Hold My Hand

All she ever wanted was for me to hold her hand.

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1. Hold My Hand

I remember holding Alda for the first time, seeing her wriggle slightly in my arms, and thinking she was the most beautiful thing in the world. A small tuft of black hair sat on the top of her head, thick and dark. It made me laugh, but I had no idea why. I gently stroked her cheek with my thumb, and I could've sworn that she smiled. Her small hand came up and curled around one of my fingers, and Alda gave a small coo of content. I blinked in surprise; her grip was surprisingly strong for a newborn baby. I was almost reluctant to settle her back into my mom's arms.

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"Jimmy, I'm scared!" Alda whimpered, balancing her four year old body dangerously on a rock in the middle of the creek. I sat on the bank, my hand buried deep into the soft green grass. I let a small smirk and leaned back, sighing with content and closing my eyes as the rays of sunlight hit my face. Alda called for me again, but I ignored her. She could handle herself!

"J-Jimmy, help me! Hold my hand!" Alda wailed, and I growled softly in frustration. "Alda, just go to the other rocks. You'll be fine! The water's not that deep anyways!" I snapped, and I didn't even feel a hint of regret when her lip started to quiver and a fat tear rolled down her cheek. I wanted her to learn that it was safe, that she wouldn't be hurt if she fell in the water.

"Just... Come across. I'll catch you if you fall, okay?" I said, sending her a small smile to reassure her. I didn't want to hold her hand. Alda perked up when she heard the sincerity in my voice, and she hesitantly stepped into the water. She giggled when the water rushed over her feet and her toes sunk into the sticky algae. I smiled as she splashed around in the water, laughing and giggling happily. Alda stretched out a hand, beckoning for me to take it and come play with her. I wrinkled my nose and shook my head, perfectly happy with lying in the grass and just watching her play. Alda's smile wavered slightly, but she started playing around in the water and was soon happy again.

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Today was Alda's first day of kindergarten, and she was terrified. When mom tried to make her go out to the bus, she clung to her leg and wouldn't let go. She screamed and hollered until mom finally agreed to drive both of us to school. Being thirteen, I honestly couldn't care less. As long as Alda shut up and stopped screaming, I was good with any plan.

Alda and I sat in the back seat together, and she wouldn't stop fidgeting with her dress. I eventually slapped her hand and glared at her ferociously. She was bugging me, just by being there. Alda quickly put her hands in her lap, her head bent down as she looked away from me.

"Can you hold my hand when we go in, Jimmy?" Alda asked, sending me a smile that would usually make my heart melt and give in to whatever she wanted. But there was just something about holding her hand that set me off. I shivered at the very prospect of coming in contact with her. I sneered at her and quickly shoved my earbuds into my ears, staring out the window and blasting my music.

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Alda's legs swung slightly as she sat on the plush seat in the hospital waiting room, wearing a cute little pink dress and small black shoes. Today was her sixth birthday, and we were stuck in the hospital. Alda had to get some sort of stupid X-Ray. Mom refused to tell me what it was for, and to say I was ticked off was an understatement. Waiting took hours in the hospital! We'd be here all night!

"Jimmy, can you hold my hand?" Alda asked softly, looking up at me with her big brown eyes. I huffed and turned my attention back to my phone, my long, raven bangs hanging in front of my face. Alda stuck her lip out in a pout and she tried to grab my hand. A sort of electric shock shot up my arm and  I wrenched away, looking at her in disgust and anger.

"What is up with you and wanting to hold my hand?!" I snarled, and Alda's eyes widened and started to shine with tears. I sighed and shook my head, ignoring her as she continued to sit and swing her legs, humming a soft tune. The doctor finally came and we made our way into the X-Ray room, where Alda changed into a hospital gown and sat down on the cold metal table. The pictures were taken, and Alda hopped off the table, happy as ever, but I noticed with a frown that she whimpered slightly in pain. The doctor approached us, and we received news that would change our lives forever. Alda had late-stage liver cancer.

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"I'm sorry, but it doesn't look good. The cancer has spread through her liver. I'm afraid she doesn't have long." My blood ran cold at the doctor's words. After a month of treatment, constant trips to the hospital, and large amounts of sacrifice on our entire family's part, it had all been in vain. Alda was going to die in the hospital, in pain and away from the comfort of her home, family, and friends.

I swore to myself then that I would stay by her side. If she was going to die, then so be it. But, I wouldn't let her die alone. As I tuned out the doctor and my parents' soft whisperings, my gaze fell on Alda where she lay in her hospital bed. She looked so small and pale in the confines of her hospital bed, surrounded by equipment that was keeping her alive. I sat in the chair beside her bed, watching her as she slept fitfully. I wouldn't leave Alda if my life depended on it. Never...

"Jimmy?" Alda rasped, sitting up slightly, groggily looking around the room. I winced and gently pushed her back down on to the bed. "You need to rest, Alda. You know, so you can get better," I whispered, my voice cracking slightly. Alda wasn't going to get better. But I had to keep pretending, for her. Alda smiled her cute little smile and nodded, snuggling back down into the pillows.

"Jimmy, please hold my hand," Alda said, looking up at me pleadingly. I gazed down at her hand, which was pierced with an IV needle, wrapped in several layers of tape, and extremely pale. I shivered, imagining how cold her hand would be, and I slowly shook my head.

"Go back to sleep Alda," I murmured, smiling down at her softly.

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The funeral seemed to take hours. Everyone was crying, so sad and distraught about the death of such a young girl. I had thought for sure that I would cry at the funeral, as they lowered her casket into the ground, but I somehow managed to keep it together. The priest said his few words, all of them meaningless and scripted.

I was the last person to leave. My parents had left me alone when they saw the blank look on my face. I guess they thought I just needed some time. I stared down at the freshly turned earth that covered my little sister's body, separating me from her for good. Before I realized what I was doing I had fallen to my knees, not caring that I was getting the knees of my dress pants dirty, and started to sob.

Alda was out of my reach. I would no longer hear her playful giggle, see her loving smile, or watch her play at our favorite spot on the creek near our home. I would never be waken up by her jumping on my bed and yelling in my ear, never hug her or hold her hand like she'd wanted me to all these years. I'd been so selfish; I'd never even told her I loved her, but she had continued to show her love to me. I'd never shown her that I cared about her,  just yelled at her, called her stupid, and done nothing to make her think I loved her even a little.

All she ever wanted was for me to hold her hand.

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