Once you’re alive, can you ever really be dead?
Candy Land is a personal narrative written by one of my students, Kayla Paterson. This story, Kayla intertwines the past and the present to explore the power of life, death memories, and board games.
Meet the Writer
Kayla Patterson is a 12th grade student at Robbinsville High School (New Jersey). She plans on attending Hampton University and majoring in Computer Science.
Dedication: To my cousin, Aliya, who will be forever missed and who will live forever in my heart, in the Candy Land Castle.
Over a sea of black dresses and suits the Pastor took a deep breath, “You may proceed to the casket.”
Rising from the red velvet church benches, tissue in hand, I managed to take a few steps to the casket. Listening to the hymns in the background, I remembered playing Candy Land with her.
Ten years ago, I was seven and all I ever wanted to do was play Candy Land.
I was meeting my cousin Aliya for the first time too, so in my mind all I could think about was having a play buddy and hoping she like Candy Land as much as I did.
I ran to the door and reached for the knob. My face turned with confusion when the door didn’t open. My mom came running down the hallway with one hand covered with an oven mitt. She unlocked the door and I smiled and pulled, wondering what I would see on the other side.
Standing was a tall girl with a round face. Her big brown eyes took the frame of her dark glasses. Her braids swayed right above her hips, the smell of strawberry perfumed lingering in the doorway.
“Hey Kayla,”Aliya said while scooping down to my level. “So what are we going to do?”
Being seven and meeting people for the first time always scared, but Aliya was different.
I took her hand with a smile and led her to the family room. I told her how to play the game Candy Land and she was eager to start the game, we both sat right across from each other with the board in between us.
I took Princess Frostine – the blue princess and Aliya choose King Kandy.
I took the die and rolled it with all of my force. Five spaces. I moved my Princess Frostine closer to the Candy Castle.
Five spaces to the casket.
I could see the outline of her body. Silky black curls fallen on her ruby red dress. Her eyes shut, as if dreaming about her plans after college. Just 23. Just a girl with a dream.
Aliya, took the next card from the deck and eyed me down. My serious, seven year old eyes told her that I was not playing around.
“Ha, it looks like you need to move your Princess Frostine four spaces back, and you thought you were close to winning this game,” she said with a smile.
I took my Princess Frostine and moved it back four spaces, staring down my cousin while I did it.
Four spaces away from the casket.
I see her face. Silver eyeshadow, red lipstick, some blush here and there. She was beautiful to be dead.
“You think you can beat the master at this game?” I questioned my cousin.
I yanked the card from the deck and smiled realizing I just gained three forward spaces. Taking my Princess Frostine and moving it through Candy Cane Forest, I was almost to the Candy Castle. Aliya stared at me and she knew I was about to win this game.
Three spaces away from the casket.
I started to cry. I was close to reaching her. So close of touching her hand. Touching the hands she helped me deal cards with at a young age, trying to explain gambling to me. Touching the hands that were sticky from the lemonade we tried to make in the kitchen.
“Ha, I’m two spaces away Kayla,” Aliya said. Her big brown eyes followed the smooth movement of King Kandy jumping spaces between my Princess Frostine.
Two spaces between me and the casket.
The flowers she held were edged in gold. She was so similar to me. She was an only child, she wore glasses and she just wanted a good life.
“Not so fast cousin!” I only needed one more space to win the Candy Land Game.
I grabbed the die, shook it and released it with all my might. Our eyes lunged at the twirl of the die.
The die slowly spun to a halt.
My face slowly lit up when I saw one dot. I grabbed my Princess Frostine piece and did a small victory lap before I made it into the Candy Land Castle.
“And the victory goes to me! Take that cousin!”
Aliya laughed, “Nice game.”
One more space between me and the casket.
I step forward.
I touched her hand and I closed my eyes imagining her with me, imagining her breathing, alive, and well. She still smelled like strawberries.
“I’ll meet you again Aliya. One day, at the Gumdrop Castle.”
We cleaned up the board game and as she left, she smiled, “Don’t worry you’ll see me again. You owe me a rematch.”
My uncle looked down at his daughter for one last time and kissed her forehead. The casket closed and I watched it rolled down the aisle, out the church and into the morning light.
My big 7 years old eyes stared at her and said, “Next time we’ll have that rematch. But until next time”
Until next time.
I stared at my uncle. Though I ached with absolute sadness, I felt Aliya alive my heart. I knew that as long as I stoke the memories of her she will always be alive.
On that day I learned no one is ever really dead.