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The End

I walk to the door of the hospital room slowly, reluctant to enter it. I open it slowly, dragging the heavy, cold door back and stepping inside the stark room. A nurse waits for me, a menacing-looking needle in her poised hand. I give her my arm, averting my gaze as she extracts my crimson blood. She rushes off, promising to be back shortly, a cheery smile on her face. True to her promise, she returns and leads me off to different rooms, so I can be poked, prodded and examined. I suffer through it, holding back nausea and ignoring my pounding headache.
Finally, I’m free to return to my waiting family. We still have no answers.
They make me stay at the hospital overnight, to wait for the test results, and I have to wear a smelly, green gown that makes me itch all over. I sleep restlessly, drifting in and out of consciousness while the pain rages on.
The next morning I’m up early, counting ceiling tiles over and over again because it hurts too much to attempt to sit up on my own. My father snores softly on the short couch beside my bed and it makes me think of my little brother, who is most likely getting ready for school. The minutes pass excruciatingly slowly while I wait for the news. Any news. I would accept even bad news if it meant the waiting would be over.
Finally, the nurse returns, along with a doctor, both of whom give me smiles overflowing with pity. One look at them and I can already guess what they’re going to say. They draw my father out of the room, again promising to return shortly. My father winks at me before he leaves and I find a bit of humor in his disheveled appearance. But then the doors clicks shut and the humor is gone.
I strain my ears to hear something, anything, from outside, but all I can detect is muffled voices. I can tell who is talking when, but their words are incomprehensible. After a few minutes attempting to eavesdrop, I give up and return to counting ceiling tiles. My attention is caught again by a sudden, loud outburst from the hall and then silence. I strain again to hear but it is completely quiet, too quiet. Then my father returns, a broken expression on his face. I see it only for an instant, then it’s gone, replaced by a calm, cheerful look, but I know it’s false. My heart sinks.
He sits delicately on the edge of my bed, as if jostling it too much could hurt me, which is probably true. He clears his throat once, twice, and a third time, all the while glancing around the room, at everything but me. Finally, I can stand it no longer.
“Spit it out, Dad,” I cough, my voice weaker than I had thought. He looks at me then, scrutinizing my face with his piercing gaze. Then it softens and he whispers the words I had known I would hear.
“It’s liver cancer. They caught it too late; there isn’t anything they can do. You have three months.”
I simply nod and resume counting ceiling tiles, picking up where I left off.

* * *

I live the next three months in darkness, the end of the tunnel deeply shrouded in shadow, not even a trace of light visible. I barely speak, barely move, lying limply in the hospital bed, counting the millions of flecks on the ceiling when I grow tired of counting tiles. My brother screams and yells until he is removed from the room. My mother cries until I think she should be so empty as to have nothing left. My father is the worst, saying nothing to anyone, shutting everyone out. It hurts: the sickness, the loss, the darkness. Everything hurts. I want it to end. I need it to end
Then one day, it does.





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