Many kids don't read because they can't relate to the story so they get bored. However, with Zack...
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I pull Milo over to the stream and try to wash away the blood, but it doesn’t stop. All of the color is drained from his face. His eyes are closed and his mouth is hanging wide open. I splash the water on his face, but he won’t wake up. His clothes are soaked and his skin feels cold. I begin to worry that we’ve lost him. Oh, God, Mom, hurry!
An ATV skids to a stop up on the trail, and Mom climbs down to us with the park ranger. He takes off his jacket and wraps it around Milo’s limp body as he carries him back up to the trail. We all climb on the back of the ATV, and I hold Milo steady on the back as we speed down the mountain. I duck down to avoid tree branches and cover Milo’s face with my hands to protect it. My eyes begin to well up with tears. I can’t tell whether that’s from my fear or the dust the ATV is kicking up.
We roll to a stop in the parking lot where an ambulance is waiting for us. Two EMTs rush over and take Milo out of my arms. I don’t want to let him go. They strap him to a stretcher and roll him over to the ambulance. The ranger sits up front while Mom and I climb in the back. One of the EMTs shuts the door as he climbs in with us and the other starts the engine. The siren blares as we speed down the highway. The EMT sitting next to me is wearing a nametag that says “John”. His black hair is flecked with blood and dirt, and his tanned, clean-shaven face is tense with concentration. He can’t be more than a few years older than Bryan. I ask him if Milo is going to be alright. He says “yes”, but I can see the panic in his eyes as he bandages Milo’s head and places an oxygen mask over his mouth.
Twenty minutes later, the two men are wheeling Milo into the emergency room. I can’t leave his side. I try to follow them in, but the doctors tell me that I’m not allowed in the room.
“I can’t leave him alone in there,” I tell them, but they won’t listen. Don’t they understand? He must be so scared. I know I am. If it was me, I’d want my best friend by my side.
“We have to let the doctors do their job, Zack,” John says as he grabs my shoulder and leads me to the waiting room.
I watch the doors swing shut, and Milo and the doctors disappear behind them. All that’s left for me to do is sit here and wait to hear whether or not he’ll be okay. There’s absolutely nothing I can do. I hate this.
A woman with curly, dark brown hair runs past us in high heels. She bursts through the double doors leading to the emergency room. Nobody tells her to leave. Why should she be able to just walk right in there and see somebody when I have to sit out here and wait until the doctor’s decide they feel like letting me know what’s going on? Mom tells me that it was Milo’s mother. “If it was you in that room, there wouldn’t be anybody in the world who could stop me from getting to you.”
We keep sitting there waiting. Forever. Patients and families and doctors walk in and out giving each other news. Some get news about a new life. Others sink down into the wooden chairs with the red fabric seats as they grieve the loss of a loved one. The rest of us just sit on the edges of our chairs waiting in anticipation as to what the doctors will say when they come out. Part of me wants them to get here faster, but another part is dreading what they might have to say when they do. I stare down at the white tile floor as the lights above me flicker casting fleeting shadows of every other frantic person that passes by. Mom tells me that we should probably get something to eat or get up and go for a walk. I’m not leaving until I know what’s going on with Milo, though.
I ask the lady at the front desk if I’m allowed to go in and see him yet. She tells me that I can and that he was moved to his own room upstairs an hour ago. Wow! Thanks for letting me know! I’ve only been sitting here for two hours.
Mom and I take the elevator to the third floor and walk down the hall to room 317. The door is open, and I can see Milo lying motionless on the bed. He has an IV attached to his arm, and there is a heart monitor beeping in the corner. His mother is sitting by the window. She greets us with a forced smile and tears in her eyes. My mom asks if they’ve told her anything yet, and she shakes her head. Mom walks over to her and takes her by the hand.
“Come on, I'll get you a cup of coffee.” She leads her down the hall, and I'm left alone.
I walk over and kneel by Milo's bed. I grab his hand and hold onto it with both of mine. It's cold and clammy.
“Come on, Milo. Wake up, buddy. You're going to be okay. I need you to hold on, alright?”
The stitches on his forehead stand out against his pale skin. There are dark, purple circles beneath his eyes. He doesn't respond to my touch. I feel like I'm choking on the lump in my throat. Hot tears burn in my eyes.
“Don't leave me now, Milo. Come on. You can't leave me. You're the only one I could ever really talk to. You listen to me. You understand me. You’re the one person in this world that keeps me convinced I'm not invisible. And I know I'm nothing special. I'm just Zack. Your fine with that, though, and it makes me believe that it's okay. Just Zack is more than enough. Just stay here with me, okay. I can't let you go. You're the best friend I've ever had. I know we haven't known each other that long, but it feels like I've known you forever. I don't want to live without you. It wouldn't be living at all. So just keep fighting through this. When it's all over we’ll be together every day. I'll never leave your side. I'll never let go, so don't you.”
I feel a warm hand on my shoulder. The touch is tender and comforting. I look up to see Milo's mother standing over me.
“Your mom had to leave. I told her I'd stay here with you as long as you like.” Her voice is soft and smooth. “Let's get you something to eat.”
I get up and follow her to the cafeteria where she buys me a bowl of soup and some hot chocolate. As I sip my drink, I slowly begin to warm up. I hadn't realized how cold I was. My T-shirt and jeans are still damp from the stream. She just sits and watches me as I eat my soup. Her gentle smile eases my tension, and I melt into the chair across from her. She's very pretty. Her bright blue eyes sparkle even though they have bags underneath them. She can't be much older than thirty. The silver name tag on her wrinkled, black, button-down shirt says Ms. Ellen Brooks and has a Holiday Inn logo on it. She raises her coffee cup to her soft pink lips and I ask, “Do you think he'll make it?”
She pauses for a moment before answering, placing the cup back on the table.
“Milo is a real trooper. I mean, we've made it through all this time together. I raised him all by myself. I had to work two jobs, and it was hard on both of us, but he never complained. Not once. He's taken it like a champ. He always finds a way to make it all better, even when I can't. He'll fight his way through.”
“But what if he can't?”
“I know you don't believe that. I heard what you said to him back in the room. You really love him, don't you?”
“Yeah,” I reply, “I do.”
“I understand you're scared of losing him.”
“Don't be. The ones we love never really leave us. Even when you can't see them, they are always with you. Right in there.” She places her hand over my heart. “Now I want you to go back upstairs and tell him that.”
She gets up to throw the cups away as I run out into the hallway and sprint up two flights of stairs back to room 317. I slowly push the door open. It's dark in the room now, so I turn on the lamp on the table. I kneel beside the bed and take Milo's hand in mine like I had earlier.
“Milo,” I say, “I don't know if you can hear me, but I want you to know something. You're my best friend, and I'm going to make you promise. I will always be there for you, no matter what, like a brother. Even after I'm long gone, I'll be with you, forever standing by your side. I love you.”
Suddenly I feel pressure on my hand. He's squeezing it. He heard me! His eyes flutter open, and his lips utter a whisper that's barely audible, but I hear it loud and clear.
“I love you too.”