Cheyenne, Wyoming, 2021 — Eight-year-old Natalie Robinson cautiously approached the other side of the room, even though her older sister wasn’t there.
To be more accurate, she was approaching Maddie’s keepsake chest, which Natalie knew she wasn’t supposed to get into.
But maybe this time she could get away with it. She used all of her little strength to push up the lid and rest it against the back of the bed. Then she leaned inside and rummaged around.
Finally, she held up her prize: a well-worn, well-loved, faded yellow stuffed duck. She closed the chest and scrambled back to her side of the room, grabbing the pink backpack she always brought with her whenever she went somewhere. She put the duck inside, zipping the pack shut just as her mom came to the door.
“Are you ready to go?” Jenny asked. Natalie nodded and followed her mom out to the car alongside her little brother Caleb.
The ride to the hospital was silent. Dad was already there in Maddie’s room when they arrived and looked up when they entered.
“Honey, you look-” Mom stopped talking and sighed. Dad didn’t say anything. He just looked at Maddie.
Without hesitation, Natalie marched up to the bed, where a young woman lay, unconscious. She placed her backpack on the floor and unzipped it to take out the stuffed duck. She placed it on her sister’s arm, barely catching the way Dad’s face changed.
“Nat, did you get that from her chest?” Jenny asked. “You know you’re not supposed to get in there.”
“But she’s hurt and she needs her ducky,” Natalie said. “When I’m hurt, I always want my kitty and it helps me feel better.”
“It’s fine, Jen. At least for now,” Dad said. Looking over at Natalie, he added, “But, you’re still going to apologize to Maddie when she wakes up for getting into her things without permission. Understand?”
Natalie shuffled her feet. “Okay, Dad.”
Six-year-old Caleb watched silently, his eyes big against his face. Then he too walked up to the bed where Maddie lay and placed a piece of candy on it by the duck.
Natalie watched as her parents shared a glance, then looked back at her sister.
©H.S. Kylian 2018
(Critiques are welcome and appreciated!)
Author’s note: Working on a character description page. For now:
Ethan: Straight-ish auburn hair, amber eyes, height is 6’4 1/2. Age 44.
Jenny: Straight dark brown hair, bright blue eyes, height is 5’1. Age 41.
Maddie: Wavy red hair, amber eyes, height is 5’7. Age 21.
Natalie: Curly red hair, bright blue eyes, height is average for an 8-year-old.
Caleb: Straight dark brown hair, amber eyes, height is average for a 6-year-old.