Shirley lay helplessly on the operating table at the Children's Hospital. At the other hospital, they had identified the types of injuries she was suffering. They discovered she had a broken collarbone, broken wrist, a cracked spine, a broken arm, severe head trauma, and both her leg bones had been shattered. She was in critical condition, and they estimated that she would not make it through the night, due to the severity of her injuries. The family was hoping desperately for a miracle, since it seemed the only way out. They wanted her to prove the doctors wrong.
Theresa decided that Ryan would not have to go back to his grandparents' house, since she knew he was going to refuse to go on his own. He probably wouldn't even sleep that night, no matter where he was. She decided it was best for him to stay, so he could be there for the doctors to keep him updated on her condition. They brought out a cot for him instead, and he could spend the night there. Theresa did not want to leave him out, and she knew he deserved to know what was happeining to her.
Theresa attempted to put Ryan to bed, but he was so worked up from the whole experience that he fought it. He had never given her a hard time when he had to go to bed, but he felt that that night was a little different. Theresa was growing frustrated, and she didn't know if she could handle the situation anymore. All three of her youngest children were now battling hard for their lives, and the oldest was left scarred. She couldn't figure out what to do at that point.
"Ryan, the best thing to do is sleep off all this stress." Theresa kept her tone soft and gentle. "You'll be exhausted in the morning. I know how much you adore sleep."
"How am I supposed to sleep with the thought that I could have murdered my own sister?" He began sobbing again, and it made Theresa's heart melt to see him so sad, so guilty.
"You didn't murder her," she said softly. "It was all an accident. It was nobody's fault. You didn't murder her."
Theresa understood why it upset Ryan so much. He was convinced that, since he had kicked the soccer ball onto the road, even though he hadn't done it intentionally, that it was all his fault. And, due to the fact that the whole horiffic scene had happened right in front of his own eyes, it made him feel worse, since he saw exactly what he had done to her. And, if Shirley died that night, the guilt would never leave him alone.
"It's all my fault," Ryan repeated, probably for about the twentieth time that night.
Theresa didn't know what could convince Ryan that it was all just an accident. She was afraid to tell him that everything was alright, because she knew bloody well that it was not. But, if things changed that night, and Shirley lived through it, then she could tell him that. But he still wouldn't believe her.
She wrapped him in a tight hug as he sobbed. "Everyone makes mistakes," she told him. "But you have to understand that you shouldn't take the blame for all this."
The sobbing seemed to carry on for hours. "What if she's not okay? What if she dies?"
"She'll be okay." Theresa wanted so badly for him to believe in that. If only she could get him to understand, to sleep off all the stress. He was already ready for bed, if only she could get him there.
Theresa released Ryan from her arms, and he sat down on the cot. She spoke to him in a soothing tone, hoping he would calm down so he could get to bed soon. She kept him quiet, as to not wake his siblings in the room. Until she felt he was ready, she would send him to bed.
"It's time for bed, it's late."
"I won't be able to sleep," he choked.
"Yes you can," Theresa said firmly. It would be the only way to get him to bed. "Trust me, you'll feel a lot better in the morning."
Ryan only stared back at her. He was trying to decide whether or not to believe her. He still feared being woken up to be told that Shirey had died, but he was also tired, and needed sleep. Normally, he never hesitated to go to bed, because he adored sleep. But now, things were different.
Ryan finally nodded. Theresa breathed a sigh of relief. She lifted him up onto the cot, glad that her plan had worked. "Now, just try to concentrate on sleep, not on anything else, okay?" she said gently, tucking him into bed.
Ryan nodded again, but still didn't want to go to sleep. "I might not be able to sleep, though," he mumbled.
"Yes, you will," Theresa promised. "Now just try for me, okay?"
Ryan didn't do anything, just lay there. "Okay, well I'll see you in the morning," said Theresa, giving him a kiss on the cheek. "Good night." She walked away slowly, relieved.
Ryan cried himself to sleep that night. Even though Theresa had told him to only concentrate on sleep, his mind kept making him see Shirley, laying so helplessly on the road. His stomach hurt from crying so much, but he couldn't help it. The scene replayed over and over in his head like a movie, and he tried his hardest to forget it, but how could he do that? He'd never forget that, even if he was still around a thousand years later.
Theresa, too, was stressed, and wished she could sleep, but she was forced to stay awake, since she was stuck waiting on Shirley's long operation to be completed. Plus, she couldn't just fall asleep, knowing that her daughter was most likely going to die that night. She knew that Ryan felt that it was unfair that he had to go to sleep, but he was younger, and he was not the parent. Theresa wished that all of this had never happened, and they were back at home, relaxing and enjoying the night, without any problems. But, of course, their family had to be targeted with all the bad luck. Nobody would ever want that, especially the Wabishkahak family.
Also, Theresa had never seen Ryan carry on like that. Even when he was little. She knew that it hit him hard, and she hated that he had to be right in the center of the bad luck. Considering that he almost never cried, this had to be one of the hardest nights he'd ever been through. Theresa felt that if she had been in the same situation as Ryan, she would probably react the same, no matter how tough she was. Ryan was quite tough. Even though he was small and fragile, whenever he was hurt, he was able to tough it out. It pained Theresa to see him so sad, so guilty...
Theresa swung open the door to room 1204. Her eyes were fuming with anger. She made her way over to the cot where Ryan lay, stomping loudly as she walked. Ryan could see her coming, as he was already awake. He scrambled to his feet, but he was caught before he could move.
Theresa gripped onto both sides of his shirt hard, close to his shoulders. "Why would you do that?" she bellowed.
Ryan was truly confused. He ducked a bit to keep the sound of Theresa's loud screaming out of his ears. "What did I do?" he asked her calmly.
Theresa's eyes turned a reddish colour. "You know what you did!" she wailed, yanking him closer. "Why? Why would you kill my own daughter?!"
This made Ryan feel terrible. "I'm sorry," he said quietly. "I didn't mean to. It was an accident. I'm sorry."
"I sometimes wonder why you're even my son," Theresa said in disgust, rolling her eyes. "You murdered my youngest, precious daughter! And don't pretend that it was all an accident, because I know bloody well that you intended to do this to make me mad!" Her voice began to raise as she spoke.
Ryan was left speechless. "I...I..." he stammered. "I...didn't do it on purpose!" His voice suddenly filled with lots of power. He began to speak louder. "It was all an accident! You honestly think I would kill my own sister?"
"Yes, I would," Theresa said evily. She picked him up off the cot, and brought him over to the window.
Ryan panicked. "What are you doing?" he shouted, kicking his feet wildly.
"Well," Theresa chuckled. "You murdered my daughter. It's only fair if I can murder my son. We'll be even now." She threw open the window, and dropped him outside, where he would fall twelve stories down to his death.
Ryan's eyes snapped open. He still lay in the cot. He checked around the room to make sure everything was okay, and to confirm that it was only a dream. He spotted his mother on the other side of the room, speaking with Cody and Jodi. She had no idea that Ryan was awake.
"Mom," he whispered, hoping to grab her attention.
Theresa gazed over at him. "Good morning," she said cheerfully.
"Oh," said Theresa. "She's in the recovery room down the hall. She just got out of surgery about three hours ago."
This left Ryan confused. "She was in surgery for a long time. All night."
"Yeah," Theresa responded. "She's alive. She's very lucky. But they're still not sure if she'll make a full recovery, or if she'll die."
Ryan still felt terrible for what he'd done. He was glad that she was alive, but he still felt like he had done something terribly wrong, that could cost his youngest sister her life. She still could die at any given time. But that wasn't what he wanted. If she survived, it would be a long road to recovery. And it was all his fault.
"She's unconscious, and she might be for a while, but she'll hopefully wake up sometime soon." Theresa had been told this earlier, and she kept her hopes up that Shirley would wake up and greet the family with her joyous smile.
A doctor entered the room. "We think she is ready to come back here to this room," he announced. "But, you have to be extra careful around her. She is very fragile, and, though she is unconscious, you have to be super careful if you hug her."
The family nodded, waiting for the stretcher to be brought in. As they saw the stretcher come around the corner at the doorway, they all gasped. She had many casts, on her arm, both her legs, a bandage wrapped around her head... many things were wrong. She looked like she was dead, but the family knew she wasn't. This all looked so horrible, especially on someone so young. She'd hardly had much of a life, barely four years. It couldn't end now.
Ryan thought back to yesterday. Blaine's younger sister, Michelle, had died from leukemia. And, Shirley had been hit by that speeding car. Two terrible things in one day. Blaine and the rest of his family were still across the hall, but they were speaking to some of the doctors, and thanking them for all their hard work on trying to save Michelle's life. It wasn't their fault she had died. They'd tried their hardest, but Michelle slipped away peacefully, without having much of a chance of living. Ryan hoped Shirley would not be the same. He wanted her to live, to fight for her life. He wanted her to win in the end.
Ryan also remembered the dream he'd had that night. He decided to tell Theresa about what had happened in his dream. He approached her, and said quietly, "I had a really scary dream last night."
"Oh," said Theresa. "What happened?"
Ryan cleared his throat. "You were yelling at me because Shirley died. You kept asking me why I murdered your precious daughter. And you said that you wished that I wasn't your son. You thought I did it on purpose, so you killed me because you thought it was only fair."
Theresa was speechless. She would never, EVER, do that to her own son, and she would never blame him for it. "I wouldn't do that to you," she said, thinking it was all ridiculous.
"But that's what happened in the dream," he said innocently. "You dropped me out that window over there. Because I accidentally killed Shirley, you thought I did it on purpose, so you thought it would be fair to kill me on purpose. You said you hated me. And I thought it was real."
"Well, just remember it all as a dream," Theresa told him. "I would never say I hated you. I don't hate you. You mean everything to me, just as much as everyone else in this family." She brought him close. "It'll all be okay. I believe Shirley can win this battle. I believe Cody and Jodi can win their battles. And I believe we can be their heroes."
The day went by all too quickly. They watched Shirley lay there on the stretcher, motionless. Pretty soon, the day was over. Everyone went to bed good that night, and Theresa had no problems with Ryan. It didn't seem like very long before the morning came. The morning was gray and overcast, which wasn't what anyone wanted in the summer.
Ryan felt someone shaking his shoulder. It didn't feel gentle, like Theresa waking him up for school. It felt urgent, like someone needed to tell him something. He quickly opened his eyes, and saw Theresa standing there. He thought the worst. Oh no, she died. "Shirley's awake!" she said excitedly.
Ryan threw himself out of bed. "Where is she?" he asked.
"Over there." Theresa pointed to the corner where they had Shirley's stretcher. Her eyes were barely open. She could barely move, since so many parts of her body were broken. She looked like she was suffering.
Ryan raced over next to her bedside. He felt like jumping for joy, glad she hadn't died. But, her head was in bad shape, which wasn't a good sign. Ryan paid no attention to what had happened to his little sister, and just decided to ask her a few questions, if she was able to answer them. She wouldn't remember much, though. He hoped he could get some answers out of her, and apologize for what he'd done.
He knelt down next to the bed, so he was at her eye level. "Hey," he greeted her. Her beautiful, brown eyes met his. "Are you okay?"
Shirley appeared to be confused. "What happened?" she whispered faintly.
Ryan drew in a deep breath, looking away for a second. When he gazed back at her, he said, "Do you remember playing outside a few nights ago? Where we were playing soccer?"
Shirley thought for a few seconds. "I think so," she muttered.
"Well, remember when the soccer ball went out onto the road?" he questioned.
Shirley once again took a few seconds to think, to refresh her memory. "I think so," she repeated.
"When you went to go and get it, you were hit by a car. That's why you've been here for two days."
Shirley was shocked. "I don't remember that."
"That's because you were knocked out instantly," Ryan explained. "You won't remember yesterday because you still weren't awake. You won't remember a lot from that night."
"What does getting knocked out mean?" Her voice sounded raspy.
"It's like being asleep," Ryan told her. "Asleep for a long time. Like someone forcing you to go to sleep. If you get hit really hard in the head, it's like you're being forced to go to sleep so you don't feel anything."
"But I feel sore everywhere," Shirley said quietly.
"Did you see your casts?" Ryan asked. "You broke a lot of bones."
Shirley looked down at her body and screamed, but it was barely a scream. Her voice was rough and scratchy. Ryan decided to try his best to explain that it wasn't so bad to have casts. He had one a few months before because he broke his foot. Jodi had one on her foot, too, because she broke her ankle on the sidewalks back home. The only one in the entire family who hadn't had a cast was Cody.
"All of us, except for Cody, have had casts. Even Mom, when she was younger. And Dad did too, when he was alive. It's not so bad. We all felt it when we broke our bones. Lucky for you, you didn't feel a thing." Ryan was referring to when he had broken his foot back in March at school. On the play structure, there had been small bars that made a ladder to climb up, and his feet were wedged between them to keep him standing. His friend Ross had shoved him backwards, and his left foot was caught in the bars, and had bent far back, instantly breaking the bone. He had felt a little embarrassed about what had happened that day, since most of his classmates had witnessed it, and a teacher had to carry him to the office.
"I feel it now," Shirley whimpered.
Ryan decided to apologize to her, though she wouldn't know it was his fault. "Well," he began. "I'm really sorry. This is all my fault that this whole thing happened to you." He bit his lip to keep from crying again.
"What did you do?"
Ryan sighed. "Remember, I kicked the soccer ball out onto the road? Do you remember me doing that? It was an accident, but it's still my fault."
"How?" Shirley questioned. "I went to go and get it. It's my fault."
"It's nobody's fault." Theresa approached the two. She knelt down next to them. "Ryan, Shirley, neither of you knew that the car was coming until the last minute. Well, Shirley, you didn't know it was coming at all. It's not the driver's fault, either, because he didn't know you would be on the road. You are so small, he didn't even see you."
"How come he was driving so fast?" Cody asked, joining the conversation.
"I don't know," Theresa answered. "He didn't know anyone would be on the road, so he probably picked up speed. He probably thought that small children like Shirley would be in bed at that time, not outside. Or that they'd have parental supervision."
Ryan felt terrified. Now that Shirley couldn't come to school with him, he would have to face the challenge of a new school all by himself. He didn't know anybody. Cody wasn't well enough to go to school, and he could catch diseases quickly. Jodi was in worse condition than anyone else in the family, so there was no way she could go to school. It was possible that the tumor could affect the way she learned. Plus, she was always sick, and would have to go through a series of operations in attempt to clear the tumor. She wouldn't have time for school, either.
So far, the summer had been flying by quite quickly. It seemed like all of this bad luck had occured only a few days ago. Well, in Shirley's case, it did happen a few days ago, but it seemed like they had just arrived a few days ago at the hospital with Cody. Now, all three of the youngest children were hospitalized. Shirley didn't really have to stay at the hospital for long, maybe just for a few weeks while they helped her out. She could leave the hospital in a few weeks, unlike Cody and Jodi, who were stuck in there. If Shirley were to leave, though, the family would have lots of trouble getting her around. Especially in the stores they went to. It would be hard to bring her places in a wheelchair. She loved parks, but she was also unable to go there.
Ryan also had a baseball tournament the next day, and he had decided that he would go. Theresa agreed to come, which would be the first game she went to that year. Aunt Mimi would stay at the hospital to watch over Cody, Jodi, and especially Shirley. Blaine would not be going because of what had happened to Michelle, and they were moving back to where they used to live. The team would suffer a little without Blaine, because he, too, was a great player. But they'd suffer even more without Ryan, and that was one of the reasons he decided to go.
Ryan really didn't want to go to school there. He would rather ride a helicopter or take a city bus back to his old school three hours away than to walk to a new school located just down the road. For the first time, he actually feared school. He had attended his old school since kindergarten, and everyone knew who he was. But at this new school, he would become a nobody. Some kids could be quite mean, and he didn't want to be their target. He'd never been bullied before. But he had witnessed it many times.
He had, for sure, witnessed the older kids at his old school bully others. There were a few sixth graders who enjoyed teasing Cody. But, at the time, Cody was in the second grade. He would be going into the third grade this year, but he was too sick to leave. Ryan had beat up one of those sixth graders last year, because he witnessed the whole thing. He knew Cody would fake that he was sick just so he didn't have to go to school to be tormented by the older kids. They did it for no reason.
Ryan was, of course, suspended, but that was normal for him. He always got suspended. And lots of times, it was for stupid reasons. But that time, he was just defending his brother. The other kid was suspended, too, but he went home with quite a few marks on his face. Ryan was short, skinny, but that definitely didn't mean that he was weak. He was stronger than the kid expected.
Ryan would feel quite embarrassed when people found out that Derek and Rebekah were his cousins. Apparently, they were like dorks, and nobody really liked them. Rebekah thought she was a diva, and thought everyone liked her, when really, people thought of her as mean. Ryan just hoped that he could get through all of this, with the stress of watching his siblings struggle for their lives, and the stress of a new school. It would be so difficult.