Chapter 1 : The Sun is Going Down
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When I said, "I'll never let you go"
When all those shadows almost killed your light
Katherine shivered as she turned over in her bed once more, for what felt like the hundredth time that night. It was quite cold, especially for the young seven year old, yet that wasn’t what kept her awake. It was the thoughts she couldn’t shake that deprived the girl of sleep. Katherine had been worried most of the day, and her parents had sent her to bed early claiming that she would feel better once she had slept. They had been unable to offer her words of comfort, which had worried her even further.
After deciding it wasn’t worth it to try to sleep anymore, Katherine rose from her bed and tiptoed to the door, hoping not to wake her older brother. After years of sharing a room with him she had learned that he was quite a deep sleeper, however it was possible that her brother was fretting over the same things as she. Whether or not this was the case, the boy remained asleep, snoring lightly, and Katherine was able to creep out of the room.
The girl continued to move slowly, making sure to stay as quiet as possible. It had been several hours since she had been sent to bed and her parents were bound to be sleeping now as well. When she met the landing at the top of the stairs however, Katherine noticed a flickering light from the floor below, most likely from the fireplace. Curious, as she hadn’t expected anyone to still be awake, Katherine treaded lightly down the stairs to inspect the living room. When she reached the bottom of the stairs the girl spotted a thin frame sitting in a recliner facing a glowing fire.
But all that's dead and gone and passed tonight
Her sister turned and smiled at her, welcoming Katherine to move closer. The young girl hesitated, watching the fourteen year old warily. Her mother had told her not to get too close to Allison incase she made her sick, or sicker than she already was anyway. The older girl frowned at Katherine as she remained at a distance.
“I’m not going to bite you know.”
“Mum said I could make you sick,” the girl said, and Allison rolled her eyes.
“Mum says a lot of things. Besides, I’m already sick and I haven’t seen you properly in ages.” Katherine nodded as she moved towards her sister. It was true that she hadn’t seen her in a while, at least not closely. Allison had been in the hospital for most of the past year, and Katherine hadn’t been allowed to visit often due to her age and the fact that she could infect the other patients with new illnesses she might have carried from school, as all the patients in her sister’s ward were easily susceptible to new illnesses. It wasn’t until three weeks ago that Allison had told her parents she had had enough and they reluctantly brought her home. Katherine and her brother Nathan had been told to remain at a distance, as their parents were still concerned that their younger children could make her condition worse.
Now that she was so close to Allison, Katherine understood why her parents were so worried. Her older sister had always been thin, but now she looked frail as opposed to athletic like she was before. There were dark circles under her light brown eyes, and the little brown hair she had beneath her scarlet and gold beanie was dull and thin.
“Can-can I sit with you?” Katherine asked warily. She wanted to be close to her sister, but was almost afraid she could break her.
“Of course you can,” Allison replied with a smile. The older girl chuckled lightly to herself as her young sister nervously crawled onto her lap, curling her legs up and leaning on her chest. Katherine closed her eyes as she felt her sister wrap her arms around her, not wanting to let go of the moment.
“Mum and dad say you might not be around much longer,” she said, finally voicing her concerns, the reason why she couldn’t sleep. Allison didn’t reply at first, which turned Katherine’s worry to fear. She didn’t want to know what to do without her sister.
“Well, they might be right,” Allison replied after a long moment. Katherine shivered involuntarily and Allison held her closer. The young girl tried not to think it, but she knew what the statement meant. Her sister had always represented strength and happiness in her eyes. How could someone like Allison, who had always been so nice and full of life, die?
“I don’t want you to go,” whispered Katherine as tears formed beneath her closed eyelids. She closed her eyes tighter, as if the force of closing them would keep any bad things from happening. Her tears still leaked through however, just like she knew everything else would too; no matter how hard she willed it, she couldn’t stop fate. That wouldn’t keep Katherine from wishing though.
“It’ll be okay,” Allison said softly, stroking the girl’s dark brown hair, long and full as hers once was. Katherine shook her head, nuzzling herself closer to her sister as she did so, as if she feared the girl would disappear right then and there. “I can’t be here forever Kitty Kat, none of us can.” Katherine knew Allison had used the nickname to try to cheer her up, as it had always made the girl smile; in fact, it was the only one Katherine acknowledged, though only if used by Allison. Right now however it didn’t have the usual charm, it only made the young girl more reluctant of a future without her older sister.
“But why so soon? Why now?” She felt Allison sigh, and Katherine was able to find her sister’s heartbeat. She clung to the sound, hoping that it would never go away.
“I don’t know,” she replied, sounding both tired and sad. Katherine looked up at her sister’s face, taking in every feature. Even in her tired, sickly state, Allison looked more beautiful to Katherine than she could ever dream to be. Her brown eyes still had light and warmth behind them, and Katherine let this small detail comfort her as her sister continued to stroke her hair. “I promise you though,” she said at last, “that even when I’m gone, part of me will still be with you and Nathan.”
Katherine nodded as she once again rested her head, making sure she could hear Allison’s heartbeat. “Ally, can you sing to me?” the girl asked, failing to prevent the tears from falling once again.
“Sure,” her sister responded, and Katherine could almost picture the smile she received whenever she made this request. Allison began to sing softly while she held her younger sister. Katherine listened quietly, letting Allison’s words and beating heart soothe her into sleep.
“Just close your eyes,
The sun is going down.
You'll be alright,
No one can hurt you now.
Come morning light,
You and I'll be safe and sound.”
Allison stopped singing once she felt her sister finally fall to sleep. It wasn’t the first time the girl had come to her for comfort, and she could tell once her breathing became soft and rhythmic that she was finally at rest. The older girl sighed lightly, staring into the now dying fire as she held her baby sister.
It wasn’t easy, staying strong for her siblings. There were many times when she wanted to break down and cry, and admit to them how scared she was. Oddly enough it was usually Nathan who opened up to Allison about his fears for her, though being nine and overly nosy he had more insight than Katherine about what was really happening to their sister. The more her siblings came to her however, the more Allison realized that comforting them in turn comforted her. Somehow telling them that everything would be fine one day made her feel like it actually would, which made her pain a little more bearable.
She had been sick for a long time, since before she had been old enough for Hogwarts; when she was almost Katherine’s age now. Allison had wanted to go to the school so badly though, so she convinced her parents to do whatever it took to make her better so she could go. She often tried to pretend it wasn’t true, but deep down she knew that was part of the reason her parents had decided to have Katherine; her parents had been told that they and Nathan weren’t matches for stem cell transplants, but another child might be.
Katherine had only donated to Allison once, after the cord blood donation failed. After Allison had seen what the preparation treatment and procedure had done to her sister, she refused to let her parents put her through the process again. The side effects might not have been ‘severe’, but they had caused the then three-year-old enough pain and discomfort as it was, not to mention making her sick at first. No, Allison refused to let her sister suffer; only one of them should have to.
The donation had seemed to work for a while, allowing Allison to venture to Hogwarts for her first year. She had loved the castle from the moment she stepped in, and if it had been up to her she might never have left. It wasn’t even a full year until she had relapsed however, and at the end of her first year she was taken out for treatment; she never did get to go back.
Allison looked down at her sister, smiling slightly as she pictured her on her first day at Hogwarts. She could see Katherine in the uniform black robes, her dark hair falling past her shoulders (as she knew she’d never wear it up by choice), bright blue eyes wide with wonder as she entered the great hall for the first time. She wondered what house she would be sorted into. Perhaps Ravenclaw, the girl was very smart and observant for her age, despite how much she tried to pretend she wasn’t sometimes. Though Hufflepuff might not be a bad place for her either; she had a kind heart, and already was very loyal.
She had no doubt that Nathan would end up a Gryffindor. He was always trying to prove himself, and went out of his way to protect Katherine and even Allison sometimes. Allison couldn’t think of anything the boy was afraid of, except for losing his family. She did sense a little bit of Slytherin in him sometimes, but felt that his desire to follow in his father’s footsteps would overpower that any day.
Allison allowed the thoughts of her siblings to put her at peace. If she did have to leave them, at least she could do so knowing that they would be able to have what she wouldn’t, and that they could enjoy so much.
Everything's on fire
The war outside our door keeps raging on
Hold onto this lullaby
Even when the music's gone
“Katherine, Katherine!” The young girl stirred as her mother’s voice reached her ears. It was a moment before she remembered where she was, yet once she did she made sure to keep her eyes shut. She did not want her mother to remove her from her sister’s arms, and hopefully if she appeared sleeping her mother would let her stay.
Katherine listened to her sister’s chest, thinking that Allison’s heartbeat would lull her back into a peaceful sleep. The girl was unable to find it however, and was filled with panic. She pressed herself against her sister’s body, believing she must have shifted sometime in the night, but there was no change. Fearful, Katherine chanced speaking, praying that she’d receive a response.
“Ally? Ally, wake up.” With no response, Katherine finally opened her eyes and reached for her sister’s hand, which felt cold and stiff. Dread flowed through her, from her shoulders to her toes. Whether her mother found her or not no longer mattered and in her fright Katherine pulled away from her sister to better see her face.
Allison’s eyes were closed, as if she were asleep. A small smile played on her lips, and for once she looked peaceful. It was apparent to Katherine however that while she looked at rest, the life had left her older sister. The seven year old didn’t know what to do; she couldn’t believe that her sister was really gone, when she had been so alive just a few hours prior.
“Katherine Saoirse Delay-” Katherine turned as her mother stopped speaking, taking in her expression. In just one glance, she seemed to have made the same realization that her youngest daughter had and was frozen by it. Seeing her own fears reflected in her mother’s face made Katherine cold, as it served as a confirmation of her worst nightmares.
After a minute or so, the girl’s mother finally seemed to realize she was there. “Katherine, please, go-go to your room.” Katherine stayed rooted to where she sat, still curled in her sister’s arms. She was afraid to move and disturb her, even if she knew deep down that her sister would never be disturbed again. Her mother was not having it. “Katherine! Leave, NOW!” Katherine moved as swiftly and gently as she could before passing her mother and bolting up the stairs.
When she finally reached her room she nearly bowled over her brother Nathan, who appeared to have just woken up. The sight of him brought the tears from her eyes, and she wrapped her arms around him and began crying into his nightshirt as he opened his mouth to speak.
“Katherine…” he muttered weakly in question, yet did not continue the thought as their mother’s wails met their ears. His body stiffened with the realization, though Katherine didn’t have the capacity to wonder what he might be thinking as she was too full with grief. As the shock passed, Nathan allowed himself to sink to the floor as he held Katherine, and it wasn’t long before he began to cry with her.
Without really thinking about it, Katherine began to whisper the last words Allison had sung to her. She did not know why, whether to comfort herself or her brother, but speaking the words made her feel more connected to the memory and the essence of her sister. Maybe if she thought of her hard enough, Allison would be with them.
“Just close your eyes,
The sun is going down.
You'll be alright,
No one can hurt you now.
Come morning light,
You and I'll be safe and sound…”
A ceremony was held for Allison about a week after her passing. She was put to rest in a cemetery far from any city, on the outskirts of a forest. It was a peaceful place, surrounded by many plants and wildlife. Katherine imagined that on a normal day it might be nice, however that day everything seemed dark and grey. The overcast sky was white with low, gloomy-looking clouds, and the trees and bushes looked thin, most of their leaves having fallen earlier in the season. The few birds that remained in the area were quiet, occasionally letting out one or two low notes that reflected the melancholy mood.
Many members of Katherine’s family came, most of which she hadn’t even met. They all had kind words and warm hugs, but nothing they did or said made her feel any better. Even the words and soft touches of her grandparents did nothing to fill the void that seemed to have formed within her after her sister’s death. Katherine almost wished she were alone; at least then she might be able to say what was truly on her mind. Even if she knew her sister wouldn’t respond, she felt the urge to speak to her one last time.
As the family prepared to leave for the reception, Katherine took the opportunity to slip away from her parents and brother. She made her way to her sister’s headstone quickly, glad that no one had come to finish her grave yet. She glanced at the flower she had been holding, refusing to let anyone put it on the grave for her. It was a white carnation with a blue trim to the petals, created from letting the flower sit in colored water. While most everyone else had brought traditional roses, or the sunflowers known to be her sister’s favorites, Katherine had chosen the carnation; it had been her own favorite since the day Allison had shown her the trick to adding the blue color. It might not have been real magic, but it was magic enough for Katherine.
With a deep breath, Katherine dropped the flower onto her sister’s grave. She watched it as it fell, oblivious to the fact that her own tears fell with it. The girl then looked up to the sky, setting her blue eyes on a cloud that seemed slightly brighter than the rest as she imagined her sister in a better place.
“I’m sorry that I never got a chance to say how much I love you, or that I’ll miss you,” she whispered, her voice shaking slightly. Katherine closed her eyes as a soft breeze blew through her hair. She imagined her sister’s laughter, followed by her voice: ‘what do you mean you’ll miss me? I’m right here.’
Katherine was pulled back to reallity as she heard her father’s voice calling her. She kept her eyes closed, hoping to hold onto the moment a little longer…
You'll be alright,
Come morning light,
You and I'll be safe and sound...
A/N: Hello everyone!
This is intended to be an opening/prequel to a larger story I'm writing, though I plan to start a new story for that once I get it all written out.
The song is "Safe and Sound" by Taylor Swift and featuring The Civil Wars. It's from The Hunger Games soundtrack (another great series if you haven't read it yet), and it's been stuck in my head for days, which prompted me to write this.
Please read and review, I'd really appreciate it, especially since I stayed up half the night to get this idea out (so feel free to point out any minor things I should fix up). Thanks for reading! :)