Francesca Marie Bianchi
Beloved Daughter and Sister
June 5, 1980 – July 5, 1999
“Hey, Frankie,” I say. Sitting in front of her tombstone, I feel a peace settle in me. “How you doing today?”
When I first set eyes on Frankie on the first day of high school, my heart stopped. Her long brown hair flowed in the wind. Honest to God, it was like that moment in The Wonder Years when he meets Winnie. I just knew, knew in my heart, she was the one. I was fifteen when we had homeroom together, and I thought that it was definitely a sign. Then we were on the same debate team, and what started as us being study partners turned into so much more.
Loving Frankie came so easy; she was just carefree about everything—nothing fazed her, nothing upset her, it just was. Her motto was “Even if you get angry or mad, it won’t change anything.”
I shake my head. Until she turned eighteen, when she started feeling sick. It just wouldn’t go away; nothing she did made her feel better. One day, I took matters into my own hands and got her dressed to take her to the doctor, but I didn’t have to leave her house because she sat me down.
“I know why I’m sick,” she said, avoiding my eyes.
“Did you go to the doctor already?” I asked her, finally relieved that she was going to get better. She had lost so much weight.
“I did about two weeks ago.” She finally looked up, and her brown eyes were filled with tears.
“Well, you should have gotten better already, so we need to go back.” I started to get up, ready to take her to the hospital.
“Blake, I’m not going to get better,” she whispered as one lone tear rolled down her cheek. A cheek I’d held in my hand, a cheek I’d kissed, a cheek that hid a secret dimple that only came out when she was really, really smiling. “I have leukemia.”
Three words cut me off; three words that took away my world. That night, I went home and researched everything there was to know, but nothing, nothing, prepared me for what was to come.
We did everything the doctor said, everything down to the T, but in the end, the disease won, and she was nothing but a shell of the vibrant woman I once knew. I begged and pleaded with her to fight. I begged and pleaded with God to spare her. But no one listened; her parents didn’t think I would stick around, but an army of Navy SEALs couldn’t keep me from sitting by her bedside. Nothing could stop me from begging her to be my wife; nothing could stop me from loving her so much that when she took her last breath, I died as well. Breathing was hard to do because the pain in my chest never went away. Fuck, it still lingers. My hopes, my dreams—everything got buried the day we lowered her casket into the ground. I went through the motions, pretending I was okay when inside, I was empty. I was hollow; it was gone. My heart was still beating, my breath was still coming, but I wasn’t there.
My hands trace the letters on the tombstone. “Miss you, baby,” I say. When I feel a soft breeze go by, it’s almost as if she answered me today. “So much,” I say, the tears coming no matter how much I fight them. No matter how much time goes by, the tears always come. I stay here for twenty minutes, lying down in front of her plaque with my head resting on my arm. Leaning forward, I kiss her name. “See you next week,” I tell her, getting up and walking back to the truck. Making my way back to my sister’s house, I hope someone is going to be able to give her the strength she needs to go on.
The drive back to Hailey’s house is quiet as night falls. The stars are coming out; some are blinking, some just lighting the sky. My mother and father are in the kitchen, and my mother is cooking.
“You think she’s going to eat any of that?” I ask them. Heading for the bottle of whiskey still on the counter, I pour one shot after another. The numbness never comes, so I sit down and look at my father, who shoots his eyebrows up at me in question. “Don’t.”
“We have to eat and keep up our strength for your sister,” my mother says.
I hear squeaking on the stairs and know that’s either Crystal or my sister. “She’s up,” Crystal says. Walking into the kitchen, she grabs the bottle of empty whiskey. “You couldn’t even save me a shot?” I don’t answer but look up at her. We both look at the hallway when more creaking sounds. Hailey comes into the kitchen with her hair tied on top of her head, wearing Eric’s robe. Her eyes are swollen from the tears she has shed all day.