Celeste looked up as her father strode into the room, oblivious to the noises around him. Noises that were second nature at this point. The tiredness on his face didn’t diminish the strength he always exhibited.
“How’s my girl doing?” he asked her, coming to sit on the corner of her bed. He reached his hand out and placed it lightly over hers, mindful of her IV and the heart-rate monitor on her finger.
“Hanging in there,” she said as upbeat as she could.
“It’s going to be okay,” he said, leaning down and kissing her forehead, but she wasn’t so sure she believed him. He’d never been wrong before and she didn’t want him to be now, except deep down she was afraid he was lying.
After all, she didn’t think she’d be here again. Not in this room, not in this hospital, and not wondering if she’d live.
No fifteen-year-old wanted to think that—ever. She was supposed to be infallible…weren’t all teens? She should be sitting on a different bed at a friend’s house talking about her latest crush, not in this dull sterile room wondering when she’d die.
Did death hurt? Would it be quick? Best not to go there.
“I’m scared,” she finally said.
It was the first time she’d ever voiced it out loud. Sure, it’d bounced around in her brain more times than she’d ever confess to, but not once during the six months of chemo did she ever tell her mother or father she was scared.
Nope, she saw how much her cancer upset them, so she did her best to project the face of a carefree teen. It wasn’t hard at times since she was always happy and cheerful. Though there were times she didn’t want to do anything other than curl in a ball and sleep through her illness, she always managed to stay positive. If not for those around her, then for her own mental sanity.
But it wasn’t fair. She’d fought her way through those treatments. She’d suffered in silence. She laughed when she saw her bald head the first time and even cracked jokes when her parents kept buying her different wigs to change up her style. And when she’d finished her last treatment, she celebrated with her friends by gorging on cake and ice cream…once her stomach was strong enough for the food to stay down.
Then, when her latest scan came back after her treatments ended and the results said she was in remission, well, that was cause for another party and another celebration. She’d made it. She’d beat the odds.
Life had finally seemed to be going so well. Her dark hair had grown back enough that she could style it and feel pretty again. She was strong enough to enjoy school and go out with her friends. She was back to being a teen.
Until a few weeks ago, when the latest scan said the cancer was back. Why? Why was it happening to her?
“I have all the faith in the world this bone marrow transplant will work,” her father said.
“It better,” she said, forcing another smile and fighting through the tears. “Cole will be livid if he has a scar and nothing good comes out of it.”
“Don’t talk like that. Do you hear me? Your mom will be here in a few minutes, and I’ll go sit with Cole.” Her father stopped talking, ran his hand over her short hair, and said, “Life’s not always fair, Celeste. We know that, you know that, but sometimes miracles happen. You and Cole were our miracle once before, so I know it’s possible to have another. I refuse to believe otherwise.”
She hoped her father was right, but she was so tired. So tired of being the strong one, the happy one, the one that had to fight this nasty battle.
When her mother walked in the room a minute later, Celeste did what she’d been doing all along. She painted a smile on her face and said, “Let’s get this show on the road.”
Her mother laughed through her teary eyes, leaned down, and kissed her quickly. “Cole just said the same thing. They’re going to put you two in the same recovery room so you can wake up together and start to torment each other like always.”
Celeste looked at her mother, then her father, giggled a little, fought the meds that were rushing through her veins making her slur her words, and said, “You wouldn’t want it any other way.”
It was the last thing she remembered. Seeing both of her parents looking down at her, both trying to smile like her, trying to look positive—only she saw the worry in their eyes. The same worry she’d been feeling for weeks in the pit of her stomach.