The Sweetest Gift
edited: Wednesday, December 18, 2002
By Katie Golde
Posted: Monday, March 04, 2002
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Seventeen year old Rebecca Lynn Tyler would never forget the sweetest gift given to her on her sixteenth birthday.
She sank down to the ruffled coverlet, pink fuzzy book in one hand, glistening yellow pen in the
other. For a moment, she stared at the shelves lining the wall before her. Barbies in a row,
standing in their perfection, stared back at her dreamily. There were thirty-one in total, she
knew, she’d been collecting them since she was nine.
With frost tipped fingers, she pulled out the assignment sheet and reread the words again. “In a
page or less, give a brief description of yourself and your life. To be read aloud in front of the class.” She sighed softly and picked up the fuzzy book once more. Humming “Happy Birthday”
to herself as her gel filled pen scratched the words on the pale pink paper.
Today was her seventeenth birthday. She could only vaguely recall what happened on her sixteenth. The one where her best friend Kirsten had thrown a birthday bash for her. ‘The one
where..’ It doesn’t matter. She thought, shaking her head against the image rolling across her brain.
The slight tremble from her actions shook the bed enough to allow a small orange slip to fall from her purse and glide silently to the plush carpet on the floor. She didn’t notice. Her hand was to busy filling the words in on the paper. Word after word, sentence after sentence rolled across the pages.
Until she stopped. Ending the last word with a sharp dot on the page, almost hard enough to rip a
hole. Her hand released the pen, letting it fall to the floor. Her eyes skimmed over the words she
had just written. Her mind replaying the images.
‘My parents held forth a beautiful baby girl with rosy skin and pale blond fuzz atop her head on
that sunny September day in 1983. The girl was, a few weeks after, christened Rebecca Lynn
Taylor. They say I was ever a cheerful child, an inquisitive child. Wanting to know at an early
age how everything worked.
Born and raised in Goderich, Ontario, I stayed there until last June. When my father got his
promotion and we moved here. To Vancouver. All my life I have been ahead a year in school.
Thus explaining why I am in a Grade Twelve Advanced English class when others my age are in
Grade Eleven. I am a Virgo in the Astrology Zodiac and a dog in the Chinese. I love to read write, draw and learn.
My last birthday, my best friend Kirsten, who is nineteen, threw me a Sweet Sixteen party. Her
parents had gone on holidays for two weeks in Louisiana so she had the house to herself. She
and her other friends provided the alcohol.
By ten o’clock, the house was packed with wall to wall people, most of them I didn’t know. Everywhere I looked were people making out. On the couches in the living and recreation rooms. The piano had been covered by a vivacious redhead and her beach boy look alike boyfriend. Even the lounges beside Kirsten’s indoor pool had been taken over by writhing young people.
At eleven o’clock when my own boyfriend of the last year, Josh arrived, I was almost smashed.
Nineteen years old, six foot four, tanned skin topped with dark chestnut hair and shimmering
blue eyes. Josh was considered hot by most of the girls I went to school with. Captain of the
Vikings, Goderich’s football team, he walked up to me in his red and white jacket, leaned down
and whispered that he had a special surprise waiting for me.
He led me up to the door of the spare bedroom over the garage. The door stared back at me as
we stopped in front of it. Josh opened the door to allow bright light from the hall to seep into the
dimly lit bedroom. There, on the rose print comforter, was a large bouquet of flowers and a large white teddy bear.
Walking over to it, I picked up the teddy and turned to smile at Josh. I remember how silly I
must’ve sounded as I thanked him. “It is the sweetest gift anyone ever gave me. Thank you.”
We kissed for a moment. Until the world began to swirl around me. Josh handed me a drink and
told me to take a sip. I swallowed about half of the drink. Feeling the warmth of the rye in the
glass seep into me. I remember setting the glass on the table and looking back at Josh. Then the
world disappeared with a black curtain.
When I woke, the clock on the table said 4am in brilliant red letters. Josh was asleep beside me,
naked as a jaybird. The rest of the house was silent except for the pounding of the blood in my
ears and the horrible sloshing in my stomach. Shaking slightly, I pulled myself out of the bed,
revolted as I saw the streak of blood on my naked leg. I stood, trying to ignore the spinning
room, and searched for my clothes. There was more blood on my panties and the sheets where I
Most of you are probably wondering why I am telling you this. Well, the reason is very simple.
I, Rebecca Lynn Taylor, seventeen today, honors student and Goderich Fall Fair Queen, went for
my yearly physical yesterday. Then today, after home economics, I was called to the nurse’s
station. The health nurse and the school councillor were waiting for me. The nurse had a slip of
orange paper in her hand, which she held forward for me. It was the results from the tests I had
done for my physical. Eyes running down the list, past pregnancy, hepatitis, syphilis, my eyes
saw only the single check in the positive column. Beside HIV.
I, Rebecca Lynn Taylor, had probably five years left to live.’
The girl sighed and dropped the book down on the floor where it landed open to the page she had
just written. Atop the orange slip on the floor, beside her yellow gel pen. She walked over to the
bathroom that joined directly to her room. It’s counter cluttered on either side of the sink with
the usual teenage girl stuff. From toothpaste to deodorant, from hair spray to appliances, make
up to jewelry.
She looked into the silvery surface of the mirror at the girl with the golden hair and wide blue
eyes that stared back. Raised the plugged in curling iron, flipped the switch without moving her
eyes off the mirror and turned on the water.
Seventeen year old Rebecca Lynn Taylor, honors student, Fall Fair Queen, in the running for
Valedictorian, was gone. Dead on her seventeenth birthday. The sweetest gift given to her on
her sixteenth birthday had ruined her life.