SYMBIOSIS

SYMBIOSIS

From Chicken Soup for the Sister's Soul

Symbiosis

All we needed to say we said with our hands and eyes. We gamblers, grudge keepers, lonely hearts know nothing but what passes between us in a moment, what is, finally, patient and wise. Sisters.

Carol Edgarian

Nine-year-old Samantha Brock sat nervously in the school bus and looked out the window searching hopefully for her younger sister, Mitzi. Most of the schoolchildren on that route had already boarded the bus, but Samantha still saw no sign of her little sister. Her growing concern soon escalated into worry as Samantha watched the last youngster climb into the bus.

Mitzi was only six, and Samantha was very protective of her. During times like this, however, Samantha thought it took lots of determination to remain focused and ignore persistent thoughts of just how much trouble a little sister can be. Quite often she’d had to remind herself that Mitzi was, after all, only a child, and that therefore the only responsible thing she could do was remain alert to keeping her younger sister out of trouble.

A little earlier, a caravan of bright yellow school busses made its way from Harding Middle School to Watson Primary, where Samantha now sat anxiously on bus number 8. The sisters’ regular bus, number 16, had broken down, and a replacement bus was sent to Harding. Samantha would have missed it herself, except that she had been sensible enough to follow some of the older girls whom she recognized from earlier rides on her bus. She knew how important it was for her to always be aware of her surroundings.

She also knew that panicking would not help her to find her sister, so she let the last little boy take his seat before she calmly but quickly walked up the narrow aisle between the long, green seats. Reaching the bus driver, Miss Cochran, who was at that instant pulling the lever to close the bus door, Samantha asked her to stop, going on to explain that her sister had not yet boarded.

The driver noticed that the child was almost in tears, so she spoke slowly and calmly, smiling like a kindly grandmother. Samantha listened closely, her eyes trained on Miss Cochran’s wrinkled face. She knew how much adults like you to look directly at them when they expect you to listen to what they’re saying.

However, Miss Cochran was suggesting that Mitzi had ridden home with her mother, “Something y’all have done before. Right, sweetheart?”

Samantha listened patiently without interrupting, though she knew that their mom had not picked Mitzi up today; she just knew it. She was positive that Mitzi had missed this bus because it “doesn’t say number 16.” Now that it was her turn to speak, she said that their mom wouldn’t pick up just one of them and she certainly wouldn’t do so without telling the other one ahead of time. She pleaded with Miss Cochran to let her go find Mitzi.

The driver glanced at the impatient children, bouncing up and down in their seats and shouting for her to “get rolling.” Then she turned back to the small, solitary figure whose eyes were pleading quietly for help. Miss Cochran’s heart was not made of stone, so she agreed, but cautioned Samantha to hurry.

The other busses were pulling out as Samantha flew down the steps and out of the bus. Pausing, she turned and thanked Miss Cochran, and in a flash she was inside the schoolhouse. Her footsteps echoed somberly as she walked the empty hall, pausing in front of each classroom doorway just long enough to check for Mitzi. Approaching the end of the hall, Samantha heard the sound of Mitzi’s voice, so she hurried to the last door.

There sat little Mitzi, slumped over and swallowed up by the chair beside her teacher’s desk. Between tearful outbursts Mitzi was trying to explain that she had looked for her bus but didn’t find it. Suddenly, she stopped talking and turned around. When Mitzi saw Samantha, she ran to her big sister and hugged her tightly. Mitzi’s tiny body convulsed as she sobbed with joy.

Samantha suppressed a gasp of relief, then took her sister’s hand and led her outside. Mitzi dried her cheeks, and Samantha fought back the pool of tears that had welled up in her eyes and threatened to cascade down her face.

After the pair appeared outside, school bus number 8 erupted in a riot of childish jeers, taunting the two girls for delaying playtime at home. As Mitzi lowered her head, Samantha tightened her grip on her sister’s small hand and in her bravest voice said, “It’s all right, Mitzi; I’m right beside you.”

Samantha looked through the open bus doors to see Miss Cochran smiling warmly. With her sister still in hand, Samantha climbed the steps and paused at the front of the aisle. Defiantly, she scanned each face in front of her until the last voice was silenced. Mitzi raised her head, followed her sister down the aisle, and sat beside her until they safely stepped off the bus in front of their home.

Samantha was thinking how it seemed like only yesterday when all of that had happened, but now, fifteen years later, she was walking towards Mitzi to comfort her once again. Minutes away from walking down the aisle and becoming a married woman, Mitzi had been no longer able to stem the flood of emotions inside her; she had burst into tears and flung herself onto a huge, overstuffed chair. Samantha thought how fragile Mitzi appeared slumped over and sobbing uncontrollably. No wonder she recalled that earlier, childhood day.

Samantha took her sister’s hand and led her in front of the full-length mirror. As the pair gazed on the radiant image that Mitzi presented in the glass, Mitzi dried her cheeks.

Their eyes met in the mirror, and all at once both girls burst into laughter. Then tears again. Then tears mixed with laughter. Throwing their arms around each other, they lingered in the sweetness of their embrace.

Mitzi sniffled, then giggled and whispered into Samantha’s ear: “This reminds me of the day when, well, you probably don’t even remember, but, the time you found me at school when I was lost and would have missed the bus, except that you came back to take my hand and. . . .” Mitzi burst into tears again.

Samantha didn’t bother to fight back the pool of tears that welled up in her eyes and cascaded down her face. She tightened her arms around her sister’s delicate body and in her most loving voice, “It’s all right Mitzi, I am right beside you.”

Ricky Keen

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