“Mrs. Hill, come out and play,” Danny called out.
“Dan, you mustn’t disturb poor Mrs. Hill with all your silly tantrums,” I scolded my little brother.
“Am not,” He countered.
“Are too.” I sighed, being with Dan was just making me throw a fit like a child.
“Oh, hello there Danny… and what a surprise to see you here too Taylor!” Mrs. Hills welcomed us in to her rental home, making sure my pesky brother was comfortable as she would ramble about the olden days… no cellphones, no computers, no technology… I was feeling stultify with her small talks.
My parents worked late on Monday, so Dan and I would have to come over to Mrs. Hills house after school until they picked us up. Usually I would have art class after school so only Danny would be forced to spend his day at Mrs. Hills but ever since the art department didn’t have much money they closed for good so I didn’t have a chance to escape from straight hours of complete boredom. My head felt like it was going to explode any second now.
“Now Taylor, how is school going?” I felt like Mrs. Hills just didn’t want me to lose my mind, trying to distract me from going insane.
“Ok, I guess.”
“Oh… nice,” Nice? That’s it? I moved closer to the fireplace, Mrs. Hills didn’t bother closing the windows that led the cool air inside, I felt like I was in an igloo… only I had to deal with annoying people who wouldn’t let me focus on my homework.
Mrs. Hills coughed, extracting me from my attention. Dan stared back at me from his comics… he seemed worried. I gave him a reassuring look and focused back on my studies.
A second later Mrs. Hills coughed again, louder this time. She seemed out of breath. Dan and I hustled over to her instantly and helped her sit down on the couch while Dan fetched her some warm honey tea which she drank soundlessly.
“Are you ok?” Dan’s eyes were bulging as he placed his hand on Mrs. Hills shoulder, keeping his other clenched tightly in a ball that his knuckles turned white.
“Yes,” Her voice sounded different from the last time I’d seen her. Now I noticed the changes, I’d been so overwhelmed that I didn’t realize Mrs. Hills looked… weak. Her bone was showing as her skin shagged, her eyes were droopy as her hands shook with every movement she undertook.
“Taylor?” Dan looked at me as if I were supposed to know everything about anything.
I shrugged, taking the emptied mug of tea, washing it in the sink, trying to be a responsible sister and neighbor.
“Danny, I’m fine,” I heard Mrs. Hills weakly admit.
I didn’t hear Dan’s response as I decided to be helpful, Mrs. Hills deserved some rest better than anyone else. She might be a talkative woman but she meant well. I knew her since I was about Dan’s age. Actually, all the neighborhood kids were aware of Mrs. Hill.
She was like… a nanny to everyone.
Dan treated her no less than he treats our grandma who’d died of cancer three years ago. Dan was too little to remember grandma but I had felt the pain when gran had closed her eyes for good.
I gotta admit, Mrs. Hill had helped me during those tough times, I would cry and scream every day like a baby. I would demand that God better give my granny back or else… well I didn’t know. Mrs. Hill would cheer me up, telling me stories as she would feed me her homemade oatmeal cookies I’d adored loving for years.
Now Mrs. Hill’s needs me… I had to step up my responsibilities, keep her cheery as she had when I was younger. Favor for favor. Nothing else.
I felt the adrenaline rush in my head as I walked into the living room again. Dan zoned off as he tried to wake her up. I dropped the laundry basket I was holding and stayed by my brothers side, we exchanged a glance. Dan was in the verge of tears as I pounded about possibilities of what happened.
“Kids,” Her feeble voice rang in my head, we looked at her at once.
“I need to tell you something.”
We listened carefully, hearing every word she uttered.
“You have cancer?” Dan quietly murmured, only I was able to hear the strain in his voice.
“Yes dear,” Mrs. Hill blankly replied, taking off the hat she wore, exposing her baldness.
“Will you get better?” Dan asked, his eyes wide with fear.
“I don’t know, fingers crossed,” She joked, I was astonished… why was she making jokes at a time like this. Neither me or Dan chuckled along with Mrs. Hill, keeping our cool I guess.
“Have you gotten the treatments?” My voice broke, for the first time I’d spoken after hearing the truth. My grandma had died of the same reason, this was serious matter.
“What is ‘sort of’?” I demanded.
“Taylor, I don’t have enough money to pay for my medical bills,” She finally told me, after a moment of thought.
“So… you’ll never get better?” Dan faintly murmured. His eyes showed how much he cared for Mrs. Hill. She was after all a second grandma for him… and maybe me too.
I’d taken her for granted all these years, maybe now I could show her how much I’m grateful for her to be apart of my life… everyones life.
I checked my watch, 6:12… mom’ll come soon.
“We should get going,” I said, trying to distract Dan… and myself from this emotional topic.
“Oh yes, please visit again.”
I nodded, taking my brother’s hand forcefully, taking our belongings and closing the door behind us. I didn’t look at her eyes as she waved. I didn’t want her to see me cry.
“What’s that about?”
“What?” We were home, Dan had his hands on his hips as he questioned me.
“Why didn’t you say anything?”
“There’s nothing to say,” I ignored his cross face, heading for my room and closed the door behind me, avoiding any more questions.
I’ll have to face him soon anyway.
“Hey, honey… how was your day?” My mom asked, she was a mess. Her bronze hair was tied in a messy braid, she was answering calls from work and eating left over pasta with another. I sighed, mom’ll never change.
“Danny, how was yours?” Mom asked, she barely noticed the tension in his eyes as he forced down his dinner through his throat.
“Interesting,” He finally found the word he was looking for, never meeting me eye-to-eye. He was mad, I’m sure of it.
Mom nodded, taking another call, leaving us to wrap up dinner alone… as usual.
“Are you mad?”
I shrugged, doing my usual chores and left for the night. I could hear dad and Danny downstairs watching the sports channel, mom was yet in another call as I dozed off.
‘Wish I could do so something to help Mrs. Hill’ I wondered. Maybe I will. If I get the right opportunity.
Dan was still giving me the cold shoulder the next morning. I didn’t pay attention to him, leaning in on my own line of thinking.
I grabbed my backpack and headed off to school, not bothering to try knocking some sense into the boy.
‘Hey, what’s that?’ I whispered to myself, a paper had been paper to the mailbox, I quickly read the headlines with glee.
‘COOKIE CONTEST FOR THE BIGGEST COOKIE!!!- Cash prizes included’
Cash… I got a brain wave. If I win this contest then I might get enough money to help poor Mrs. Hill with her treatments.
I read the information three times as I grinned, Dan will be pleased to assist me. I waited for Dan to walk towards me from the house, he took his time as I handed him the paper without a question. He scowled but read what had been written.
“Really?” He’d asked, his laughing eyes were bent over the paper as I smiled.
“Yup, we’re going to enter.”
“We need 5 people,” He spoke, his eyes went down with sadness.
I didn’t know we’d need a team.
“Hey, how about Gio and Dulce?” Gio and Dulce were my closest friends from school, I knew they’d love to join us.
“Sure, we need one last person.”
“Liam?” His eye brows went up as he grinned. I blushed in embarrassment, Liam was my crush; shouldn’t have told my annoying brother about him. He’ll keep rubbing it in my face.
“Yes?” I heard his melodic voice behind me, I jumped… literally as I felt butterflies in my stomach. Oh, Dan hadn’t been asking if Liam could join, he was wondering what Liam was doing in our street, in front of our house.
Dan must have read my expression as he did exactly what I didn’t want.
“Want to join a contest, Taylor’s rooting for you to,” I was SO mad at him, Liam’s ears turned light pink as he stared at his shoes. I kept my glace down, unable to be embarrassed again.
“Sure, why not,” He shrugged, trying to hid a smile… of success?
“Yay, we have our team,” Danny cheered, as he quickly shoved the paper at Liam’s face.
“Wow, biggest cookie… I’ve heard your… sisters a good baker,” He said the last part with a whisper but I heard it anyway and pretended I didn’t have a clue of their discussion.
I rolled my eyes but smiled sheepishly, my face instantly flushed.
“Sure.” The twins; Gio and Dulce agreed.
We high fived each other, we got our team at last.
“Welcome constants, we have all your supplies ready for you, including your humongous oven,” Our host instructed us.
“You may began.”
Danny, Gio and Dulce got started on making the dough, kneading it to perfection, Dulce had already made ten batches of dough, she was on a roll. Her brother not quite behind but Dan was the slowest, gotta admit my bro’s great but he’s a terrible baker.
Liam and I were in charge of the frosting to go on top. I hurriedly grabbed a handful of pink food coloring, adding them to my twelfth batch of frosting, this was going to take forever… based on my calculations we needed more than thirty batches of frosting.
“Hey, are you ok?” Liam worriedly jumped to my side, I blushed as he took hold of my hand, but letting it go as soon as he held it.
He nodded, leaving my side, trying to finish his part fast.
“Guys, I have an idea.”
“What Danny?” We all inquired.
“Why don’t we write our cause in frosting,” He suggested. We agreed on it. Our cause was to help Mrs. Hill but with a cash prize so big we could help others suffering as well.
‘In behalf of the Cancer Society and Mrs. Hill’ We’d written.
“All right, times up.”
I exhaled a relief, finally the tough part was over… now we wait to hear the results.
I looked over at the other constants work, a girl about my age had a prestigious as she showed her cookie. It was huge… bigger that ours for sure. I gulped, did we even have a chance?
Liam must have seen my hesitation, he held me hand… this time not letting go. I nodded, keeping my eyes locked with his as we crossed our fingers.
Gio and Dulce gave me a thumbs up and Dan smiled.
I grinned, it didn’t matter if we won, we’d worked together for something we all loved. I looked up at the open sky hoping grandma would be proud of my deeds.
“The winner is… Jenna Genny and her team.”
Jenna the girl with the biggest cookie was overjoyed as she quickly collected her prize. My face fell but I congratulated the winners.
“Oh,” The host looked surprised as he spoke with the judges.
“We have another winner it appears… In behalf of us Taylor Laurent and her team will be received 10,000 in their name and given to the Cancer Society.
I almost cried, hugging my brother tightly as we cheered.
“I told you we’d win,” Liam told me, winking.
“I’m sure we’d all won something,” I replied, his cheeks turned red.
“Thank you so much, we are honored by your donation,” The manager of the Cancer Society had messaged us.
“Taylor?” I heard Mrs. Hills voice.
She didn’t wait for my response, hugging me tightly as tears rolled down her cheeks.
“Thank you,” She mouthed.
“No need, your like my grandma too!” I wiped a tear from my own eyes.
“Looks like someone wants to talk with you,” She whispered, smiling.
I looked behind me, Liam stood at the open doorway… he had his hands behind him, hiding something.
“Hey,” He said.
“Um, you have a minute?”
We walked towards the porch, his ears still red, my cheeks were heating up.
“I have a question.”
“...Will you go to the dance…”
I didn’t let him finish, falling into his open hands.
He placed his hands around me, I stared back into his midnight blue eyes.
“I’m assuming this is a ‘yes’?”
“Oh, you silly boy,” I playfully chided.
We held hands, Mrs. Hill smiled as I motioned her to join us.
“Thank you for everything,” I told Mrs. Hill.
“No need… your like my granddaughter.”
She stroked my head affectionately, I cried… happily, leaning on her. Dan came out as I kissed his forehead. Dulce and Gio waved from the background. I felt like grandma was looking at me, smiling.
‘I’m grateful… for everyone in my life’ I thought to myself, I could feel gran’s presence.
‘I’m grateful for such a thoughtful and compassionate granddaughter’ Her voice spoke, then disappeared into the wind.
I was happy… finally. This contest had been a blessing… not only for me but for so many others.
I was glad to have saved lives, it’s not everyday you get such an opportunity...