City of Winnipeg | Libraries

Forever and Always

Estrella Copeland swung her legs back and forth off the hospital bed, holding a teddy bear. She stared at the bouquet of red roses sitting on the side table. Their petals wilted, having been there for about a month, or whenever Estrella’s last chemotherapy happened, she didn’t remember. She’d just remained in the hospital, listening to the same songs from her iPod on repeat. It was mainly music from Parachute and Secondhand Serenade. It was the music she had always enjoyed playing on the piano. If only she had the strength to get out of her bed and make it to the piano downstairs to practice more often. Estrella didn’t like bothering the nurses about taking her down constantly in the wheelchair to play piano, she always waited for her father to come and take her down.
She pushed herself out of the bed to test her strength. Estrella managed to get on her feet, and fell once she reached her wheelchair. She sat herself down and wheeled herself out of the room to the elevator. Finally, she would be able to play by herself, even though it was three fifteen in the morning.
She reached the first floor and wheeled herself through a few hallways, making it to the dark cafeteria. It was always unlocked for anyone that wanted to go for walks or needed a late night snack. Estrella made her way in and found herself in front of the grand piano. She lifted the cover up and ran her fingers down the keys, smiling. The grand piano was her home away from home, the only enjoyment she really found at the hospital.
Her fingers danced along the keyboard as she played her hearing of the song she’s been wanting to play for years, finally figuring out that faulty key change close to the end. A chill ran down her spine when she hit the first C chord, and excitement hit her when she struck the G chord after. She hummed along with the song, not singing, for sadly she didn’t inherit her dad’s melodic voice, only his amazing skills for understanding music.
Estrella got herself lost in the music, playing song after song, any that she could think of. The cafeteria employees walked in to officially open it. Nobody told her to stop, rather, they listened to her play.
“Estrella?” A figure approached her from behind. “I thought it was you. When did you learn to play Forever and Always?”
Estrella turned around to see her father. She smiled, weakly standing up from her wheelchair to give him a hug. She fell back painfully into her wheelchair after barely managing to wrap her fragile arms around her father.
“All the hours sitting in the hospital bed made me figure out the notes by sound,” she explained. “Father, I have a question. Actually, it’s more of a request.”
“Anything, ask away,” was her father’s reply.
“I want us to perform somewhere together. Whether it’s just in here or at Carnegie Hall, my dream since I started playing was to accompany you. I want to do that soon, because I know the chemo hasn’t been working.”
“I’ll see what I can do.” Estrella’s father weakly smiled at her. He had to show strength in front of her, even though it broke his heart to watch his little girl deteriorate in front of him every passing day. He was the only parental figure she had, for her mother had left him for a rich older man overseas. She really was a gold digger, choosing money over the love they once had. It was easy for him to win full custody over Estrella due to that, which made him so happy. As a boy that grew up in an orphanage, she was the only thing left that he loved. He had to do something special for her.
Estrella returned the smile. She knew she didn’t have much time left, and she knew leaving her father is something she wouldn’t dream of doing, though at this point she has no choice. She never wanted to break his heart. She always tried to set him up with her single nurse, though he never caught the hints, because she didn’t want him to feel alone when she passed.
Two weeks went by from that conversation, and Mr. Copeland made plans for the two of them to perform at the big church downtown. On the other hand, Estrella was becoming weaker. Her strength hadn’t improved by the slightest since that early morning in the cafeteria. It took all the strength she had to practice with her father. When the day finally came, Estrella was weaker than ever.
“Are you sure you still want to go through with this?” Mr. Copeland anxiously asked as he wheeled his daughter outside.
“I have to. I can’t let anybody down that came to watch us. You told me even our priest will be there, and all the kids from school! I haven’t seen them in a while, so I have to be there. They have to see how hard I’ve been working, even though I haven’t been able to be at school.” Estrella exclaimed as they reached the vehicle.
Mr. Copeland lifted his daughter up and placed her in the car, folding her wheelchair and shoving it in the trunk afterwards. He took a deep breath when he got into the car himself.
“I’m so proud of your strength, Estrella,” he told her. “I’ve never met a stronger young woman than you.”
“Thank you, father.” Estrella smiled. Finally, she was going to perform with her father by her side.
When the two arrived at the church, Estrella was greeted immediately by her classmates. All of them wanted to help wheel her in, and she smiled and said, “Maybe the priest wants to,” as he approached the group of children.
The priest wheeled Estrella in and brought her to the nursery in the church. The girls in her class followed, doing her makeup and placing a pretty pink bow on her blonde wig. She smiled brightly at their kindness as they all fought over who was going to wheel her onto the stage. Eventually, Estrella got her best friend Hellen to do the honours.
Lights shone brightly on Estrella as she was wheeled on. A beautiful grand piano was placed on the stage, as well as a microphone, which her father stood behind. She reached the piano and began to improvise some notes to get the feel of the echoing sound. Her classmates and the priest sat in the audience with beaming faces, excited to hear the songs she was about to play, enthusiastic to hear what her father’s singing sounded like.
After every passing song she played, she could feel her body deteriorating, as if every chord was a piece of her life fading away. She could barely keep herself sitting, though she insisted to keep on playing.
“I think that was our last song,” Mr. Copeland said as he looked at his weak daughter.
“One more,” Estrella whispered, almost too soft to hear.
Her father walked towards her, explaining how they hadn’t practiced another song.
“Dad, we have to do Forever and Always. I know you know the lyrics to that song.”
Mr. Copeland walked back to the microphone, looking back at his daughter. She smiled at him, then hit the C major to start the song off. Tears ran down her face as she played every passing chord, her father needing to keep his eyes closed to keep from looking at his daughter’s body becoming weaker and weaker.
“He said I will love you forever, forever and always, and please-” Mr. Copeland suddenly heard a ‘THUNK’ on the piano. He turned around to see Estrella weakly trying to push herself up, though he could tell she wouldn’t be able to.
“Keep singing, father.” She gave him that weak, reassuring smile she always had on her face. “I need to listen to your voice.”
He took a deep breath and finished the song, tears streaming down his face.
“And please just remember, even if I’m not there, I’ll always love you, forever and always.”

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