Winter Is Coming

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Ian Fiedlerson is born with cystic fibrosis, a nasty disease that doesn't allow him to live a quality life. Despite the fact that he has his limitations, he has managed to inspire and change the lives of many.

Submitted: March 08, 2012

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Submitted: March 08, 2012

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Aunt Luarelle died leaving behind practically nothing. She left no house, no vehicles, no insurance money, no will, nothing, except she did leave me a wonderful gift. I was nineteen when I received custody of her only child, Ian Fiedlerson, a five year old boy, and now technically and legally my son.
 
It’s not that I was the most eligible to take care of a child; to be a father – I was barely an adult – it’s just that I was the only one willing to accept him. Luarelle Fiedlerson died because she had contracted cystic fibrosis. The disease was passed down to Ian. If no one in his family wanted to adopt, then he would have been sent to some adoption agency.
 
I watched as one by one, members of my family denied the chance to take Ian in. They were all afraid of either contracting the disease the themselves, or mainly, they were afraid of becoming attached to him, just to lose the boy at a young age. I decided to take care of Ian, because I wasn’t about to abandon family, and I thought I could prepare myself to handle his inevitable death.
 
Everyone called me a fool for adopting him, and I was about to find out what a challenge I had just given myself. Ian and I walked into my apartment; beginning our new lives and awaiting the trials life would throw at us.
 
I watched Ian grow over the years, he was never athletic, and so he put his devotion into academics, always being the top of his class. He reached the age of fourteen, giving everyone a huge scare; doctors were never sure how puberty would affect him and his disease, but we pulled through, or I should say, Ian pulled through. My cousin is now living through his senior year, and I am here to merely tell his story.
 
 
 
 
I work as a comic book artist, so I’m home most of the time; I heard the door open, knowing it was Ian returning from his first day of school. I heard his best friend, Arnie Clearwater shout for help, “Dave! Dave come quick! Ian can’t breath!” I dropped my sketchbook and ran to the living room, where the front door was wide open. Arnie was doing his best to help Ian bend forward. He was used to these attacks and knew that by leaning forward it was easier for him to breath. I grabbed the inhaler off of the coffee table and helped Ian use it. The inhaler was the best thing that helped Ian in these situations, even though he didn’t have asthma. After we helped him settle on the couch, Arnie closed the door.
 
Ian just laughed the scare off, “Haven’t had that happen in a while, I almost forgot I was sick.” He coughed a couple of times and turned on the television. The news was on and the anchorman was reporting about mud slides. “I hate the news,” Ian told the room before flipping the channel. He stayed true to his childhood love of cartoons, which I guess he picked up from me.
 
Shortly after getting interested in Ian’s choice of shows to watch, a loud banging came to the door. Jesica Castleberry is another one of Ian’s friends, but if you asked him, he’d tell you they hated each other. They were rivals for the spot of valedictorian, and everyone else in their class had no chance. We were lucky she didn’t come a few minutes earlier; Ian tried to keep his condition a secret as much as possible. As far as we knew, Arnie, Ian, and I were the only ones, other than Ian’s doctors, who knew about his condition for years. We moved to a house in a bigger city his freshman year, deciding that it’d be best if no one else knew.
 
“Fiedlerson,” She had always addressed Ian by his last name, probably to give herself a sense of dominance, “I didn’t see you at school today.”
 
“He was there,” Arnie assured her.
 
“I know, but I didn’t see him. Why aren’t you in any of the advanced classes that I’m taking?” She looked at him with one lifted eyebrow, and fists on her hips “If you expect to beat me for valedictorian, I’m positive you’d be in at least one of my advanced classes.” The truth was, Ian had most of the credits he needed to graduate already. Advanced classes were during the second half of school, and Ian was going to go to work instead, starting the following week.
 
“Please, Jesica, you know me better than that. If I thought advanced classes this year were necessary, I’d be taking them. So go hang out with one of your friends,” Ian hadn’t completely recovered from his attack, and was still breathing hard; Jesica noticed. She didn’t say anything, but glared at him and left after a snapped bye. “Do you think she’s suspicious?” Ian asked a little worried. If she was suspicious, she never showed it after that day, but Ian’s condition got worse during the first months of school, so much so that he had to quit his job.
 
Arnie helped Ian into the house; he was having another attack like the first day of school. It was an exact repeat of that day, me dropping my sketchbook, and running to grab the inhaler from the coffee table so that Ian could breath. Arnie looked at Ian with concern, “Man, I think you should visit a doctor or something.”
 
Ian protested, “No way! All doctors can do is what we do here at the house, why spend money on that?” Ian knew there wasn’t a cure for cystic fibrosis, and facing a doctor now would only make him realize how terrified he was of dieing. Arnie left, still concerned for his friend.
 
We stayed in our positions with an awkward silence. Something was up, something had happened to Ian at school, something life changing. “They think they know better,” Ian broke the silence. I wanted to ask him, who he meant by they, but I couldn’t. For some reason I felt that if I spoke to him, we would both break down, and we never cried, not even alone, Fiedlersons weren’t babies. Ian stood up from the couch and walked around the corner of the living room, towards the stairs in the hallway. He eventually ended up in his bedroom. At that moment, I hated myself. I was no father, I’m sure someone who was would know what to do or say to Ian, but I wasn’t Dad, I was Dave.
 
I returned to my office and collected and organized the comic pages I had been working on. I put on my jacket, fall was here, and winter was coming soon. “Ian! I’m going to the studio!” I called up the stairs. I waited for some sort of response, but figured I wouldn’t get one. As soon as I opened the front door, I heard Ian call me.
 
“Dave, I can’t go to school tomorrow,” he told me. I nodded and walked out the door. I desperately wanted to know what had happened, but I didn’t know how to approach him. I drove to my work building and dropped the pages off to the editor’s secretary. I decided to stop at a small gas station to get Ian his favorite snack. Maybe we could get a few sentences from each other out of it.
 
“Dave!?!” Jesica’s loud voice was easy to recognize. She must have been working part time at the gas station. I turned to her, expecting some smart-mouth comment about Ian, but she had disappeared behind her work. I wondered if she was avoiding me. She soon reappeared, looking a little nervous “Dave?” she asked with apprehension in her tone, “I… that is… how’s Ian?”
 
I looked at her, not yet connecting two and two, but getting there, “Ian? Same as usual,” His cystic fibrosis was getting the best of him; he had swells all over his body, and he looked anorexic, but I couldn’t tell her that, Ian would hate me, “Why?”
 
Jesica shook her head, as if to say, “No reason.” Her eyes told me that she wanted to say more, but they also showed fear and worry. I was going to say good-bye, but she spoke first, “Everyone knows Dave.”
 
Everyone knows? I thought, remembering Ian’s words before I left the house, “They think they know better.”
 
“About Ian, I’m sorry,” She was almost to tears, but I still hadn’t caught on to what was happening and what had happened. “It was my fault, so I’m sorry.”
 
“What are you telling me exactly?” I asked her.
 
She shook her head again, “I’m almost done with work, and I walked here, so I’ll explain it on the way to your house.”
 
She was a forceful, persistent kid, “My house?” She looked at me with an expression saying, “Well, DUH!!!”
 
I waited for her to get off from work. I opened the passenger’s door for her, but she hopped in the back. I walked around the car and sat in the driver’s seat. She was looking out the window, more like at her reflection. She didn’t move her gaze the whole ride.
 
“My older brother, Matt, had AIDS,” Jesica finally spoke up. And then it all clicked, she didn’t have to tell me the rest, I knew. “He did, he had AIDS, just like Ian. No matter how hard Ian tried to hide it from everyone, I still figured it out. It’s impossible for a person like me to know if someone has AIDS. The only sure way is if he admitted it himself. But I was so positive that he had it, he showed all the same symptoms as Matt had. I was so angry with him; model students like us don’t get AIDS, we don’t get into trouble. So I mad him admit his disease to me in front of everyone. I didn’t want it to be that way, I didn’t want to ruin his reputation… but…” She couldn’t talk after that. It was okay with me, I didn’t want to hear another word, it was too painful, and I was furious with her.
 
“Ian doesn’t have AIDS Jesica,” I told her as politely as I could manage, “Ian inherited Cystic fibrosis from his mother at birth.” I looked at her through the rear view mirror. I didn’t catch what her reaction was to my comment; she was still looking melancholy out the window.
 
“Ian!” I called as I entered the house with Jesica trailing behind me. I tossed my jacket o the couch and walked up the stairs, Jesica stood waiting in front of the entrance. I lightly rapped on his bedroom door, “Ian, you have a friend over.” There was no answer. I knocked again while slowly opening the door, “Ian?” He wasn’t in his room. I walked downstairs and noticed that there was a message waiting on the answering machine.
 
“Dave, this is Arnie, give me a call a.s.a.p” I dialed his number, but no answer came. “Jesica?” I called to her from the kitchen, “Do you know Arnie’s cell?” She came into the room looking a little better.
 
“No, I don’t really hang out with them that much, why?” I turned on the message for her to hear, “You think it has anything to do with Ian?” I shrugged and called Ian’s cell phone.
 
It rang from the kitchen table, Jesica picked it up an jokingly answered it, “Hello?” I continued dialing any number I could think of, when I heard her speaking with someone, “Arnie? Yeah it was on his contact list, he left it home Oh, no way, really? I’m so sorry, here’s Dave.”
 
She practically shoved the phone in my ear, “What’s up Arnie?” I was anxious for news. He was in the hospital; he had come to visit Ian after I had left the house, and found him unconscious in his room. He tried to wake him up, but it didn’t work, so he tried to contact me, and failed. He decided to call an ambulance, and after they arrived at the hospital, he called my house and left the message.
 
“Ian’s in the hospital, he’s in critical condition,” I told Jesica as I rushed to my jacket and keys, “I’ll drop you off at your house on my way to see him.”
 
“I was surprised when you told me about Ian,” Jesica told me on the drive. This time she was sitting in the front seat. “I though that kids born with cystic fibrosis died around the age of five, but here’s Ian, a seventeen-year-old senior”
 
I looked at her and smiled, “Ian’s the only known case. Doctors don’t know how he’s lived this long. We moved here so that Ian can have the best medical attention he can get. They told us to live life as normally as possible, and that’s why we’ve tried to keep it a secret.”
 
I dropped Jesica off at her house and waited I saw her go inside. I then rushed to the hospital, where I found Arnie in the waiting room. I saw his face and disbelief overwhelmed me. “I didn’t want to tell you over the phone, Dave. I didn’t find Ian unconscious. I found him… he was…” Arnie took a breath, holding back the tears in his voice, “dead”
 
At first it didn’t sink in, at first, at first it was Arnie telling me about a boy I’d never met. I stared at him blankly, wondering why he was telling me about a stranger’s death. And then it hit me. It me hard, merciless and malicious. The news had full animosity towards me, bringing me to my knees. I think I may have whimpered, but it was cloudy, everything was cloudy. Arnie told me something else, but his voice was muffled and distant. I remembered what I said earlier about Fiedlersons, and I wished, that at least the name would show me compassion, but it didn’t, I still couldn’t cry; instead, I fainted.
 
 
 
I awoke a minute or two later, laying across a few waiting room chairs. They showed me Ian’s body, and I confirmed that I was his legal guardian. I knew he lived beyond his time, but I was devastated at how wrong I was when I adopted my little cousin. I thought I could prepare myself to handle his inevitable death, but how could any parent not feel sorrow after their child dies, even if they knew about it twelve years in advance?
 
As time passed I realized the impact Ian had on everyone he knew. Many people thought he was great, because he was able to help researchers get a step closer to developing a cure for Cystic fibrosis.  Jesica Castleberry showed me a letter she found in her locker from him:
 
 
 
So you know how sick I am now. I doubt I’ll be valedictorian, I’ll probably die before then, so before I miss the chance to say it, “Congratulations Jesica.” Yes I’m serious; I know I’ll die very soon. I’ve been living on borrowed time…
 
 
 
I stopped reading it there, when Jesica flushed and balled the paper in her hands, “Fiedlerson, you idiot. You weren’t supposed to admit defeat, that’s what ensures the loss. You were the only reason I wanted that stupid title. Now I’m forced to live with it; valedictorian.” She said the last word with such disgust, but I guess I could understand where she was coming from. She half smiled at the letter, smoothing it the best she could. She gave me an apologetic look, and decided to take her leave. I never saw or heard about her since, other than an article in the newspaper with her address at graduation.
 
Arnie didn’t tell me of Ian’s impact on him, but he had changed. Arnie was a troubled kid, and only started to care about him self and others after he had met Ian.
 
Personally I always was and still am proud to tell others, “I’m his Dad.” Ian was a good kid, doing his best to make everyone happy, no matter the cost. Who knew that he’d sacrifice his life to help others who shared his disease? He seemed like such a perfect person, and it’s my goal to be like him when I grow up.


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