Note: This is kind of like a prequel to my story, "A Risk Worth Taking" except you're supposed to read it after. Sooooooo it's a sequel but a prequel...that's confusing. Anyway, the point is you should read "A Risk Worth Taking" before this.
“Mummy! The TV turned off!” Lilianne yelled.
“I know darling. Come here.” Elena spoke softly. Lilly bounded down the stairs, eager to know the reason for the power outage.
“I want to show you something.” Elena Blackwell said, leading her daughter outside. Mrs. Blackwell lay out a picnic blanket and motioned for Lilly to lie down.
“So what did you have to show me, Mummy?” Lilly asked. Elena sighed
“Look at all those stars. Aren’t they brilliant?” Mrs. Blackwell whispered, “We don’t look at the stars very often now, what with all the screens everywhere. Sometimes, you just have to admire what Mother Nature has given us. When I was your age, we didn’t have televisions. So at night, I would lay on a picnic blanket just like this one, and look at the stars with my siblings.” Lilly smiled. She loved these nights with her mother. They both looked at the stars in silence, every breath synchronized.
“Oi! Elena! Have you turned the power off?” Mr. Blackwell roared, interrupting the calm moment. Mrs. Blackwell jumped up.
“Sorry dear, but I’ll tell you why I did it. Come out here, I’ll show you. See these stars? They’re so beautiful. I wanted Lilly to see them. You should too!” Elena said calmly.
“NO! I HAVE WORK TO DO! I HAVE NO TIME FOR THESE SILLY THINGS! YOU SHOULD BE TEACHING YOUR DAUGHTER TO COOK OR CLEAN, OR WHATEVER IT IS WOMEN DO! SHE NEEDS TO BE A PROPER LADY, NOT SOME WILD DOG!” Mr. Blackwell yelled. Elena gasped.
“Sorry. Come, Lilly,” she said quietly. Lilly felt tears in her eyes. She hated it when her father yelled. At the same time, she wished her mother would fight back and not be so quiet. If it were Lilly in her place, she would not be able to put up with this. But Lilly had learned not to get in the middle of her father’s ranting.
Elena Blackwell led her daughter up the winding staircase to get ready for bed. But Lilly had seen enough!
“Mum! Why didn’t you fight back?” she asked. Elena smiled and sat on the bed.
“Lilly, I’ve always taught you that violence is not the way to solve any problem. Neither is yelling. Your father’s anger was justified. He is very busy, and cannot spare time for things like this.” she said softly.
“But-” Lilly started.
“No, dear. End of discussion. Now get ready for bed.” Mrs. Blackwell said. Lilly obediently changed into her pajamas and fell asleep in just five minutes.
That night, Elena considered what her daughter had said. Was Lilly right? Should Elena have said something to her husband? After all, she was the one teaching her daughter that violence and yelling is not the correct way to solve a problem. Mrs. Blackwell couldn’t fall asleep that night. She kept thinking about Lilly. If a seven-year-old could see this, why couldn’t she? Was there something missing? There certainly were many things Elena disagreed with her husband on. To name a few, he thought all women belonged in the kitchen, he didn’t believe in helping poorer people, he was greedy, he yelled and hit his family. That was all Elena thought about the next day.
Meanwhile, Lawrence Barnett, the driver was sitting in a broom closet, practicing art. Lawrence was an artist, and he had been forced to work for the Blackwells. He always tried to keep his artistic talent a secret, but the only reason he ever dared to try art again was because of Elena.
It was years ago, before Lilly’s birth. Elena wandered around the house aimlessly, exploring corners of the mansion she’d never seen before, even in her full 2 years of living there. Most of the closets and corners she encountered were empty, except one. In the broom closet on the first floor, sat Lawrence Barnett.
“Lawrence? What are you doing here?” asked Elena, looking in shock at the canvas he was holding. She quickly realized it was one of her paintings he was admiring.
“Sorry ma’am, I’ll er- get back to- um whatever I was doing,” Lawrence mumbled sheepishly.
“No, no, that’s alright. I haven’t seen that painting in years. I drew it for Lilly to put in her room.” Mrs. Blackwell responded.
“You drew it? Wow, um it’s beautiful. I dabble a bit in art myself.” Lawrence replied cheerfully. Elena nodded and closed the door of the closet.
Suddenly, Elena felt a strange sensation overcome her, and it wasn’t a good one. Her stomach began to hurt, her legs began to wobble, she felt her lunch coming up. The last thing she remembered was hitting her head on the cold marble floor.
The first person to find Elena was one of the maids, Nadya Kozlov. She was bringing a laundry hamper down to the laundry room when she found Mrs. Blackwell. She immediately dropped the hamper and ran to find Mr. Blackwell. Elena lay motionless on the floor, her face pale. The 2nd person to find Elena was her very own daughter, Lilly. The poor 7-year-old shrieked with fear and nearly fainted herself. By that time, Mr. Blackwell and a few other maids had already made it to the lobby to see Mrs. Blackwell. An ambulance was called, and Elena woke up several hours later on a hospital bed.
“Excuse me, is Damon Blackwell here?” one of the nurses called.
“Yes! Yes, I’m here! How’s my wife?” Mr. Blackwell jumped up from his chair. Elena didn’t hear much more of their conversation until they entered the room. Elena became aware of the many machines hooked up to several parts of her body.
“Elena! You’re awake! Lilly, come quick! Mummy’s awake!” Mr. Blackwell called. He could be nice when he wanted to. Lilly came running in and almost jumped on Mrs. Blackwell in her excitement. The Blackwells were all excited, but one person wasn’t. The nurse. She stood with a solemn face, not batting an eye. Elena was the first one to notice.
“Nurse, is everything alright? What happened to me?” she asked politely. The nurse’s face darkened.
“Well, um, I recommend that the little one leave before I talk about it.” she said softly.” Lilly obediently left the room although she was reluctant to leave her mother.
“Well, Mr. and Mrs. Blackwell, it’s quite a tragedy,” the nurse continued. “I’m afraid you have been diagnosed with leukemia.” It was as if someone had dropped a bomb. Mr. Blackwell couldn’t believe his ears. Elena, however, was calmer about it.
“No! This isn’t possible! This isn’t fair! Show me the papers!” Mr. Blackwell roared.
“Shh, dear. Although the situation is unfortunate, it was inevitable. This is the path destiny chose for us. Nurse, what can we do about this?” Mrs. Blackwell said calmly.
“Well, we’d like you to stay here for a few days, so we can evaluate a bit more.” the nurse responded. Elena nodded.
“Alright then. Can my husband and daughter stay?” she asked.
“Of course. We’ll set up mattresses here.” the nurse said kindly. Elena smiled. Mr. Blackwell, meanwhile, was nearly in tears. They stayed quiet for a bit. Eventually, Mrs. Blackwell broke the silence.
“Well, I suppose we must tell Lilly,” Elena said quietly. Mr. Blackwell nodded but didn’t say a word. Coincidentally, Lilly walked in right then.
“Mummy? Is everything alright?” Lilly asked innocently. Elena smiled at her daughter and motioned for her to sit on the bed.
“Well, Lilly, I’ve got something called cancer. Do you know what that means?” Elena asked. Lilly shook her head.
“Well, when someone has cancer, it makes them very sick. Sometimes people even die.” she continued. Lilly gasped.
“Oh don’t worry, my dear! The doctors here will take good care of me. I won’t die, I promise.” Elena chuckled. Lilly nodded, still a bit uncertain.
Six years later, Elena Blackwell was on the same hospital bed. Things weren’t looking good for her. She’d already lost her hair and had just started to grow it back. Her husband barely had time to visit her anymore. The only person who seemed like they cared was Lilianne Blackwell. The 13-year-old visited every day, rain, or shine. Most days, there wasn’t anything new with her condition. Except for the day of September 23. The doctors had insisted that Mr. Blackwell come to the hospital with Lilly. There, they heard the worst news of their lives.
“Elena has fought a long battle with cancer. She has been so strong. Six years is a lot. But, it seems as though her body has given up. She has about a month. I’m so sorry.” The nurse said quietly. Lilly couldn’t believe her ears. All she had was her mother. Her father didn’t care for her one bit. Lilly refused to believe it. Even when her father had left, mumbling something about having a meeting, Lilly stayed with her mother. They both sat in silence.
“I’m so sorry.” Elena sobbed. Lilly raised her eyebrows in surprise.
“Mum, no! What do you have to be sorry for?” Lilly cried.
“Sorry I couldn’t keep my promise,” Elena mumbled. It all came back to Lilly. The day in the hospital, when they had found out about Elena’s condition. Her mother had made her a promise.
“The doctors here will take good care of me. I won’t die, I promise.” she had said. Lilly started to tear up.
“Don’t say that! We’ll find a way!” Lilly sobbed. Elena smiled a sad smile. Lilly didn’t sleep that night. All she wanted to think about was her mother. She would have rather died herself.
It had been exactly a month since they received the news. Elena was still alive, but barely ever conscious. Some days, she didn’t even eat. She celebrated her birthday in her hospital bed. If you count celebrating as being asleep the entire time.
One day, Lilly was sitting in the room as usual when her mother suddenly got up. Lilly bolted up from the chair and held her mother’s hand.
“My dear, promise me something, please. Please live your life happily. I’m so proud of you. I will always be watching you from above. And one more thing. Lawrence. Make sure he gets his happy ending. Go look in the broom closet near the painting of flowers and you’ll understand. I love you.” she gasped, and fell back on the bed.
Lilianne Blackwell watched her mother’s breathing become shallower and shallower until finally, her chest stopped its rise and fall. Elena Blackwell had lost her battle with cancer.