Cody's face turned a ghostly pale, and his lips transformed into a dull blue colour. The light was directly in front of him, and he felt as if he were getting closer with every second that ticked by. He passed out, and he no longer felt alive. He felt like he had died. Maybe he did. He gasped as he noticed his still body, which lay sprawled out on the hospital bed. It was difficult to process in his mind that he had just ditched his own body.
His family looked so scared. Tears ran down Theresa's face, knowing that her son would no longer be there with her. She must have known that he was not there, that he was a spirit outside of his body. The blinding light shone in his face, and he knew he must go to it. He had always been told that when he died, he'd see that light. He figured he was dead, and began to walk toward it.
A large, beautiful gate stood before him, and his instincts convinced him to approach it. It was a little far from his reach, but he knew he could make it. But, as he began to walk, he felt like everything was fading away slowly. The light began to disappear a little, and he no longer saw the gate. The light, which was almost completely gone, was beginning to stretch farther and farther from his reach. What is going on? he wondered.
He didn't really want to leave. He felt no pain at all. It all felt good. But everything was going away, and he needed to figure out why. It seemed like such a beautiful place, and he didn't want it to all fade away.
Suddenly, he was back in the hospital bed, and gasping for air, coughing and sputtering. He was breathing. They had saved him from a near-death experience.
The first thing he did was cry. He just decided to let it all out. All the pain had returned to his body. He was so scared, since he had pretty much died. But he was glad to be alive. That was good.
Theresa raced over to his bedside, as she had been held back before. "Cody, are you alright?" she asked, more tears spilling out of her eyes.
He could hardly speak. He, too, would have to use an oxygen mask, just like Jodi. They couldn't risk him having this happen to him again. This was an unusual situation, and they wanted to do whatever they could to prevent it from happening again. Cody had never worn one before, and now was his chance of experiencing it for the first time. Not like he wanted to, but he had no choice.
Ryan and Shirley hadn't even left to go back to their grandparents' house. It wasn't time for them to leave. They had watched the entire intense episode happen right before their eyes. They were now growing even more anxious as each minute passed. It was something scary.
The doctors decided that they needed to examine Cody to find out why his airway had been suddenly blocked. They wheeled him out of the room, and headed down the long, crooked hallway. Theresa felt bad doing this, but she had no choice to leave Jodi back in room 1204 with the other nurses. Jodi didn't care though. She couldn't leave, since she was still hooked up to all those machines.
Cody was again at a loss of breath almost as soon as they exited the room. They rushed faster, trying to get to the end of the hallway to go to the examination room. "Hang in there, buddy," Theresa told him. "Be strong for us, okay?"
Cody barely nodded, tears still flowing out of his eyes. He clutched his throat once again, attempting to get air back into his lungs. Just as they turned the corner into the examination room, Cody saw the light in front of his eyes again. More tears sprang to his eyes, knowing that this time, he could stay dead. The light could be in front of his eyes for eternity. That was what he feared the most.
In the examination room, the doctors began to work on him again. They performed resuscitation methods, letting the air return to his lungs. He gasped, and he was once again breathing. They slipped an oxygen mask on his face as they said to Theresa, "He will have to go into immediate surgery. We need to find out what is going on, and have to fix it right away."
Theresa agreed right away. "That's okay," she said numbly.
They brought Cody down the hallway into one of the operating rooms, dragging all the equipment with them. Ryan, who had stayed behind with Jodi, came racing down the hallway. "She's having another seizure," he panted.
Theresa sighed. "Oh my goodness." She gripped onto her hair, hoping desperately that this was all a terrible nightmare. This couldn't be happening. Now Jodi was having problems.
Since they had to leave the operating room anyway, Theresa could head back to room 1204. She wished Cody good luck, kissed his cheek, and quickly fled the room. Theresa, Ryan, and Shirley were all together as they headed back for Jodi. They hoped she'd be okay.
They entered the room, and Jodi was jerking and convulsing violently. They prayed that this wouldn't become a daily routine. One of these times, it could actually claim her life. She was in an unstable shape, and, at the moment, every little thing seemed to be harmful to her. They stayed by her side as the doctors worked on her.
One of the doctors gently pulled Theresa aside. "She is going to have surgery tomorrow to try to clear the tumor a bit more," the doctor explained. "This one seems to be expanding, and it is causing bodily harm. We will have to perform plenty of these surgeries in attempt to clear it. It's getting really bad."
A few hours had passed. Cody was back in room 1204, and Jodi had calmed down a tad. They found out that Cody's throat was being blocked by something they were incapable of identifying. It must have just grown there. He hadn't swallowed anything that looked like that. They had removed it successfully, and now he was able to breathe properly. It was turning into a real-life mystery now.
Ryan and Shirley were back at their grandparents' house, sound asleep on their mattresses. It was a surprise that Ryan had fallen asleep so quickly. Usually, if something like that had happened, where it left the family hanging, waiting to find out what was going on, Ryan could never sleep. That night, it had been double times the fear. Both Cody and Jodi were left struggling to keep alive.
In the middle of the night, Ryan awoke. His mind kept tricking him into thinking that he could still hear Cody struggling to breathe, the sound of his mother's sobs, the doctors assuring them that everything would be okay. But everything was not okay. How could something so serious be okay? A sudden shortage of breath was not okay. A recurring seizure was not okay. The doctors were wrong. Completely wrong.
It was about two weeks into August. Right smack in the middle of the month. Since the scary night that had occured three-and-a-half weeks ago, they had had plenty of false alarms. Cody had developed the chickenpox, and was admitted into the intensive care unit. Anything, even if it was just a cold, suddenly became harmful. Everyone had to be careful when around him. They had to sanitize their hands regularly, or else they could expose their germs to him. His immune system was too weak to fight off any viruses that entered his body, so he had the risk of dying if he caught anything.
As for Jodi, she was still undergoing several different kinds of surgeries so the doctors could clear the tumor. It still was not improving. The doctors predicted that she was very likely to die, since she had been diagnosed very late, unlike Cody. But Cody was beginning to get even worse as each day passed. Jodi was following in his footsteps.
Aunt Mimi offered to take Ryan and Shirley back-to-school shopping, something Ryan clearly disliked. He also felt terrible that he and Shirley were going to school, but Cody and Jodi weren't. Jodi would have been starting her second year of kindergarten, and she had really enjoyed the first. Cody, though he thought school was not fun whatsoever, he enjoyed going back-to-school shopping and meeting new students in his class. But unfortunately, he would have to miss out on that, too.
On top of all that, their cousins were all coming. School was starting in about two weeks, and they all needed their supplies. It would cost her a fortune, but she needed to get it all done. Theresa gave her sister some money to cover the cost of Ryan and Shirley's supplies. Shirley didn't need much at all. She only really needed a few new outfits and some crayons for the activities they would do. But since Ryan was older, and going into the fifth grade, he needed more things, like binders, pencils, pencil cases. Almost everything.
As they drove off, Theresa stayed behind with Cody and Jodi. They never liked shopping anyway. Shirley was the only one who took interest. To help Theresa out, Ryan had brought along his saved up allowance, and offered to buy shoes for himself and Shirley, to save money for the adults. And when they arrived back at the Children's Hospital, they all headed up to the twelfth floor, all their new supplies bagged up next to them on the elevator. They had bought a ton of stuff, and they would have to keep it in room 1204. As they exited the elevator, bags in hand, the hallway seemed to be quite crowded. There were lots of people they'd never seen before, all with depressed and scared expressions on their faces. Something was wrong.
Ryan's heart skipped a beat. What if it was Cody? Or Jodi? What was happening? His heart was racing with fear. He could see the expressions on the faces surrounding them, and they didn't look well. Each individual appeared gloomy and depressed, and some were even crying. This only caused his nerves to act up even more.
When he saw his mother, he was relieved. She didn't seem so disappointed, and she had just left the room to see what was going on. That was when Ryan saw Blaine from his baseball team. His face was priceless. He decided to ask him what had happened.
Setting his bags of school supplies on the floor in front of Aunt Mimi, he sauntered down the crowded hallway, and approached Blaine slowly. "Dude, what's going on?" he asked. "Why are there so many people?"
Tears rushed down Blaine's cheeks. His three-year-old sister Sierra was next to him. She probably didn't have a clue as to what was going on either. It had to be family-related or something. That was when Blaine's father stepped in, and approached Ryan. He could explain everything.
Ryan had grown quite close to this family since talking with Blaine at the baseball game three weeks ago. Their tournament was in three days. But, seeing the people around him, and their facial expressions, it didn't look like Blaine would be showing up. Something had happened in their family from the looks of it.
Placing a hand on Ryan's shoulder, Blaine's father, Mike, began explaining the situation. "Michelle," he began. "She's had leukemia for quite some time now. She hasn't been doing too well lately, and today, while you guys were all gone, she passed away." His face looked so serious, which made Ryan scared.
Ryan was beginning to feel like everything was falling apart. When he was four, he lost his best friend Eric to leukemia. Today, Michelle, an innocent six-year-old girl, had died from the same thing. Ryan feared the future days to come, because he was afraid Cody might not be there. He was suffering from leukemia. What if he died, too? That was now two people he knew well that had died from that. He was afraid it would soon turn to three.
"Hey Shirley, you up for some soccer?" Ryan called, twirling the checkered ball on the tip of his finger.
"Sure!" she responded happily. They had arrived at their grandparents' house earlier than usual, and they were left with absolutely nothing to do. Shirley had agreed, and now they were going to go outside.
The two siblings headed outside to kick it back and forth to one another. Aunt Mimi, Uncle Scott, and their kids were all over visiting, but they decided not to come out. After what Rebekah had done to Shirley the last time, beating her up and everything, Ryan no longer trusted her. Plus, she was probably afraid she'd do something horrible again, and get in trouble like she did. She was definitely not looking forward to that again.
Shirley had improved a little on her kicking skills. She seemed to be getting better at it, and Ryan was hoping he could kick it light enough so she could kick it back to him easily. She was only four, but that didn't mean she couldn't play soccer. Plus, this would give her the chance to get better at it. Maybe next summer, if there were soccer sign-ups in their town, she would take interest and join. By now, the soccer season was over, and Ryan would have liked to join a team when the season had begun, but he decided he liked baseball better. He couldn't wait for the tournament in a few days.
Ryan stood at the side closest to the house, and Shirley raced to the opposite side, closest to the road. They began to slowly kick it back and forth, practicing basic skills. Shirley kicked the ball with all her might, and each time, it managed to land at Ryan's feet. "This is fun," she commented.
Ryan paused for a moment. "I've got an idea," he said. "Why don't we have a competition? We'll see who's the better goalie."
"Okay!" Shirley agreed excitedly, hopping up and down.
Ryan lightly tapped the ball with the side of his foot, and it rolled across the yard toward Shirley. Scooping it up with her tiny hands, she announced, "I caught it!"
"Okay," said Ryan. "Now pass it to me."
Shirley dropped the checkered soccer ball on the ground, and then kicked her hardest. It actually sailed up a little off the ground, and went slightly past Ryan. He paced backwards to pick it up. His red DC hat fell off his head as he reached down to grab it. As he got back up, he dropped the ball back on the ground and kicked it. He realized he had accidentally kicked it too hard, and it sailed past Shirley, and bounced out onto the road.
"Sorry," Ryan said apologetically.
"I'll get it!" Shirley cried, holding up one finger as she whirled around for the road.
Ryan noticed that he had kicked it quite far. The front yard was quite long, and he knew he had a powerful kick. But he didn't even mean to kick it that hard. He guessed that he was probably used to it and forgot. He waited patiently for Shirley to retrieve the ball so they could see who really was the better goalie.
As Ryan glanced out at the road, he noticed headlights reflecting off the rock cuts at the corner. At their grandparents' house, there was a fair sized lot next door to the left, and then there was a corner, and you couldn't see around the corner, due to the rock cuts. Ryan had noticed the headlights, and remembered that Shirley was still on the road.
Shirley had just bent over to pick up the ball, and as she stood up, she looked over at Ryan, as if to tell him, "I got it!" Ryan was in a panic, and was just about to call her off the road, when the car, which was speeding, honked the horn loudly, and slammed right into Shirley, knocking her to the ground at quick speed and running her over.
Ryan gasped loudly. "Shirley!" he screamed, sprinting as quickly as his legs could carry him to the road. The car screeched to a stop, and the driver quickly climbed out. He glanced backward, and saw Shirley on the road.
Ryan was running so fast that he actually tripped over his own feet, toppling over onto the grassy lawn. He was horrified, replaying the scene over and over in his head. It had happened right in front of him. He was frightened. He knew his sister was dead.
The driver saw Ryan picking himself up off the ground. "I'm so sorry," the driver called out. "I didn't see her."
The door to his grandparents' house swished open abruptly, and everyone in the house walked out. Everyone began a fit of screaming as they spotted Shirley, who lay helplessly on the road, appearing lifeless. Uncle Scott raced back to the house to dial 911 by Aunt Mimi's demands, and instructed her other children to follow him. Noticing Ryan, her heart leapt, and she approached him carefully. She discovered that he was sobbing uncontrollably.
"What happened?" she asked him gently, kneeling down to his height.
Ryan couldn't respond. He was crying so hard that he was gasping for air. He didn't know what to say. He instantly took the blame, since he was responsible for kicking the soccer ball out onto the road. He knew he should have kicked it lightly. Now he would have to face the fact that, if Shirley was already dead, he'd be a murderer.
"It's all my fault," he managed to choke.
"No it's not." Aunt Mimi wrapped him in a tight hug. "I'm sure it was nobody's fault."
Ryan was shaking badly. The memory of this night would always come back to haunt him. He was trying to erase the picture out of his mind, but the scene just kept on replaying. He felt so guilty. Why couldn't he call her off the road?
The car had come around the corner so fast that Ryan had no time to call her off the road. But he felt that he should have made time, to protect his sister. But no matter what, even if he did call her off the road, she wouldn't make it in time. But he believed she would.
The ambulance arrived quickly. Both grandparents decided they would ride in the ambulance with Shirley. Ryan refused to go, since he could not bear to see what he had done to her. The driver felt terrible. The police had also showed up to investigate, and charge the driver for speeding. "Arrest me, charge me, give me a death sentence," the driver said. "I'll do anything. I'm very sorry that I was speeding, and I'll let you do whatever you want to me so I can make up for it."
They decided to impound the vehicle, and bring the man in to ask some questions. The man knew he shouldn't have been speeding, and that's what made him feel so terrible. Also, it may have claimed the life of an innocent four-year-old child. The man did not hesitate to climb into the back of the police car.
Aunt Mimi and Ryan headed closer to the road, and Aunt Mimi began speaking with one of the paramedics. "She's still alive," the paramedic explained. "The only problem is, that since the car is so heavy, it crushed a lot of her bones. It ran her right over. We have estimated that she most likely won't survive the night. I'm sorry." The paramedic climbed into the ambulance, and away they went.
To this, it made Ryan cry even harder. This was all his fault. How would he explain this to his mother? That he accidentally killed his own sister? She was far too young to die yet. This just piled up on top of the bad luck that was already occuring in their family. And Theresa had no idea this had even happened so far. Cody and Jodi could easily die, and Shirley was most likely going to die that very night. Except this time, Ryan would be the one responsible for the death.
Aunt Mimi had to call Theresa. The ambulance was not headed for the Children's Hospital, but for the hospital across town. Aunt Mimi would drive Ryan to the Children's Hospital, and then Theresa and Ryan could hop into their red van and drive to the hospital. Aunt Mimi would need to give her directions on how to get there, since she was still new to the area.
Aunt Mimi dug out her cell phone, walking away. She quickly dialed Theresa's number, ready to break the sad news to her. She left Ryan standing all by himself, to drown in his own grief and guilt. He hoped desperately that this was all a horrible nightmare, but he knew it wasn't. He hoped she'd be okay, and survive. But, since that wasn't very likely to happen, he knew that Shirley would be killed because of her older brother. That wasn't a pleasent way to die. If he had time, he would have called her off the road, and he would have pushed her out of the way to let himself get hit.
Memories of Shirley flashed in his memory. He remembered the day she was born, when Ryan was six years old. He loved being her older brother, and showed her off to all his friends when they came over. He remembered her smile, how bright it had been, and wondered if he'd ever see that smiling face again. Shirley was attached to him, and relied on him to keep her safe. He remembered how terrible he'd felt when he'd accidentally made her fall into the pool when she was two, but that couldn't compare to how bad he felt now.
Ryan attempted to wipe away all the tears, but they just kept flowing out of his eyes. He couldn't stop. Aunt Mimi came close, as she had just hung up the phone after a difficult conversation with Theresa. Theresa was devastated, and had sobbed on the other end of the phone, fearing for her youngest daughter's life. She had promised to wait outside the Children's Hospital with the keys to her van, so she could drive herself and Ryan to the hospital. She was pleading that her daughter would be alright. She didn't feel up to losing yet another family member.
Aunt Mimi began to head back to the house to grab the keys for her van. She prepared to drive Ryan back to the Children's Hospital, and she knew it would be difficult. This time, she would have to face Theresa, and she was afraid to look her in the eye. Ryan, too, was afraid to see his own mother. He didn't want her to yell at him, to tell him how much of a screw-up he was. He just couldn't bear to face that.
"Come on, bud," Aunt Mimi said gently, a touch of sadness added to her voice.
Ryan sank into the passenger seat. The tears kept rolling down his face, and they wouldn't stop. They couldn't. He didn't know what his mother would think. Even though he was the only one who knew exactly what happened, and his mother didn't know how it happened, she would figure that, since it happened all right in front of Ryan, it would have much to do with him. The guilt really got to him, and he didn't know if there was time to apologize to Shirley for what he'd done to her.
It did not take long at all to reach the Children's Hospital, since it was right down the road. You could see the hospital from the house. Aunt Mimi hurriedly pulled into a parking space, and they spotted Theresa on the sidewalk at the front of the hospital, looking as if she were going to be sick. As soon as they climbed out of the van, Ryan grew very anxious. Theresa saw him as well, and opened her arms.
Ryan's first instinct was to run. Run straight into her comforing arms. He began sprinting down the sidewalk, headed for Theresa. As he quickly approached her, he threw open his arms as well, and held onto her. She had knelt down to his eye level, and as she caught him, she lifted him over her shoulder. He rested his head on her shoulder, sobbing.
She silently stood there, and held him for a while. She sensed that he needed comfort, and so she was there for him. "Shh, it'll be okay," she assured him.
Slowly, Aunt Mimi approached the two, unsure of what to say. She really wanted to leave them alone, but she had to explain what she knew so far. Only problem was, she didn't exactly know how this had all happened either. It was just Ryan.
Theresa knew she needed to have a few words with her sister. "How did this happen?" she asked, teary-eyed.
"I don't know," Aunt Mimi answered honestly. "It's Ryan who knows everything, the only problem is he won't talk about it. I think it's best we leave it at that for now. We can always get the answers later, and all we need to do now is pray for Shirley's life at the moment."
The guilt was quickly taking over Ryan, and he kept mumbling "I'm sorry," over and over. And after having a quick conversation, Theresa carried her shaken son to the van, which was located somewhere in that maze of a parking lot. It was parked at the side, close to the wall on the outside of the building. Theresa had made the decision to take Ryan with her to the hospital, and all he wanted was to melt into a puddle and trickle away. He didn't know how he'd ever get over this night. It would be quite difficult, no matter if Shirley died or not. The guilt would always return to his mind to haunt him.
Ryan hopped into the front seat. He sniffled, and began to dab at his tears once again. Theresa climbed into the driver's seat, and shoved in the keys. "You okay?" she asked gently.
"No," he said quietly.
Theresa began to back the van out of the parking space, glancing back to make sure no one else was there. "Well, all we can do is hope for the best," she said, dabbing her eyes a little.
Ryan nodded. Theresa knew that it was especially hard for Ryan, since he had watched the scene happen right in front of his eyes. She also knew that he had been blaming himself for the whole incident. That had to be hard on him. But how could it be all his fault? What could he have done to make her get hit? It wasn't like he'd shove her in front of a speeding car. He was definitely not that type of kid. These questions kept racing through her mind.
Theresa now had a knowledge of where the hospital was. She was great at memorizing things, and when Mimi had explained the directions, she kept it stored at the back of her head. She remembered the names of the streets, and so she began to drive there. Ryan had become awfully silent, and Theresa figured that he had no tears left to cry. She decided to engage in conversation with him, but he still remained silent, trying to erase the image of Shirley's face after she was hit, and the look of her body. He could still see her getting run over. He rubbed his eyes, as if it would somehow clear his memory.
Theresa crossed some pretty busy roads, rushing to get to the hospital quickly. She finally located the hospital, and pulled into the nearest parking space. She had to admit, the hospital appeared way better than the other two hospitals back where they used to live. She sensed that everything would be alright. She said to Ryan, "Come on, let's go."
Ryan's eyes were bloodshot red, and he wanted to hide them. Theresa was beginning to get teary-eyed as well, but she decided to hold them back for Ryan's sake. If she cried, he would feel terrible, and would start to cry again. She hated to see her son like that. Theresa pushed open the doors to the Emergency Room, and they both entered. Theresa spoke with the woman at the front counter, hoping she could tell her where her precious daughter was.
The woman gave the room number, but said that nobody was really allowed to enter the room. That was when Theresa spotted her parents, waiting outside the room. She could see the redness in their eyes, too. They had to ride in the ambulance with Shirley, and look at her damaged, battered-up body. Theresa knew she had to say something to them.
Theresa and Ryan sat next to them. "Are they doing X-rays?" Theresa questioned.
Her mother nodded. "They are going to send her back to the Children's Hospital to do an experimental operation on her."
"Oh, okay," said Theresa, understanding.
Theresa turned in Ryan's direction, hoping she could finally get a response from him. "What happened out there? How did she get hit?"
Ryan inhaled deeply. He took off his red DC hat, and placed it next to him. He felt completely uncomfortable. He didn't know how she would react. Would she get mad? Would she understand? He took a deep breath, ready to explain.
"Well," he began, his voice sounding traumatized. "We were playing soccer, and I..." He paused, tears forming in the corners of his eyes, and Theresa could hear the guilt from his voice. "...I kicked it too hard and..."
"It landed on the road," Theresa finished. "And when she went to get it, she got hit. Am I right?"
Ryan nodded sadly. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to... I didn't know it would go so far..."
"It's okay," Theresa said soothingly, hugging him. Ryan was at a loss of words, and couldn't continue. He knew now that she would not blame him for it. He prayed that Shirley would live to see tomorrow.