Anne Weis sat by her daughter in the recovery room. She stroked her knuckles and cried, praying all the same. "Please, girl. Stay with us. You got through the surgery. Now get through rehab."
Leah cautiously pulled back the curtains closed for privacy and rapped her knuckles on the glass door. "Heya." She went to the girl's bedside and took her other hand. The English teacher didn't dare look at the girl's mother. She could feel Annie's glare on her face. It made her squirm. God, please. Give me the words. I don't know how to start.
"How dare you try to kill my daughter?"Mrs. Weis snapped at Leah. "Why?"
"Mrs. Weis. Please," Ms. Plante moved around the still girl and kneeled in front of the girl's mother. "Please, I beg with you, on my knees, forgive me! Please! Lisetta jumped in front of me. I tried to push her out of the way, but she resisted the shove. She's stubborn! I'm sorry! It's really not my fault! I love your daughter! I wouldn't try to kill her!"Leah sobbed again until she couldn't breathe. She felt a hand on her shoulder.
"I'm sorry. I was being really stupid. This isn't your fault. Our daughter wanted to save lives, so this is what that she gets, that little brat." Leah could tell Anne was losing her cool.
"Thank you. It's okay for you not to understand. But, I really wouldn't try to kill her. I love your daughter."Ms. Plante reasoned.
"Ms. P, please, just forget it. I know I'm stupid. You don't have to argue with me."Anne laughed self- consiously. "Would you forgive me? I was really rude about the whole situation."
"I always forgive. My problem is forgetting." Leah's eyelids drooped. She was so fatigued.
Lisetta's mother's face lit up, however. "Really? That's Lissy's issue. It's amazing how much you two have in common."
"Thanks for forgiving me. But, I'm going to go take a power nap. Call me when she gets out of her hand surgery."Leah gave Lisetta's mother her telephone number on a sticky note and went downstairs to get a large coffee. She needed the caffiene to keep her awake while she was driving. Ms. Plante found Jacalyn Machalan and got her keys. "Thanks. That was the longest night of my life."
"My husband knows I'm here. Can you give me a ride to the school?" Leah nodded and Jacki continued. "How is she?"
"She's out of surgery. But her oxygen level is low and her blood pressure high. Not a good combination."The English teacher felt tears sting her eyes as needles hurt her arms. She put her fingers to her lips. "They're afraid she'll slip into a coma. She's under anthestetic right now."
"I'm so sorry, sweetie."Jacalyn took her friend into her arms. "God love you; you sweet girl. Go home and get some rest."
Leah took her friend's hand. "Will you go to the coffee shop with me? I need the caffiene to keep me awake while I drive us home."
Jacki nodded and followed.
They both ordered coffee to go and drove their seperate ways. That night, Leah's phone rang. The high- pitched jingle made her heart jump. "Hello? Leah Plante speaking."
"Ms. Plante, I have some news for you." It was Anne. A chill overcame the woman's body.
"What news?"Leah began to panick.
"Lisetta's hand surgery was sucessful, too. She's admitted to the hospital ICU for right now. But..."Her words were short.
"Oh, God, no! Anne, please, don't tell me,"Leah's pleaded with the mother.
"She's on border to slipping into a coma. I need you to come by the hospital before you go to the school tomorrow and talk to her. She won't make it without you." She heard Lisetta's mother break down.
"Okay," was all Leah could choke out. She hung up and slipped out of her bed and onto her knees. "NO!" She began to sob, crying out loud in her agony. "God, help her! Please!
Ms. Plante's alarm went off in few hours, and the English teacher awoke to herself halfway under her bed, hugging her boot. Leah brewed some coffee and took a quick shower. She managed to shove a bagel down her throat. She glanced at a clock and saw it was five 'o clock. If she was lucky, she'd get an hour and a half with Lisetta. Dear Jesus, please heal her. I believe in the name of Jesus she will live to go to my class another five months!
And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick man well. . .
The woman gasped softly. She hadn't read a Bible since she was a teenager. Was that God's voice? Was He actually talking to her? Okay, God. I trust you. Thanks.
Leah rushed out the door to her car and started the car. Or tried to, at least. Her vehicle's battery was dead. She lay her head on the steering wheel and let out a little frustrated scream. Then she decided there was no time to lose.
The woman unlocked her apartment and called her mother. She answered on the second ring. "Leah? Oh, honey, what's wrong?"
"I'll tell you the full story later. The short story is I need somebody to come give the car a jump so I can get to the hospital and to work on time."
Leah's mother shuffled papers in the background. "Sweetie, what's wrong? Why do you have to go to the hospital?"
"Mom, please, I said I'll tell you later. I just need a jump." Ms. Plante felt tears pool again. How was she going to survive today?
"I've just found my keys now. I'll be over in about ten minutes. Okay?"
The English teacher sighed. "Fine."
"I'll ride with you to the hospital and you tell me what's going on." Her mother sounded determined.
"Alright. Please, Mom, go?"
Leah's mother arrived six minutes later. She had a worried look on her face."Are you sure you're okay? Teaching can be a stressful job."
Her daughter only swallowed. "My car? You said you'd ride with me and I'll tell you then. But right now, the car's my priority."
"My girl is always mine," the tone in her voice was peaceful, but her face was challenging.
They jumped the car and Leah drove, much against her mother's will.
Kassie Plante grabbed her daughter's arm. "You spill your life. Now."
"Mom," she stammered as she started the car. "Something happened at school yesterday. I was careless, and now it's my fault. I can't eat, sleep, or think straight without thinking about her or crying." Leah couldn't even bear to whisper the dying girl's name.
Kassie's eyebrows raised."'Her?' Is this one of your students at school?"
"Yeah."Ms. Plante gripped the steering wheel until her fingers turned pink. "Mom, there was a code blue yesterday at Aspen Middle. Joanie secretly sent a beep to all of the teachers that meant, 'no dismissal.' I didn't hear it. My class of eighth graders went out into the hall very quietly but were shuffled back in when the office saw them. They were quiet the whole time, too. But, the gunman, armed with a pistol, sneaked in and held my class captive. He asked if anyone was a Christian stand-"
"Did you stand up? You've been Christian all your life and grew up in the Church. You did stand, right?" Kassie pressed.
"Mom, I didn't. And he filled his gun with bullets and asked again. He pointed the gun towards me. A girl in my class that I knew loved God stood up. She told him,'If you're trying to kill all of the Christians, good luck. God will be fighting for us. If I must die for what I believe, I know where I'll be. And before you reach your final night in the cell, I pray that you do to. So, if you're going to shoot me, do it where you won't take another innocent life.' He lead her over towards the door and tried to shoot her. But another girl tripped the gunman and he lost his aim. The bullet pierced her hand. She went in for hand surgery early this morning."Leah took a breath and pondered how she would tell the next part. Thankfully, Kassie interrupted her.
"Is she okay?"
"I- Mom, I recieved a call last night from the girl's mother. She's on the brink of slipping into a coma. One she'll probably never wake up from."
"Out of a hand wound?"
"There's more if you're willing to listen." The woman whispered. She hoped Kassie wouldn't make her continue.
"Alright. I want to hear this. Go on." Her hopes died. Leah sighed and began to tell the tale.
"I- um, I wanted to have a student- teacher conference with her. I just wanted to tell her thanks. There was a little more to our conversation. So, I took her out to my car because I was going to meet her parents at the E Room. But while we were walking, she froze. I asked her what was wrong and she said that she heard a gun cock. I didn't believe her and went ahead. My student jumped in front of me and the man shot at her again. This time, he was sucessful. He got her right in the ribs. She told me what to do and she stayed awake until the paramedics came. She fell asleep in the ambulance and made it through her crucial surgery. But, Mom,- oh, Mom, now she's dying and it's all my fault!"By this time, mother and daughter had arrived at the hospital.
Kassie stared at her. "I- oh, my, I don't know what to say. I guess I could say that I'm very disappointed in you, but that wouldn't help. Honey, I- okay, never mind, I'll shut up."
Leah climbed out, but leaned on the car. She began to cry. Her mother rushed to comfort her."Shh! It's okay, sweetie. You know what to do."
"No, I don't. What do I have to do?"
"Pray, Leah Rose, pray. Like you've never done before. God can heal her." Kassie took her hand. "Come on, girly. Let's get inside. It's really cold."
They made their way to the chapel, where Leah had met McKenna. "What's the girl's name?" her mother asked gently.
"Lisetta. Lisetta Weis."She began to cry at the name. Leah slipped into the pew she had the night before and once more, cried out to God. She didn't know what to say, so she started saying, "God heal her."
Kassie slipped in by her and took her hands. They both prayed for a half an hour, then went up to see Lisetta.
When they were on the elevator, Leah took her mother's hand. Kassie squeezed it. It only made Ms. Plante cry. Lissy had done that when she was trying to hold on at the school.
Kassie gripped her daughter's wrist. "Are you sure you're strong enough to do this?"
Leah shook her head and swallowed the tears again. "But I have to."
They found Lisetta's room in a matter of minutes. Family and their friends were gathered outside. Leah pushed through the crowd. "Oh please tell me what is going on."
"She's just slipped away. She's predicted to be a vegetable for the rest of her life."John cried out in agony, begging God to save his little girl.
Leah spied Lisetta's brother, Luke. "Hey, dude."
Luke looked up. She could tell he'd been crying. His English teacher kneeled in front of him. "Can I tell you I'm sorry and you won't scream at me?"
He nodded. "She's getting worse. Why didn't you stand up?"
"Because I didn't feel it'd be appropriate. I'm not really a Christian. It's just a religious thing." Ms. Plante felt a really guilty about saying that. She also had no idea her mother was listening.
"Oh." That's all Luke could say.
A nurse came out of the room. "Excuse me. Hello?"
The group was silent in an instant. The nurse talked again. "She's now fully comatose. She's also taken to swelling in her head. We're doing to transport her to Barnes Jewish. They have a better ortho team. Do we have your consent, John?"
Lissy's father nodded. "Can we go see her?"
"I'm afraid I can't let that happen. She's too weak, so we have to get her to Barnes as soon as possible. You can go to St. Louis with her, though. Either parent can." The redhead looked very sympathetic. "I'm so sorry, y'all."
Anne went with the nurse to help get the girl ready. When she came back, she looked like she'd just been through a hurricane. McKenna spoke up. "What do you think? How is she?"
"She's clinging to life. And barely at that. You can't tell if she's breathing without looking at her monitor." The two women hugged each other and hoped Lisetta would survive the trip.
Lisetta's sister, Martha, paced the waiting room. "We can come to Barnes and see her, though, right?"
"Yeah, but it'll be a little bit until she can respond."Anne had no idea what was coming.
They finally made it to Barnes Jewish. It took them an hour and a half. They rehooked Lisetta up to every machine she had and hospitalized into the Intensive Care Unit. She was there for an hour, then Lisetta's doctor, Dr. David Galactia came out and took Anne's hand. "Her ribs her shaking. We'll have to put her on a respirator. She's fighting though, Anne. Don't get discouraged. She needs to hear you love on her. She can hear you in her coma. I'd highly encourage you to talk to her. Read the Bible to her, pray for her, read aloud your talks with your family. My main suggestion would be talk to her like she was awake and functioning."
The Weis family called the whole group from DMH and told them she was on a respirator so they could pray for her. The last person they informed was Leah Plante.
When Ms. Plante recieved the message from Joanie from her phone, during her fifth hour class, she pulled Mrs. Moore in her room and Leah went to the teacher's bathroom. She knelt down in front of the sink and started to cry. The lunch she'd tried to eat during her break went up and into the toilet. When Leah was done, she went up to the office and called for a substitute. She couldn't stand to be here at school. Not when sweet Lisetta should be in English right now.
The secretaries in the office nodded in understanding.
Jacalyn came out of her office and leaned on the doorjam. "You're a fighter, Leah Plante. But God in his own mercy doesn't want you here, either. You should be home resting and praying for a miracle. In the nicest intentions possible, get outta here."
Leah nodded and grabbed another tissue.The teacher went out to her car and put her key in the ignition. It didn't start. Leah cried out in her own agony and began to cry loudly. When Mrs. Keeloft came in to sub for the English classes to come, she found Leah in her car. Jessica jumped the vehicle and hugged the woman. When Leah pulled away, she stammered and tried to tell what was going on. Jessica interrupted her.
"There's no need for an explanation. Dawn texted me last night and told me everything. I'm sorry, sweetie. You must be so worn down by now."
Leah nodded and climbed into her car. "Don't sugar- coat the sub report. If my class is a bunch of heathens, tell me. Thanks, Jess. See ya later."
Ms. Plante went home and lay on her couch. She called in sick the next morning, but that was the truth. She'd puked another three times in the night. The woman knew that she didn't have the flu because she didn't have a fever. But she did have a headache. And the sorrow along with it made her feel lower than crap itself.
"Ms. Plante! Ms. P, wake up! I'm right here, do not fret my dear sister!"
Leah looked around her. Her heart fluttered. Where was she? Who was that talking to her? Where was Lisetta and was she okay? Her head began to spin at a hundred miles an hour.
Wherever she was, every piece of furniture ricocheted off the white- washed walls. "Hello? Where am I?"
She lifted herself to sit on her knees and looked around. She was in a hospital waiting room, on the floor. No one else was around, everything deathly quiet. The room had stopped carouselling around her. She stood up and twirled in a tense circle. "Hey, who said that?"
Leah poked her head out the door and glanced down either way of the hall. No one was in sight. A chill passed over her arms. What was going on? She rubbed the goose bumps, trying to warm herself, but stared down in horror. She saw her hands were drenched in blood, the jacket Lisetta was wearing when she got shot at her feet. "Lisetta!" she screamed the name.
"I told you, do not fret. I'm right here. What are you doing, child?" The peaceful voice sent another shiver snaking down her spine. She turned to see Lisetta standing in the doorway of a near door, a white dress blanketing her soft complexion. A worried look shadowed the gentle smile she wore.
"Lissy!" Leah ran to the girl's arms. "Oh, God, thank You! You're alive!"
Lisetta ran a slender finger down Leah's cheek. "Oh course, my dear. Why wouldn't you think so?"
"Th-They told us you were comatose and your mom called me saying you were on a respirator. So, you're alive?" Leah was too overwhelmed to speak.
"Yeah, girly. I wouldn't let go. Can I tell you something I'm sure everyone wants you to know, but you have to hear it from me?" Lisetta sounded like an angel, praising Leah's soul. Lissy gestured towards a chair. "Why don't you take a seat? You are very weary."
Ms. Plante nodded and collapsed into the nearest cushioned chair. She felt a mischievious grin overtake her face. "What do you want to tell me, Life Savers?"
Lisetta sat on her heels in front of Leah on the floor. She took Leah's icy hands in hers and looked deep into her eyes. "Ms. Plante, the one thing above all that is on my mind is that I need to tell you it's not your fault. You're thinking, 'Well, maybe if I would've listened to Lisetta the first time she'd asked to leave, then maybe she wouldn't have been shot a second time.' Or you're thinking, 'I should be fired. I could be considered a murderer for all anyone knows. Mr. Polyfrank thinks so too.'" Emotion seemed to overtake her, and Lisetta paused for a moment. When she spoke, her voice was indeed broken. "Ms. Plante, don't think like that. It wasn't your fault. Video tapes show that he was lying in wake of hiding, trying to either kill you or me. It was God's will for this to happen, and it's not your job to argue with the Most High. I hope we're understood." She kissed Leah's neck and squeezed her fingers. "I love you, Ms. Plante, but I must leave now. Stay strong."
With that, Lisetta walked off transparently through the hall. She waved goodbye and blew a kiss, then she disappeared.
At that time, Leah awoke. Midday sunlight streamed through her blinds. She got up with one thing she hadn't had when she called Jody. She had peace.