This story was meant to be a reworking of a little composition I wrote back in secondary school. Having already lost that piece entirely, I tried writing it out based on my memory; to my shock, it ended up going on for nine pages, even though the original had only been barely two pages long.
In any case, this story is very experimental, what with my attempt at writing a young protagonist dealing with a difficult subject. A part of the piece was eventually submitted as a submission for class.
However, this piece was written back in March 2015, and has not undergone much change. I recall that it was horridly flawed. A feedback session I had with my writing tutor about this piece taught me a lot about writing tragedy, which is a skill I hope to hone more… considering my love for tragicomedy.
Also, this piece is one of the few times I tried sounding like a child. Thankfully, the Hemingway test showed that it was of grade 3 readability… pretty much the age of my little narrator here for the majority of the story.
Please enjoy, and leave a comment when you can!
Readability — 3rd Grade
Est. Reading Time — 00:20:12
A basket of orchids, pansies and cyclamens. I carried them in, welcomed by the cheers of the children. We exchanged smiles and greetings as I brought the basket to the innermost of the ward-the bedside where I always would sit and arrange the flowers.
The boy lying on the bed heard my entrance; he turned his head from the bright window, panted, and stared at me with gleaming eyes. I smiled. The corner of his white lips curled up as he gave a laugh-a giggle so childlike, so strained, that it seemed like it erupted from the top of his throat. The light from the window bounced off his face. His smile looked just like the sun.
Sol and I were five years apart. I didn’t know what to make of him when I first saw him: a swollen, tiny little thing, so fearful of the light it cried every time it reached its eyes. My mother told me he was my little brother; I was so proud it felt like my heart would burst.
But as Sol grew up I loved him less. I hated how he always gained attention, and how he acted selfishly. Everyone told me that’s how children are like-but I just couldn’t stand it.
We destroyed everything of each other’s: he would steal my belongings and I would break his in retaliation. When he told on me I would hit him; when I told on him he would pull my hair while I was sleeping, and the two of us would struggle till we fell asleep.
Our parents were appalled by our relationship. They made sure we stayed away from each other. They split their duties: my mother with me, and my father with Sol. But no matter how much they tried, we never failed to keep ruining each other.
The turning point came when Sol was six and I was eleven. The boy was such a genius, adding soap into my water bottle and making sure the water looked clear enough so that I wouldn’t suspect a thing. He had watched as I downed the liquid, swallowed it, and vomited on the floor. He rolled on the floor in laughter.
My sight turned red. I grabbed him by his shirt and screamed. His smile fell, as though stung by a scorpion. His horror delayed his reaction as he flinched, jerking out of my grip, and dashed about the house trying to escape my wrath. I couldn’t let him go. We broke through our parents’ shouts and dashed out of the house. I chased him down the streets of our village as he went screaming for help. The instant he lost his stamina I pounced on him; and there in the dirt we struggled, punching and screaming as we hurt each other.
Since then, having given up on segregation, our parents forced the two of us to get along. While we were still bandaged from the fight, our hands were tied together by a white cloth, such that we had to do everything together: whether it was going to school, eating, or even sleeping. The only time we were allowed to have them off was when we had to go to school for lessons, or when we were bathing. But every other time, even when we wanted to play with our friends, we had to be together. It was horrible to be laughed at by our peers. Out of shame and resentment, we made sure to get along so that our parents would end the punishment.
As days went by our disagreement ceased: we got used to being with each other. We made compromises. We exchanged deals. We shared jokes instead of pranks. The first time I saw him smiling, I thought his name was accurate-it was so bright, like I was looking at the sun itself.
“I want to become a soccer player,” Sol announced as we lay on the bed, trying to fall asleep. I scratched behind the cloth that bounded our hands, finding the itch as irritable as he was. Sol felt my struggling and shifted his hand, pulling my eyes down to his level.
“What do you want to become?” he asked. I clicked my tongue, trying to reach the itch with my finger.
“A florist,” I said.
“What mom is doing.” I finally relieved the itch.
“…Oh.” A blatant disappointment. “You want to stay in the village?”
I stared. “Well, don’t you?”
He shifted his head to express a shake. “I want to go out. Tom told me soccer players can leave the village.”
“Yep. His cousin was… er, scooted.”
“Scouted,” I corrected.
I rolled my eyes. “You need to be reeeally good to be scouted,” I said, shifting into a more comfortable position. Sol did so too, as though to copy my actions.
“Don’t you think I’m good at soccer?” he asked.
Sol fell silent. He was probably pouting. I closed my eyes, revelling in victory.
“You will be a very bad flowerist,” he said, as though that was the best comeback he could think of.
“It’s ‘florist’, and I’ll be a good one,” I said. “I’ve memorised the language of flowers, and Mom promised to teach me flower arrangement too.”
“No fair,” he muttered, shifting away from me. I laughed haughtily, sinking deeper into my pillow. Our conversation ended as we fell asleep, my mind brightly lit as I thought nothing of belittling my brother.
The next morning I woke up to an uncomfortable heat beside me. I shifted myself to get away, but the heat was bound to me, and followed my arm as I moved. It groaned, sounding just like…
My eyes flash opened. I leapt out of bed, finally awake, and felt for Sol’s forehead. The heat that met my hand sent a cold needle through my body.
I screamed for my parents. They dashed in, and understood the situation as I cried for help. My father picked him up like a broken toy as my mother struggled to release the bind on our hands. It was a thirty minutes’ drive to the next village for a hospital. I made sure to hold onto Sol’s hand as my father drove us. I clutched it so tightly, my hand and his became as white as the cloth that had bound us.
Sol was born with a physical defect. My parents told me later that day. His birth had been a premature one thanks to that.
When the doctor was finally done, he announced that Sol had to be hospitalised for further treatment; neither of my parents could say no.
My father drove me home, so that we could bring Sol his belongings. We were silent most of the way as I held back the heat in my eyes. I stared at the dirt road, the setting sun lighting it.
As the car bumped along, my father asked me a question.
“Do you hate Sol?”
I kept my eyes on the road, pursing my lips so that I wouldn’t make a sound.
“Luna, do you hate Sol?” he repeated, glancing to see my expression. I tried to open my mouth, to say ‘yes’-but my tears spilled before I could do it. With a muffled cry I covered my face with my hands, hiding behind my palms as I sobbed. My chest was burning. My eyes were hurting. My mind was filled with the thought of losing Sol, and I couldn’t think of anything else.
I thought I hated him. But the truth was the opposite.
My father reached out a large, rough hand to rub me on my back. I kept crying, shaking my head in a final attempt to deny the truth. If Sol was there to see me, he would definitely have laughed-the same way he had clutched his stomach and rolled on the ground when I drank the soap-water.
If he really was there, I wouldn’t chase him around the village-I would hug him, thank the gods for keeping him alive, and give him a huge kiss on his cheek.
And then he would smile at me, like he always did.
Sol was supposed to be discharged after a month. But in a week or so, while playing with his new friends at the hospital, he collapsed with another fever. The doctors looked at him again, and announced that he should be permanently hospitalised as his condition was bound to worsen-news that neither my parents nor I could accept as reality.
Sol was sent to a children’s ward, sharing a room with seven other children. They were all younger than he was, each with their own bright personalities and situations. Every time we went to see him, he would tell us about their ridiculous escapades and the fun he was having. Every single time he would smile: a smile so innocent, so bright, that it was just like the sun.
In order to pay for his hospital bills my parents took up more work-which meant less time for Sol. Sol seemed vaguely aware of it himself, and did his best to smile every time I came alone. I didn’t want him to feel lonely so I spent my time chattering away, about the things I loved, the things I hated, and about my honest feelings which I had missed due to my prejudice against him.
Sol smiled at each of my words. When he couldn’t understand he would slow me down, and repeat my words to make sure he had remembered them. It felt as though he was making a mental note of everything I said, so that he could review them when I leave.
One day, while talking to him about autumn flowers, he tried to stop me. By then, sitting up in bed had become a difficulty for him and he could only lie down as I prattled on. The little boy, growing thinner each day, reached out a trembling hand to grab my sleeve. I caught it and gave it a little squeeze.
“Do you still want to be a flowerist?” he asked.
“It’s ‘florist’, and yes I do,” I laughed. “Why?”
Sol broke into a brilliant smile, his face horribly white. “Do you think you can give everyone here some flowers?” he asked gesturing to the other beds. “Everyone has a vase, but only mine has flowers in them.”
Sol’s hand was freezing. It was colder than it used to be. I stared at his face, his sincere gaze interlocked with mine, and I knew he was being serious.
“Blue, pink and purple flowers look pretty together,” he continued. Those three were my favourite colours.
Sol’s words filled me with pride. I nodded, lifting my face. “So you agree, huh?”
Sol burst into a laugh, and I laughed along with him-just two children, a pair of siblings, laughing together.
The next day I ran through my mother’s garden looking for blue, pink and purple flowers. I dug up everything I could find, and filled two baskets which I towed into the hospital. The children laughed at my muddy, blushing face-and of course, so did Sol.
“Why do you want to leave the village, Sol?” I asked. He had wanted to become a soccer player for that reason. Sol let his eyes fly about the room as he mused.
“I want to see other things,” he said, taking a deep breath. “Your book had volcanoes and pyra… pyramids. We don’t have that here.”
Sol nodded, and gestured for the drawer beside him. Within it was the familiar blue hardcover book, with the gigantic words THE BIG BOOK OF KNOWLEDGE, and the ugly illustrations of a dinosaur, a pyramid, and a volcano on the cover. It was six times the size of my hand, and heavy to deal with-for Sol’s sake I tried to pull it out but almost fell off my seat.
I remember the book well. My father had given it to me, not realising that it wasn’t fit for a girl my age. It did well to entertain me in my earlier years, teaching me about dinosaurs and research and space, fuelling my curiosity for science. But eventually I got bored of it and gave it to Sol without thinking. It quickly grew to be his biggest companion, though I hadn’t notice it because I was rarely with him.
Sol reached his hands excited for the book, and I placed it on his stomach. I was afraid that it would crush him, since he looked so fragile, but he looked so happy I figured there was nothing to be afraid of.
“This book has many things,” he said, flipping it open. He went through each page as though he had memorised every word and picture, telling me about things I already knew and how he wished he could see them in real life. After every word he would stop to breathe-I listened, feigned patience, and smiled at every pause.
“Tom’s cousin brought him to see a real volcano,” he said, his eyes shining. “He’s the one that got scoo- scouted.”
“I see. Well, if you get better, I can ask mom and dad to bring you to a real volcano too.”
Sol shut the book. He stared at his hands as he fiddled with the hardcover. “But I won’t be getting better.”
“Yes, you will,” I said.
He shook his head. “I know, Luna. I won’t be getting better.”
“Yes, you will.”
He shook his head again.
“You will, Sol! You will get better!”
“I’m sorry Luna. Don’t cry.”
“I’m not crying!”
Sol pursed his lips. He avoided my gaze as his voice receded into a whisper.
“I’m sorry Luna.”
That day I filled my basket with coreopses, rudbeckias and dahlias-flowers for the rainy weather. I walked into the ward like always, expecting a warm welcome… But all that greeted me was an unnerving silence. I glanced at each of the children, smiling, and waiting for their cheer to return. Every one of them looked up to return my smile, but none of it held to their faces; and as I walked deeper into the ward, I found out why.
The bed beside Sol was empty.
Sol was looking out the window. The glass was covered with droplets which lingered, and fell onto each other as they journeyed down the pane. Beyond it was a grey sky, glowing once in a while with thunder, and filling the ward with the pitter-patter sound of rain.
Sol didn’t move, not even as I placed the basket onto his table, not even as I called out to him and touched his shoulder, not even as I patted his head and wiped his tears.
I swallowed the lump in my throat, taking deep breaths as I arranged the flowers and placed a set into each vase in the ward. To each child I gave a smile, and patted their heads as they burst into tears.
An empty vase stood beside the empty bed, and I filled it with flowers. I ran my hand over the cold pillow.
“He was chatting with me last night,” Sol said, his eyes on the window. His voice was like a chick’s, one that had lost its way home. “He told me his daddy is buying him a robot for his birthday next week.”
I adjusted his blanket, making sure to tuck it into his side. He lay motionless, gazing at his reflecting on the glass.
“He couldn’t wake up this morning. I called him, but he didn’t wake up. The doctor and nurses came and took him away. They said he’s not coming back.”
I nodded, patting his head. I took out a wet tissue and wiped his face. I took out another and wiped his pale, bony hand. I took out another to wipe his thin legs.
All the while I tried to smile. But the drops coursed down my face, wetting his blanket.
A setting sun. That was the scenery beyond his window as Sol regurgitated his medicine. The mess overflowed from his bed and onto the floor. I patted his back as he coughed and shivered. A nurse pulled me from him, cleaning up the mess as a doctor checked his condition.
I tried to understand what they were doing, but lost myself at the scene. The children around us cried as they hid their faces under their blankets. I wanted a blanket to burrow under too.
The doctor exchanged words with the nurses. They spoke in hurried breaths as they left the way they came. Sol stared at me through half-opened eyes. I wanted to pat his head and stroke his cheek. A tear trickled down the side of his head. I wanted to wipe it away for him.
But my body wouldn’t listen. Move! I wanted to scream. Why won’t you move?!
The nurses returned, pushing a new bed into the ward. One of them transferred Sol onto it, carrying him like a puppet. I ran after them as they left, but a nurse held me back, grabbing my shoulder, and told me to stay behind to call my parents. I nodded blankly, but I didn’t want to leave. Don’t take him away, please. Don’t take him away!
I called my parents and crouched outside the operating theatre where Sol was brought to-there I waited, trembling. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t breathe. When my parents arrived a nurse asked them to provide consent. Consent for what? Their faces paled. I watched as they signed the form without complaint.
We waited there for several hours, holding hands as we remained in silence. My father tucked me under his arm as my mother leaned against his shoulder. He held the two of us close, shuddering with each breath.
The hallway was bright. The white lights made sure every corner was lit. To and fro the staff hurried. On and on time flowed, taking our hope from us.
My sight darkened. Like a moon which had lost sight of the sun, I was in darkness. I closed my eyes, wishing that it was all over, that it was all a dream. I imagined that I would be woken in the morning by my mother’s call and find Sol beside me, smiling childishly at my bed head.
My father woke me up. I had fallen asleep. He stood up from the benches to receive the doctor’s verdict. I remained where I was, looking up at the adults as though they were in a different world.
The doctor’s voice was monotonous. None of his words made sense. He spoke with my parents as my eyelids grew heavier.
“What do you mean!?” my father’s roar woke me up. His rage echoed in the hallway, making heads turn. My mother held his arm, patting his shoulder as she buried her face into his chest. I remained on the benches. I wanted to cover my ears and run away-but I needed to know.
The doctor stared at my parents, and looked down to escape their gaze. His eyes met mine-and a look of agony flashed across his face.
“I’m sorry. My nurses will tend to your needs,” he bowed. “I’m really, really sorry.”
Sol is dead.
My parents’ crying remained by my side, as I sobbed into my hands.
Sol is dead.
I tried to search my mind for my life was before Sol was born. How did I live my life without him? I dug through my memories, about the things I thought I saw in him, and the times I spent hating him.
But there was nothing. There was nothing about a life without Sol.
Sol is dead.
I remembered Sol’s birth: the tiny, red infant, all wrinkly and swollen, crying from every noise and light. That was my earliest memory-as though my life hadn’t begun until Sol was born, as though I never had a life before that.
And now that life has ended.
Sol is dead. I will never see him again.
Even without the sun, the moon remains, doing its duty. It remains in its place: dark and abandoned, yet relentless, waiting until the sun returns to light it up again.
But my sun will never return. Sol will… never…
A basket of lisianthuses by the table. Bouquets of daisies by the benches. Vases of cream roses lined the walls as the wooden box lay in the centre, adorned by chrysanthemums and calla lilies.
I stood before the coffin, where Sol laid. I stared at his childish face within. He looked like he was sleeping, like he was at peace. But without his smile Sol was not Sol-whatever was lying in the box wasn’t my brother.
The last mourner left an hour before midnight. My parents told me to return home first, and I went without a word. The house was dark, silent, and lonely. When I turned on the lights, Sol’s photos-healthy, living and smiling Sols-stared back at me from where they stood. My parents had placed them there during his hospitalisation, so that they could feel he was with them. I stared at each of them, and walked into my room.
Sol’s bag of belongings was lying on his bed-our bed, the one we shared right before his hospitalisation. I dug through them all, pulling out his clothes and refolding them. I thought about the last time I saw him in each of them: his favourite yellow shirt he wore on family outings, the green shirt he wore to play soccer with his friends, the red shirt he wore with a towel tied around his neck while playing superhero, and the pale blue pyjamas he wore when we sent him to the hospital. To each of them I gave a kiss, before setting them in his cupboard where all his other clothes were.
At the base of the bag were two books. The first was the familiar, large and heavy hardcover: ‘THE BIG BOOK OF KNOWLEDGE’ in the same bold letters, with the picture of a dinosaur towering over a pyramid as a volcano erupted behind them. I picked it up carefully, smiling from nostalgia-and it revealed a small, leather-bound notebook beneath it.
It was a sight unfamiliar to me. Yellow, crumpled pages peeked out from under the leather, and I peeled it open, my heart beating by my ears.
It was filled with Sol’s writing.
Perhaps ‘writing’ wasn’t the word. Much of its contents were random sprawling of an unstable hand, with unrecognisable doodles filling some pages in between. I kept flipping through them, looking for something intelligible-and stopped at a page with neater, better proportioned letters.
Daddy gave me this book when I was yong younger but I lost it one time and then I found it under Luna’s bed. I think I left it there that time when I was trying to scare her when she was sleeping but then I fell asleep before she sleeped so I never got to do it. I think she was sta sart stuting studying that time because I remember she was sitting at the table. She looks pretty when she is not scolding me. I like her like that. I asked daddy to bring this with my BIG BOOK OF KNOWLEDE which I really like because the cover looks cool and because Luna gave it to me. I wanted to write in this notebook when I’m at the horse hosepeetell (how to spell?). I think I have more time now because I cannot go outside anymore. I miss my friends and school and I miss my home too. I want mummy and daddy to take me home so I can play with Luna again.
The world fell upon me as I held the book. It was Sol’s diary. I flipped through the pages, staring at each word written by his six-years-old hand, not knowing what I was doing. Am I looking for something? My hands moved before I could think.
Luna, Luna, Luna… There was my name on every page: about the things I told him on my hospital visits, the songs I sang to him and his friends, the names of the flowers I brought and their respective meanings, and the things he wished he could do with me if he could get out of bed.
As the diary progressed, his handwriting regressed: the proof of his ceasing control. But even as the words became unintelligible I forced myself to decipher them; there was something in there which I wanted to find, something which I needed to quell my heart.
The handwriting grew larger, slipping over five lines with unrecognisable letters-and eventually stopped. My mind grew blank. Empty pages filled the last quarter of the notebook. My eyes burnt as I stared. That can’t be it! That just can’t be it!
I coursed through the empty pages, tearing through them furiously-and found what I wanted. There remained a set of pages at the end of the notebook, with handwriting worse than the last entry, so large that one word filled one page. The sentences were constructed one letter at a time, the pencil lead etched so deeply in the paper it seemed like he was trying to tear it apart.
I read that last entry, one page-one word, at a time.
I WANT TO LIVE
The words stared at me. My vision blurred, but I read on.
MUMMY DADDY LUNA
I WANT TO SAY
I LOVE YOU
I LOVE YOU FOREVER
PLEASE DONT FORGET SOL
SOL WONT FORGET YOU
I WILL ALWAYS BE WITH YOU
SO LIVE FOR SOL
“Okay, promise,” I nodded, laughing as my tears fell.
This is my brother-not the one lying in the coffin, not the photographs in our house, not his clothes, not the bed we shared, not the memories I had of him-none of those are him.
This is him. This is Sol.
And I held him close to my heart.
“Sol, you there?”
I turned to the bed beside me, which had been empty for the past year. I ran my hand along the cold sheets, imagining that they were warm, that Sol had by lying there until a few moments ago, and that he had been staring at me with his innocent, cheeky smile, plotting his next scheme.
Sol wasn’t there. Of course he wasn’t. But I thought he might be. He wasn’t at the hospital, so he had to be here, at home, in the bedroom we shared. But he wasn’t.
“I miss you, Sol. I still have so many things to tell you.”
I turned in the darkness. I let my left hand lay motionless at my side, as though it was still bound by the white cloth a year ago. I felt for the leather notebook beside me. I traced its edges.
“Miss Clara praised me at school today. She said I scored the highest in the class. Aren’t I great? You’re proud of me too, aren’t you? We are going out to celebrate. Mom and Dad will bring me to the blue restaurant you like. I’ll make sure to order all your favourites, so join us if you’re hungry, okay? We’ll be waiting for you.
“Oh yeah, did you know cicadas don’t only live for a week? They spend around ten years underground before climbing up to the surface. Cool, right? They only thought cicadas live for a week because that’s the time they are on the surface. Why did they see them as ‘alive’ only when they are on the surface? Strange, isn’t it?
“Oh, by the way Sol, I went to see the pond you told me about. There really are black swans there. Sorry for not believing in you. I told my girlfriends about it today, and I’ll be bringing them there tomorrow. We’re going to have a picnic there. You should join us too; we can play together. I’ll let you do whatever you want, as long as you’re good.
“You should also trim your hair, Sol. We couldn’t do it at the hospital, but your hair was getting really long. Do you have anyone there to help you? I can do it if you want. I’m good with scissors. I’ll make you look cool, I promise.
“Hey Sol? If you ever feel lonely, I’ll be right here, like always. I’ll talk to you so much that you won’t have time to cry. I’ll hug you so much that you’ll feel warm. I’ll pat your head so much that you can feel safe.
“Ah… Sorry. I’m crying aren’t I? Sorry, I’ll try to stop. Don’t worry, it’s okay, I’m alright. I just really miss you.
“Hey Sol… Do you love me?
“…Yeah. I love you too.”
A basket of tulips, freesias and poppies. I carried them in, welcomed by the cheers of the children. Each of them called my name as I passed the flowers out, placing one in the hands of each child while replacing the vases with fresh new flowers.
One by one I greeted them, hugging them as I asked if they were good. If everyone agreed that they had good behaviour I would hand the child a sugar-free candy-if not I wouldn’t give them any, unless they could convince me by the end of my visit there. They are always enthusiastic about it, so most of the time I would give it to them anyway.
There was a new addition to the ward: a girl with long, white hair, who sat silently on the bed beside the window. Her red eyes were fixated on the book under her-a big, heavy book of knowledge, which the previous owner had donated to the hospital. I went to her, smiling, and bent down to her eye level.
“Hello, I’m Luna,” I said “What’s your name?”
“Layla,” she muttered.
“Hello Layla,” I smiled. “Do you like flowers?”
Layla nodded, her movement so small it seemed like she hadn’t moved at all. I picked through my basket and found a bright red poppy, matching her eyes. She held out her hands, caught it between her tiny palms, and smiled.
It was a smile that reminded me of the sun.
Luna and Sol :: END ::