Tell Tale

March 29, 2012
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My best friend might die. His parents are dead. They crashed into a tree. This was just after I saw him. Danny was getting into the car to go to his older brother's house. They are devastated, him and his wife. I only assume that. My mom and I got to the hospital just after Danny did. He moaned in pain. "Natalie..." his voice was so weak and he began to cry. "My mother? Where is she?"

I almost started crying too and shook my head in shame. A few doctors pushed me aside and wheeled him off into another room. Now we are waiting for their family to show up. My poor mother will have to explain everything to them. Then, we will leave.

I am so scared. Everything around me is white. People are shouting and my head is throbbing. The last thing I remember is my dad swerving the car off the slick road. Now, someone had their sweaty hands woven into mine. They spoke quietly to someone else and I recognized the voice. I called Natalie's name. The pain in my back and head were hard to ignore, but I needed to know if my parents were okay. My bed began moving before she could respond.
The next thing is blurry. A plastic mask was put over my face and I began zoning in and out of focus. A gentle hand was stroking my head and telling me to relax. Then I was out.

I nervously gnawed my nails. My phone was buzzing like crazy. Casey kept texting me to inform me that she knew what happened. Lizzie told me she watched it from her bedroom window. Kayla said she heard the ambulance and then asked Lizzie what had happened. All of them thought that "it was a shame". I refused to respond to any of them.

About a half an hour later, Danny's family walks in. They seem panicked. His sister-in-law hobbles because of her growing pregnancy belly. My mother tells them the gruesome story. "Rita and Todd are gone," she croaked. "Danny is in surgery. The doctors think he broke his neck. We are just waiting". She sounded so calm yet frantic. It was terrifying.

I remained in the OR for the better part of the day. I caught a glimpse of the clock twice, once at 12:34 and again at 3:47. Other than that, I was out like a light.

I hate the term 'not out of the woods yet'. It makes everything feel heavy and dark. You should feel hope, but the only part that you hear is not being safe. He is not fine. Danny, my best friend since four years old, might not make it to his college graduation. He is halfway done and doing splendidly. Still, he might not graduate.

A strange man had his hand on my wrist when I woke up. I wanted to pull away but it felt like my arm was being held down. He peered at me, scribbled something on his clipboard and left. The room fell silent. In that minute or so, the strangeness of everything hit me. I was not in my room. This was not my bed. What on earth was I wearing?

Just then my brother entered. He sighed with relief and rushed to my bedside. I saw begin to cry as he sat beside me. "Mom and Dad are dead, Dan".

I fought back hot tears that swelled in my own eyes.

"Will, honey. You have a phone call", Kimberly almost whispered from the doorway. Her stomach protruded more than I remembered. Her and Will switched places and he left the room with her cell phone in hand. She smiled awkwardly. Her hands were delicately places over her baby.

"When are you due again, sorry?" It was an awful attempt at small talk.

"Oh, well, three weeks from tomorrow". I am pretty sure she is incapable of speaking at a normal level. Her parents must have programmed the remote to her and set the volume too low. She was nice though. She noticed my lack of movement and decided she would wipe my eyes for me. It was really nice of her to do, but man was she an awkward person.

I waited five hours and seventeen minutes to call. It was the most anxious time of my life. Kimberly was the first one I could find on my contacts, so I called her. "Oh, hey. Is Will there?" My voice sounded hoarse.

I waited a moment until he came on. He told me that he was awake but not exactly well. I asked if I could come. It more exploded from me like water gushing out of a popped balloon. He chuckled a bit and said yes.

I grabbed the keys and sprinted out the door. My mom followed, confused. She watched me pull out of the driveway. She must have thought I was crazy. I couldn't have cared less.

The phone clicked shut as Will once again entered the room. He looked ashamed. Or concerned. Or worried like a mad man.

"I'm fine," I assured him. "I really am. In fact I should get to my classes this evening".
Kimberly appeared panicked and Will gave me a look of half amusement and half disapproval. "Shut up. You'll have another visitor in a little while so take a nap or something. Almost being killed is no excuse to look like crap".

I gathered up enough strength to pull all but one special finger in and lift my hand just so he could see it.

I sped the whole way and decided when I got there to spend a minute to look presentable. I found some old mascara and apricot lip balm. It worked well enough. My hair was still damp from wasting time by taking a shower. It was starting to curl and the wet brown was transforming into it's normal dirty blond. I threw it up into a pony tail with one of my sisters scrunchies. I had to borrow my little brothers old flip-flops because I only put slippers on in my rush to get out of the house. Thank god for his huge feet. Looking decent didn't help a whole lot.

So, I got out and casually walked in. A nurse at the front desk directed me to Danny's room. I tiptoed in and said hi to Will and Kimberly. Danny was asleep. My heart sank and I felt like I was going to bawl. "I'm going to get something eat while I wait for him to wake up," I told them.

I waited behind two monotoned doctors to get my food in the cafeteria. They talked about various cases and I loaded my tray with sweats and sandwiches. I sat in center of the room because all of the edge-of-the-room tables were occupied by other people on their own. When I was done my stress driven feast, I returned to the room. I hoped for a the reunion you see in movies. We both would smile and tear up. We would hug. Will and Kimberly would leave us hand in hand.

Nope. He was still fast asleep. I was about to leave again on another food run when he began groaning. I froze where I was in the corner of the room. Will and Kimberly looked terrified. None of us were doctors. I don't know about them, but I was thinking zombie. Those films always start in hospitals. A tiny nurse scurried in and pushed a few buttons on a large machine to strengthen his medication. Then she left.

Excruciating pain woke me. I tried to tighten up into a ball, but I could not. It is more than slightly upsetting to not be able to move except for curling your toes or creating a fist. Your mind turns to paralysis. Then, pain. Just pain controlling you. It felt like forever before it faded away. I lifted my knees, but soon tipped to the side. I had never realized the amount of energy needed to simply support your legs. I curled into the fetal position and stayed that way.

I couldn't go back to sleep. I was so scared that the pain would come back. I listened to my brother speak for what seemed like a long time. "Well, I hate to say it, but we have to run. I'll bring Kim home then come back. Feel free to stay". He planted his hand on my balled up body.

"Bye", I mumbled into my chest. It must have startled him because he pulled his hand away. I heard the door close behind them, leaving me with someone else that I might not have known in the room.

When the nurse left, Danny released his clenched fists and began breathing heavily. He turned on his side and curled up like a child. I remained where I was in the corner and kept my eyes on the rising and falling of his chest. After a while, Will announced he would go take Kimberly home, but he would be back. I lifted my eyes and watched Will gently pat his brother as a way of saying goodbye. I almost leaped out of my skin in shock when I heard Danny reply.

I waited seven minutes before I crossed the empty room to a hospital chair next to his bed. His eyes opened when the chair squeaked. He looked pleased enough to see me. He even grinned.

"Good god, you look awful!" I giggled. Scratches and bruises covered his face. The start of five o'clock shadow was growing.

"Sure are a charmer, Nat. Always ready with such wonderful things to say," he murmured. There was a long pause before he spoke again. "Don't worry so much. I'm going to be fine".

I nodded furiously. He tried repositioning in his bed. I pushed his shoulder to help him up and adjusted the bed. Then, I pushed him over. This was difficult because of how heavy his muscular body was, though in the past day he had lost at least ten pounds. He winced but said nothing. I slid off my shoes and sat next to him. My legs were crossed in front of me. I grabbed his hand. A satisfied silence hung in the air.

It was Natalie in the corner. When she finally came over, she looked horrified. She joked nervously. She helped me sit up straight and even moved me over to make room for herself. Her small frame cautiously lowered down next to me. Her bare feet touched my calf through the sheets. Her hand snuck under mine. She gently placed her head on my shoulder. I told her everyday for three years that I loved her. I said it in my head everyday for ten. I regretted not saying it more at that moment. So, I told her and kissed the top of her head. It felt cheesy and almost forced.

She threw her arm around my body. I could feel warm tears through my shirt, though she did not make a sound. Our hands were still together and my thumb rubbed hers. That was the best I could do to comfort her. I felt awful about that.

He told me he loved me and I felt him gingerly kiss my head. He was a goofy kid, but he was my goofy kid and life seemed impossible without him. I couldn't help but wrap myself around him and cry like a baby. I listened to his heart beating and prayed that it would stay that way.

By the time Will returned, it had been two hours. Natalie could no longer disregard her mothers pleas to come home. She kissed me goodbye and left. It was me with my brother. I slept. He read. I could feel my body slowing down like the batteries running low in a flashlight. It dims and then burns out.

He died a few hours after I left. I returned home feeling good that he was getting better. I had finally fallen asleep on the couch when the phone rang. I stumbled into the dark kitchen turned on a light. I shielded my eyes from the light and grabbed the phone. Kimberly’s voice sounded shaky. “What’s wrong?” I asked.

“Danny died. About ten minutes ago. I’m so sorry, Natalie. I’m so, so sorry,” she whimpered. I could hear her choking back tears. “I’m so sorry,” she repeated into the phone. “I’m so, so sorry”. I hung up and put the phone back into its cradle.

I made my way back to the couch. My father shuffled down the stairs and sat next to me. “Who was on the phone?”

“Danny is dead,” I whispered. My dad probably hugged me or something, but I was too numb to have noticed. He was really gone. I would never hug him again. Ours hands would never find each other again. We would never walk down the street at five in the morning again, drunk with fatigue. “Danny is dead”. The words sounded unreal as they passed across my lips. “Danny is dead”.

I hate the saying 'not out of the woods yet'. It is meant to warn you, but all you hear is ‘yet’. It gives you false hope. Just when you think you are out, something happens. Something devastating. You never see it coming. It sneaks up on you even though you were warned. The hope of everything turning out fine is demolished almost as soon as it is given to you.

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