Ottawa's Festival of Ideas Since 1997


She was standing in front of the hospital again. Her sister was inside somewhere. Emily wasn’t allowed in. She’d never been in there. Everytime Emily asked her parents if she could go in to see her sister they would change the subject. Sometimes if they did answer her question they would say if she did go she wouldn’t like it and she would be asking them if she could go wait outside. So Emily did. After that she never asked because she already knew the answer. Her sister had to go to the hospital twice a week which was probably a bad thing. She got her prosthetic leg a couple months ago and she still didn’t really know how it worked. It had been a horrible month. Her sister had been in the hospital for weeks and Emily had stayed at her aunt’s house that smelled like socks.

People passed, some crying, some smiling and holding little bundles that were squirming in their arms. Then among the strangers a familiar face appeared. Her father pushed through the crowds towards the bench where Emily sat.

“Emily” he said once he reached her. “Emily, your sister wants to see you.” He paused then shook his head.”Inside.” He meant he wasn’t joking. He would never joke about something as serious as this.”Come on.”

Her sister shared a room with an older boy who looked about sixteen or seventeen. There was a curtain separating the two beds. Her mother was sitting on a chair beside her sister who was in her wheelchair. Ruby looked so fragile sitting there in her long white dress that brushed against the floor. Her shoulder length, wispy, blond hair was put into a ponytail. She looked like a leaf ready to blow away with the slightest gust of wind.

“Where’s Charles?” she asked. Nobody answered. “You know - Charles.” Ruby sounded astounded that nobody knew who he was. “He’s my roommate, but he’s leaving today and I wanted Emily to meet him.” Then suddenly the door on the other side of the room opened and three people walked in. It was Charles. Emily could tell by the way her sister lit up when she saw him. “She was never that happy to see me.” Emily thought as pangs of jealousy shot through her. Charles smiled and waved. The lady behind him started to unpack the cramped little closet in the corner.

“Charles come over here,” Ruby said. He walked over dragging his feet on the concrete floor. “I would like you to meet my family” Ruby said proudly.” I know you’ve met my mom but this is my dad and my sister Emily,” Ruby said pointing at them. Charles waved and Emily waved back shyly.

“I’m going to go get lunch at the cafeteria for us. Emily, do you want to come?” her mom asked. Emily followed her mom out of the room and down the hall to the cafeteria. As she returned to her sister’s room, finishing her sandwich, a cold breeze drifted through the hallway. Emily walked into her sisters room and her blood ran cold. The window was open and the curtains were flying everywhere. The lights had been turned off and the room was dark and cold.

“Ruby!” Emily hollered, but she knew all too well, Ruby was gone. The room seemed to be closing in around her she could hear footsteps but she didn’t know who it was. Everything was a blur.

“Emily?” Emily could see a blur walk into the room. ‘Emily can you hear me?” Emily couldn’t answer she couldn’t stop thinking about her sister. Then everything went black.

Emily woke up in a hospital bed. Her sister’s hospital bed. Her head hurt, but at least she could see clearly. She could see her mother talking with somebody just on the other side of the door.

“Hi,” Charles said walking into the room. Emily waved. He sat down on his bed and pulled the curtain out of the way so they could talk. “You know your sister was really nice to me.” Emily nodded. ‘She was really nice I feel bad that I have to leave without her,” he said. Then he got up and left.

“Emily,” her mom said walking into the room. Her eyes were red and puffy like she had been crying. “Your sister,” she stopped she couldn’t bring herself to say it.She started to cry. “I’ve looked everywhere for we just can’t find her.”

The man who she had been talking to walked into the room. “The amber alert is sounded.”