TITLE: I am Kendra
By Gemma Mastromarino
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Kendra and Andrea were close to being home. They were happily talking about what the evening was to hold in store. Their father had promised to take them to the fair and they had both earned their own money to spend. As they got closer, they saw their grandmother’s car parked outside the house.
“I wonder what Grandma’s doing here,” Kendra said quickening her step.
“Maybe she decided to go with us to the fair!” Andrea said excitedly.
“You know she hates crowds,” Kendra answered, now almost jogging down the street.
“Hey, slow down,” Andrea cried trying to keep up with her slender, older sister.
A minute later, Kendra burst through the front door. “Grandma! Grandma! What’s wrong?” Kendra called out throwing her backpack on the floor and skidding on the tile as she ran to the kitchen.
“Slow down,” Grandma said, looking up from her teacup as she sat at the kitchen table. “Where’s your sister?”
“Right here,” Andrea came puffing into the kitchen glaring at her sister, pushing her bobbed blond hair behind her ears.
“Have a seat, girls,” Grandma said gently. She hardly ever raised her voice, but she was even more quiet than usual.
“No, I think I’d rather stand,” Kendra answered shortly as Andrea pulled out a chair.
“Stubborn,” Grandma said with a slight smile. “Just like your mother.”
Kendra glanced down, shifting her feet as she held the back of the chair. She generally liked being compared to her mother, but at the same time she felt the gentle rebuke.
Grandma took a deep breath then let it out slowly. “There was an accident on the highway this afternoon,” she began looking straight into Kendra’s eyes. “It was pretty bad. The police and ambulance got there fairly quickly.” Grandma glanced over at Andrea who was growing wide-eyed. “They took your father straight to the hospital, but…”
“You mean, Daddy’s,” Andrea started.
“Don’t say it!” Kendra almost shouted, looking straight at Grandma. Then she looked at her sister’s frightened face. “Don’t even talk about it,” Kendra added trying to sound a little calmer.
“Not talking about it isn’t going to make it go away, dear,” Grandma responded with sadness in her voice as she reached over to touch Kendra’s hand. “You need to accept it without holding it all in and getting angry about it.”
“I don’t want to talk about it,” Kendra said firmly, letting her hand fall to her side. She began thinking about their mother, Emily. She had died when Andrea was just a baby, but Kendra and been old enough to remember what it was like before it all happened.
“But we’re never going to,” Andrea started looking up at her sister.
“Talking about it is not going to change what’s happened, and life isn’t ever going to be the same again,” Kendra mumbled. “No matter how much you want it to.” She was beginning to feel the old bitterness she had felt for so long after her mother’s death return, and she struggled to fight it down.
“Oh Kendra,” Grandma sighed. Her voice remained calm, but as Kendra looked down she saw Grandma’s hands begin to tremble as she reached back for her teacup.
Kendra looked over at her little sister. Andrea was very sweet but really naïve for a nine year old. Andrea’s eyes were starting to brim over with tears. In a minute she would be crying uncontrollably.
Kendra loved her little sister and tried to protect her. Thankfully most everyone liked Andrea because she was so sweet. It was usually just a matter of taking care of the one or two bullies from year to year. Even though Kendra was four years older than her sister, she had no qualms about popping into the elementary school to “straighten things out.” This was something she couldn’t just straighten out, though. She knew that. Andrea was just going to have to grow up now – really fast.
Try as she would, Kendra could never understand Andrea’s ability to cry at the drop of a hat. Kendra hardly ever cried. As a matter of fact, the last time she could remember really crying was at their mother’s funeral. Everyone had patted her arm and told her what a brave little girl she was. “Oh brother,” Kendra thought to herself.
“We don’t have to talk about it now, Kendra,” Grandma said standing slowly. “But the memorial service will be held in a few days. You have to be ready to face it by then.”
Grandma limped slightly as she took the few steps to the sink to wash out her cup. Her arthritis had been getting really bad the last few years, and she often had the girls over to her house to help with the things she couldn’t do by herself anymore.
“I’ve never been afraid to face anything,” Kendra said holding her chin up a little.
“Oh dear me. I know you haven’t,” Grandma said as she turned around. “You’ve always had a strong spirit about you. That stubbornness of yours has gotten through more than one scrape.”
“Dad says he likes my spirit,” Kendra said.
“Yes, I suppose he did.” Grandma laughed a little. “It was the first thing he noticed in your mother. She was a spirited thing, she was. But enough talk for now. You girls take your things to your room, and we’ll talk more later.”
“Why are you all talking like this?” Andrea sputtered.
“It helps dear,” Grandma said gently as she set her cup in the sink and placed her hands on the cabinet. “For now, let’s get your things put away and start dinner. I’ll be here to help with things.”
Grandma walked over and placed her hand on Kendra’s shoulder. “My, how big you have gotten,” she added almost too quiet even for Kendra to hear.
“I’m not hungry,” Andrea said quietly.
Kendra looked over at her sister. Andrea was trying hard not to cry, and Kendra could tell she was trying to be grown up.
“Let’s just get our stuff away,” Kendra said reaching for her bag and letting out a slow sigh. “Maybe Grandma could use some help at her house tonight.” She paused for a moment before picking up her sister’s bag. Then she picked both bags up and started heading for their room.
Grandma smiled at Kendra. She really was a good girl. She always put her sister’s needs first. Sometimes a little too often. “Lord, help this little girl not to drown in her grief or pile it away somewhere. Please help me reach her and help her grow to be the woman you want her to become,” she prayed silently.
Andrea had turned to follow her sister down the hall. “And help Andrea not to get bitter like her sister did,” she added.
Kendra was just walking back into the living room when the phone began to ring.
“Who in the world,” Grandma called from the kitchen as she set some bowls on the table.
“I’ll get it,” Kendra said picking up the receiver. “Hello”
“Hey Ken,” came Kendra’s best friends voice. “Have you seen the news?”
“Hi Julie. Um, no I haven’t.”
“Yeah, well apparently there was this crazy accident on the highway,” Julie was peppy as usual. “I was checking the weather to see what to wear to the fair tonight. With that pileup guess we’ll have to go in the back gate. I was gonna walk over in about 10 minutes. Think your dad could stop by my aunt’s house? My mom wants me to”
“Um, I don’t think so,” Kendra interrupted.
“He in that much of a hurry to get to the fair?” Julie joked.
“No, my dad was in that crazy pileup,” Kendra said flatly.
There was silence on the line for a few seconds, then came Julie’s hoarse, “Oh, is he o.k.?”
“He didn’t make it.”
“I’m really sorry Kendra,” Julie answered. “Would you like me to come over or anything?”
“No, that’s o.k. Grandma’s going to take us to the hospital later on tonight.” Kendra glanced into the kitchen.
“Yeah, I guess you guys need some time,” Julie sounded sympathetic. “Hey if you need anything just give me a call.”
Just then Andrea walked past glancing at Kendra with a questioning look on her face. Kendra noticed that her eyes were red brimmed and swollen.
“Um, Julie. Go ahead and come on over.” Kendra changed her mind. “We could probably use the company.”
“You sure,” Julie asked slowly.
“Yeah, it would do us all some good to think about something else for a little while.” Kendra reassured her friend. “I’ll let Grandma know. She’ll be glad to see you.”
“O.k. Ken,” Julie still sounded a little unsure. “I’ll let my mom know and,”
“Don’t tell your mom,” Kendra interrupted. “I mean, I guess you should tell about the accident and all, but just don’t say that he’s, you know…”
“Yeah, I got it,” Julie reassured her. “I’ll just let her know we aren’t going to the fair cause of the accident. Be there in a few.”
Kendra hung up the phone and walked into the kitchen to help with dinner. She glanced at her sister who was sitting limply at the table.
“Jules is coming over,” Kendra announced. “I told her it would be nice to have her over. Might help cheer us all up.”
“She’s a good friend,” Grandma smiled. “I think it was a good idea.”
“I don’t think I want to see anyone,” Andrea said faintly.
“It’ll be good,” Kendra tried to reassure her. “Julie is really great at cheering people up, even in really bad situations. That’s what we all need right now,” she added.
She wasn’t at all as confident as she sounded and looked over at her grandmother for reassurance.
“You’re very right,” Grandma smiled. “Andrea, honey, would you mind taking these towels back to the laundry room. I’m afraid I made a big mess trying to pore the water in the pot.”
“Oh Grandma, I’m sorry. I should have gotten in here sooner to help you,” Kendra started.
“Don’t worry dear,” Grandma shrugged it off as she handed Andrea the towels. “Thanks Hon.”
Andrea just nodded as she walked to the back of the house.
“I’m really proud of you, Kendra,” Grandma said handing her the pot holders as she took a seat. “Cornbread’s in the oven. You thought of how your sister is feeling and you put aside your own uneasiness to let Julie come over. Believe it or not, it will help Julie out too. You’re trying to be really grown up, but remember, you are still very young. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Let others reach in and help you. Believe me, although accepting help may seem weak, it will make you stronger.”
“Like me getting the cornbread out of the oven?” Kendra remarked somewhat sarcastically.
Grandma chuckled. “Yes. Like me letting you get the cornbread out of the oven. Admitting a weakness doesn’t make you weak as long as don’t take advantage of it; expecting people to do things for you because of it. But if I had tried to get the cornbread out, my hands wouldn’t have held it. So, I could have asked you to get it out for me, or let it burn. Besides, how does it make you feel to see me struggle and not let you help?”
“Pretty lousy,” Kendra said setting the pan on the stovetop. “I mean, I’ve got two good hands. I hate seeing you struggle when I know I could make it easier on you.”
“Remember that Hon, in the next few months,” Grandma said leaning forward toward Kendra. “People are going to want to show you how much they care by taking some of the pressure off you. You can’t carry it all, no matter how strong those shoulders or hands of yours are,” she said pointing her index finger playfully at her.
Kendra nodded listening to what Grandma had to say. Just then the door bell rand and Andrea walked back into the kitchen.
“That’s probably Julie. Could you set out the plates for Grandma,” Kendra said.
“Sure,” Andrea answered and Kendra noticed that it looked like she had washed her face while she was in the back.
“It’s gonna be o.k. kid,” Kendra smiled. “We still got each other.”
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