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Rated: E · Short Story · Contest Entry · #2218991
Entry for Prince Challenge Writing Contest 2020
Cynthia stared at the dresses hanging in her closet as she tried to decide what color she felt like today.

This was always the hardest part of her day. Rose had made it look so easy. When asked she would give one of her beautiful smiles and immediately point to the one she wanted. The therapist tried to convince Cynthia that Rose had not cared what color she wore and had just happily pointed one out. Cynthia steadfastly refused to believe such nonsense. Rose had not been a mindless drone, she had thoughts and feelings just like everyone else.

Cynthia heaved a heavy sigh and plucked a yellow dress from the closet. Yellow for sunshine and lollipops, maybe it would make her feel better.

Her self imposed penance was almost over. In a few short days she would go back to being plain ole Cynthia, twelve years old, normal school girl that loves blue jeans, T-shirts, and matching socks.

On the one hand she would miss being Cynthia Rose - the one who wore pretty dresses, mismatched socks, and always had a ready smile. She would miss calling her star shaped pancakes "starfish" and her chocolate milk "coffee".

On the other hand she would not miss the looks of pity and being patted on the head like a big stupid puppy. She was glad that Rose had never had to deal with that type of behavior.

Cynthia opened her sock drawer. Rose had always thought it was fun to wear two different colored socks, Cynthia, however, found it quite disconcerting, especially when the other kids openly stared. Spying Rose's favorite yellow sparkly socks Cynthia started to cry.

Rose had been her twin sister. It was just plain dumb luck that Cynthia had been born first. The uterus collapsed just after Cynthia's birth cutting off the air flow to Rose. The doctor's predicted a short life for the brain and respiratory damaged child, but at eleven she had surpassed their expectations. She had lived long enough that Cynthia had gotten a chance to know her, she would always be thankful for that. But, Rose had never been able to go to school, to make friends, to go to a birthday party, and that made Cynthia feel guilty, like she should not be enjoying something her sister never had.

After Rose's death, Cynthia had a hard time dealing with the day to day of it, and one day she awoke from a restless sleep and knew exactly what she had to do. Her parents were appalled and immediately took her to "talk" to someone. Luckily, after hearing Cynthia's explanation, the therapist thought her plan might actually help as long as she met two conditions. One, the penance would end exactly one year from its start and, two, she would be open with her parents and the therapist regarding her experiences during that time.

And thus Cynthia Rose was born. She started the new school year at a new school and, quite literally, became a combination of her and her sister. She spent her time smiling at everyone she met, not talking, and listening in order to learn what she had a need to know. She had a need to know what it was like to be Rose. What made her so happy all of the time? Why not "stars" for her pancakes instead of "starfish"? Why "coffee" instead of chocolate milk? It all came down to just one thing, what made Rose the person that she had been?

Cynthia, and her parents, learned a lot this past year.

Apparently, Papa had told Rose that she could have coffee like him when she was old enough, so, chocolate milk became a child's substitute. At first Cynthia was not sure why Rose would even want coffee, especially after tasting it for herself. After several months of actually paying attention at the breakfast table, she came to realize that Rose associated coffee with Papa (it was the first thing he HAD to have every morning). Papa was the essence of coffee.

And then came the starfish. Since Rose didn't get to go to school Mother often took her on outings. The aquarium became one of her favorite places to go, and, of course, the starfish always made her day. It has been quite nice getting to spend so much time with Mother, even if it was at the Aquarium. Eventually she came to grasp the concept of seeing an actual "falling star" in the form of a starfish. Mother, being a big proponent of using your imagination, had helped to steer her in the right direction just as she had helped Rose with the concept from the start. Stars in the heavens, a wish on a falling star, starfish swimming in the oceans, they all went together if you used your imagination.

Spending this past year in Rose's shadow helped Cynthia to understand her sister in a way she never would have otherwise. Rose had not been stupid, but she had seen the world in a very simplistic way. She liked pretty colors so she wore pretty colors. She liked starfish so everything shaped like a star became a starfish. She loved Papa so she knew she would love coffee when she was old enough to have it.

Cynthia pulled out a sparkly yellow sock and went in search of a suitable mismatch while focusing her mind on the most important thing she learned this past year. Happiness is a choice.

Walking down the school hall in her pretty yellow dress with one sparkly yellow sock and one light pink sock Cynthia Rose was accosted by the only two people that actually treated her like a person, Prince and Lucy.

Suddenly a genuine laugh escaped her lips, the first in over a year, and her smile brightened. Prince stood proudly in front of her wearing a white T-shirt emblazoned with a blue coffee cup and the word "coffee" in big bold letters. Lucy stood next to him in a pink T-shirt with a big yellow starfish and the word "starfish" boldly written across the top.

They each grabbed one of Cynthia Rose's arms and together the three of them pranced down the hall to class.

Prince and Lucy did not care that Cynthia Rose was different, they liked her anyway. Maybe when school ended for the summer Cynthia would have them over to her house and tell them all about Rose.

Sometimes the world was better when it was as simple as sunshine and lollipops, especially when you have starfish and coffee.

Word count = 1096

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