The cloudless morning sky was reddened as the sun slowly rose to begin yet another day. The birds hollered out their good-mornings to one another, attempting to rouse any sleeping humans. But Ryan Wabishkahak was already awake, frustrated by the idea of having to get up so early for school. He was only ten years old, but that didn't mean he was an early riser. He was one of probably millions of kids dreaming that his school would burn to the ground someday, and cancel school for good. Then he could sleep for however long he wanted to.
But of course, that never did happen. Theresa, his mother, always told him that there were innocent kids out there somewhere who were just dying to get the chance of a good education at school. But he only thought of them as lucky.
Ryan took a quick glance out the front window, rubbing his tired, brown eyes. He was thankful it was the last day of school, then he'd get to spend the entire summer sleeping until noon and hanging out with his friends. Being out of school on summer vacation also gave him the relief of not being late every morning. This all happened because of his stubborn, slow-as-a-turtle, five-year-old sister Jodi. He couldn't even imagine waiting on Shirley, the youngest of the four. She turned four that very day.
Ryan hated the fact that he had to leave on Shirley's birthday. Since she was too young to yet attend school, she remained the only child at home. They would have to celebrate her big day once everyone finished off theirs at school. Every kid in town had been looking forward to the last day since the first, but Shirley had been waiting for this day to come since the day she turned three a year ago. She wanted to be a "big girl" for a long time. She would get to start kindergarten in September. It was an important date to her.
"It's almost eight o'clock," Theresa announced, glancing up at the round, wooden clock that hung on the center of the wall. "You guys had best be on your way."
It didn't take long before everyone was ready. After goodbyes were spoken, they headed out the door for the short trek to school. Shirley leaned on the couch in the living room, which was against the big picture window. She was waving to them, hoping they wouldn't be gone too long. She didn't yet understand the concept of time, so she was clueless as to how long they would be gone for.
The sun's intense heat beat down on them as they walked. The temperature was predicted to be very high that day, so it was very likely that the principal would not allow recess. As the sun blazed in the sky, and rose higher, the heat rose with it. Ryan felt dumb for wearing a sweater, and wanted to collapse right on the spot. Jodi giggled softly to herself, feeling a little cooler with her new summer dress, and as for Cody, he had no comment. Ryan kept his hopes up that they'd be at school in no time.
The school they attended was very grand. It was built somewhere back in the 1800's, and was surrounded with ancient oak trees. They had sprouted in a way that provided excellent shade for the warmer days. They were not described as good looking, but they were kept for shade. Otherwise, someone surely would have taken an axe or something and cut them down a LONG time ago.
The town was lucky they even had a school. Besides a corner store, there were absolutely no buisnesses. The town was sparsely populated, with very few people living there. All their basic necessities were located in the next city, about five minutes away. There were grocery stores, hospitals, movie theatres, arenas, and many other places. About the only fun places they had in their town were the parks. They were just lucky they didn't have to go into the city for school. The high school kids had to, though.
Giant cracks covered the sidewalk, making it dangerous to walk. Small feet could easily fit inside them, and break ankles from falling. Jodi was to be extra careful around those cracks, because her feet were tiny, and she had learned her lesson last year when she actually tripped on one and broke her ankle on the way home from school. The mayor of the next city over was responsible for fixing the cracks, but he was too lazy to do his job. So, it was pretty much his fault for all the injuries suffered.
At the door of the school, it took almost five minutes before the principal opened the big blue doors to let them in. "Sorry," he said apologetically. "There were difficulties working the cameras. I didn't see you."
Ryan rolled his eyes as he entered the air-conditioned school. The morning announcements were on, indicating that they were late by at least ten minutes or slightly more. The three of them headed down their separate hallways, and went to their classes. Ryan didn't have to waste time at his locker to grab his binders, since it was a free activity day. He had left his backpack at school the day before so it would be faster to get to class. Once he entered the classroom of thirty students, his teacher, Mrs.MacIntosh, was already speaking to everyone.
"Ms.Harrison's class will be joining ours today," she announced with her thick English accent. "I want all of you on your best behavior. They are only second graders, and they look up to you. Act like role models, not idiots." Ryan sighed as he realized this was Cody's class.
"Especially you." Mrs.MacIntosh pointed a finger at Ryan. "Just because your brother is in Ms.Harrison's class, that doesn't give you the right to act like a fool. I know what you two can be like when you're together. Be good. Got it?"
Ryan was the class clown. And he always seemed to find himself at the office or kicked out of class for some stupid reason. He would get suspended a lot, too. He nodded to Mrs.MacIntosh as he said, "Sure, but this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity." His classmates giggled.
Back at home, Theresa tried her best to keep Shirley entertained, like she would every other school day. She took her for a walk, and bought her a popsicle from the corner store down the road. Shirley felt proud to be another year older, even though four was still very young. But at least she'd get to start kindergarten in September. She was excited for that.
And, after a seemingly long day, it was home time. It wouldn't be difficult to find Cody, but they would have to make their way through a stampede of excited kids to find Jodi. It wouldn't be hard to find the kindergarten classroom, but it definitely would be difficult to get there. After all school supplies were gathered up into their backpacks, they set out on their small journey around the school to locate Jodi. Kids were shoving each other out of the way to get outside. Their backpacks were extended out further because of all the junk inside, and kids were constantly bumping into one another like bumper cars. It was hard for Ryan and Cody to get by without nearly getting trampled on.
They were easily able to locate Jodi, who they spotted walking down the crowded hallway with her teacher. After they were able to get Jodi's attention, they very quickly exited the school. It was difficult, but they were capable of leaving the school without getting run over. They had to be careful with Jodi because she was tiny, and she could easily not be seen by the older kids. Ryan kept his hand on her back to lead her through the halls. She was pretty short, so it would be hard to see her in such a crowded room.
"I hope it doesn't take too long to get home," said Cody, pressing his hands against his cheeks.
"No kidding," Ryan agreed. "I'll probably pass out by then, anyway. Then you can drag me the rest of the way."
The problem Ryan had was, he couldn't stay out in the heat as long as everyone else could, because he could easily collapse. He had done that several times already in his life, the first time being age four. His skin was almost ghostly pale, so sunburns were extremely visible. A lot of kids had visible sunburns, but his always turned a brighter red when it was even just a small sunburn. He usually would collapse because his skin could easily be burned, and if he was feeling very hot, that's when it happened. He wished he was able to stay out longer, because he feared collapsing on the way to or from school. Cody and Jodi would have to run and get help, because it was severe most times. Especially because he was wearing a sweater that day, it definitely increased the risk of heat strokes.
Jodi skipped around on the sidewalk, her blue eyes shining with interest. Her blue eyes made her so unique. Having blue eyes didn't run genetically in the family. Jodi was the only one in the family to have them. Everyone else had brown eyes. Even their deceased father. And with Shirley, she was the only one with blonde hair. Nobody else had that, and she was special for it. It was waist-long, and she didn't have bangs like Jodi. She had sidebangs instead. She was complimented by relatives often, and it made her feel special. Ryan and Cody pretty much looked the same, though. There wasn't too many things about them that made them different, except for the fact that Ryan was left-handed, and Cody was not.
Suddenly, a familiar red van pulled up at the sidewalk, and drove closer to the three siblings. From inside the tinted windows, they could see a hand signaling to them to come closer. They couldn't see who was in the van, though. But then the back window rolled down, and Shirley poked her head out. "Let's go!" she sqealed excitedly.
Ryan, Cody, and Jodi exchanged looks, and breathed a sigh of relief. Cody threw open the back door, and everyone climbed in after him. "Did you think I was trying to abduct you?" Theresa giggled.
"Maybe," said Ryan, grinning.
After seatbelts were safely buckled, Theresa turned the van around in a nearby driveway, and began the short drive home. The house was just down the road, on a dead-end street. They had lived in that house for three years now, since their father died. The house he died in was on another road, somewhere slightly closer to the school. The house had burned down, and he was still inside at the time.
Seven-year-old Ryan could have very easily died with him. He had awoken to his mother's screaming at about 2am. She came in the smoking bedroom to get him. "Come on!" she yelled.
The smoke was blinding, and Ryan could barely see. He began to escape the bedroom, but then he remembered the cross necklace on his nightstand, next to his bed. His father, Justin, had given it to him a few weeks earlier to remember him if something had ever happened. Ryan was afraid that something would happen that night, so he rushed back to get it.
Theresa, Cody, Jodi and Shirley had escaped before Justin and Ryan. Justin had found an opening to the outdoors, and told Ryan to escape through it. When Ryan had asked why his father wasn't coming, he responded, "I need to find the rest of the family," thinking they were still in there. But right after Ryan escaped, the house began to collapse, sending Ryan running for his life, and crushing Justin under the debris, killing him instantly.
They had to move, of course, and they had lived in the smaller house on the quiet dead-end street. Since Justin's death, Ryan and Cody were forced to share a room, and Jodi and Shirley shared the other bedroom. The house was too small for the large family, and there were only three bedrooms. The last house was fairly large, with two floors, and five bedrooms. This house just had one floor, besides the basement. Theresa felt alone for the next three years, sleeping in her bedroom alone. It still wasn't the same without Justin. She wished he had been able to escape safely like the rest of the family did, and she felt a little guilty. He was the missing puzzle piece to the family. And he was only twenty five when he died.
When they arrived home from school, Shirley said, "I'm four today! That's almost a whole hand!"
"I'm two whole hands," Ryan bragged.
"Well, do you want to open your gifts when you get inside?" Theresa sounded like she was bribing Shirley.
"Yes!" she squealed, and zoomed toward the door.
When Theresa unlocked the door, Shirley, at almost lightning speed, kicked off her flip flops and tore up the steps. She gave Theresa the familiar where-did-you-hide-my-presents face that she normally gave on birthdays. Theresa took her time to get up the stairs, which had Shirley nearly losing her mind. Theresa headed for her bedroom, where her secret hiding place for the gifts were, and made sure Shirley did not follow her, because if she ever found out where the presents were hidden, she'd be searching for them around birthdays and holidays. Ryan, who was in the living room, kept close watch on his little sister to make sure she wouldn't move from her spot.
She opened all of them quickly, and, by the time she was finished, she had more stuffed animals, more art supplies, more clothes, and a lot more Barbies. She felt she had a wonderful fourth birthday so far, and was hoping to play outdoors during the evening. Her target would be the trampoline, since she loved to perform her own made-up tricks. She and her three siblings always held contests to see who had the best tricks. Ryan usually won, but that was due to the fact that he was older, and could do front flips and back flips. They would head outside after supper in the evening, when the heat would begin to subside.
It didn't take long before evening arrived, and by the time supper and cake were finished, the heat had gone from thirty five degrees celsius to twenty eight degrees celsius. The four siblings headed out to the backyard to the large, rounded trampoline. Each of them kicked off their shoes and climbed up the short ladder. Since there was a big net surrounding the trampoline, they had to enter from the small netted door, that could easily be closed using the zipper.
Suddenly, Ryan noticed a purple splotch on Cody's arm. "Cody," he said. "You have a purple mark."
As Ryan pointed to Cody's arm, Cody looked and was surprised. "What is that?" he asked, puzzled.
"I don't know," Ryan answered. "Maybe you should check with Mom."
Cody quickly unzipped the net and leaped out, not bothering to stop and get his shoes. He bolted for the front yard, where Theresa was quietly tending to her garden. "Mom!" he hollered, racing around the corner.
She saw the look of fear in his eyes. "What's wrong?" she asked.
Cody showed his arm. "It's purple," he muttered, staring at it.
Theresa was just as confused as he was. "Did you hurt it in any way?"
"Does it hurt at all?" Theresa was worried. Was it serious? Was it just a mark from something that he did?
"I don't feel anything," he responded.
"Well, I'm no doctor, so I can't really tell you what exactly it is. But what I can tell you is, if it hurts in any way, or even just feels weird, you come and tell me, and we'll go and get it checked out. By the way, was it there earlier?"
"No, because someone would have noticed and told me." Cody began to feel uncomfortable now. He was worried that he would have to go to a hospital, and everyone knew how much he feared hospitals. He was terrified of needles, and definitely feared bad news. He would look at people in the hospitals who had diseases that could cause death, and was afraid that he'd be told he had the same thing one day. He wondered how those people felt, having to deal with that. What really had him thinking was, how could they always get through it with an ear-to-ear smile on their face? They were always smiling, and were tough through it all. Even kids who were Shirley's age!
"Well, why don't you go back to the trampoline for now, and we'll somehow figure out something later." Theresa put one hand on Cody's back, and off he went to the backyard to finish the competition. After the two rounds came to an end, Ryan, of course, came out on top. Since it was starting to get a little late, they decided to head inside, and continue with some more fun activities.
Ryan was suddenly woken up by a bright light being practically shone in his face, and the sound of voices coming from the bathroom. He sat up in bed, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. He glanced over to Cody's bed, which he noticed was empty. He was obviously in the bathroom, but he wasn't the only one in there. Tip-toeing out of bed, he stumbled across the hallway to see what was going on.
He was rather surprised as to what he saw. Cody was laying on the floor, his face pale, his arms wrapped around his stomach. Theresa knelt beside him, trying desperately to find the problem. Ryan also happened to notice that his entire left arm had turned purple. It was the same arm where the purple splotch had been earlier.
"What happened?" Ryan said in a tired voice, rubbing his eyes again.
Theresa gazed up at Ryan. "I don't know," she responded.
Cody was sobbing on the ground, as he was in pain. "Shouldn't we get him checked out?" Ryan asked.
"I suppose we should." Theresa turned her eyes back toward Cody. He hated hospitals, but they couldn't just let him go where he wanted. This time, he had no choice.
"Okay Cody," Theresa said in a calm tone. Ryan wondered how she could be so calm during a time like this. "I know how much you hate hospitals, but that's where we'll have to go. I promise the doctors are nice there, and they'll do whatever it takes to meet your needs. You'll be better in no time."
"No," he groaned, hardly able to speak.
"Well, we don't know what's wrong with you right now," Theresa said soothingly. "The doctors will make you all better. They can find out what exactly is wrong with you, and they'll do whatever it takes to make you better. I promise you. Ryan, go get the girls for me, please." She whirled around and gave Ryan a serious look. So, knowing this was a medical emergency, he rushed off just across the hall to Jodi and Shirley's room.
Theresa continued to calm Cody down while Ryan attempted to wake his sisters. He decided to tap Shirley first, since she was the easiest to get up. He gently tapped her shoulder, trying not to bump into the sideboards of her bed, which prevented her from falling out of bed at night. "Shirley," he whispered quietly.
Not even making a sound, Shirley rolled over, and gazed up at Ryan. She wore a puzzled expression on her face, because Ryan had never woke her up during the night before. Something was up. "What?" she mumbled sleepily.
"We gotta go to the hospital," said Ryan. "There's something wrong with Cody."
Shirley squinted at the brightness of the bathroom light shining in her face from across the hall. "Like what?" she inquired.
"We don't know," Ryan answered. "That's why we gotta go." He lifted Shirley above the sideboards and placed her on her feet on the floor. "Go see mom," he said, and ushered her out of the room. Now he had to go through the trouble of waking up Jodi.
"What happened, Mommy?" Shirley asked, and was bouncy for some weird reason. She clutched onto a teddy bear in her small hands.
"I don't know," said Theresa. "We've got to go to the hospital to find out."
"Now?" Shirley gasped, surprised. "But Mommy, it's night time!"
"I know that, honey," Theresa said calmly. "But this is an emergency."
"I don't wanna go," Cody moaned. "It's too scary."
"It's the only way you can get help." Theresa was beginning to get frustrated.
"Yeah," Ryan agreed, entering the room with Jodi. "Unless you want to suffer."
Finally, Cody let in, and decided it was time to go. He nodded his head weakly, finally deciding he wanted to be pain-free. Theresa rushed everyone around the house, hoping to get them ready faster to get Cody earlier treatment. Theresa didn't really want her kids to get dressed, that they could just go in their pajamas. She knew that she would need to leave sooner than later, before something even worse happened to Cody.