© 2015 Daniele Lanzarotta. May not be shared or copied without the written permission of the author.
We were so close when we were little. I remember walking her to class on her first day of kindergarten. Her parents couldn’t get out of work and asked me if I could show her where to go. I felt so proud of myself for having such an important job. I was in second grade then. She had her long brown hair in a braid, and her blue eyes showed just how scared she was. I sat next to her on the bus, and once we got to school, I grabbed her hand and took her to class. When school was over, I was there waiting to make sure she got on the right bus back home. I knew her teacher was there to help, but I felt I had to watch out for her.
I walked her to class every day that week, until that Friday, when I broke her heart. She never looked at me the same way again. I was sure she never would.
TEN YEARS LATER
I rummage through my room looking for my Braves shirt.
“Yeah?” she yells from downstairs.
“Where is my Braves shirt?”
There is an awkward silence, as always. It’s been almost two years since I’ve been sick and nothing has changed.
“Yes. Sorry. It’s in the washer.”
“Of course!” I mumble.
I walk to my dresser and start to look for something else to wear. I’m about to slide the top-drawer open when I hear the sound of Skylar’s voice, and for that brief moment, it’s like the whole entire world stops.
Sky is my neighbor—has been since we were little, and her bedroom window is right across from mine. She can sing the hell out of just about any song. And her voice—her voice is sweet but there is this insane power behind it. It’s just… Wow.
I close my eyes and my mind takes me back to the day I met her. I remember running outside to meet the new neighbors and being excited that they had a kid close to my age. I knew we would be best friends then, and we were inseparable until she started school. Now we don’t say a word to one another. I just give her space by leaving her alone. In fact, she seems to enjoy the peace and quiet of being away from everyone… Well, everyone except for two of her friends from school.
But when she is singing, it’s like she is a different person. Every day after dinner, she goes to her room, opens the window, turns the radio up loud, and sings her heart out. It’s like she goes back to being the girl I used to know.
Okay, I’m starting to sound like a creepy stalker.
I shrug it off, grab the first shirt I see, and head out to play baseball with Kyle and the other guys.
I park my truck in the school’s parking lot and head over to the baseball field. Everyone is here, including the coach, which surprises me. Once a week, before the start of baseball season, all of the guys like to get together to play ball, just for fun. The coach is never at these things.
Some of the guys are sitting around and others are lying down on the grass.
“What’s going on?” I ask.
Kyle, who was lying down, sits up. “Intervention time, Bro,” he laughs.
“We want you to play with us this season.”
I look down and shake my head. “I haven’t played since middle school.”
“So? You may not have been playing seriously, but you play with us from time to time. You’re good. We know it. The coach knows it. You’ve been around for every practice over the past few years, even though you didn’t want to join the team. Come on, man. This is our senior year! You should be playing.”
I shake my head. “No way.”
“Give us one good reason why you don’t want to do this and we’ll leave you alone.”
I sigh. I wish I could give my reason without sounding weak. Truth is, I don’t want to get my hopes up. I’m afraid that as soon as I agree to this, I’ll get sick again and have to stop playing. I’m afraid that I’ll get my hopes up of playing in college, and then have to drop everything. This is my reality. The shadow of this disease will haunt me forever.
This is the reason I told my parents I’m against getting any more of the regular checkups. Honestly, if I do get sick again, I would rather not know. I can’t deal with that again.
“I’m not as ready to play as everyone else. If I was a random person trying out, I would never make it.”
“Prove it,” Grayson yells from the back.
“That you aren’t good enough.”
Kyle laughs. “Dude! He could just pretend to suck so we leave him alone.”
Grayson stands up and walks up to me. “Seriously. Try out. Right here. Right now. If the coach says you aren’t ready, we’ll leave you alone. But be a man and give this a real try. If you are as good as we know you are, then I guess you get one more chance to come up with a real excuse as to why you don’t want to do this.”
We look over at the coach who is watching us quietly. He gives a short nod. “It’s up to you.”
“Fine!” I finally give in.
We all get in our positions. I can’t lie. It feels damn good to hold on to the baseball bat. Kyle is the pitcher and I know he won’t take it easy on me, even if he wants me on the team. He doesn’t play around when it comes to baseball.
Kyle pitches the ball and, even if I tried, I couldn’t have missed it. It’s instinct. I hit the ball and freeze when I feel my wrist snap. I hold my breath in. I should be running, but I drop the bat and all I can do is stare at my wrist. I don’t even feel pain… only fear—Fear that the day I dreaded the most, is here.
Kyle knows what happened, and what’s on my mind, without me having to say a word.
“Hey!” he calls out. “This could’ve happened to anyone. Let’s just go get it checked out, alright?”
The guys are standing around, some looking confused.
The coach grabs his keys. “I’ll drive.”
Mom meets us at the hospital where they do a CT scan and confirm that I fractured my wrist. They insist on running other tests too, even though the doctor says over and over that this is a common injury.
We argue about the tests, which I’m not happy about. Mom knows all too well how I feel about this, but I finally give in and let them do what they want.
Once I’m done, Mom stays back to talk to the doctor.
I feel so mad—like I’ve been cornered into doing these tests. I tell Mom that I’m going to wait in the car. I storm out the office and run down the hallway, going toward the hospital’s entrance. One little injury, and everything becomes a reminder that my world can fall apart again within seconds.
I guess I scare one of the nurses as I try to run out of the hospital.
She stops me. “Hey. Are you okay? Do you need any help?”
“No. I’m okay,” I say abruptly.
I slow down and start to walk out, but a storm of people come in through the main entrance. Two of the nurses yell at me to move out of the way. Lying on the stretcher, there is a girl I’ve seen at school before. She doesn’t look good at all. The nurses rush past me, disappearing through the double doors past the reception desk.
One of the nurses catches me watching.
“Do you know her?” she asks.
“She’s from my school. Do you know what happened to her?” I ask.
“I can’t say.”
“Her parents are on the way. Why don’t you sit down in the waiting area and wait for them?”
Mom comes out then.
“Not now, Mom.”
“Alec, we need to talk about this.”
I really don’t want to talk to her right now. I latch on to the first excuse I get. “Look, Mom… a friend from school was just brought in. Can we talk later? I just want to stay here and wait to see if she’s okay.”
“Oh. Well, I can wait with you. What happened to your friend?”
“I don’t know and I would rather wait alone. It’ll give me time to think.” I stop and take a deep breath. I try to sound calmer than before. “We’ll talk about it later, okay?”
“How are you getting home?” she asks.
I sigh. “I’ll catch a ride with my friend’s parents,” I lie. I assume Kyle left with the coach but I know that I’ll be able to call him and get a ride, so I settle for that.
She gives me her best concerned Mom look; the one that makes me feel guilty even when I’m right about something. “We’ll have to talk about this,” she says.
She gives me a sad smile and walks away.
I know who the girl’s parents are as soon as I see them. They rush in and they’re freaking out. It makes me wonder what happened even more. I wish I at least knew her name. I suddenly remember seeing her hanging out with Skylar at school.
Maybe I’ll just sit here quietly and see what happens.
My plan changes when the nurse points at me and asks the girl’s parents to wait as she goes to check on her progress.
Her mom is a wreck and her dad is barely holding it together. They walk in my direction. Her mom, crying, sits down next to me. Her dad looks at me as if trying to remember if he has seen me before.
“Have you known Kristi long?” he asks.
I shake my head. “Sorry, Sir. I wish I could say I have, but—” I hesitate. “Is she okay? What happened?”
He sits down and takes a deep breath. He looks over at his wife wondering if he should tell me, but seems to decide against it.
“Do you know if she has had any trouble with anyone or anything at school?” he asks.
I shake my head.
He sighs. “She took some pills. Her sister found her. I—I don’t understand why she would do such thing.”
Even though I don’t really know her, I’m shocked.
“I’d appreciate it if you don’t tell anyone,” says her dad.
I nod. “Yes, Sir.”
The nurse comes in a while later and calls her parents to the side. The fact she doesn’t give them an update in front of me, makes it seem like bad news.
I relax back in my seat as her parents disappear through that same door that they took her in. As soon as they’re gone I text Kyle asking him to pick me up and to see if he wants to hang out.
It’s about thirty minutes before Kyle walks in, and throughout those thirty minutes, I tried to keep my mind on what was happening to everyone else here but me.
“Is there something wrong with your phone?” I look up to find Kyle standing near me. “I texted you when I got here. You know I hate hospitals.”
“Oh, sorry.” I look at my phone and see his text.
“Is everything okay?” he asks.
“Yeah, just a fractured wrist. That’s all.” I raise my hand showing the splint. “The doctor said it’s minor and should heal in a few weeks.”
“Yikes. Are you gonna be able to play this season?”
I look right at him. “We both know I’m not playing.”
Kyle has been my best friend since middle school. He was with me through all of it and knows exactly how I feel about this topic.
He gets the hint.
“Are you ready to go?” he asks.
I nod and get up just as two other people from school rush in, one being Skylar. I know that look in her eyes. She’s scared. I freeze as I watch them go to the desk, where they’re told they need to wait. Once again, the nurse points in my direction. Skylar looks at me and, for a split second, I see her fear turn into confusion. She ends up walking to the other side of the waiting room, where she sits down next to the guy she came in with.
“Hello? Earth to Alec! What kind of pain killers did they give you, Bro?” Kyle laughs.
I can’t keep my eyes off Skylar, and even though we haven’t talked in years, I wish I could be there for her.
“Sorry. I was just distracted.” I tell Kyle. “They brought in some girl from school earlier. She looked like she was in bad shape.”
I remember promising her dad not to say anything, but I’m a bad liar so I just shrug.
A guy comes in through the front door with blood on his shirt and Kyle instantly turns pale.
I laugh and shake my head. “Okay, let’s go.”
I glance toward Skylar one more time and her eyes are bloodshot from crying. The guy sitting next to her is tall and strong. He looks like he could’ve been on the football team if he wanted to. His dark eyes are focused on me, but I ignore his stares and look back at her. Then she suddenly gets up and runs toward the double doors behind the reception desk. I watch her as she reaches her friend’s parents. I know things are bad when I see her hand move up to cover her mouth and then I hear her crying hysterically along with her friend’s mom.
“That doesn’t look good,” says Kyle. “Isn’t that your neighbor? Maybe she’ll tell us what happened…”
I shake my head. “Nah. Let’s get out of here. I’m sure we’ll find out what happened tomorrow.”
Learn more about Alec & Skylar!
© 2017 Daniele Lanzarotta. All Rights Reserved.