My mom packs my medicine in the giant green suitcase we once took to Florida. She puts it in between two sweaters. I’m not sure what it is, nothing hurts, sometimes my stomach, they just tell me to go and rest. At least I don’t have to drink apple juice, sleep in the metal bed, and wear someone else’s pajamas anymore. I can pick my own juice, and I don’t have to go to the bathroom when they tell me to. My bed is plastic and small at home and my pajamas are warmer than the hospital’s anyway.
I run aimlessly through the cold encompassing, stone halls of a castle in the Cotswolds. Dodging in and out of rooms imagining them lined with elaborate oriental rugs and golden ornate chalices. I glance out the windows quietly singing, cupping my right hand into the correct wave. My father and mother plug their ears while I slide to the higher notes.
I am the princess. My grandfather, the old peasant, plays along to my role-play. The peasant has an awful life, no work, no family, no friends, and no toys—not a very good part to play. “Save me! Save me!” The peasant must follow, or he will be punished. I comb my locks, smile and my furrowed brows fold at every mistake he makes. The goal is to be saved by a prince charming on a white stallion. My grandfather and I repeat this at each castle we visit. Eventually grandfather, far too good at playing the peasant, is promoted to the knight.
I play a game called “the peek game.” If I finish the pink liquid in the cup with the numbers on the side, I get to see the gift. My parents force me but it hurts my throat to get it down. The gift is in the brown paper bag, and I only get the prize when the cup is empty.
We are staying on a small farm in the Cotswolds because my grandfather, a math professor, must be in London on a conference; my parents are happier here than when I was in the hospital. The property is always silent, the dirt road separating us from the lush greener pastures. I spend everyday chasing sheep on flowery Heidi hills, looking to see if they have a shepherd and I hope that one day I will run quick enough to catch one to bring home. My dad tells me the Ricola man stands on one of our hills, blowing his unidentifiable horn. This makes me confused. The sheep are less exciting to me than Bumpy the horse. I named him that when we first arrived, because he galloped, and to me that looked like a pretty bumpy thing to do. We bring him carrots wrapped in wax paper, pat his nose, and don’t stand too close because we don’t actually know why he is in the gates of our property.
Boddington Beer is a type of British beer with two bees on the can. Poured, the beer rises up like a chia pet. My grandfather says it’s the rather intense amount of carbonation that causes tiny white bubbles to rise at alarming speeds. I don’t understand. I use my chair for height; rise and bounce, squealing, “it grew a face!” I dig my fingers into the beer and the “face” disappears. I was hoping for some sort of long lasting frozen over puff of beer foam.
It’s our last day in England. My toes have dirt between them but I slide them into my shoes without socks anyway, ignoring the sweaty feeling. I creep into the room my grandparents have been sleeping in. The wooden window panels are usually blown open letting in some light into the somber and mostly black-sheeted room. Mahogany beams, my grandmother says, give the house its rather English feel. I bend down and look under the bed, just to see if I can find something. Expecting to spot a strange bright-eyed cat, or large wild beast like animal, I am upset to find one Playmobile toy.
As I glance up, moving my hair, my eyes slide into contact with Bumpy’s giant hazel bowls. He leans in, his neck perching itself uncomfortably on the sill. Blocking the light, he stands still. Cool air sticks to my eyebrows; Bumpy casts night on my cheeks.
I take slow steps over to him, feeling the air from his nostrils, trickling my fingers on his multicolored ears I chuckle at the snuffles he makes. I play hand games on his nose and braid his hair as he stands like a stone. Still hiding the sun from shining on my face, I let my ankles collapse; hugging my knees, I fall to sleep. Drifting off, the patterns of his breath, uneven and bumpy, remind me that it’s time for my medicine.
Allison Korbey, Age 17, Grade 12, Berkeley Carroll School, Silver Key