“How many is that?” asked my sister, trotting behind me, eyes downcast, searching.
“Dunno. Maybe six.”
I skipped further along the broken sidewalk on our way to Sunday school. I wore a new green dress that Grandma had made for me yesterday. She’d finished the measuring with me standing on a chair and her with pins tucked between her lips. Lottie watched with a jealous gaze.
“When do I get my new dress?” Lottie asked our grandmother.
She mumbled something, which I helpfully translated as “later,” and shot Lottie a triumphant look.
“You’re lucky,” Lottie grumbled and left.
“I’ll start your dress tomorrow,” our grandmother had said to her retreating back once she removed the pins.
Lottie caught up with me. She toed the grass with her scuffed Mary Jane’s. “You’re the lucky one. It’s ‘cause of all the four-leaf clovers.”
“Want me to help you find one?”
She scoffed. “I don’t need help.
We went up the hill where I glanced down at the scruffy grass in great need of mowing, and there it was, smiling at me as if saying, pick me!
“C’mon. I know you can find this one.”
Lottie peered down, squinting hard. She moved the clovers around and plucked out a three-leaf. Then she tossed it down.
“There’s not one here. You’re just messing with me.”
“Look.” I pointed directly at the clover, which to me was as obvious as our mamma’s scowl when we misbehaved.
By now we both squatted on our knees in the grass in front of the church secretary’s house, just minutes away from Sunday school. If we delayed longer, we’d be late.
I took Lottie’s hand and placed it near the clover.
“I can’t see it,” she protested, pulling away.
I plucked it for her and put it in her palm.
She shook her head. “You can’t take someone else’s luck.” And handed it back.***
The call came on New Year’s Eve, a Saturday. “Your sister had a severe asthma attack. She’s in an induced coma.”
I clasped the phone to my ear, too stunned to let go. How could that be? I’d just seen Lottie at Christmas. We hugged, talked, and laughed together. She can’t be in an induced coma in some un-heard-of hospital in Savannah, Georgia. It’s not happening. My mind went into overdrive. Asthma? Who dies from an asthma attack in the 21st Century?
Of course she wouldn’t die. She’d get better. She just needed a little luck and a lot of prayers. Please God help her wake up!
We sat vigil for weeks, waiting and hoping for her to open her eyes. Once they eased her out of the coma, the doctors cautioned we must wait to see if she snapped back.
“She lost oxygen to her brain,” the doctor said. “We put her in the coma to prevent more deterioration. When she wakes up, we can determine how much damage she’s undergone.” He smiled, but his eyes held a serious, grave gleam that sent chills up my back.
“When she comes out of this, I’m going to take her to Italy,” I told my husband.
Our Italian father had died when I was eight and she was six. Both of us too young to grasp our Italian heritage. To compensate, I’d travelled to Italy countless times and soaked up the food, the music, the art, and the language. Now, Lottie must go and share those joys. A sister’s trip, such fun. I couldn’t wait to tell her.
I returned home after another day at the hospital. On our bookcase I sought the old volume where I’d stored all those four-leaf clovers I’d found as a child. Hundreds remained tucked inside, dried up now and flakey. On page 112 lay the one I’d tried to give Lottie that day we were walking to Sunday school. The one she refused to accept.
When I removed it, it fell to pieces in my hand.
An hour later we got the call. My sister didn’t make it. She never woke up.
After the funeral, her words echoed in my ears, You can’t take someone else’s luck.
If only she had.
Joan C. Curtis is the award-winning author of two mysteries.