I watched the man as he screamed, “Posies! Purchase your Posies here! The scent of these flowers keeps that of the plague away!”
At the word ‘plague’ the crowd started to murmur. The plague was spreading through my town faster than anyone could blink. Outside of this town the dead lay ready to be burned to prevent it from spreading further. So far only the rich carry the posies around with them. They are easy to spot because they always have it out in the open. The women would constantly be sniffing them when passing through my part of town, the poor side; that is where the nightmare began. More people were dying daily. Now my little brother caught it after my parents died from it three weeks prior.
He was getting worse; which is why I was standing there, to get a posy for my brother. He was only four years old and my twelve years did not help me to help him at all. All I could do is try to get a posy for him. Even though posies were for preventing the plague, I was desperate, as was everybody else.
The crowd swarmed around the man with the posies. Then he stood up on a crate, “Sorry, my day’s bundle is sold out. There will be more on the morrow.”
I was already too late. I felt my heart drop. Tears welled up in my eyes and I didn’t even see the woman when I ran into her. She had just bought a dozen posies and when she saw my dirty self, she shrieked in disgust and shoved the whole bundle of them under her nose. She shuffled past me nearly knocking me over. I looked at my bare feet ashamed. Then I noticed it. The posy. She had dropped it in her hurry. I quickly snatched it up and sniffed it, hardly believing my luck. The scent was so sweet, it took away from the smell of ash that followed you no matter if you were on the poor side or not.
I ran as fast as I could. When I reached the poor side of London, I hid the posy from view, not risking it being stolen. I ran faster past the carts that were going around collecting the dead. The ones still alive were sitting out in the gutter of the streets where people disposed of all their wastes. They moaned and coughed. I pushed myself further along thinking how my brother, Thomas, must be suffering.
The streets had an awful smell; the sick, the dead, the rotting, and the ash. I didn’t stop running until I reached our small alleyway. Even though the sun was setting, I could still clearly see that Thomas was waiting for me. I could see his feet poking out of our shelter. I smiled as he heard me and I saw his feet slowly drag inside the safety of a few crates.
Then he called faintly, “Julianna?” It pained me to hear his voice so weak. This was the third day he was showing signs of the disease. He was now coughing up blood and was getter hotter. He was so weak he lay behind some crates that were our home since we were evicted when my parents had caught it. They had died six days later. I went behind the crates where I had seen his small feet poking out.
“Thomas, look what I found for you!” I held the posy out like a prize. It was a little bit crumpled from my grip on it while running, yet he still smiled feebly up at me. I put it on his chest and sat down next to him. I stroked his sweaty hair out of his face and smiled at him, hoping against hope that he would get better.
“Juli?” He asked quietly.
“What’s going to happen to me?”
“What do you mean?”
“Where am I going after I die?”
Thomas wasn’t one for being discrete. “You’re not going to die.”
“I just want to know.” He persisted even though he could barely talk.
I looked up at the sky uncertain of what to say. I saw two stars starting to appear up above us. I sighed.
“See those stars Thomas?”
He looked up at the pair of stars that were getting brighter as the night closed in around us. “Yes.”
“That’s momma and papa.”
“How can you tell?”
“Because even though they are dead they still watch over us.”
“Why?” He was still staring up at the stars.
“Because they love us.”
He thought that over for a couple minutes then asked, “Will I be going back to momma and papa?”
“Not yet, this posy will make you better.”
He ignored what I said and he shakily reached up and touched my cheek. “I’ll shine the brightest for you.”
I felt the tears well up in my eyes, “No you’ll get better. You won’t have to shine for me if you stay here.”
He shook his head stubbornly then he starting coughing. I helped him to his knees as he spit out the blood. It was a confirmation that he was dying. Desperately I snatched the posy and stuck it under his nose. “Keep on smelling that.”
He obeyed me and kept it under his nose.
After a little while he asked, “Why did they leave us?”
“They didn’t want to.”
Normally his constant questioning of why would annoy me; but not tonight. I understood this; wanting to know what would happen. I answered him carefully.
“Because they were sick and they didn’t have a posy.”
He patted my cheek where a tear was starting to fall down. “Don’t cry Juli.” I closed my eyes because it hurt me to look at his frail form lying next to me. I felt the slightest pressure on my hand. I opened my eyes to find the posy in it.
“Thomas you need this!” I thrust it back to him. My sudden movement made him start coughing again. I felt his forehead; it was defiantly hotter than this morning. It was then I noticed that he was shivering. I pulled him onto my lap and stroked him gently on his back. I put the posy in a fold of his tunic and rocked him back and forth until night was spread across town.
I cried in silence. His breathing was becoming labored. He was taking deep breaths and when I thought it was about to stop and I caught my breath. Once his ragged breath was heard, my heart could re-start. I stroked his back, rocking him towards sleep.
“I love you, Juli.” He whispered.
“I know I love you too.”
He breathed heavily and laid his head against my chest. His face was so hot it startled me. Thomas recoiled against me when I had jumped, and starting coughing up blood again. I helped him lean forward so he wouldn’t spit up blood on me.
I leaned against the alley wall and put him back into my lap to listen to him breath. Thomas’s breathing slowed and he paused between each breath; the pauses were getting longer and longer apart, which scared me.
I made sure that the posy was with him.
He fell asleep that night and woke up a star. To this day I can see Thomas watching me from the stars because he does shine the brightest.