The End of the Rainbow
A few months after my eighth birthday, my mother lost her three-year battle with leukemia. That was devastating enough, but when I was thirteen, doctors diagnosed my little sister Jenny with cancer at the age of seven. Chemotherapy was horrible; the chemicals that were supposed to destroy the cancer also destroyed her beautiful golden hair, and each treatment left her writhing, sobbing in agony and pain. The doctors were certain that she wouldn't make it to the eighth year of her life. My father and I often listened to Jenny's accounts of what she would do when she became older and better, thoughts and ideas we only listened to half-heartedly. But one day, a miracle altered the fate that the doctors had foreseen for Jenny.
"A rainbow! Look, Lizzie, it's a rainbow!" Jenny tugged my hand, pulling me along in the vast golden field of wheat on the farm we owned. Jenny let my hand fall and bounded towards the spot where the rainbow appeared to end. I watched her thin, frail body slide away from me. Stop, I tried to will her. Stop, you're six years younger than me. Stay with me, sister; don't wander towards death so soon.
Sensing that I was lagging behind, Jenny stopped and wheeled around. "Come on, Lizzie!" She called in her bright, beautiful clear voice. How many more times would I hear it? I wanted to freeze it, stash it away forever. "Don't you know that there's anything you want at the end of a rainbow?" I hated her for that, loved her for that, wanted to shake her, hug her, all at the same time. Why couldn't she understand? Her life was trickling away, each second like a precious grain of sand in Fate's hourglass. And besides, wasn't it a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow? But no matter what, nothing could give me what I truly wanted, more than anything, even more than having our mother back—a healthy sister that would grow up with me, grow old with me.
I walked towards her. But just as I was about to reach her, Jenny shot off again, seemingly full of endless energy. But then I saw her slow down. Seeing that it would be futile to try and catch up to her, I sat down and watched her small figure diminish into the distance, her shiny round head glinting in the sun.
With a jolt, I opened my eyes. I was laying down, my cheek resting on a small patch of soft moss. I sat up, trying to remember what had happened—and then I remembered. Jenny was nowhere in sight. Glancing at where I remembered the rainbow had been, I saw that the rainbow was gone too. Looking at my watch, I realized that an hour had gone by. Cursing myself for my carelessness, I ran among the tall wheat, calling Jenny's name.
Brushing away tears of anger and fear, I was about to head home with the bad news when I heard that beautiful, clear voice again, coming from behind me. "Lizzie."
Turning around, I choked out, "Jenny, you—" I stopped in mid-sentence, unable to fully grasp the sight before me.
I was so sure it was a mirage. How could it be true? Jenny looked perfect, like an angel. But surely, I thought, surely this isn't the Jenny I saw just an hour ago!
Her body was no longer fragile-looking. It was now robust and healthy. Her skin seemed to glow with health. And her hair! It was just as I remembered from before her first chemotherapy session. Her locks of tight curls, the color of the wheat around us, shone under the late afternoon sun.
I stood there, frozen. I wanted to reach out, touch it, believe it; I wanted to run away and hide, so scared, so terrified that it was a ghost.
"Lizzie? What's wrong?" That beautiful voice asked. It sounded like Jenny. I looked into her eyes, sparkling, now filled with question. They looked like Jenny's.
"Jenny, is that really you?" My voice was hardly above a whisper. I took a step towards her.
"Lizzie, of course it's me!" Her eyes were clouded with concern—and did I see a hint of fear glimmering in her eyes? "Lizzie, what's wrong?" She began to back away. "Lizzie, are you okay?" Frightened, she turned and started to run toward the house.
I caught her in two steps, wrapping my arms around her shoulders. It felt like Jenny. Laughing, I buried my face in the golden curls, filling my nostrils with the scent of wildflowers.
Then, I felt a tapping on my shoulder. I opened my bleary eyes and saw Jenny standing over me. "Lizzie, it's time for dinner! Let's go! I'm hungry!" I blinked. Groaning, I realized that perfect Jenny I'd just seen was only a dream. I stood up, taking her hand as we walked towards our house in the glow of the afternoon sun.
I wanted to cry. I had come so close to what I wanted so desperately, only to have it taken away from me just as I had gotten it. Jenny said nothing of what happened while I'd slept, and I was too distracted to notice her unusual silence.
The following week, we took Jenny to the hospital for her usual checkup. Shaking their heads, the doctors all told us the same results with the same disbelief. The leukemia had miraculously disappeared from Jenny's blood. A year later, they told us that Jenny had completely recovered from leukemia.
I never asked Jenny what had happened that day, when she went to the end of the rainbow; she never brought it up. I was just thankful that it had happened.