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Don't Leave Me
Ryder Rasmussen was known for a lot of things, but patience was not one of them. He was not accustomed to feeling inadequate, nervous, or anxious whatsoever. His entire high school career had been based off deflecting such feelings, as he carefully cultivated a reputation for being relaxed and easygoing in even the most stressful situations. It was what got him through the classes that made the hardcore AP kids cry in trying to get A’s, while he cruised to high B’s, secure that he always had football and basketball in the wings. Not now, though. Not since…he shook his head. Focus, man. He’d been jittery and out of sorts all week, knowing that the day was inevitable.
He leaned back against the wall, closing his eyes . The bell rang, signaling the end of his off period as the building grudgingly came alive with the familiar rumbles of students. The moments ticked by, and, mercifully, no one spoke to him until-
His eyes snapped open, focusing into a glare as he turned and saw his girlfriend’s best friend, Lana, coming towards him. Her normally icy blue eyes softened as she took him in.
“Don’t look at me like that,” she said, quietly. Cautiously, she went to give him a quick hug. He responded automatically, clutching her to him like a he was seven years old with his favorite stuffed animal again. He was beyond caring what other people thought now.
“Ryder..” Firmly, she disengaged herself from his long arms and took a step back. “I just wanted to make sure you were holding up okay.”
He shrugged, turning away. “I should get to class.”
He turned away abruptly, rudely, left her standing there by herself, and some small part of him was vindicated. Because Lord knew he wasn’t going to be able to walk away from much for a very, very long time. Might as well take whatever small victories he could now. He could almost hear the thumps of college, family, and dreams in the echoes of his footsteps.
“Hey Ryder!” He glanced up and saw his teammate Donnie hurrying down the hallway. “I just heard about that Duke scout that’s gonna be here tonight! That’s so sick.”
Jake felt this mouth curl into the familiar gargoyle smile. “Yeah, man, should be an awesome game.”
“Should be!” Donnie let out his barking laugh that had earned him the nickname “seal” when he’d first been moved up to varsity his sophomore year. “Man, it WILL be. Your dad should be so proud.” With a wave, he rounded the corner and disappeared.
No, Ryder thought. He shouldn’t be.
Across town, Dawn Carson pulled into the hospital parking lot with her daughter, Bianca. For a moment, they both sat in the parked car, silent. Dawn looked at her daughter, who gazed straight ahead.
“You can just drop me off, you know.” Bianca’s voice was tight, and her mother closed her eyes to see her daughter in so much pain already. Determinedly blinking away tears, Dawn kept her voice steady.
“Don’t be stupid.” She opened the door and went around to Bianca’s side. Opening her door, she held out her hand to help her daughter step heavily from the car. As she did, her face contorted into a grimace and she let out a sharp whoosh of air.
“So this is what all the hype is about, huh?”
Dawn smiled, despite herself. This wasn’t what she had planned for her daughter, and God knew it wasn’t what her daughter had planned for herself, but right here, and right now, in one sarcastic comment her old daughter had burst forth for the first time in months.
“That, and everyone loves looking like they peed their pants.”
Bianca cracked a smile and, leaning heavily on her mom’s arm, the two walked into the hospital.
Once they entered, the world blurred for Bianca in a whirl of nurses and clipboards and questions, until she finally she and her mom were left alone in a hospital room. Propped up on the bed, Bianca flipped aimlessly through the cable TV channels before settling on a rerun of Tom and Jerry.
“So now..we just wait?”
Her mom’s face turned toward her belly. “Yeah,” she said softly. “Now we just wait.”
Ryder stared, aghast. The echoing, triumphant cheers of his teammates faded away as they sped out of the parking lot, horns and music blaring. As they passed the rival team’s bus, they jeered and catcalled.
“Whoah, easy,” Lana reached for his hand. “Are you really that surprised? It was the championship game of your senior year.”
Without waiting for a reply she marched over to her car. Robotically, Ryder followed.
“Buckle up. We’re gonna fly.”
Lana dropped him off at the entrance. Sprinting into the building, he was directed by a nurse to the room. Halfway down the hallway, he heard a shriek of pain. Heart pounding, he skidded around the corner and froze on the threshold. She was there. Lying on the bed, she was okay. And in her arms...in a daze, he crossed the room, kneeling beside the bed. Exhausted, Bianca leaned her head against his shoulder. “I was thinking we could call her Patience.”