A Flute Player's Story

By Rachel Halpin

Romance

Is she?

I went to visit Ally every night for two weeks. She was almost always sleeping when I came and the times she was awake, she didn't seem to know who I was or what had happened. Rooster told me it was because of the fever. It made her delusional and she wouldn't remember much of what happened if she recovered. I always felt a shiver go down my spine when we talked about it. Rooster always said if she recovered, never when. The third week I went to visit her, Rooster said Ally had gotten bronchitis.

"She's very sick," he told me, sounding very worried. I was sitting on the fire escape outside Ally's room and Rooster was hanging out the window.

"Does she still have the measles?"

"No. Measles don't last more than a week or so. Ally's over them, but she caught cold from being outside so long. I think that's what made her catch bronchitis. It's very bad."

I climbed past him into the bedroom and sat next to Ally. Taking her hand, I leaned in and kissed her cheek, whispering that I loved her and wanted her to get better soon. She stirred slightly but kept sleeping.

"She's my best friend." Rooster sounded close to tears. "She always seems to know what I'm thinking. She understands me better than I know myself. She…she's the…best friend I'll ever have."

"I know. If she doesn't make it…" I couldn't make myself finish the sentence.

"She has to make it. She has to. I can't lose my twin. She can't die. Can she?" He sounded so pitiful I had to shake my head.

"Of course she won't die," I told him, trying to convince myself as much as him. "She can't. Too many people love her. They wouldn't let her. I wouldn't let her." We sat in silence for an hour before I left, kissing Ally goodbye as I did.

When I came the next night, Ally was having trouble breathing. I watched her struggle to take every breath. Each one seemed harder than the last. I came to sit next to her, not caring if I got into trouble. When her papa came in, he just looked at me and nodded his head without saying a word. I nodded back without taking my eyes off her.

"I'm sorry for throwing you out before," he told me, taking a seat on Ally's other side. "It was wrong of me, but I was doing what I thought was best for my daughter. I see now that you care a great deal about her."

"I love her," I replied bluntly. I hoped it wouldn't get me into trouble. To my surprise, he just nodded.

"I can see that."

"If…if she gets better…when she does…I would like your permission to properly date your daughter."

He gave a slight smile. "Permission granted." We watched as Ally gave a gasp and opened her eyes.

"Papa?"

"Si, mi hija. Yo estoy aquí."

"I'm cold."

Ally's papa wrapped her in another blanket as I rubbed warmth into her hands. She looked over at me. "I…love…you."

"Shhh. Just rest. The sooner you get better, the sooner you can get back to playing at Medda's."

"I…wanted…you to…know…that." She blinked and gasped again. Her bright green eyes showed no signs of fear, just peace. "In case…in case I…don't…make it."

"You're going to make it," I whispered, feeling the first shock of fear. "You have to. I need you to try and make it."

"I…am trying…you…goose. It's…so hard. Please…don't cry…for me." She weakly lifted her free hand to try and swipe at a stray tear falling down my face. "I'm…not…scared."

"I am. I can't live without you. Please don't go. You're my whole life." I couldn't stop the tears now. Rooster came to stand next to me, reaching down to stroke her hair.

"You can't go," he pleaded. "What'll I do without my twin? I won't be me without you."

"My…favorite…men…all together." She smiled. It was a weak smile, but the love shining through was clear as day. "You'll…learn to…live. I…love you…for always. Remember…that. I love you." Her eyes closed and her chest stopped moving. Rooster pressed two fingers to her wrist. His eyes looked at me, then his father, both jumping into action. "Quickly! We need to move her now. Grab the blankets! Get your mama. Tell her what's happening." They rushed out the door, leaving me alone with nothing but the bed and a pillow lying at my feet.


"Is she all right?" Maggie asked Race.

"Is she still alive?" I wanted to know. "Will she make it?"

Race shrugged, wiping at a few tears still falling down his face. He had come straight to Brooklyn from Queens, telling us about Ally. "Ise don't know. Dey left so fast Ise didn't ask wat was happening. All's Ise know is dat she wasn't breathin so good."

"I hope she'll be okay." Killian's quiet voice came from the corner, where she was sitting with Tajo and Robin. All three wore identical looks of concern on their faces. "I don't know her that well, but I really hope she makes it."

"Ise do too," Robin added. "Spot, Ise really sorry 'bout wat Ise said…'bout da two of youse."

I just lifted my shoulders, unable to say anything. Moving next to Robin, I put an arm around her shoulders and gave them a squeeze. She leaned into me and I felt a few tears wet my sleeve. I pulled her into a hug, rocking gently back and forth. Everyone else was wiping tears from their eyes and turning to each other for comfort. Tajo was holding Killian and whispering in her ears. Race was patting Maggie on the back as she cried on his shoulder. Her sisters were sitting in another corner, drawing on paper and singing to themselves and the twins were sitting with them, for once being quiet and drawing with their sisters. We waited like that, until Rooster came in. He looked around at us and sat down on a bunk, his expression unreadable.

"Is…Is she…?" Race asked.

"She…she's…" Rooster burst into tears. "She's alive."

Si mi hija. Yo estoy aquí-Yes my daughter. I am here.

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