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Stay Strong

Novel By: BriannasBooks

*Completed* Ten-year-old Ryan Wheldon is no stranger to tragedy. After losing a father and a best friend when he was four, he's been through more than most kids his age have. He and his family are sure that the rough edges of their rollercoaster life have smoothed over time, and they are ready to move on.

But then his eight-year-old brother Cody is diagnosed with leukemia, and their world is sent spiralling out of control. They are moved to Meadowview Children's Hospital three hours away, where they must stay for the brutal chemotherapy treatments. But that's not all - another medical crisis soon appears in the picture, and an accident Ryan believes he caused nearly claims the life of his youngest sibling. He's not sure how much more of his life he can take.

But soon he discovers a saying - stay strong - and he uses it to encourage his family to fight their battles. He knows he, too, must keep his thoughts positive, and with the power of strength and love, Ryan is determined to lead his family down the road to recovery.

© Copyright 2014-15 BriannasBooks View table of contents...


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Submitted:Apr 26, 2013    Reads: 14    Comments: 1    Likes: 2   

Author's note: I would not recommend reading this chapter yet, as it is currently being edited. Sorry!

Chapter 2

Ryan was awaken by a bright light shining into his bedroom, and the sound of faint, whispering voices coming from the bathroom. He rose into a sitting postion, rubbing the sleep out of his tired eyes. Glancing over at Cody's bed, he realized that it was empty, and his brother was nowhere to be found in the bedroom. It was quite obvious that Cody was responsible for the light shining into the bedroom, as he was up to something, but Ryan was also capable of indicating that Cody wasn't the only one in there. Stumbling out of bed, Ryan tip-toed across the hallway, despite the war in his mind. The angel side of his mind convinced him that sleep was more important than snooping on his brother, while the devil side argued that curiosity killed the cat, and the situation seemed far too suspicious to leave alone. He decided that the devil side was indeed correct, and out of his own curiosity, he peeked around the corner of the doorway.

Curiosity killed the cat, right?

He was rather surprised as to what lay before his very eyes. Cody lay sprawled on the floor, pale-faced, arms wrapped tightly around his stomach. Theresa knelt beside her son, continuously shushing him and examining him with her seemingly magical eyes. Ryan also happened to notice that Cody's entire left arm had turned purple. It was the same arm where the purple splotch had been earlier.

"What happened?" Ryan mumbled, rubbing his eyes again.

Theresa's gaze left Cody's horrific arm, and met with Ryan's eyes. "I don't know," she said.

Cody was sobbing on the tiled floor, as he was in an incredible amount of pain. It was like a thousand needles had plunged through his skin in unison, slowly tearing apart his insides. His head pounded like a drum, as if a musician had brought along his entire crew to form a drum circle in the centre of his brain. "Shouldn't we get him checked out?" Ryan asked.

"I suppose we should." Theresa's eyes darted back to Cody. His strong hatred for hospitals jumped in the way, but by now, the family was left with no choice. Cody would have to face his worst enemy.

"You'll be alright," Theresa said in a calm tone. Ryan wondered how she could be so calm during a time like this. "Look, I know that a hospital isn't exactly your preferred destination, 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.

"You will benefit from this visit," Theresa said soothingly. "The doctors will make you all better. They can properly diagnose 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 shot Ryan a serious look. 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 woken 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, bouncing into the bathroom. She clutched 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?" said Shirley. "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."

At last, Cody let in. The pain increased as time passed, and the hospital would offer their thoughts on what could be wrong. And if they found what was wrong, they would fix it. Theresa scooped Cody up from the bathroom floor and carried him to the living room couch as she waited for her other three children to get themselves ready to go. With her mind in full panic mode, she knew she must get Cody to the hospital soon, before something even worse happened.


Ryan nervously glanced out the front window, staring up at the starry sky. Somehow, the sky's appearance was comforting, and it helped to keep his mind off the occurring situation. He hadn't even noticed that he was trembling terribly. He was afraid visit the hospital just as much as his brother, due to the fact that he was in such an awful condition. Ryan was unsure whether he wanted to know what was wrong or not. He had never felt so nervous before.

In a panic, Theresa threw open the front door, racing back inside the house. She was in a rush, attempting to usher her children out to their red van so they could leave sooner. As Theresa had always said, the sooner the treatment, the sooner the cure. She felt like a bag of trash lying limply on the curb, because she'd left Cody in the van unattended so she could get her other children in gear and out the door. With a swelling ball of energy growing rapidly inside their stomachs, Jodi and Shirley bolted down the steps, and dressed themselves as if it were midday. "Last one to the van is a rotten egg!" said Jodi, and the two bouncing girls were out the door in an instant. Theresa could not understand how they could be so energetic when they'd only been lost in their dreams moments ago.

Ryan, however, wasted precious moments unintentionally, dragging himself down the steps like an exhausted ten-year-old should. Being sleep-obsessed, he felt the time for something like this to happen wasn't acceptable. "Ryan, please, get moving!" Theresa bellowed from the driveway, holding the door open.

"I'm coming, calm down," he muttered. He was feeling a little shaky from being so worried about his little brother. He was even scared to open the door to the van, in case he'd find him convulsing, or even worse, dead. Once outside, he slowly and carefully tugged on the black handle, and much to his relief, his brother was alright.

"Dude, you feeling okay?" Ryan asked, sitting next to Cody.

Cody managed a small nod. The tears continuously streamed down his face, and there was no way of stopping them. A searing pain ripped its way through his small stomach, and then through his left arm, and he was forced to grip his mouth to keep from yelping out loud. He doubled over, leaning his chin over his knees, silently crying.

"You don't look okay," Ryan muttered.

"I feel like I'm dying," Cody choked. "It's really painful."

"You should be lucky that I noticed that purple spot on your arm," Ryan reminded him. "Otherwise, we wouldn't know what to think."

Cody managed a small nod, and then threw his head back to keep his light brown hair from poking his wet eyes. He'd always despised the way his hair had done that, and no matter how many times it had been cut, it always managed to grow back to its regular length, which wasn't very long, but long enough to irritate him. Cradling his face in his hands, he let out a barely-audible moan, and Ryan's heart began to ache just by listening to him.

A few minutes later, Theresa appeared in the doorway, appearing both bedraggled and panicked. Although she wasn't the only one that had been driven out of bed early for an emergency, she had actually awaken half an hour earlier than the rest of the family, which had only provided her with more time to panic and process what was occurring. Hopping into the driver's side of the van, she shoved in the keys, almost missing the keyhole from her exhaustion. Once the engine roared to life, the van descended down the rough driveway, and off they went.

Theresa continuously glanced over her shoulder to check on Cody. When it came to her children becoming ill, she worried tremendously about their health conditions. Even the slightest complaint of nausea had her in doctor mode. She was like a doctor to her children, but in Cody's case, she needed to seek real medical help. Cody was still wasn't feeling so well, and the hospital was a good five to ten minute drive away. Down in the city, two hospitals were located on opposite ends of the area, but Theresa had already decided which one they'd be visiting that night.

There was one located closer to the entrance of the city, and she would visit that one. The other hospital had nurses who were not as caring. Theresa knew this from experience. When Ryan was only five, he had developed meningitis, and he was brought to that hospital. The nurses would yell at him, their voices rising with anger, when he felt too weak to walk, and they'd threaten to drag him if he refused. They had extremely rude behavior that Theresa would not tolerate.

When the needles terrified him, the nurses would threaten him yet again. They'd say, "You're five years old, you're old enough to deal with a simple pinch. If you think that's bad, we can get a bigger one for you if you'd like." That was what made him so afraid of needles. Even at the age of ten, he couldn't even look at a needle without shuddering. He still despised them. And there were times when they actually did give him fairly large needles, because he'd cried or struggled to get free. Ryan was considered lucky to be alive from what he'd been through with the disease and lack of proper care at the hospital. The same nurses still worked there, and after what Ryan had been through, Theresa wanted to steer in the other direction, away from that horrible place, and get Cody the best care possible.

As they continued down the highway toward the city, Jodi and Shirley were quick to fall back asleep. Ryan wished he could sleep, because he was feeling exhausted after such a wake up call. He hated being disturbed during his sleep, but if it was for an emergency like this, he would most definitely be willing to get out of bed. But the problem with that was, he would feel tired all day, and he despised that feeling. The only advantage about it was the fact that he would get a longer sleep the next night.

Ryan nudged Shirley gently, and she never made a sound as she slowly slumped over. "She sleeps like the dead," said Ryan.

"She's the most difficult, too," said Theresa. "I think she's worse than Jodi ever will be."

"Man, I wish I could sleep like that."

"I guess it comes naturally to some people." Theresa quickly turned her gaze away from the lightly-populated highway, bringing her eyes to meet Shirley's still form. Her chest rose and fell evenly, but no sound was heard. "Shirley will probably be this way for her whole life. Jodi, too."

After speeding down the highway through little traffic, they finally arrived in the surprisingly quiet city. Theresa veered the van off to the left, down one of the main roads toward the hospital. Cody felt terrible, and for two different reasons, one being because of his current state, and the other due to the fact that he'd driven his whole family out of bed so early in the morning. He felt bad, and to him, it seemed as if he were an attention seeker. He wasn't, but he felt like it because of how serious it had been. And, to make matters worse, he hated hospitals, and patients there would most likely stare at his arm. He didn't want to gain anymore attention than he already had that night.

Finally, they arrived at the hospital. Theresa screeched the van to a halt in a parking space close to the entrance doors, so she could get inside faster. There were quite a few cars in the parking lot, which was a bit of a surprise. Usually, there weren't too many cars out and about at two-thirty in the morning, but there were still staff and patients who needed to stay overnight. Or maybe there were overnight emergencies somewhat like Cody's experience. But they definitely hoped that, no matter how many people were there, that they would take him in immediately. He'd be taken to the emergency unit, because of how serious his condition appeared to be.

At lightning speed, Theresa climbed out of the van and threw open the back doors. She quickly unbuckled Jodi and Shirley from their seatbelts after waking them from their peaceful slumber, and at the same time, helped Cody outside. She would have to carry him inside. As she lifted him off the ground, she gazed down at Ryan and said, "Watch your sisters."

He nodded, doing as told. Theresa took off down the parking lot toward the entrance doors, Cody in her arms. Ryan grabbed hold of Jodi and Shirley's hands and sprinted after Theresa. Jodi and Shirley were very sluggish, and since Ryan could run the fastest, he nearly dragged his sisters across the cement. They were shrieking with laughter at the speed they were going. They were easily able to catch up to their mother as she continued down the parking lot toward the doors.

Inside, there were a few doctors who were having a small chat at the entrance doors. When the family entered the hospital, the doctors caught sight of Cody's colourful arm and gasped horrifically.

"Oh Lord," said one, gently taking hold of his thin arm. "What happened, bud?"

"We don't know," Theresa said, also examining Cody's arm. "It's not an injury. He's terribly sick."

"We should get him in right away," the doctor thought out loud. "I'm on my break, but I could probably get a good look at that arm. It looks quite serious."

Cody was still upset. And tired. After all he had been through that night, all he wanted was for the pain to stop, which would allow him a better chance of falling into a deep slumber, one he'd been expecting to get since bedtime. As Theresa carried him off down the hall to one of the rooms, he thought about why and how this had even occurred in the first place. His arm wasn't purple because of an injury, he was just sick. But why would his arm be purple? Since when did purple arms have to do with being sick and throwing up all over the place?

He was absolutely terrified. To begin, he was in a hospital, one of the worst places that could exist, he thought. If he was ever told that he developed a life-threatening disease and could die anytime soon, he'd only give up on everything. He was trembling as he was placed on the examination table. He didn't know what to expect, and was afraid of what they would do to him just to find out what was wrong. And just like Ryan, he was horrified even by the sight of a needle.

The rest of the family had been asked to sit out in the hall while they ran tests on Cody to find the problem. They chose a spot across from the door, on the other side of the hallway. "Are you sure they'll find the problem?" Ryan asked, yawning.

"They're doctors," Theresa replied. "They'll know what to do about it."

"He doesn't look okay," said Jodi.

"They can make him better, sweetie," said Theresa, patting her daughter on the head.

At the moment, Ryan was feeling so sorry for his brother. All that pain he must be going through. And then there was the fact that Cody got super nervous when he was in the hospital, and especially if it involved using needles and doing blood tests. This time, Cody had no clue as to what they were going to do to him, which made him feel worse. He was probably having a nervous breakdown in that room, especially being alone without his family.

In the examination room, Cody suddenly caught sight of the nurse placing some sort of liquid inside a fairly large needle. His heart jumped as she slowly turned around, and although she was nice, he thought her an evil lady. After all, who would want to poke an innocent eight-year-old with a monster-sized needle while he was already in excruciating pain? "Honey, I need you to hold still for me while I do this," the nurse said as she approached him, needle in hand.

"Is it gonna hurt?" he asked innocently, covering the splotch with his opposite hand.

"It's only a little pinch, and then it's over," the nurse replied. "You'll be okay. Just close you eyes and take a deep breath, and before you know it, it'll be over." The soothing tone of her voice was enough to calm him a little. The way she acted so calm about everything, it was contagious. As Cody's brown eyes fluttered closed, he felt almost as if he were at home, and it was his mother preparing to give him the injection rather than a stranger he'd known for five minutes.

The needle came in contact with the bare skin, and Cody flinched. His breath hitched in the back of his throat, and he held it there. He hadn't expected the needle to feel so painful against the purple mark. "Oww," he wheezed, attempting to fight the agonizing pain by squeezing his eyes shut tighter. What the nurse had said about closing his eyes and taking a deep breath was all a bunch of lies. His left arm now stung badly, and his eyes watered as the nurse began to slowly abstract the needle from his arm.

She then left the room, and it suddenly hit him that once again, he was left unattended. A single tear rolled down his face, followed by several more. They rushed down his cheeks like a river during spring time, and he tried to cry silently, but it was much more difficult than he'd expected. His entire body eventually heaved with sobs, his voice cracking through his hiccups, and he once again covered the purple mark with his opposite hand. Why did this all have to happen to him? Why wouldn't they allow his family in the room to keep him occupied? Now more than ever, he was homesick, although home was only a short five-minute drive away. As he pulled his knees to his chest, resting his wet face on top, the door swished open abruptly, and he whirled around quickly as he hopelessly attempted to hide his tears.

After another half hour had passed, the nurses had all come up with a solution to the problem based on their few results. They'd taken note on the barely-noticable swelling of his lips, and especially the purple splotch. The "evil" nurse exited the room once more, clipboard in hand, and pulled Theresa aside as she described their findings. "Not all of our results have proven accurate, but it's quite clear that he may have mononucleosis. They describe this as a 'kissing disease,' but at his age, it isn't likely he's been kissing anyone." She paused to chuckle at her own joke. "We figure he may have contracted it from a water fountain at school. We'll send you down to pick up your medication soon, which for now is Tylenol, to clear the headache he's been complaining about."

Theresa nodded. She had heard of mono, but she'd never seen it so severe in the twenty eight years she had lived.

"It's just a little sickness that should go away within a week or so," the doctor explained. "He may have to be admitted to the hospital if it gets worse. But he'll be fine."

Theresa nodded, understanding. "So when do we get to take him home?"

"Probably by sunrise," the doctor estimated, peeking into the room where Cody lay.

Cody stretched himself out on the uncomfortable hospital bed. He complained how he could feel the springs digging fiercely into his spine, and how it was totally obvious that the pillow was old, as it had a powerful stench, and it was stained with age. Sure, that hospital provided excellent health care, but they were not too good at cleaning the place and providing comfortable beds for the patients.

Mould had grown all over the window sills, and they judged that the floors had not been swept in a while. There was dust just about everywhere, and Ryan began to wonder how the patients had all recovered so quickly with so much germs surrounding them. The environment was not the greatest there, and at least the other hospital was nice and sparkly clean. Ryan slid his finger across the wall, and when he took it off, it was full of dust. How is this hospital still running? he thought to himself, wiping the dust off. "A health inspector should pay a visit here," he said.

"Indeed," said Theresa. "This definitely isn't healthy for the patients."

The family entered the room carefully as the nurses left, and Theresa rushed over to where Cody lay as if he were about to slip away at any given time. "How are you feeling, honey?" she asked, stroking his cheek.

"I think you know how I feel." Cody grinned through the subsiding pain. "I hope that wasn't a serious question."

Theresa smiled. Already, he was back to his normal self, and she was proud to see that through all the pain, he was still in a silly mood. "I bet you feel so much better now that you've faced your enemy."

"Or enemies," Cody added.

"Well anyway, I think it's best for you to get some rest before we get home," said Theresa, placing her hand on his warm head. "There's just a couple hours before sunrise, and it'll be healthy for you to sleep off your exhaustion while we wait."

Cody nodded, understanding. After the brutal experience he'd been through that night, he was ready to sleep off all the stress. The searing pain in his stomach had disappeared like the wind, and the purple splotch seemed to be losing its colour as time passed. Theresa planted a kiss on his forehead, and exited the room with the rest of the family.

Cody was luckily given the chance of a good rest until the moment he was to be discharged, but as for the rest of the family, they'd have to remain awake and alert while they counted the minutes on the clock. By now, it was around three-thirty in the morning, leaving them with about three hours to go. The family vacated down to the quiet waiting room, where it was assumed they'd be staying for the time remaining.

Ryan stretched himsef out over the series of chairs, cuddling against their backs contentedly as a wave of exhaustion threatened to drag him into unconsciousness. Doctors occassionally passed by with patients hooked up to IVs, but they clearly didn't mind Ryan taking up some of the chairs. Being too small for his age, there still left plenty more chairs for other patients to take up, if they decided to take them. Theresa was satisfied to see that they had the room all to themselves, whih allowed the three remaining children to doze without disturbance. As for Theresa, she was to patiently await until the crack of dawn to gather her family and drive home.

As for Cody, he'd already met unconsciousness as if it were his best friend. He'd fought the prickling feeling of the springs scraping along his spine, and drifted off like he hadn't slept in years. As far as he was concerned, he was in a bed, and was grateful he wasn't resting on the tiled bathromm floor at home. The warmth of the blankets seeped through his skin, providing him with a comforting feeling that made him feel at home. Just before his eyes had fluttered closed, he'd gazed dreamily up at the clock, which read three-forty-five. Only a few more hours. And with that thought, he was out like a light.


An intense sunlight peaked through the curtains, pouring warmth into the room as it roused the sleeping children from their short sleep. Gorgeous pinks and yellows displayed themselves neatly across the sky, resembling a famous painting. Glancing up at the clock in the waiting room, Ryan noticed that it was past six o'clock, and the place suddenly became lively with workers and patients. Their overnight stay was completed at last, and they were finally going home.

Theresa scooped a dozing Shirley up into her arms, allowing the young girl to rest her head on her shoulder as she carried her daughter down the hallway to Cody's room. Ryan and Jodi trailed behind her, feeling sore from sleeping in a cramped space for three hours. They'd never really slept in a chair before, and almost felt as if Cody were the lucky one that night. Although Cody hadn't described the bed as a comfortable sleeping place, and he'd been through hell that night, he probably wouldn't wake up to sore muscles. Ryan and his sisters had been pretty much forced to curl up in a ball to avoid slumping over and falling off the chairs. Ryan wondered if Cody had had a decent sleep while the family was gone. He'd said the pain had stopped, but did he feel lonely? Did he adjust to the feeling of the bed? Did he sleep at all?

Theresa carefully opened the door to room 152, and a warm smile appeared on her face as her eyes fell upon her sleeping son. He didn't seem pained in any way, and his chest rose and fell evenly. The sunlight washed upon his little face, and he looked beautiful. Theresa ran her fingers through his soft, light brown hair, listening to the gentle sound of his breathing. She didn't want to bother him, but he'd need to wake up if he wanted to go home.

"Cody," she whispered, gently tapping his shoulder. "We're going home, sweetie."

She felt his small form move slightly, and he squinted at the intense light that shone in his eyes. "Is it six o'clock yet?" he asked, yawning.

"It's past six o'clock," Theresa said as she placed Shirley on the floor. "We'll go home and have a nice nap to make up for the time we lost last night."

A nurse appared in the doorway, and Cody noticed it was the "evil" one, the one who'd given him the needle last night. "Good morning," she greeted. "How are you guys doing this morning?"

"I'm sure everyone is quite exhausted," said Theresa.

The nurse nodded. "So, are you ready to go home?" She turned her attention to Cody. "You deserve plenty of rest, sweetheart."

Cody was about to say, "Call me 'sweetheart' again and I'll punch you so hard your grandchildren will feel it," but he smiled instead and nodded. It was best he keep his mouth shut until he left to go home.

The nurse continuously nodded, as if there were nothing more to say and all she could do was nod. "Well, then you are free to go." She held the door open, motioning for them to leave.

Without hesitating, Cody swung his legs over the bed, planting them on the floor as he rose to his feet. With no more agonizing pain to stop him in his tracks, he felt like he was tasting the freedom, and he embraced each step as if this were his last chance to ever walk again. He was out the door faster than the rest of his family, and he had to wait outside the door while they caught up. "Someone's impatient," Ryan muttered humorously, treating his brother with a soft, playful punch to the shoulder.

Cody shook his head. "I'm sure you'd want to leave if you were stuck in a dirty place all night."

The family descended down a little flight of steps, one that would lead them to a medicine counter. The place was much larger than the children had expected, with a wide variety of medicines in every direction they looked. An older woman stood behind the counter, and by the twisted expression on her face, Ryan could determine that she didn't want to be there. Her thin lips curled into a small smile as she locked eyes with Theresa. Somehow, she must have known about the situation beforehand, because the moment Cody came into view, she simply said, "Tylenol?"

Cody nodded, and Theresa allowed the woman to fill out the prescription. The medicine was handed over almost immediately, a red bottle filled with a tasteless liquid, one that Cody had learned to despise. He'd tasted it before, and he found a simularity between that and a bottle of laundry detergent. Of course, he'd never tasted laundry detergent before, but they seemed similar. He turned up his nose as he watched the woman place the bottle inside a white bag, handing it to Theresa. "Have a nice day," she said.

"You too." And with that, they were off to the van.

The morning was absolutely gorgeous. The air was of the perfect temperature already; not too hot, nor too cold. The first day of summer vacation was already proving to be fantastic. The sun hadn't quite risen fully, but it brought a soothing warmth to the family's chilled arms. The hospital's air condition had been much colder than expected, and stepping out into a sunshine-filled morning felt just as good as Cody's freedom.

Theresa assisted Jodi and Shirley in buckling their seatbelts, while Ryan crawled lazily into the passenger side. "I thought you had to be twelve to ride in the front," Cody said as he stepped into the van.

"That's what they all say," Ryan replied. "My shortness probably won't be noticed by the cops if we pass by them."

"But what if we get in an accident?"

"I'm sure we won't." Ryan grinned, hoping he wouldn't jinx it.

Theresa climbed into the driver's side, quickly slamming the door shut and shoving the keys into the keyhole. "When we get home, we can all have a nice long nap, to catch up on the sleep we all deserve," she said.

"Sorry," Cody said apologetically. "I didn't want to get sick."

"It's not like it's your fault," Theresa said, starting up the van. "You didn't ask for this to happen." She pulled out of the parking space and began to exit the parking lot, shielding her eyes with a single hand as the sun dared to make her go blind. "I can't wait to get home and have a nice rest."

"I haven't slept since two in the morning," said Ryan. "Boys deserve their 'beauty sleep' too."

A barely-audible giggle escaped Shirley's mouth. "What are you laughing at?" he asked casually, turning around to face her.

"Beauty sleep is for girls," she said between giggles. Jodi would have laughed too, but she was already out like a light, her head continuously bobbing up and down as the van ran over bumps in the road. Both being princess-obsessed, they'd heard the term countless times, and it was believed that boys should not use it. "You're a boy, Ryan."

"I've known that for ten years." He smiled at her confusion, and turned back around to face the front, watching as the traffic slowly began to increase. Not a single school bus was in sight, and he was happy to take a break from waking up early and putting up with the typical fourth-grade drama. Before long, they found themselves pulling up to the house on Birch street, and Ryan was the first to leave the van, desperate to get the sleep he craved.

Theresa swung Jodi over her shoulder as if she were a rag doll, carrying her to the door as Shirley jealously trailed behind, begging for attention. "Mommy," she continuously whined, tugging at her free sleeve. Theresa was more focused on unlocking the door instead, and on Jodi, who remained slumped over. "Mommy, Mommy!"

"I'm busy, honey," Theresa said quickly, setting Jodi on the floor as she showed the first signs of waking up.

Behind them, the boys followed, Ryan keeping a close watch on Cody to make sure he was alright. The purple splotch had almost completely faded away by now, and had become reddish in colour, but barely visible to the eye. Cody wasn't too pumped about having to take the medication, but he'd be willing to do anything to get better.The pain was gone but the sickness remained, which was quite possibly the worst feeling ever. As he stepped through the door, he felt the familar weakness a sick person should feel, and soon found himself lying in bed, a cold washcloth pressed to his forehead, He hoped another nap would pass the time by and make him feel better.

In their shared bedroom, Ryan lay nearby, hardly capable of keeping his eyes open any longer. He could hear the soft melody of Cody's breathing as he slept, knowing that within minutes, he'd be in the same state. His blankets suddenly became even more comfortable than he remembered, silky and warm. The heaviness in his eyelids represented the amount of hours of sleep he'd lost that night, and it didn't take long before the weight became too much, and he peacefully drifted into unconsciousness.


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