Ryan held his little girl’s hand. She looked so small. So frail. His heart ached to watch her struggle to exist. She should be having fun, laughing with her friends not lying in this hospital bed. At fifteen should have her whole life ahead of her.
“Daddy” her soft voice jerked him from his thoughts. “It’s going to be okay.”
“I know it will be sweetheart” he said blinking back tears. Just another thing a fifteen year old shouldn’t have to do…comfort her parents.
“You don’t have to say that” she said “I know what the doctors are saying. I’m not deaf.”
“I know” he inhaled deeply seeking a calm he no longer had. A belief that no matter what things happened it was for a reason. What reason was there in watching his little girl waste away before his eyes?
“You and mom, my brothers. You’ll all be okay when I’m gone” she squeezed his hand with what little strength she had. She was so tired but she had to make him understand. “You’ll do it for me. Go on living. Go on believing.”
There were no words to express the feelings that welled up inside him. He wasn’t ready to say goodbye. He lowered his head, shoulders shaking while his little girl stroked his hair offering comfort to an incomprehensible pain. It was backwards. It should be him comforting her. He was the dad. It was his job to protect her. He wasn’t supposed to watch her die.
Jerking upright at the touch of his wife’s hand on his shoulder. He looked up with red swollen eyes. He could see his pain reflected back at him in her eyes.
Pointing her phone she said “Hannah called to let us know that Temperance and a couple of boys are on their way here to see Unity.”
Unity’s eyes brightened at the news. “Can I see them? Please!”
Her excitement replacing her resignation to her fate brought smiles to both her parents. “We’ll check with the doctors.” Charity said feeling Ryan’s arm slip around her waist. “If he says it’s okay then yes you can.”
“It’s been so long since I’ve seen Temperance.” Her voice happier than it had been in weeks “it’s not the same texting. Sometimes I don’t have the energy to type.” She laid back a grin on her pale thin face. “I can’t wait” her hands touching her hair “mom will you help me do my hair? It’s gotten so thin and straggly. I look awful.”
“Of course” Charity enthused not having the heart to deny her daughter anything that gave her some joy. “How about we go to the Solon here and have your hair done?”
“Can we” she cried. “Mom” she frowned “do you know what boys are coming?”
“Riley and Will” she said.
“Will really likes Temperance and Riley’s his best friend. I bet Will talked him into it. Will would do anything for Temperance.” Unity continued talking heedless of her parents glances between each other.
Ryan silently got up letting Charity have his chair. Hearing his daughter’s excited chatter was music to his ears. Balm to his heart he hear his little talk like a normal teen girl again instead of someone trying to be brave and accept her fate. He knew the parents of the three kids would want them to be sent back home but he couldn’t do it and deny his daughter a little bit of joy.
Hazel was on the couch watching the news when her son came home. Well stomped was a better word for the way he moved up the stairs towards his room. She gave a concerned looked to her husband whose eyes were glued to the TV. “Do you think he and his boyfriend had a fight?”
Traz grunted in response. The last thing he wanted to do after a long day at the resort was embroil himself in his son’s teenage drama.
“Do you think we should go talk to him” she persisted her eyes looking towards the stairs where their son had disappeared a moment before.
“We should mind our own business” he said determined to pay attention to the news.
“If you just saw his face” she said “I know something’s wrong. We should go talk to him.”
“If you want to talk to him by all means talk to him he said looking up at her during the commercial. “I think there are times when we should let him figure things out on his own.”
“You know he won’t” she protested “he’s such a private person.”
Traz knew his wife. She wasn’t going to let this go. She wanted to know what was wrong if anything was. It was the same when she insisted he give their son the sex talk….again. Neither he nor Raven had been very happy with it but sometimes it was just easier to comply than waste time explaining why you didn’t think it was necessary. “If you want to go have a talk with him then go talk” he urged “I think if he wanted us to know he’d have told us.”
She watched him turn back to the TV as the news resumed. “I’ll just go up and see how he’s doing,” she said moving towards the stairs. She knew by the relieved look in her husband’s eyes that he’d been worried she’d make him go with her. This she felt positive was something only a mother could handle.
Knocking softly on her son’s door she called out “Raven are you alright?”
Grunting in subdued annoyance, he knew was as good as saying come in. When the door opened it was no surprise to see her poke her head inside.
“Did you have a fight with Aaron” she asked sitting on his bed motioning for him to join her.
“Mom I don’t want to talk about it” his cheeks burning brightly remembering the moment Riley had interrupted them.
“I know something happened” she gave him a long thoughtful look. “He didn’t try anything did he?”
“Mom please that’s personal” he gasped turning his face away to stare out his window.
“He did” she nodded “did he get upset when you turned him down? Is that why your upset? I’ll have your father talk to him. He probably needs a man to talk to.”
“Mom” he cried as she moved towards the door. “It’s not like that. I wanted to do it. We were going to do it.” He ran a hand through his hair. He couldn’t believe he was telling his mother about this. It was either tell her or let her coerce his dad into giving Aaron a needless sex talk. He doubted Aaron would ever talk to him again if that happened. “I’m embarrassed. That’s all…”
“It wasn’t what you thought it would be” she nodded “the first time seldom is. It’s not the magical experience the movies make it out to be.”
“Mom” he cried even more mortified then he was before. “We didn’t do it. We wanted to but we didn’t. Riley walked in on us while we were making out. That’s why I’m upset.”
“Oh” her eyes grew large with merriment. “That does change things” she moved towards the door. “It’ll happen when the time’s right. There’s no need to rush it. Just remember your dad and I are always here for you.”
“I know mom” he said getting up to close the door behind her. When she was gone he leaned against it. He knew she meant well but sometimes she was just a little too much.
“Your sister seems pretty upset” Macy said as Dakota rushed her towards the door. “Are you sure we should leave her alone like that?”
“She’ll be fine” Dakota assured her without a glance back.
“I don’t feel right” Macy said turning around and approaching the girl.
Montana looked up with sorrowful eyes “you don’t have to worry about me. I’ll be okay.” She shied away from looking up at her sister. She already knew Dakota was upset she didn’t need to see it written in her eyes.
“Nonsense” Macy said sitting beside her. “We don’t have to be at the restaurant at a certain time. It’s not like we have a reservation or anything.”
“Right” Dakota sighed. “If you need us we’re here.”
“That’s sweet of you” she sniffed “I’m just being emotional.” She gave her twin a tearful smile “you and Macy go on your date. I’ll be okay. I promise. I have a surfing lesson in thirty minutes. That’ll distract me for a while and might even be fun.”
“Are you sure” Macy asked despite Dakota’s attempt to get her to leave.
“She said she was” Dakota said losing her patience.
Frowning Macy said “why are you in such a hurry?”
“She said she was fine” she protested. “I don’t see why your babying her.”
“Are you jealous” Macy asked “you are, aren’t you?”
“No” she shook her head her blonde hair flowing over her shoulders. “It’s just…” she wasn’t going to say it but it came bursting out “why does the world have to stop for you because your upset? I’m upset too. It isn’t fair Unity is sick but you don’t see me moping around drawing attention to myself.
“Is that what you think I’m doing” Montana demanded. “This isn’t about you or me. It’s about a young girl whose life is being ripped apart. Why wouldn’t I be upset about that? Unity is a sweet girl. I used to babysit her when she was little. We were close.”
“I know I’m sorry” Dakota cried throwing her arms around her sister. “It makes me scare to think of her and what her family is going through.”
“Scared” Montana asked looking at her “why? I’ve never known you to be scared of anything.”
“I’m scared that it could have been you. I don’t like thinking about going through life without my sister in it.” She shivered “it’s a horrible thought and it keeps me up at night.”
“Well you don’t have to worry about me or be mad at me because you’re scared.” Montana said “I’m fine. Go on your date. Have fun.”
“Are you sure” Dakota asked teary eyed now that she let her secret out.
“Positive” turning to Macy “give my sister some extra TLC. I think she needs it.”
“I think you might be right” she agreed wrapping an arm around Dakota. “She might even deserve an apology.”
Thirty minutes later Montana was on the beach waiting her turn for surfing lessons. Her eyes never leaving the instructors face as he gave a ten-year old boy a lesson. She head to give him props for not losing his cool. The kid was more interested in showing off to his friends than actually doing as he was told.
Before stowing the used surfboard Tanner wiped it down. Looking up he smiled at his next client. “You’re a sight for sore eyes” he greeted her as she stepped forward.
“Better than that kid at least” she said waving a hand indicating the yellow and blue surfboard the kid had deliberately spit on at the close of his session.
“God yes” he groaned “that little brat was getting on my last nerve.”
“I could tell” she commiserated with him. “Can I set my stuff someplace” she asked looking around the small space.
“Sure you can use the safe for your bag” he suggested “just remind me it’s there before you leave.”
“Don’t worry I will” she giggled. Covering her mouth she tried to pretend that nervous giggle had never escaped her lips.
“You have a nice laugh he teased just to hear her giggle again.
“I do not” she objected “it makes me sound like a twelve-year-old.”
His eyes sparkled as he gazed down at her. “I’m sure glad you don’t look like a twelve-year-old. I wouldn’t want to look like a pervert when I ask you out.”
“You’re…uh….what” she spluttered trying to form words as her brain shrieked at her.
Shaking his head he asked “are you serious about taking surfing lessons?”
“Of course I’m serious” she ran her fingers across the smooth boards. “It looks like it requires a strong middle core to say balanced while the waves come in.”
“It does” he nodded “I’m sorry if I sounded like a jerk. I’m just…” he let his words hang in the air without finishing his sentence.
Her shoulders moved in a shrug “you’re used to girls wanting lessons to get close to you.”
“Yeah something like that” he agreed. He didn’t add that the lessons he gave those girls were quite hands on.
“Believe me I understand that all too well she giggled hard enough to snort. “Sorry” she mumbled.
“Pick a board” he indicated a group he thought would be perfect for her size and build.
“That one” she pointed towards a red and black one.
“Okay” he nodded cheerfully picking up the board she chose. “Follow me and we’ll get started.”
An hour later he grinned at her “I think you’re ready to get wet.”
“Next time” she said jumping from the board “I have to get to work now.”
“Where do you work” he asked curious.
“At the Hollis Resort” she glanced over at him. “I’m the yoga instructor. You’d be amazed at how many guys find a reason to take up yoga when they’re on vacation.”
Rubbing his chin he let his eyes slide across her toned body. “If I were on vacation I might take up yoga myself.”
Giggling she said “you still can. All you have to do is come to the resort and sign up.”
“I just might have to do that” he said “but only to ask you out.”
Her cheeks turned crimson “are you asking me out?”
“Then I accept” grinning she added “call me with the time and place.” She hurried to get hr things and ran from the surfing shack.
“Hey” he called after her but either she didn’t hear him or she was ignoring him she continued to run in the direction of the parking lot. “I’ll have to go to the resort now anyway” he muttered to himself “serves me right since I forgot to get her number.”