Her family never talked about Ashley's disease to one another. They acted as though nothing was wrong. One day, Katelyn had enough. She needed to know what was going on.

"Mom, is Ashley going to die?" Her mom looked shocked. She looked the other way. Katelyn thought her mom would just ignore the question, but she finally said, "That all depends, honey."

"Depends on what?"

"On how much Ashley wants to live."

"Of course Ashley wants to live!" What, did her mom think Ashley wanted to die?

"Well it will show us how much she is willing to fight to be able to live." The sadness from over the past few weeks quickly transformed into anger and frustration. Without realizing it, she started shouting.

"Why doesn't anybody talk about this? It's like you're trying to keep some big secret! Ashley's my sister. I deserve to know if she's going to die!" And with that, she stormed off and slammed the door to her room.

That same night went by so fast. She could remember her mom scream, the ambulance's siren, and the panic that went through her and left her feeling shaky and helpless. She thought about the night's events as she waited outside her sister's hospital room. Things are happening too fast. Way too fast. Why Ashley? Why the most kind-hearted, adorable nine-year-old in the town? It just wasn't fair. The doctor came outside the room after what seemed like hours. He saw her and gave her a sympathetic look.

"Is she okay?" She couldn't think of anything else to say.

"Well this was just bound to happen soon. Now it's really up to Ashley when and if she is going to..." he hesitated. "...Pass away." That's what her mother had told her just hours before, and she had stormed off and slammed her door. How horrible of a person was she? "You can go on in if you want to see her."

Katelyn slowly walked into the room.                                                                            

"Oh, look at you Ashley. All 'tubed' up." Ashley opened her eyes when she heard Katelyn's voice.

"Hey Kate. I'm fine. I'm going to be fine. You promised me, remember? And you never break promises. So that's how I know I'm going to be okay." Katelyn laughed and cried at the same time. She sat down in the chair next to Ashley. They were silent for a while. Katelyn looked around the room. "Looks like you've re- decorated," she said, as she looked at all the paintings of rainbows taped to the wall.

"Yeah, they told me I could so mom went home and got them for me." Ashley tried her hardest to smile, but gave up after a few seconds. She shut her eyes and fell asleep. Katelyn kissed her forehead and left the room. Her parents were waiting outside for her.

"Mom, I'm so sorry. I never meant..."

"It's okay. This is a scary time for all of us, but I know we're going to get through this." Katelyn hugged her as her mom spoke. No one talked on the car ride home.

Katelyn was excused from school for the next week. Every day, her and her parents went to visit Ashley. Sometimes, she seemed to be getting better, but you could never tell what would happen next. Sometimes she would just sleep the whole time they were there.

Ashley had her first session of Chemotherapy, and had spent most of her time sleeping after that. One night, Katelyn fell asleep in the hospital room, and was awakened by the nurse the next morning. Her parents arrived about half an hour later to come take Katelyn home. She said goodbye to Ashley, even though she knew that Ashley couldn't hear. Tammy left about nine messages on her answering machine, but Katelyn didn't have any time to respond her.

The next day that they went to the hospital, her mom went in the room by herself, first. Katelyn overheard her mom talking to Ashley.

"Ashley, I know you probably can't hear one word I'm saying. This is so hard for all of us. I know it would be so much easier for you to give up, but I want to you know how much you mean to all of us. Please, please keep on fighting." When she heard her mom's footsteps coming towards the door, she quickly sat back in her chair, so her mom wouldn't know she had been listening to her. She looked at her mom and then walked into the room. She didn't have anything else to say. She spent the whole week talking to Ashley about everything, but now she was all out of conversation ideas. She stroked her sister's head, and when she lifted her hand, she realized she was holding a huge chunk of Ashley's usually soft, but now greasy, white-blonde hair. She looked down at the hair lying in her hand, horrified.

"I didn't mean to! I swear!" she screamed as she ran out of the room. The nurse looked over at her to see what all the commotion was, and when she saw what Katelyn was holding in her hand, she walked over and gave Katelyn a hug. She was surprised to find the nurse hugging her, but she didn't care at the moment.  The next day, Ashley died. When they heard the news, her mom broke down crying, her dad ran to her mom to comfort her. Katelyn just stood there taking it all in.

Ashley was gone. She would never come back. She was gone forever. She didn't start crying until they got home. Once everything had been absorbed.

"I let Ashley down. I promised her everything would be okay, and she believed me! Now look what happened."

The funeral was held three days later. Everybody cried. Tammy had attended and Katelyn couldn't even look at her. She avoided her for the whole ceremony. Katelyn watched as the coffin went down, farther and farther into the ground. It was over by 5:00 P.M. Everybody left the cemetery, one by one, until finally it was just her and her parents standing there.

Tears welled up in Katelyn's eyes for what seemed like the thousandth time that day, when she looked up. In the sky, was the biggest, brightest rainbow Katelyn had ever seen in her life. She sucked in her breath and her parents looked up when they saw her face held high in the air. The tears slid down her face, as she smiled for the first time in months.

"See Mom, Dad. Ashley's not really gone. She's right there," and she pointed to the sky.

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