**This is an alternate ending to O’Henry’s short story, “The Last Leaf.” To fully understand this post, you must read that first. Click here for a PDF of that story!
Sue bit her lip to stop herself from sobbing. The doctor had given her the odds. Her dearest friend had no chance. Johnsy showed no will to live. Nothing anyone could do could stop that last leaf. It was going to fall. There was nothing to be done about it. It would fall tonight. And so would Johnsy. “Some day I vill baint a masterpiece, and ve shal all go away.” Mr. Behrman had said. Oh, poor Mr. Behrman! How would he feel!
Sue had to admit that her only friend in this world was going to die. She found that she was unable to restrain herself. A tear rolled down her cheek, and she came away from the painting.
Mr. Behrman broke his pose. “Ms. Sue!” he cried, and ran to her side. He knelt down and placed a hand on her shoulder. “Ah, Ms. Sue! You must not worry! I vill baint de masterpiece, did I not tell you? I vill save poor little Ms. Yohnsy, did I not tell you?”
Sue couldn’t help but laugh. “Oh, Mr. Behrman.” she said, drying her tears. “I’m sorry. Please, I’m sorry, pose again,”
“Are you sure?”
“Ve can stop if you vant to.”
“No,” she said, a pleading look in her eyes. “Please, I – I just need to get my mind off this.”
But the painting did not help.
Behrman walked over to his blank canvas. There was only one way to save Johnsy. He looked out at the blizzard that was brewing. It was going to be cold. Colder than minus ten degrees Fahrenheit. He picked up his brush, and walked over to his room. He opened his cupboard, and removed his paints. It was time for his masterpiece.
Behrman walked outside and was instantly showered with snow. His hands were shivering, his teeth chattering, and his face, red. He had four layers of clothes on but it did not help. He had even covered his nose and head with a scarf. Nothing stopped the cold from gripping each inch of his body in its icy grasp, sucking every ounce of heat he had left in him. He walked until he reached the ivy vine. He stared down at the bane of Johnsy’s existance – the last leaf. He had to make an equal. He studied the features of the leaf for what felt like forty-five minutes, after which he set it down and took out a pencil. He began slowly with an outline of how the leaf would look, but he was shivering furiously. He began opening a bottle of paint, which fell out of Behrman’s hands. He muttered swear words as he dipped the brush into the bottle. He began painting.
Behrman felt so cold, that he felt warm. Hypothermia was setting in, closing its fingers around his brain, and slowly taking out reason. He was no longer shivering. His paint bottle kept slipping from his hand. He put his brush down and began unzipping his top layer – a jacket. His brain was shutting down. The inner jacket was not enough to keep him warm. He picked up his brush and fell to the ground, shivering. He started to get up, but he was too dizzy. He wanted to sleep. Hypothermia now delivered its final blow, as Behrman picked up his brush and brought it to the wall. He was breathing heavily, but Hypothermia had caught him upon the hip. He fell against the wall, making a big green line that completely ruined it all, and Behrman slumped to the ground with a last sigh.
Inside, Sue lay awake, tears streaming down her face.
When Sue awoke from an hour’s sleep the next morning, she found Johnsy with dull, wide-open eyes staring at the drawn green shade. “Pull it up! I want to see,” she ordered in a whisper.
Wearily, Sue obeyed.
The last leaf had fallen. In its place was poorly drawn graffiti.
“I thought so,” Johnsy said, “My time has come.”
“No,” Sue said quietly, shamelessly letting the tears roll down her eyes. “No, Joanna! No! You can’t do this to me!”
“I’m sorry Sudie,” Johnsy said, as she slumped into the bed, putting her hands on her chest, “It’s just the way it is.”
“No, no, NO! Johnsy! Joanna, please!” Sue’s tears were now drenching her night dress. But Johnsy wasn’t listening.