Here’s a little Fifth Friday Flash Fiction fun for everyone. Meet Aubrey and Zadie in an earlier story over on Intentional Parenting: How to Hug a Lightning Bolt.
“I stubbed my toe on that big gravel!” Zadie limped to exaggerate the effect, her princess-fairy-assassin costume becoming even more Frankenstein-like.
“Well, maybe if you hadn’t worn that big mask, you could see better.” Aubrey sighed in the classic big-sister way. “Come on.”
Zadie hung back near the road, her feet scuffing through the orange leaves. Half-way up the walk, Aubrey turned. “What’s wrong now?”
“I don’t think Mr. Jennings likes me.”
“Then it’s good you’re wearing a Halloween costume, Zadie. He won’t recognize you.”
Zadie knocked once on the storm door, turned, and hopped off the stoop. “He’s not home. Let’s go.”
“Wait. His lights are on. His decorations are out. Give him a minute. He’s probably slow.” Aubrey knocked more firmly. After twenty seconds, she opened the storm door and knocked on the solid, wooden door. It swung open a couple of inches.
She pushed in a bit more. “Hello? Mr. Jennings? Are you here? Trick or treat?” An upturned bucket of Halloween candy slid behind the door. A pair of feet stuck out of a lit room at the end of the hall.
Aubrey glanced back at Zadie. “Either this is an elaborate Halloween trick or something’s wrong. Come on, Zee.” Zadie grabbed her big sister’s hand as they stepped through the door. Aubrey strengthened her voice, “Mr. Jennings? Are you all right?”
Was that a groan?
Hand in hand, the girls crept down the dark hallway. A black cat crossed from one doorway to another in front of them. Zadie squeezed Aubrey’s hand even tighter and glanced at her sister. Aubrey was holding her breath, too!
They peeked around the corner into the lit room. Mr. Jennings lay face down, his cane stretched out like an hour hand at eleven o’clock on the 70s-era linoleum floor. Aubrey bent down and shook his shoulder. “Mr. Jennings? Are you okay?”
No answer. Aubrey pulled out her phone and dialed 9-1-1. When she ran to the front door to find the street address, Zadie leaned near Mr. Jennings ear. “I’m sorry you don’t like me,” she half-whispered. “Please don’t die.”
Mr. Jennings eyelids fluttered. He groaned then raised his hand a few inches off the floor and shakily pointed toward the kitchen table. A row of four orange containers sat near the center. “Your medicine? Is that what you need?” Zadie spoke to herself as much as him. She ran to the table and grabbed all four containers. “Which one? All of them? Oh, I don’t know what to do!” She twisted back and forth, her assassin cape slapping the floor every time.
She grabbed all four containers and sat them in a row on the floor, yelling, “Mr. Jennings! Show me which one!” His eyes opened long enough to register the containers, then he knocked over the second one. “Is that the one, Mr. Jennings?” She tried to read the label: “Nitro…nitro-glik-eron. Is that the one, Mr. Jennings? Do you need nitroglycerin?” Zadie was still yelling.
That’s the biggest word I ever read, Zadie thought, and I probably didn’t say it right. Mr. Jennings tapped the floor twice with his forefinger. “It says you should take two. Is that right?” Mr. Jennings tapped twice again.
She wrenched the bottle open before she realized it didn’t have a child safety cap. Half the pills fell onto the floor. She picked up two, blew them off, and stretched them toward Mr. Jennings. He did nothing. “You can’t get them, can you? Okay, I’m going to put them in your mouth.” Zadie grimaced and reached toward the old man’s lips. Thankfully, he opened his mouth enough for her to stuff in one pill then the other. “You’re gonna have to swallow, Mr. Jennings. I can’t do that for you!”
At that moment, Aubrey stepped back into the room with a gasp. “What are you doing?!?”
“He needed his medicine! He told me!” Aubrey’s eyes were filled with panic, but tears puddled in Zadie’s eyes.
“How’d he tell you? Never mind, here comes the ambulance.” Aubrey ran back down the hall. Zadie froze, looking from Mr. Jennings to the door and back.
The EMTs marched into the kitchen full of authority and loaded with equipment:
“What happened?” “What did you do?” “What did he take?” “How many pills?” “Where did you find him?” “How long has he been like this?”
Now the tears were flowing freely, and the only thing Zadie could say was, “Two pills. I gave him two pills.” She wiped her nose on the sleeve of her princess-fairy-assassin costume before she remembered she would get in trouble for that.
Zadie’s mom shook her awake early the next morning. “C’mon, Zadie. We’re going out for pancakes, but we have a stop to make first.”
Zadie had only been to the hospital once before. The long halls and mechanical noises quieted her always-full mind. Somehow, her mother knew where to go, and they pushed open a certain hospital room door. Mr. Jennings raised his head and weakly waved them in.
“You’re Zadie, right?”
“Yes, s-sir. I’m sorry we came in your house last night.”
He harumphed. “Sorry? Little girl, you saved my life!”
“What? I thought I messed up. I spilled your pills on the floor and I gave you two of them and the medics were scary and asked me lots of questions and I didn’t know what to say and my sister…” Her words trailed off as Mr. Jennings held his palm toward her like a crossing guard indicating ‘stop.’
“Zadie, it’s no wonder I didn’t talk last night. You won’t let a person get a word in edge-wise.” His eyes were laughing.
Zadie giggled. “That’s what Aubrey, my sister, that’s what she says.”
“I want you to know two things, little missy. And I asked your mama to bring you over here so I could tell you both. First, you saved my life, and I thank you for it. I was trying to get to those pills when I fell and bonked my noggin. If you hadn’t done what you did, we would have had a much more frightful Halloween.” He raised his eyebrows.
“And the second?” Zadie interjected.
“Just give an old man a minute!” Zadie pursed her lips the way her first-grade teacher had taught her when it wasn’t her turn to speak.
Mr. Jennings took a few more breaths. “Alright. I’m ready. The second thing is that I never didn’t like you. The fact is, you remind me of my own daughter about forty years ago. She and her mama died when she was just a little older than you are now, so seeing you makes me hurt something awful.”
For once in her life, Zadie had no words.
“But I’ve decided it’s worth it. I want you to come over any time, play in my yard, and eat apples off the tree in the back. When I get outta her, I’m even gonna see what I can do about replacing the tire swing we used to have on that oak tree in the front.”
Zadie’s mom touched her back, the universal parental prompt to say “thank you,” and Zadie did.
Here’s a #FifthFriday #FlashFiction not-so-frightful story about 2 sisters who are as different as their names: Aubrey and Zadie. Something light to end the month. Enjoy!Tweet
Did you share a harrowing experience with a sibling when you were younger? What happened? How did it work out? I’d love to read your TRUE story in the comments below!