How Far Is Heaven
January 17th, 1998
Joni changed into a more
presentable pair of jeans, and a light blue long-sleeved shirt. She was fixing her hair so the top half was up and the bottom
hung loose when Kaitlynne appeared in her doorway, changed into one of her many princess tops, and a pair of jeans, her hair
done in a neat ponytail. She looked at her sister expectantly.
Kaity,” Joni attempted a smile, finishing her hair. She looked at herself in the mirror. Despite the make-up she had
applied, she still looked like someone in desperate need of sleep. The bags under her eyes were still visible, and she still
looked pale. She sighed and turned to face her sister. At least the colour had returned to her face, and she looked normal
and happy again. The way she was before the fatal accident that had claimed their parents. “Okay, I’m ready. Let’s
Joni followed her sister
downstairs, and locked the door. Kaitlynne reached for Joni’s hand, and together they crossed the street hand in hand.
They got to the door, and Joni rang the doorbell. She could smell the familiar scent of lasagna through the door. That smell
brought back memories of when her mother would spend all afternoon in the kitchen making sure her homemade lasagna was just
right, even if it was just for the four of them. She felt Kaitlynne squeeze her hand slightly, and she passed her a smile.
A moment later, Diana opened
the door, with six kids, a husband, and a baby all behind her. Joni and Kaitlynne were taken aback slightly to see all nine
members of the family standing in the foyer.
said cheerfully, all smiles. “Come in, come in.”
Joni and Kaitlynne stepped
inside the foyer, and removed their shoes.
“Isaac and Taylor
will take your coats,” Diana said.
The two oldest boys took
the hint, and took the girls’ coats upstairs to their room, while Diana preceded to introduce the family. “The
two that went up stairs, are Isaac and Taylor. This one,” she motioned to Zac. “is Zac the third born.”
She motioned to two girls, both with blonde hair and brown eyes. One looked to be around nine or ten, while the other looked
around six. “The girls are Jessica and Avery.” She motioned to a young boy, maybe four years old, who looked a
lot like Zac. “This is my son, Mackenzie, and this,” she went to stand beside her husband, who held the infant.
“Is my youngest daughter, ZoŽ, and my husband, Walker.”
Joni and Kaitlynne shook
hands with the family, repeating each name to remember them better. Isaac and Taylor came back down the stairs, and stood
beside their mother, father and siblings.
sighed, not realizing she’d said it allowed.
“You guys all look
so much alike,” Joni replied. “There’s no mistaking that you guys are all related.”
The family laughed, causing
Joni to smile slightly.
not all just stand here in the doorway,” Walker smiled. “Let’s get you guys comfortable.”
“Dinner will be ready
in about thirty minutes,” Diana said, disappearing into the kitchen. The family settled in the living room.
“So, you guys are
new here?” Jessica asked.
Kaitlynne nodded. “Yeah.
We’re from Toronto.”
asked, his attention on Kaitlynne. “Cool. Lots of nice people up there.” He looked from Joni to Kaitlynne. He
could see a strong resemblance between them, but the only thing that seemed to make them sisters was their appearance. Joni’s
eyes seemed dull, and her smiles seemed forced and reluctant; she seemed so sad, while Kaitlynne was all smiles, and happy.
Taylor thought Kaitlynne had the most beautiful smile he’d ever seen. And he loved the black highlights in her hair;
it suited her. He couldn’t help but smile at her. He couldn’t take his eyes off her.
Joni answered. “Have you guys been there?”
answered. “A couple of times. Sometimes we wish we could stay there longer.”
Joni looked away to let
out a silent sigh, only Kaitlynne could hear. She turned back to the family. “So do we. We both miss Toronto. I mean,
Tulsa is a nice city, but–”
“It’s not home,”
Joni looked at Isaac in
slight surprise. He understood her better than she had first thought. She nodded. “Exactly.”
get used to it,” Zac said. “I know there isn’t really much to do, but it’s nice.”
Joni only nodded, her eyes
drifting to Isaac. He was looking at her, those deep brown eyes silently telling her he was keeping that promise he’d
made the day before.
The family talked until
Diana announced it was time for dinner. Dinner was filled with talking, and laughing. For everyone but Joni. She wished she
had the strength to laugh, but the only thing she could do was smile, whenever Zac or Taylor cracked a smart joke, or whenever
Isaac added a funny one-liner to the end of a sentence. She was quiet during dinner, and Isaac noticed it.
“Tell us about yourselves,”
Walker said. “How did you come to live in Tulsa?”
Joni froze. Did she really
have to recount the story again? It already played a million times in her mind every day. She looked over at Kaitlynne, whose
eyes told her she would take care of it.
began, hoping her telling the story wouldn’t cause Joni to break down again. “Well, we’re from Toronto,
but we had to move to live with the Donnahues because our parents passed away Christmas Eve coming back from the store with
our presents.” She watched Joni finger the broken heart and the wedding ring around her neck, her eyes shifted downwards.
“They were hit by an eighteen wheeler… Joni saw it on the news, and–”
Joni couldn’t take
reliving the night again. “Excuse me, please?” she asked, her voice wavering, and she left the table abruptly
before her tears could be shone. She sat on the stairs her back against the railing.
Isaac looked across the
table at Kaitlynne. “Should I go get her?”
Kaitlynne nodded. “At
least make sure she’s okay… She’s taking this really hard, and I think she feels as though she has to take
on our parents’ responsibilities.”
Isaac nodded. “I
know how she feels, and it’s only natural. She’s your older sister, and she’s going to do whatever she can
to keep you safe. Trust me, I’m the oldest of the kids, and I’m the same way. Excuse me.” He got up, and
left the kitchen.
for my sister…” Kaitlynne said.
Kaitlynne,” Diana answered. “I understand. I lost both of my parents too, one right after the other.”
Isaac found Joni on the
stairs, crying once more. She looked up when she felt his presence above her, and sighed, leaning her head back on the railing.
Isaac sat down beside her, taking her hand in his. He wished there was something, anything he could do or say to heal her
broken heart, to make her realize everything would be fine.
Joni wiped her eyes. “I’m
sorry… I didn’t mean for that to happen… it’s just that I replay that night every night in my dreams.
It won’t go away… It will never go away will it? The memory…”
Isaac shook his head. “It
never does. It’s been six years since my grandmother passed away, and I still sort of get choked up whenever my brothers
and I play With You In Your Dreams.”
Joni looked at Isaac. “You
guys write songs?”
Isaac smiled. “Yeah…
I’m surprised you girls haven’t realized who we are yet.”
Joni was confused. “What
do you mean?”
“Taylor, Zac and
I are the band, Hanson,” Isaac explained.
Joni remembered hearing
about the band in magazines, but never took the time to look it over. “You mean, the band whose faces are on every magazine
around the world?”
Isaac laughed slightly.
“Yeah, that’s us.”
said simply. She could’ve cared less who they were. All she knew was the oldest of the kids was treating her like she
was the most important person in the world. He cared about her, and wanted to make sure she was okay. He was the best friend
she had ever had, and they had only met two days ago. Her mind withdrew from the fact that the three oldest boys were Hanson,
and drifted back to her parents. “How far is heaven?” she asked suddenly.
Isaac was taken aback slightly.
“How far is heaven?”
Isaac sighed. He knew what
she was getting at. She longed to see her parents again even for just one moment. “Joni, I know you want to see your
parents again, and I know you miss them… and I don’t know if this is going to give you any solitude, but they’ve
never left you. They’re with you right now. They’re with you when you close your eyes and when you open them.
They’re with you in your dreams, and they will forever be in your heart. I know it seems like your parents are so far
away now, but if you think about it, they’re not far away at all. They’re right beside you, and they’ll
be there when you want them to be.”
Joni sighed. “But
I can’t see them, or touch them. I’ll never hear my mother’s singing in the morning, I’ll never receive
my dad’s bear hugs every night before going to bed, they’ll never go to any of my little performances at school,
they’ll never see me graduate high school, and they’ll never see Kaitlynne graduate grade eight. When Kaitlynne
graduates, I’ll be the only one there, with the exception of Uncle Jacob and Aunt Lynda, but it’s not the same.
When Kaitlynne gets her first date, or her first real kiss, she won’t be able to come home all smiles, and have mom
ask for every detail, have dad say that we have to invite this boy over for dinner some night… And when she gets married,
her father won’t be able to walk her down the aisle…”
you to walk her down,” Isaac said.
“But it’s not
the same. It’s something her father should do, not her sister. Our parents will never see her get married, they’ll
never see her give birth to a baby, they’ll never get to grow old. I won’t get the chance to look after them as
they grow old… there are so many things Kaitlynne is missing out on, and it’s not fair to her.”
Isaac scooted over, and
gave Joni a long hug. “It’s okay, Joni. I know they’ll be a lot of missed things, and things aren’t
going to be the same, but you guys have to go on living your lives. It’s what your parents would’ve wanted.”
Kaitlynne stood in the
kitchen by the doorway, listening to her sister and Isaac talk. She knew Isaac was right, and she hoped Joni would be okay,
and stop worrying about her all the time. She was twelve years old; she could take care of herself. A hand touched her shoulder.
It was Taylor.
“Hey, um, did you
want to go out for a walk with me?” he asked shyly.
Kaitlynne nodded. “Sure,
I’d like that.”
She and Taylor got their shoes and coats on, and started down the street. She found Taylor rather cute. His eyes were
so cheerful and deep. His smile was gorgeous, and she wanted to run her fingers through his long blonde hair. She had been
sneaking glances at him all evening, wondering if he’d been doing the same. She turned her gaze upwards. The stars were
so bright. She could see the Big Dipper, Orion, and the Little Dipper, of which the north star clung to. Why did Heaven have
to seem so far away? How far was it really? She wished she knew.