“I wake up to screaming and realize that the screams are mine. I remember what I was dreaming about. I was standing in front of my Dad and watching him die, but I couldn’t help him.”
Chapter One: Emma
The year is 1793. On a hot summer day in Philadelphia, my sister and I go to get some fresh food from market. We get some peaches, pickles, and biscuits. My sister is talking a lot, like she always does. I’m not listening. I am thinking about how my father is never around, and how my mother is around too much.
I am the oldest of three siblings, I have a younger sister named Hailey and a younger brother named Peter. When we get home from the market, my puppy meets us at the door. He has white fuzzy hair that makes him look like a baby polar bear. My mother comes in the living room. “You two are late, your French teacher will be here very soon and you haven’t gotten your books yet. Hailey, go upstairs and get all the books.” I watch as my sister heads up the stairs. “Emma go find your brother Peter,” she tells me. I find Peter, he was by the tree in the backyard, the one he and dad had planted four years ago.
My family hasn’t been this way my whole life. When Peter was just a baby, Hailey was two, and I was three. Dad had gotten a job in town, so he was around the house often. Mom had a job then too. She owned a clothing store. One day dad came home, smiling from cheek to cheek. He told me, Hailey, and Peter to go upstairs so he could talk with mom, but I snuck downstairs to listen. I remember them talking about Dad’s new job (at a sailing company), and how he finally convinced Mom to let him take it. Little did I know that my dad’s decision to own a sailing company would change my life.
Lots of things changed. Dad’s new job allowed him to send more money home for us, though he was always at sea. We moved into a house that had fifteen rooms. That’s when I got a French and Spanish teacher. I also got my own room. I enjoy my new life, but I never get to see my dad, as good things have consequences. My room has a blue bed. At the end of the bed there’s a chest with all my clothes. Next to my bed, on the right side of my room, I have a desk and a bookshelf. I got to choose how my room looks. But poor Hailey. Her room was decorated by mom. It’s all pink, and she doesn’t like it. I don’t know what color Peter’s room is, I don’t even go in there anymore because it’s so messy. “Emma… Emma… Emma…” I realize that I was daydreaming again. “Come on we’re late for class,” says Peter.
When we walk into class, our teacher says, “Vous êtes en retard.”
“Sorry we’re late but Emma was daydreaming,” Peter says. I like my siblings but when they do stuff like that, I get annoyed.
“It doesn’t matter whose fault it is, you’re both late,” our teacher scolds. I hate French class, it’s so boring. All I hear is talk, talk, talk, homework, talk, talk, talk, talk, and then there is some more talking. I’ll do what I always do, which is copy the homework from Hailey or Peter.
At dinner, mother tells us the latest gossip, “some man died screaming today. They say he was a sailor, and he had yellow skin.” Immediately my siblings and I all ask the same question.
“Was the man dad?” Mom’s face looked like she had been expecting this question.
“No, some guy named William,” she answers. It was a quiet dinner after that. Later we all head upstairs to go to bed.
Chapter Two: Emma
I wake up to screaming and realize that the screams are mine. I remember what I was dreaming about. I was standing in front of my Dad and watching him die, but I couldn’t help him. I open the door a tad to see if I have woken anyone up. All the other doors are closed. I head downstairs to eat breakfast. As I smear butter on my toast, Hailey comes in the kitchen. I didn’t notice she had come in until she tapped my shoulder.
“Hi,” said Hailey.
“Don’t do that,” I said coldly. I never have been a morning person. “I’m going upstairs to read,” I said. As I left the kitchen, I heard my sister mumbling something, probably a rude comment about me.
That day we got a letter from dad. It said:
I hope this letter finds you in good health. I will be coming home in five days, but by the time you get this letter it will be one day. I can not stay long enough to be there for Emma’s birthday.
After Mom finished reading the letter out loud, I stormed up to my room. I paced across the room. This is what was I thinking about:
-What have I done to deserve this?
-Does dad not like me?
-Is he really sorry about not coming to my birthday?
-What has he been doing? He’s been gone a year…
I go under my sheets and hide. I cry until I drift off to sleep.
Chapter Three: Emma
I awoke when I heard a loud noise. My eyes are burning from the tears, so I go downstairs to get some water. When I walk in the kitchen, I see Dad! I realize the noise was the carriage that Dad had arrived in. He smiles and says, “Happy Birthday!”
“But it’s not my birthday,” I say. I know he’s pretending like it is my birthday so that I will forgive him for missing my actual birthday. This is what I hate about Dad. Even when I’m mad at him, I can’t stay mad. But this time Dad’s plan won’t work. I have made up my mind, and nothing he will do, say, or even buy can change that.
Chapter Four: Hailey
My sister, Emma, gets everything. Emma thinks I don’t know that when I talk she doesn’t listen. She gets what she wants all the time. These are some of the thing that I don’t like about her.
-She is lazy.
-She has a bad mood in the morning.
-She copies my notes.
-She always “borrows” my stuff.
-She comes into my room without asking.
-She always talks about Dad like he is a bad guy.
What usually happens when Dad misses Emma’s birthday.
I wait for Emma to come back from her shopping trip, but she doesn’t come back. I start to worry, even though she annoys me. Why is she not home yet? I go downstairs and Emma taps me. Then everything went black.
Chapter 5: Hailey (one week later)
Suddenly, I open my eyes and all I see is the pink ceiling of my room. I hear voices talking, but I can’t figure out who they belong to. “So, she had yellow fever?” One voice says.
“It’s been a week, so she should be getting better soon.”
“I miss her.” I try to talk but I can’t. My throat feels dry. I think my sister is the one who said she missed me. My sister has never said anything like that.
“Who has yellow fever?” I call out weakly.
The door opens and someone enters my room. I try to lift my head but it falls back down on the soft pillow. “You do,” says the unidentified voice. I think it’s Emma, but it turns out it’s only Peter. “Can I get you anything?” he asks kindly.
“Yes I would like some water for my sore throat.”
Emma comes into my room with her clothes and some trunks. “Hailey! I’m so glad you’re alive and that you survived the yellow fever. I thought I would never get to talk you again.”
“What’s happening? Why does it look like you’re packing?” I ask feebly.
“You’ve been sick and unconscious for a week! Dad thinks we should leave the country before anyone else gets sick.”
Emma was wearing a cloth that covered everything but her eyes. “Why are you wearing that on your face?”
“Dad wants us to wear these until the doctor says that you are healthy and okay to travel,” she answers. “Also, I’m sorry I’ve been a bad sister,” she says.
Suddenly everything that was on my list of annoying things about Emma disappears. “I missed you too,” I say. Then we hug. I don’t want to let go of my sister, because I love her and realize the value of our relationship. However, a loud shriek interrupts our loving embrace.
The shriek is coming from my parents room. Emma says, “I will go see what’s happening and report back to you.”
“Yes, ma’am,” I say as I salute my sister and laugh.
While I am waiting for Emma to return, I get worried, since the shriek sounded low like a man’s. I think it was my dad, but that scares me because I have never heard him scream before.
Then Emma comes back, her mouth is dropped and her eyes are wide, like she’s seen a ghost.
She hesitates for a moment, and she says, “the doctor thinks Mom has yellow fever and she won’t live, or be able to go on the trip. Mom’s skin has a tint of yellow and she’s shaking, but she doesn’t realize it.”
Before I can respond, Emma tells me that Mom wants us to leave her behind and go on the trip.
Chapter 6: Mom
I open my eyes and feel the hot sun blinding me as I begin to wake up. I roll over to see if my husband is still asleep, but he isn’t there, so I assume he’s in the bathroom. I call everyone for breakfast, even though I am not that hungry. When no one comes, I decide to go check on the kids. When I go into Peter’s room, he is not there. Then I see myself in the mirror. I have yellow skin and bright red eyes. Then I remember that’s how Hailey looked when she had yellow fever and I have a flashback of me telling my family to leave the country without me.
I don’t want to eat, but I need to for strength. So I grab a peach, but drop it. I am too weak to pick it up. I go back to bed. All of a sudden, I am cold, and then a chill comes over me. I start coughing up blood. I try to scream out, but I can’t even breathe. I feel like I am close to death. I think about my children, my sweet, sweet children. I am ready. Death would be like a nap, I think to myself. Secretly I know that it will not be like a nap, because I will never wake up again. I close my eyes and feel the world darken and fade.
Chapter 7: Peter
We came back to town for the first time in a year where we had left Mom to escape the yellow fever. As we rolled into town, I didn’t recognize anything. It looked like all the buildings had been robbed. There are piles of rotten bodies stacked on top of each other and the smell of them is very strong. As I looked at all the shops and houses, I notice that some have wood covering the windows and doors. When my father, my two sisters and I reach our old house, and we go inside. There is a decomposing peach on the kitchen counter. The kitchen has been destroyed. The drawers have been flung open and our china is gone. It appears as if we have been robbed. When we go upstairs, we look all around for Mom. I feel tears start to trickle down my cheeks. In our parents room, where we expected to find Mom, no one’s there. On the bed, there is blood all over the sheets. Then Emma breaks the silence, “Someone must have collected all the rotting bodies!” As we look at the blood on the sheets, I realize that Mom had died and we were four family members who lost someone important because of Yellow Fever. I don’t think that I will ever forget my mom’s sacrifice.
EPILOGUE (2 years later): Emma
Without Mom, Dad is around a lot more. He makes sure to visit every three months. The days he is not here, our nanny takes care of us. Our nanny’s name is Isabel. Hailey is now fluent in French, and Spanish. She loves to cook too. Peter enjoys spending time with Dad and is starting school next year. And me? Well, I am now fluent in French, Spanish, and Latin. We all miss Mom, but this is what she would have wanted.