The Stranger Across the Street – Creative Non-Fiction Piece

Hey fellowers, this was an emotional piece for me to write. I would like specific feedback if you read it. I want you to read it and then read what I want feedback on so your opinions aren’t biased, so the feedback points are belong the essay.

It’s amazing to think about all the little things that can remind you of someone. A place. A song. A smell. A shirt. The shape of a nose. So many little pieces encompass a person and you really don’t notice them all until that person is gone. At the time the person is around, you think you take in all that he or she is, when in reality, you take a lot for granted. Also, some things become so commonplace, like the smell of a house, that you don’t notice it anymore. It’s amazing how fast those things come back when the familiar becomes a memory and the once known is now foreign. Those little pieces that make a person you know—well knew, suddenly spring up on you in many ways when you’re least expecting it.
It was so many years ago, 17 to be exact, and I still remember when I first met Ryan. He was 5 and I was 4 the first time I moved onto our street. Ryan’s family had been there before Ryan was even born, so we were the new family on the block. His family wanted to make us feel welcome and his mom approached my dad one day as he was outside with me as I played in the front yard. Ryan was on a red scooter. The adults exchanged names and Ryan introduced himself. I was far too shy at this point, causing my dad to have to introduce me. The memory fades out after that, but after almost two decades, I’m surprised I remember that much.
As the years went on, I remember the waves that Ryan and my friendship took. At first, we became pretty close. In my early years, as both my parents worked, I was babysat by my grandparents in a town about twenty minutes from our street. There were times I came home to little scribbled notes in my mailbox from Ryan that read, “Holly, I miss you so much.” There was also always a hand drawn picture that was cut up to make a puzzle that I was supposed to make. Around age eight, Ryan found girls gross and I was cast out. As cliché as it is, I remember being told, loudly, “NO GIRLS ALLOWED,” when I asked to join in when Ryan and the other boys on the street were playing in a fort.
When I started middle school, Ryan’s mom offered to drive me to street so my mom didn’t want to take the trip since Ryan had been attending the school for a year and she’d have to make the trip anyway. Ryan and I picked up our friendship again. This time, we became even closer than before. Soon my friends and his friends became one in the same. There was nothing I couldn’t tell Ryan, he was my best friend, my number one. One of my favorite memories is lying on his front porch, looking up at the stars, and just talking for hours. There are few people in life that you just connect with so easily and to find that was special and something I’d thought I’d never lose.
It’s too hard to explain because there is so much complexity to the issue and emotions involved; however, I will always remember the date, January 5, 2009, the day Ryan and my friendship ended. Ten days later, my grandfather died on my sixteenth birthday when I was at his house celebrating the day. I was so torn apart from these two losses in my life that I literally left into a depression where I wouldn’t leave my room except to go to school or at meals. There were times were times Ryan tried to talk things out, but I couldn’t be reached. I was too hurt and didn’t want to deal with it.
Ryan still lives on my street and I see him from time to time. In the beginning, the sighting brought hate and even tears. The emotional and mental anguish of what I blamed Ryan for was too much to handle. Now, seeing him brings regret. There are times I just want to reach out and say hi or even leave a note in his mailbox, but I know he’s moved on. My feelings of longing are one-sided. The most communication I’ve had with my former best friend is when I pull out of my driveway and he’s coming down the road. I stop my car and wave him on. That is all the communication we’ve had for almost 6 years. I’ll never know what would happen if I would have taken the time to talk to him when he wanted to reconcile and that is a guilt I’ve carried with me. All I know now is when I am in the car and a Rush song plays or I see a guy with the same thin frame and tousled dark hair, I think of Ryan. I doubt he ever thinks of me in the same way.

Thanks for reading my essay. I hope it wasn’t too annoying or depressing. This story has been begging to be written, but it is really hard for me to think about this topic since it still brings a lot of baggage with it.

Feedback Wanted:
– Is it not worth writing since I left out the conflict that caused the end of our friendship? To be honest, I did it because it is a really long story and all my point of view, none of Ryan’s since we never talked about it.
– Did this seem like an emo girl’s journal entry and did I play the victim?
– What did you think the point of the essay is? I know what I want it to say, but I’m curious if it comes through.
– Any other feedback you’d want to tell me.

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My Bittersweet Sixteen (Creative Non-fiction Piece)

(Hello Reader 🙂 Before you are so kind to read my piece, I would like your help on how to make this writing less telling and more showing, if you can give me some feedback on that OR ANYTHING ELSE, I would be very appreciative!)

       The red and blue flashing lights, the will reading “do not resuscitate,” the sound of my brother’s cries. On January 15, 2009, my grandfather, who I called Opa, which means grandpa in Dutch, died while my entire family was at his house celebrating my sixteenth birthday. With the patriarch of our family missing, it has been very difficult to continue on with life as usual. He was quite a remarkable man and his position in our family will never be replaced.
            My birthday began as an enjoyable day. I walked into my high school that morning to find that my best friend Korie had decorated my locker door with a collage of pictures of all my favorite bands with room for people to stop by and write “Happy birthday” messages to me. Then, my mom delivered a surprise cake to the school during my lunch period. Meanwhile, my mind was occupied all day with the thought of seeing my cousins later that night at my grandparent’s house to celebrate my special day. This year, we arrived at the house at five o’clock, which was earlier than usual because my grandfather hadn’t felt well and we didn’t want to keep him up late. “Happy birthday Miss Sixteen Year Old!” my cousin greeted me when I walked through the door. “Oh, no! Holly’s street legal? Better tell everyone to keep off the sidewalks,” my uncle teased. Soon the conversation, laughs, and general loudness of my large Italian family quickly filled the house. Then, an hour into the party, Opa cleared his throat and mentioned that he had to leave the room. After a while, we realized something was amiss.
            “Can the boys check on Daddy?” my grandmother asked. All nodding in agreement, my uncles and father went into the other room to see what was wrong. In the meantime, my grandma handed me a black velvet box and whispered in my ear, “This is a special gift that Opa picked out especially for you.” I opened it and saw two glistening diamond earrings. I had never had real diamond jewelry before and I was memorized. With astonishment, I looked up at my grandmother and said, “Oh, Oma, thank you! They’re—.” I was suddenly cut off by a loud moaning that came from the other room. Immediately, my dad rushed in. “All the kids go into our minivan,” he ordered as he tossed the keys to me. The questions and comments from my younger cousins and siblings seemed endless as we all sat in the car. “Why did we have to leave the house?” “Is Opa okay?” “It’s cold out here!” “Can we please go back inside?” “Why did Opa make that funny noise?” Unfortunately, my older cousin and I had no answers as we tried to comfort them through our own confusion.
            Soon, a police car pulled up and my brother started to cry loudly. “Why is he here? Is Opa dead?” he pleaded for an answer. “No, no. He’s just here to make sure everything is okay. Don’t worry,” I attempted to soothe. Despite my good intentions, I was wrong. A few minutes later my aunt opened the driver’s side door to quietly talk to my older cousin and me, trying not to alarm the already upset children that were in the backseats. “We don’t know for sure, but we think Opa had a heart attack,” she explained. Before we could even react, an ambulance pulled up and my aunt ran up to it to guide the EMTs exactly to where my grandfather was. As I found out that night, Opa had a living will that read “DO NOT RESUSCITATE,” which kept the paramedics from doing much.
            Some time later, the grim news came in. “Opa has passed away. Come in the house and say goodbye. He’s in the hallway covered by a sheet from the chest down,” my dad announced to us all. As everyone filed out of the van, I didn’t move. “Come on, I know it’s hard, but we have to do it,” my cousin told me with tears welling in her eyes. “I can’t. I don’t want to remember him this way! I don’t want that image to haunt me,” I protested. After several attempts from my dad, aunts, and uncles, my decision was accepted, and I was finally left alone. I remember how hard I closed my eyes as the undertakers came to take care of the body. Thankfully, my efforts were fruitful and I didn’t get a glimpse of the body bag. It wasn’t until I opened my eyes and the undertaker’s van was a safe distance away that I made my way back into the house to join my family. Guests who had arrived late were in tears from the news. They greeted me with a brutal mix of “happy birthday” and “I’m sorry for your loss” sentiments. It was a horrible combination of emotions. That night, my family went home and we all slept in my parent’s room, trying to comfort my mourning mother.
            Later that week, we had a three day wake for my grandfather. This amount was longer than most wakes I had been to. However, it was helpful because every day new people showed up to give support and help us smile during such a trying time. What I remember the most is all the different things I learned about my grandfather through the many people that I talked to at the funeral home. After the last hour of the final viewing, my Opa’s life all came together like a large puzzle, which I managed to form in my mind in my mind later that night.
            On May 24, 1927, Johannes Jacobus Rustemeyer was born in the Netherlands. He had a harsh childhood, filled with extraordinary experiences. His mother died when he was four years old, leaving him with an abusive father to raise him. Being the brave spirit he always was, he often took the blame and beatings for his six other siblings. After four years of single parenting, my great grandfather had enough and put all his children in an orphanage. He ended up returning a year later to retrieve his daughters, leaving his sons behind. The following year, Adolf Hitler needed young men to work. At the tender age of ten, my grandfather was forced into a labor camp in Poland. When he was finally liberated, he returned to a war-torn Holland and joined the Merchant Marines at fourteen by forging his father’s signature. During his service, he travelled to every continent, except Australia. At age twenty-four, he journeyed to America and immediately enlisted in the armed forces when promised a speedy citizenship in return. My family often reminisces about the first thing my grandfather did fresh off the boat. He walked around, found the nearest bakery, and went in pointing at a strawberry shortcake. Paying for it with the little money he brought with him, he proudly sat on the corner outside the shop and ate it, truly feeling free for the first time. A few years after that moment, one day, while on leave from the Korean War, my grandfather met Rachel Pietropaolo. After months of being pen pals, that same woman became my future grandmother. The two had six kids, eventually six grandchildren, and built a wonderful life together during their fifty-two year marriage.
            Though the nostalgic piecing together of my grandfather’s life was therapeutic, it didn’t take the pain away from the next day—the funeral, which occurred on a solemn, cold day. I never shook the eerie feeling that I had while saying the final goodbye to my grandfather in the funeral home, knowing that in the next few hours his body would be cremated. Surprisingly, I didn’t cry the night of his death or even at the funeral service. In fact, it took until the month anniversary of his passing for me to finally let out all my emotions. It didn’t hit me until then that day I would never see Opa again in my mortal life. Before then, it felt as though he was on vacation, but soon he would be at the next holiday gathering. It was difficult to deal with after that sobering revelation, but eventually I got through it. I never stopped missing him nor was able to think about the day he died without having all the sad memories flood back, but I was capable of accepting reality. Not having Opa around while the family was all together or when we visited my grandmother was a strange, empty feeling, but, as unwanted as it was, we ultimately all got used to it.
            Despite the shock of its timing, Opa’s death was not an unforeseen possibility. In the years leading up to it, his health had declined. After the birth of the sixth grandchild, my little brother, Opa began to show signs of Dementia, a deteriorating brain disease. Having little family history to warn us, the diagnosis was a surprise. In the beginning, it was a small annoyance. Opa would forget to turn off a light when he went to bed or leave the water running after he left the sink. However, his condition progressively worsened and eventually developed into full-blown Alzheimer’s disease. There was no brushing off the symptoms anymore. In fact, my grandmother had to quit her job as a paraprofessional at the local elementary school because my grandfather could no longer be left alone. Alzheimer’s is a frightening sickness that causes delusions as well as memory loss and we witnessed both through Opa’s suffering. The incidents were many, but three stick out in my mind more than the rest. First, he started to forget who the grandchildren were. He called my brother “the boy,” my sister “the girl,” and me “Ann Marie,” which is my mother’s name. Although he didn’t remember any of us, I was called by a name because I look very similar to my mother in her younger years. Next, when he was in the hospital for a congestive heart failure scare, Opa woke up extremely disoriented and wanted to know why strange people were in his kitchen. This made him very anxious, and he ended up running out of the room with a catheter bag trailing behind him down the halls. Lastly, he was once in his house and started to believe that the police had bugged it and were spying on his actions. When my uncle, who works for a patrol board, attempted to calm him down, Opa became very violent and took a swing at his own son. Those times were so emotionally draining for us all. I don’t know how my grandmother did it day after day. It was difficult enough seeing him every weekend as we did. The man who we had loved and cherished for years no longer was himself, trapped in a mind that was holding him prisoner. After a long, eight year battle, the heart that endured parental abandonment, the body that survived the starvation of a work camp in the Holocaust, and the mind that could navigate the roughest seas, succumbed to an incurable illness. It will be five years this January since his passing, and I still vividly remember the day he left us.
            I love my Opa and would give up all my possessions to spend one healthy day with him again. He babysat me for the first four years of my life, taught me how to count, and even used to put me in a wagon and bring me to the local park in his town. I will never forget those memories. I’ve learned several things from him and the life he led. To this day, he teaches me lessons as I reflect back on the experiences he went through while examining my own life. I try not to take people for granted, especially my family. I know they are not going to be here forever, so I tell them I love them every chance I can. I also try to live each day to the fullest like my Opa did. He knew how precious life was and how to savor it. Almost five years later and even writing this piece is difficult as I think about my grandfather and the tragic end to his life. However, I now think optimistically and how he was very sick and did not deserve to live that way. There are even times when I can feel his presence around me, like when I sit in his chair at his house or when I find a dime, a sign that my family has deemed as a gift from Opa, letting us know he is with us during tough times. My birthday wil never feel the same and I may miss my grandfather every day; but I stay positive hoping that I will meet him again in Heaven someday.

The Other Half Revised

I posted this story a while back, but since I have more followers now, I wonder how you guys would like it AND for those of you who have read it, how you would like the changes! Oh and I’m really bad at formatting, so I don’t know why the text is all spaced weird and wrong to make it so long, but I am sure it will not affect the reading of my story in any way 🙂 Please enjoy and comment on your thoughts!

      The day someone enters the world, he or she is not complete. In fact, people wander around the Earth for years, doing their daily activities, such as going to school, washing the dishes, clocking-in to work etc., as only half-beings. A person’s true potential as a whole cannot be earned until one finds his or her other half—another half-being that is predestined to connect perfectly with the first. For some people, it may take years to occur; for others, it may never happen. However, the biggest tragedy of all is finding one’s other half and losing him or her to an inescapable twist of cruel fate.

In his sophomore year of college, Danny Conklin started working for the school’s admissions office. The department he was placed in was titled, “Campus Tours.” Being a shy person, he had never been one to be particularly comfortable with talking in front of groups of people. Throughout his school years, he was always overshadowed by his older brother, Tommy, who was captain of the baseball team, student representative of the board of education, and eventually earned the title of valedictorian of his class. Contrastingly, Danny was an average student who was into music and didn’t care much for the spectacles that surrounded Tommy. In fact, when he graduated high school, he was happy that he was not called up for an award because he hated being the center of attention. However, he needed the money, so he tried to not let his fear get the best of him. The following week he was paired with an experienced tour guide to shadow, so he could learn the effective way to give a campus tour. Although he knew the campus very well and there was a script to follow for certain points, the university would do this to give the new guides first hand observation. The girl he was matched with was named Lily. She stood at five foot four, had long wavy brunette hair, and deep brown eyes. A bubbly personality and a warm, genuine smile added to her physical beauty, and all of which made Danny and his heart was hooked.

      During the tours, Danny watched as Lily told the group little tidbits about the campus that he didn’t even know. For example, she informed them that there was a small bakery a few blocks down the road named Edgar Allan Pastries that had an amazing “Tell-Tale Apple Turnover.” She even had a way of engaging the crowd with jokes and activities. For instance, there was one time their tour group was approaching another, so Lily told the group to wave at them. The prospective students were reluctant, but once she did it with such eagerness, the whole group joined in. “This may seem awkward, but you have to understand that you have to step out of your comfort zone to meet new people in college,” she explained. “Those people in that other group could possibly be your future classmates. That girl in the red dress could be in your math class begging you to let her copy your homework. You now have an excuse to say no because she was rude and didn’t wave to you during this tour. She won’t remember, but you will! And that guy in the back with a bright orange shirt, he could be a great writer that can help you with your papers. You never know someone until you start the conversation. It may seem silly or weird, but if you want to make friends, you have to take risks.” Danny admired her philosophy and was eager to incorporate his own into the tours he would man in the future.
      After the pair completed a total of four tours and the day was done, Lily stopped Danny as they were walking back to the admissions office. “So what did you think of the tours? You think you have what it takes?” she asked. “I think I have what it takes to guide a tour, but I’m not sure I’ll be as good as you. You really know how to command a crowd,” Danny complimented. “You really think so? I was so nervous! I was afraid it would show! I have been doing these tours for about a year now and I still get anxious every time. I hate talking in front of people,” she admitted. Her openness led them deeper into conversation, and Danny was enjoying every minute.

 

      “What’s your major?” he asked. “Psychology,” Lily revealed, “I want to help kids, maybe through social work or counseling, but I’m not sure where I want to take it. How about you?” “I’m studying music. I really want to open my own recording studio one day,” Danny began. “My parents aren’t too happy with that though because my older brother is currently in law school and is probably gonna be extremely successful. Meanwhile, they aren’t as confident in my future as I am.” “I think it’s great that you have a dream and are going for it! So many people are too scared to risk it all for a dream, but you aren’t, despite your family’s opinions. That’s inspiring,” Lily commended. “Yeah, that’s easy for you to say, I bet your parents are ecstatic with your major,” Danny protested. Lily looked away from him and tried to act as if there was something more interesting happening in the distance. Do I really want to get into this with him? She thought. No, I can’t stand the look of pity that people give me, like my roommate from freshman year. I’ll just keep it short and casual. Her eyes darted back to Danny’s and she saw a confused look on his face. “I’m sorry; there was a bird behind you. Yeah, about my parents. . . I don’t really have any. It’s just me and I’m happy with my choice of major and that’s all I’m worried about!” Lily declared with as much confidence as she could. Before he could ask any questions, she switched the topic swiftly, “Anyway, do you dorm or commute?” Danny hesitated, but welcomed the change as his cheeks reddened a bit.
      The two ended up talking for over an hour when Lily looked at her cellphone and gasped. “I have class across campus in five minutes! I have to go,” she confessed. “But hey could we trade numbers in case you need any help with work?” Danny couldn’t help but smile and agree. Those days seemed so innocent and given the choice, the two would go back to that time in a heartbeat if they could, for the present was too disheartening to bear.
      The strong smell of antiseptic grazed Lily’s nose as she walked through the bare, white hospital hallways. The odor used to burn, but she had been there so many times since the first frightening visit that it was a surprise that she even smelled it at all anymore. After a long walk through the winding corridors, she cautiously approached an all-too-familiar hospital room, labeled 306. Although the number changed with each visit, the rooms all started to seem the same as the amount of Danny’s stays in the hospital increased. A chill ran up her spine as Lily touched the cold, metal doorknob, and she froze. Even though she knew her time to do so was dwindling with each day, she didn’t want to enter the room that held the love of her life, for it would make every image and thought she’d been avoiding a reality. Danny had always been a fighter, battling every obstacle that had come his way ever since he was first diagnosed with cancer. However, the doctors said that he didn’t have much time left, so Lily has spent every possible moment that she could by his side. She’s endured more than her share of struggles in life and she was not going to let Danny be defeated if she had anything to do with it.
      Roughly twenty years ago, a nameless baby girl was born on a freezing January night. Snow had not fallen since the beginning of December, so the streets were bare. However, there was an unavoidable cold that caused the breath of all those who went outside to produce puffy white clouds as they spoke in the nippy air. The cold that chilled the infant’s bones on that very first evening of life was just the start of a series of harsh blows that rocked her to her core. The baby came into this world unwanted, for she was found in a dark alleyway by a fireman with nothing more than a tattered, blue flannel shirt wrapped around her as a makeshift blanket. The man just happened to hear her wailing cries while walking to get a cup of coffee during a rough night of being on-call. Once he found the source of the noise, he couldn’t believe a mother would leave a newborn out in such harsh conditions. With no trace of identification or knowledge of how the child got there, he wrapped the helpless baby in his coat and brought her back to the station. After that, she was rushed to the hospital and ordered an overnight stay to make sure she was stable and okay. Fortunately, it was deemed that the newborn had not been exposed to the freezing weather long enough to be affected. At eight o’clock the next morning, the state arrived, took her away, and placed her into the foster care system.
      One would think that being rescued from the streets and having a chance at life would have meant great things for the baby; however, through the years, the girl’s childhood evolved into what could never be classified as “great.” Although her first foster home was a child’s dream: brothers and sisters, a playroom, and even a dog, the year she was four years old, her foster father suffered from a debilitating car accident. As a result, even though they were heartbroken to do it, the only family she ever knew put her back into the foster care system with nothing more than abandonment issues and the name they had given her, Lily Warner. For the next few years, Lily was switched to and from three foster homes. In the first placement, she was deemed “too rambunctious” after starting a Bible fight amongst the other children in her pew at a quiet church service. The second family called her “a bad influence on others” when she was involved in physical fights at school that spilled back into the home with her foster siblings. Both of these traits seemingly resulted from the emotional scars of never having a true place to call home. When she was ten, she was finally placed into a third house that ended up being her final stop in the system.
      Despite staying at one residence, Lily’s house was not a home. While her foster mother favored her biological children, she was extremely verbally abusive to Lily. Many of her upbringing years were tainted with constant insults from the mouth of her guardian. “You’re worthless.” “You’re going nowhere in life.” “You are a useless loser.” “I can’t stand you.” “Just having you here disgusts me.” “You’re nothing more than a check to me.” Though each attack damaged her self-esteem more and more, the one insult Lily hated more than all the rest was when her foster mother would taunt, “Your own mother didn’t want you, that’s why she left you out to die with the trash.”
      With no physical evidence of her mother’s awful words, Lily always thought that nothing could be done about her situation. This led to years of suffering in silence. The other children in the house tried to defend their foster sister a few times, but were punished severely for their disobedient actions which quickly stopped any further acts of retaliation.
      Fortunately, school was Lily’s comfort zone, because she realized that the longer she stayed there, the longer she could avoid the torment at her house. In high school, she joined the tennis team, chorus, prom committee, and a peer leadership group. Lily went even further by earning high grades after she found another place of evasion—the library. All the time spent at school and studying forged a path to college, a permanent escape to finally get loose from the tight grip of her abusive keeper. Once she turned eighteen, Lily aged out of the foster care system. Since there were no more federal checks coming to the house every month, Lily’s exit was not protested because she was used for all she was worth.
      An ache sprang to Lily’s chest on “Move-In Day,” as she watched as all the parents help their children to their dorms. Yet as she sat on her small twin bed, Lily smiled as it first sank in that she was finally free from her years of suffering. The smiles continued when a financial aid advisor informed Lily that because she was an independent and had such high grades, the school worked out all her tuition payment concerns with scholarships, grants, and a work study program that brought her into giving campus tours. This is where she really thrived. By being so grateful to be at the school, she channeled all her enthusiasm into her tours. Soon, she became a mentor for the new guides that were hired every semester. This is how she met Danny, who grew up in a blue two-story Colonial home, complete with a white picket fence, two devoted parents, and an older brother,—all in all,a stark contrast to her own upbringing. However, despite coming from two different worlds, the two eventually evolved into a romantic pair, seemingly destined to be side by side forever, that is until the grim side of fate stepped in.
      Taking a deep breath, Lily pushed down on the handle, and the door slowly opened with a loud creak. She tried to quiet the squeal, but it was too late. Danny’s eyelids weakly separated. Such a simple task seemed to take away most of his energy. As their eyes locked, a memory flashed into Lily’s mind. It was of him and her in the past, before the deadly disease, on their first date.
      Suddenly, she and Danny were at the top of a Ferris wheel, at a local town’s annual fair. The sun was just setting past the silhouettes of distant trees and the autumn wind cooled the air. Lily watched as the breeze blew Danny’s shoulder length, black hair in all different directions. She smiled at the sight; soon after, they kissed.

 

      A groan escaped into the silence of the moment and broke Lily out of her blissful flashback to see Danny for what he was now. His once tan skin was now a pale grey. His once full head was bare; and worst of all, his once optimistic attitude was now a distant memory.
      “You didn’t tell me you were coming today,” Danny complained as he turned his head away from the door. He knew what he looked like and didn’t want her to see him in this condition because he knew it would upset her. Lily smiled lightly, “You know I come here as often I can.” She turned his face to her and kissed his forehead. “Can you get me some water? My mouth is so dry, and the nurse hasn’t been in to check on me in a while.” He feebly pointed to the pitcher on a small wooden table by foot of his bed. Immediately, Lily had the container in her hand and was pouring water into a small cup. She then handed it to him. It happened so fast that one would think that Danny had had the glass in his hand the whole time.
      “I didn’t want to talk about this, but it has to be dealt with.” He took in a long, deep breath. “Call Tommy; I want him to help you gather all my things once I’m. . .I can’t,” He couldn’t bring himself to say it. He had accepted his grim fate, but he knew Lily hadn’t. She settled in the chair next to his bedside and shook her head. “Don’t talk that way, honey. You’re going to be fine. It’s hard now and things look bad, but they will turn around. I don’t care what the doctors say.” Lily tried her best to hold back the tears.
      In an attempt to distract herself from the dismal reality, Lily found herself yet again daydreaming of a memory from the past. This time, she thought of the first time the pair exchanged “I love you’s.” It had been six months since Danny and Lily had officially become a couple, and they were spending the day at Danny’s brother’s wedding. It had been a beautiful, outdoor ceremony, and now everyone was celebrating the momentous event at the reception. They both didn’t like to dance, as they were self-conscious of their lack of technique, but the DJ pulled everyone to the dance floor with a casual hit that told the guests the moves to make as the song went on. Therefore, the couple knew they couldn’t mess it up too much and decided to give it a try.
      After a while, the song was over and although it was fun, Danny and Lily were eager to retreat back to their seats, but then something happened that made them both pause. As he asked for the couples to remain on the floor, the DJ played a slow song that just happened to be their song—“Iris” by the Goo Goo Dolls. A few months later Tommy had revealed that he requested the song, “to help his little brother get some game,” but for the moment, the pair was surprised. Despite being thrown off guard, the two soon joined together. In the beginning, Lily clumsily stepped on Danny’s toes and Danny was moving a bit too fast. However, as the notes played on, their moves became more in sync. With Danny’s hands on her hips and her arms around him, Lily felt so at peace in this pose as they swayed back and forth. Then, she felt his grip tighten and his hands move as he repositioned to dip her. Though surprised, she smiled as she was impressed at his skill. “I’ve been practicing that with my mom for weeks, you know, in case something like this came up,” he confessed with a small blush on his face. “Dancing at a wedding? Oh, how taboo!” Lily teased. “Practice makes perfect I see,” she added with a grin. He drew her in closer and put his mouth to her ear. “I love you,” Danny whispered. She hesitated and bit her lip. A guy had never said those three words to her first and the last guy she said them to, back in high school, had broken her heart. Was she really ready to let someone in like that again?
      Just then, the song stopped and transitioned to another. Despite the alteration of movement from the other couples, Lily and Danny stayed where they were. “It’s okay. You don’t have to say it back; I get it,” he said disappointed as he began to pull away. No, he’s not like the others, she thought, I can’t let bad experiences from the past stop me from this moment. “Danny, I love you too,” she blurted out. “You know how I am; I always have to think before I do something. I’m sorry it took so long.” He looked at her with doubt and she knew she had to fix the situation before she lost him irrevocably. Lily then grabbed hold of the lapels of Danny’s suit and pulled him in for a passionate kiss. Merely thinking of that memory made Lily smile in the present day which brought her back to the hospital room. She suddenly wanted to kiss him again.
      She bent forward and just as her lips were about to make contact with his, Danny protested, “No, stop. You know I don’t like kissing.” When he had first started chemotherapy, Danny was instructed not to kiss anyone because he had to be very cautious of infection. However, after the doctors warned that he was approaching the end, they said there was nothing a kiss could do to make it any worse and that it might even help his morale. It was the worst conflict of emotions within them both. They longed to be able to kiss again, but the desire for affection could never outweigh the price of it—Danny’s life. Their first kiss since they were given the okay was only a month ago; however, for a week now Danny hadn’t let Lily go near him in that respect. She let out a frustrated sigh and sat back down. “You have to get used to it, you know, not kissing me. I’m actually helping you. It’s tough for me too; because where I’m going, I won’t have you either,” Danny said faintly, yet was adamant. “No, it’s not tough because you aren’t going anywhere. You’ll always be here, right by my side.” She always lied to him and even herself. She couldn’t bear the thought of him losing forever, no matter how inevitable that possibility was.
      “I don’t even know why you’re here with me now,” Danny admitted depressingly. “Have you looked at me? I look like some kind of experiment gone wrong with a bald head and such pale skin. If I were you, I wouldn’t stay with Sci-Fi me.” He often had these moments of insecurity, anxious that his mere appearance would make Lily leave him. “No, you don’t. If you did, would I have stayed with you this long?” she asked to try and lighten the mood, but it was hopeless. “You know what really gets me though?” Danny inquired while switching topics, “how I will never get to marry you.”
      Lily had considered about that very notion so many times. As a matter of fact, the thought would keep her up in the middle of the night in tears. It was such a stark contrast from the first few years they dated, when she would often have dreams about her and Danny standing in front of an alter as a priest pronounced them man and wife. She imagined Danny in a classic black tuxedo and herself in a long, white, sleeveless dress, all surrounded by their family and friends in an elaborately decorated church. Now that those plans would never be and with Danny being so casual in assuring that, she couldn’t help herself or hide her emotions any longer. “I said don’t talk that way!” Lily shouted as she jumped up from her chair. “You think I like thinking about the thought of not having you in my life? Do you think it’s easy to know that one day, much earlier than I would have ever imagined, I won’t be able to hear your voice or hold your hand or even just tell you that I love you?” She bowed her head and breathed heavily as a rebellious tear fell down her cheek.
      Danny sighed and motioned for her to come over to him. This time, she sat on his bed, just as he wanted—she always knew the best thing to do—and he softly grabbed her hand. “Baby, I’m just exhausted and my mind’s all messed up from the chemo.” He tried to apologize for his behavior, looking her in the eye. “I know it’s hard for you and you have been the best girlfriend anyone could ever ask for. I am so lucky to have you in my life and by my side throughout this whole thing.” He gripped her hand tighter. “But Lily, it’s even harder for me to deal with if you don’t let me talk about what’s going to happen. If you keep pretending I’ll get better and it will all go back to what it used to be, once I’m gone you’re going to be destroyed. And I can’t stand the idea of that happening. I love you more than anything in this world and I hate that this disease is taking me from you…but it is.” “I know Danny, but you have to get in a better mood…even if it’s your last.” That was it, she couldn’t handle it anymore. Lily fell apart right in front of Danny, something she swore she never would. She had to be his rock, but then, in that moment, she crumbled. Her body slumped over and shook violently as she sobbed heavily. Danny, although lacking an appropriate amount of energy, wrapped his arms around her and held her.
      It’d been a long time since he’d done this very action. In the past, Lily had been the one holding him, like the day he got diagnosed with Stage III Glioblastoma—brain cancer. The month before then, he had a conversation with Lily after dinner as they sat in the studio apartment that they shared. “I had a horrible headache today,” he announced. “Again? Maybe you should go to the doctor,” Lily suggested. “No, it’s probably just from stress. I can’t believe I graduated eight months ago and I’m still working part-time at a dollar store. Maybe my parents were right, I should have been lawyer,” Danny said. “Stop it. You know you would have been miserable being in court day after day. You aren’t Tommy. Jobs are slow now, but you’ll get there!” Lily encouraged. She got up, went into the other room, and came back with a bottle of aspirin. “Take this and relax,” she said, handing two pills to Danny, “Let’s watch a movie to get your mind off of everything.”
      However, one day when he was driving, his sight became very blurry. Just as he was able to pull over, his field of vision went black. Although it was only out for a few minutes and he was able to drive home without another issue after that. He knew he couldn’t ignore the symptoms anymore and immediately scheduled an appointment with the doctor. After a few visits to different physicians and an MRI later, Danny sat in front of his doctor when he was told the awful prognosis. Previously, he purposely wanted to go alone so he wouldn’t worry his parents, Tommy, or Lily. However, as he tightly gripped the arms of the chair he was in, he wished there was a hand he could hold. Danny’s mind was spinning so fast with thoughts that he could barely hear the doctor as he used the words “oncology,” “chemotherapy,” and “radiation.” All he could think about was how worried he was that he would die. I’m only twenty-three years old. I have so many plans: my record studio, traveling, and growing old with Lily, he thought. Could it really all be gone in one visit to the doctor?
      While he was waiting at the bus stop for the next bus home, as he was unable to drive for fear that he would go blind again, all he could think of was how he wanted to see Lily. She always made him smile on his worst days, and he knew he needed her now more than ever. As if she had a sixth sense, Danny’s phone rang and the screen flashed with the name, “Lily.” He looked at the phone and put it back in his pocket, unanswered. He was too afraid that he wouldn’t be able to hold in his emotions once she spoke to him, and he didn’t want to have a breakdown on the bus.
      Each of his steps grew heavier as Danny made his way to the apartment building from the bus stop. Telling Lily the news might be as hard of hearing it myself, he worried to himself. Soon, Danny walked into their apartment where he saw Lily sitting on the couch. She stood up and asked, “Are you okay? Why didn’t you answer my calls?” “It’s cancer, Stage III brain cancer. The doctor told me a lot of things, but I could barely understand him. I was too busy worried about dying.” Danny hadn’t admitted that thought out loud until that point and once he had, it felt too real. He started to cry and Lily put her arm around him and walked him over to the couch she had just been seated in. She let him reveal all his fears and soothed his cries. Once he calmed down, she kneeled in front of him and looked him in the eye. “Danny, you are going to get through this. You are going to fight. You are so strong and you can beat this. You won’t be alone, your parents, Tommy, and I will be there for you every step of the way. No matter how hard it gets, you can never give up. I won’t let you.” For the past three years, she had kept that promise and had always been there for Danny no matter what: holding his hair as he got sick from his first round of chemo, shaving her own head when his hair fell out, and even now, during his darkest hour yet. Although he was so weak, he knew he had to be there for her too.
      “Never give up, right Lily Pad?” Danny asked, using a nickname he’d given her years ago. She looked at him and smiled. “I love you,” she said as she snuggled next to him. “I love you too,” he replied and kissed her lips. Then it was apparent that the entire event used up all his energy and just as they got settled, Danny fell into a slumber. Lily laid there for a while, in his arms, listening to his gentle breathing in and out, and feeling his heart beat. A few years earlier, she would have taken these little things for granted, but now every second she experienced them, she felt as if she had won the lottery. Because in her opinion, every extra moment she had with him was better than any cash prize in the world could have ever been.
    Eventually, Lily delicately moved from the bed to her chair, taking the greatest care not to stir him. She treasured his sleep since it seemed to be the only time he wasn’t in pain. From the moment she met Danny, she knew their journey would be one she would never forget. However, Lily would have never thought it would have been cut so short. The future was bleak, but whatever it would bring, Lily promised to stay by Danny’s side—even if that meant kneeling by a tombstone. Cancer may take her other half from her world, but it would never take him from her heart.

THE COMPLETED SHORT STORY! (title still in the works)

      I run my hand across my forehead in an attempt to dull the throbbing against my skull. I’ve been at this party too long. I look at my phone and the time reads, “2:04 am.” “I have to get out of here,” I try to tell my friend Kaya over the blasting music. “What?” she yells in my ear, sending a shooting pain burrowing deep in my head. I take out my car keys and point to the door. Kaya’s face contorts disapprovingly and she grabs my arm to lead me to a quieter area of the house. “You want to go home already?” she complains. “I have a headache and I just want to go to bed,” I reply. “You want to go to bed? But it’s so early!” I show her my phone and Kaya gasps. “Exactly, I’m gonna go to the car. Say your goodbyes and meet me outside,” I say a bit more sternly than I had planned.                   
          When I’m outside, away from the heat of an overcrowded house party and the booming music, my headache finally begins to weaken. The fresh, cool early morning air feels relaxing as I take in long, deep breaths of it. By the time I am in my car, the pain in my head is gone and I take a sigh of relief as I drive up to the house and see Kaya waiting on the curb. “Thank God, you are so responsible! I would have stayed at that party forever and missed work completely tomorrow!” Kaya exclaims. “I try, but hey, sorry I snapped at you back there. I’m just so tired.” “Don’t even worry about it,” she waves her hand at me, “Like I said, if it wasn’t for you, I’d be a mess.” Kaya lets out a small laugh and for the remainder of the car ride, the only noise that fills the air is the low radio playing between us. After the half mile drive, Kaya and I say our farewells and I make my way home.                     
          Walking to the front of my house, I take out my keys and clumsily unlock the door in the dark. I take special care to open it very slowly, so I won’t wake up my parents. Ever since I turned eighteen three years ago, they took away my curfew because they felt I was responsible enough to make my own choices. However, as my dad always says, they “can bring it back anytime, if I betray their trust.” Immediately as the door opens, I am hit with a strong metallic smell. Turning on the light, I see my illuminated living room, my knees go weak, and I fall to the floor.                    
          Our beige carpet is stained a deep red in two awful puddles. The source of those puddles? My parents, both slain on the floor, laying still. As if they were both done simultaneously, my mom and dad have matching slices across their throats. I close my eyes. This can’t be true. I passed out at the party and this is all just a horrific dream. Taking a deep breath, I open my eyes and the two bodies lay in front of me, in the same positions I left them in. I want to scream, but I can’t. It’s too much to take in and let out noise at the same time. I desperately crawl to my mom and grab her hand. “Don’t worry Mom, I’m gonna you and Dad help and you’ll be okay.” Suddenly my brain starts to work. I have to call 911. Trembling, I take out my cellphone and dial the three numbers. “911, what’s your emergency?” the operator on the phone asks in a plain female voice. Again, I am struck speechless. I can’t say it out loud, it’s too horrible. “Hello? Are you there?” the voice continues. “Yes, I, I, I just came home and my parents, they’re really hurt. I need an ambulance.” “Ma’am, what happened to your parents?” “My mom and dad are both slit in the throat. There’s blood everywhere. Oh my God, you have to get someone here fast! You can’t let them die! Please get an ambulance now!” “Ma’am, you said they were slit in the throat, do they have pulses?” I kept hold of my mom’s hand as I feel her wrist. “I can’t feel anything on my mom. It must be really weak, but wait, let me try my dad.” Doing the same process with my father, I get the same results. “My dad’s the same way. Don’t you see, the longer you wait to call someone, the worse they’re going to get!” “I understand. What is your name and your address. I will send a police officer over right away.” “Brooke Stevens, 316 Oak Drive in Little Falls.” After a brief pause, the operator speaks, “Okay, Brooke, someone is coming now. Now, as calmly as you can answer, I need you to let me know, are you safe? Did you check the house to make sure no one was in there with you?” “No, I didn’t even think. . .” my voice changes to a whisper, “You’re right, the person that did this to my parents could be here, waiting to do it to me!” “Brooke, take a deep breath, don’t think that way. Don’t move from where you are, until the officer gets there.” “But I could be a sitting duck, just waiting to be shot, or cut.” “You have to trust me. Everything will be better if you wait for the police officer. Please stay on the phone with me, okay?” “Okay.” Kneeling between my parents, I hold a hand from each in mine. “When the police get here, you’ll both be alright.”                    
          After what seemed like the longest ten minutes of my life, a knock on the door startles me. “Police, open the door,” a male voice commands. Still on the phone with the 911 operator, and not wanting to let go of my parents, I yell, “It’s open.” Two policemen stand in front of me. “Oh, thank God!” I exclaim. “Come here and help them, I don’t think they have much time left!” The taller officer gives his partner a look, yet stays where he is. “Don’t just stand there! Help them, please!” The shorter one kneels by me and checks for pulse too. He knows what he’s doing; he’ll feel it! With a shake of the shorter officer’s head, I lose control. “Why haven’t you called for an ambulance yet? Can’t you see my mom and dad need help! What are you waiting for?” “Let me talk to the operator while you and my partner go outside.” The taller one says matter-of-factly. “No, you aren’t doing anything! If I go outside, you’ll probably forget my parents altogether!” “Let me talk to the dispatcher so I can call who we need. And to let me help them the best way I can would be if you go outside so I can get everything done properly.” the taller cop reasons. Simply nodding, I hand over my cellphone and walk outside to the wicker couch on my porch. Sitting down, I stare into the morning darkness, trying to figure out what is going on. Who hurt my parents? Are they going to be okay? “Is there anyone you want to call to come over here with you?” The shorter cop asks, pulling me out of my daze. “My brothers. I forgot about them. They’re on a road trip to California. I can’t be the one to tell them this. I don’t even understand what’s going on. I come home from a party and my parents are lying in pools of blood. How do I explain that? Please, if I give you the number, can you tell them?” I plead.           
          He agrees and I give him my middle brother Eric’s number. Just as he begins to speak, an ambulance pulls up and I let out a sigh of relief. Finally, Mom and Dad will be alright. After I watch the EMTs rush in, the officer hands his phone to me. “Eric?” “Brooke, I can’t believe this happened. I can’t believe we aren’t there to be with you.” Already my brother was hiding his own emotions to try and protect me. “I know. It’s so horrible. Seeing them on the floor like that, I’ll never get that picture out of my mind.” “Brooke, did they. . .do you think they’re going to—?” Before Eric can finish the sentence, I interrupt him. “Don’t talk like that. The EMTs are here and soon they’ll get to the hospital. Where are you guys?” “We’re in Indianapolis and can’t be home until at least tomorrow night. I think you should call Nick, okay? Craig and I don’t want you being alone right now and we know Kaya doesn’t have a car to get to you. Please Brooke.” “Okay, I’ll call him.” “Alright, now let me talk to the cop again, but text me when Nick gets there.” “I will.” “I love you Brooke.” “I love you too, and tell Craig the same.” “Will do.”                      
          Once he’s off the phone with Eric, I ask the officer to use it again to call Nick, my boyfriend of three years. After a tense few rings, a groggy voiced Nick answers. “Hello?” “Nick, it’s Brooke.” “What? Did you get too drunk at your party and now you want me to come pick you up?” He asks belligerently. “No, Nick please. I know we’ve been fighting, but I really need you right now. My parents had both their throats slit right in my living room.” I hear a gasp on the other end. “Right now the paramedics are working on them, but I don’t know. Craig and Eric left on their road trip this morning, and I just can’t be alone right now. Can you come over?” Nick starts to answer when a black van pulls up to the front of my house with the words “CORONER” printed on the side in bold yellow letters.                      
          I drop the phone and jump up. “Coroner? Wait, that means. . .What are they doing here?” I shout at the officer that is giving me a sympathetic look. “No, they didn’t. My parents they’re… they’re dead?” Every ounce of control that I foolishly thought I had is gone. “No, no, it can’t be true.” I look at the cop with tears welling in my eyes. I want to shake him until he tells me it is a mistake, a wrong turn, not meant for my address. Then, three men get out and remove two stretchers from the back of the vehicle, both containing black bags. “They were dead when we arrived on the scene,” the officer confesses. “No, you’re lying. This is a sick joke! My mom and dad aren’t dead! They can’t be.” I run towards the house, but the cop stops me. “You can’t go in there; it’s officially a crime scene.” I am broken. I am alone, out the cold while the bodies, no, corpses of my dead parents are being put into black bags to be wheeled away and examined. I want to cry, but I feel too numb. It doesn’t feel real. I can’t connect to this reality. It can’t be mine. I simply look off into the darkness yet again, still pleading to be somehow woken up at any moment.                      
          Soon, I hear a voice, not an unfamiliar official voice, but a caring voice I know. “Brooke?” Nick asks softly. He sits next to me and wraps his arms around me. “I’m sorry baby. I know this is such a tough thing to deal with,” he soothes. I put my arms around him and sob. “They were just there when I left at ten and now, now they’re gone.” Nick tilts my head back and I’m looking at him. “Brooke, you’re going to be okay. I promise.” He kisses my forehead and I again bury my face in his chest. “Miss Stevens?” Yet another voice fills my ears and I turn my face to it. “I’m Detective Fields and this is my partner Detective Vee. We understand this is a difficult time, but you have to come to the station with us.” “You think I killed my parents?!” I am yelling in disbelief. “Brooke, no one is jumping to conclusions, we just need you to make a statement for our records,” says Detective Vee. “Can he come with me, he’s my boyfriend.” “For right now, you have to ride with us, but he can follow us there.” I look back at Nick and he gives me an approving nod. “I’ll be right behind you. You won’t even know I was gone.” He gives me one last hug before I follow the detectives to their car.                     
          The ride to the police station is torturous because I’m left with my own thoughts in the eerily quiet car. Just a few hours ago I was at a party and I was worried about waking my parents up when I got home, and now they’re gone. That word doesn’t even seem real to me, gone. My parents can’t be gone. My mom is the one who makes chicken soup when I’m sick, tells me to wear a jacket when it’s cold, and always has the best dating advice. My dad is the one that hangs up the Christmas lights, mows the lawn, and always knows exactly what to do when I’m having car trouble. I can’t not have a force like that in my life; it’s too terrible to imagine, much less live through. A lump forms in my throat and I feel like I’m going to start crying again. I turn around to look out the back window and Nick is in the car right behind us, just like he promised. The sight of his face calms me down just in time. “Brooke, we’re about to be there. We’re gonna go in, ask you a few questions, and then you can leave,” explains Detective Vee.                     
          Entering the station, Nick is told to wait on a bench as I am escorted to a room with a small table, three chairs, a lone light bulb hanging overhead, and a two-way mirror. The detectives sit on one side of the table while I sit on the other. As they are setting up the room and getting their paperwork in order, I study their features. Under the light, I can see them both clearly for the first time. Detective Fields is a husky man at about 6’2 that seems to be in his mid-forties and needs a shave to remove the five o’clock shadow that I would now classify as ten o’clock shadow. Detective Vee is another sort all her own. She is a younger thin woman of average height with strong bone structure and blonde curly hair tied in a ponytail. It may seem foolish, but I’d do anything at this point to distract myself until I have to relive all the details of my parents’ murders. Even in my head, that last word spends a chill down my spine. Just then, the click of a tape recorder turning on rips me from my thoughts.                      “Today is July 18, 2014 and the time is 4:05 am. I am Detective Fields here with Detective Vee and we are both interrogating Brooke Stevens about the murder of her parents, David and Linda Stevens.” He looks into my eyes and asks plainly, “Can you lead me through the steps of what happened tonight and what you witnessed?” Starting from leaving for the party to the time the pair introduced themselves to me, I relive every gory detail: the last time moment I saw my parents alive, the party, the car ride with Kaya, the metallic scent, the red pools, the perfect slices, everything. A few times we have to stop because my crying fits change my voice to hopeless noises that cannot be understood by anyone, including me.                      “Thank you Brooke, now can you think of anyone who would want your parents dead?” Detective Vee asks me after I calm down from the last sobbing episode. “No, they were both great people. My mom’s an accountant and my dad’s a carpenter; they are—were average people. My mom would help the neighbors with their taxes for free and my dad would give discounts to the majority of people he worked for. They didn’t do anything to make enemies!” I explain assertively. “Okay, so if they didn’t have a reason to have enemies, is there anyone close to them that you think could have done it?” Detective Fields presses, “Maybe your mom made a mistake on a neighbor’s taxes and it caused them to be bitter or maybe your dad didn’t give a customer exactly what they wanted?” “That doesn’t even make sense, even if those things did happen, I can hardly see either of them causing someone to do such a horrible thing.” Then again, none of this entire situation makes sense to me. “How about people closer? Did your parents have any problems with family?” Detective Vee asks. “Not that I know of. Most of my family on both sides lives in California. My parents moved to the East Coast before I was born, so I don’t get to see my family very often.” “Speaking of California, weren’t your two brothers, Craig and Eric, going there recently?” Detective Fields jumps on the mention of the state. “Yes, they were on a road trip to see our cousins. Like I said, we don’t get to see my extended family very often and my brothers have been looking forward to this trip for months.” “Alright, and when did they leave for the trip?” “This morning, but why does that matter?” “Don’t you think it’s a bit convenient that both your brothers just happen to ‘leave the state’ the exact night your parents are murdered?” “Are you kidding me? You think Eric and Craig killed our parents?!” I don’t even know how to process the accusation. “Do you realize how ridiculous that sounds?” The hysteria in my voice must be matched with a crazy look in my eye because immediately Detective Vee begins to speak to me in a pacifying tone. “Brooke, we are just trying to get all the facts, so we can figure out who did this.” She puts her hand on my shoulder. “The more we know, the closer we come to solving this case and prosecuting whoever did this to your parents.” Detective Fields starts to ask another question when his partner stops him. “I think we have enough for now.” Detective Vee raises her hand to stop his action. With a frustrated groan, he storms out of the room. “Brooke, you can go now, but we will be in contact with you later today.” Detective Vee instructs and adds, “I know it’s probably the last thing on your mind, but try to get some sleep.” With that, I exit the room and find Nick asleep on the bench where I left him over an hour ago.            “Nick?” I give him a light nudge and he is startled awake. “Nick, I’m done. We can leave.” Fixing his eyes on me, Nick’s face relaxes; he stands up, and puts his arm around me and we walk to his car. The digital clock on the radio flashes 5:37 am when Nick turns the key in the ignition. “I called my mom and she set up the guest room for you,” he tells me as we settle in our seats. “I didn’t even think of where I would go, I forgot I can’t go home.” “Don’t worry about it.” Nick is still a little dazed from just being woken up and I have too much on my mind to even want to talk, so the ride to his house is a silent one. Walking through the door, Nick’s mom suddenly has her arms around me. “Oh honey, I don’t even know what to say about such a tragedy! You don’t deserve this at all! You, your brothers, and your parents, are all such good people! I can’t believe this.” She pulls away and there are tears in her eyes. Suddenly I feel like I have to comfort her instead of the other way around. “Mom, Brooke is understandably upset, I think she just wants to go to sleep. She’s been up all night,” Nick suggests. “To be honest, I don’t even think I can sleep. My body is physically tired, but my mind is too wound up to sleep,” I admit. “I have just what you need! Go to the guest room and I will be there in a minute,” Nick’s mom, who has now controlled herself, pipes up.                     
          Entering the guest room, I can smell the scent of newly washed sheets and notice a night gown folded neatly on the bed. On the dresser is a pile of fresh white towels and a box of tissues is on the nightstand.  Just like any mother, Nick’s mom has thought of everything. I sit on the bed and get choked up as I think of how my mom would have had the same standards for making a guest feel right at home. However, before I can even let out a tear, my hostess is at the door holding a glass of water and cupping something in her other hand. “Brooke, I want you to take these to get some sleep,” she directs as she gives me the water and two pills. Normally, I would have protested, but I definitely wasn’t looking forward to laying in bed crying, waiting for the police to contact me for more grueling questions. After I finish the glass, Nick’s mom sits on the bed next to me and takes my hand. “Honey, I don’t understand why this has happened to you, but just know that God has a plan for everything. It may not make any sense right now or even for a while, but God knows what He’s doing and He won’t keep you in the dark for long.” She leaves me in the room and I’m alone for the first time since I left Kaya’s house. Changing into the nightgown, I try everything in my power to not let my mind wander to my parents. I can’t think of them; it’s too painful right now. It proves to be a difficult task, but I am able to distract my mind long enough until the pills take effect.                  
           Unfortunately, I am barely asleep with the door opens, and a figure is advancing towards the bed. I open my mouth to scream, but nothing comes out. Before I can dodge the attack, the figure is on top of me. It’s dark and I can’t see a face, but I know my assailant is a man. I thrash about trying to get away, but his force is too strong.  Pinning me to the bed, he leans his head closer to mine and whispers, “I got your parents and now I will get you.” I watch helplessly as he takes out a knife and runs it teasingly around my cheek. “Ah, just like the first two, my knife will go so smooth across your skin, like butter.” He positions the blade on my neck and again I try to scream. This time it works; I open my mouth and a piercing yell comes out. Now that I have this power back, I use it for all its worth. I begin screaming over and over to get help. I am using so much energy in my vocal cords that I close my eyes to channel everything I have into yelling.                     
           I feel a set of hands on my shoulders; I release my squint and open my eyes. I am in the same room, the same darkness, but no man is on top of me. Nick is sitting on the bed calling my name. “Brooke? Brooke, calm down. It’s okay. It was just a dream. You’re okay.” I position my mouth to let another scream when I stop myself. He’s right; it was just a nightmare. “Oh my God, Nick. I was so scared. The guy who killed my parents came here to kill me. He had a knife and was about to slit my throat. It felt so real.” I begin to sob. I’ve held it off too long and now the dam has broken. I can’t do it anymore. Nick holds me in his arms and tries to stop my shaking by holding me tighter. “You have nothing to worry about Brooke, I will never let anyone hurt you, not while I’m around.” Eventually, my shaking stops, my breathing slows, and I start to feel the pills take effect again. Nick senses it too, I can feel him moving around, preparing to get up. “No, Nick, please stay with me,” I grab his arm. “I can’t be alone, not even with you a room away. I need you here, with me.” He moves back onto the bed and pulls me in. “I’ll be right here. Go back to sleep and I’ll be here when you wake up.” He smooths my hair back into place and before I can say anymore, I am asleep.                      With no more interruptions, I manage to get a few hours of sleep in. As I wake up, I hear Nick tease, “Ah, my Sleeping Beauty has finally arisen from her slumber.” Looking up, I can’t help but let out a smile, as I notice he is in the exact spot I left him in. “What time is it? Noon?” I ask as reality returns to me. “It’s actually five o’clock,” Nick eases. “I slept almost twelve hours?” I ask in disbelief. “Yeah, I knew my mom should have never given you that stuff, but she wouldn’t have it any other way.” “I have so much to get done.” The hysteria in my voice grows. “I need to call Craig and Eric to tell them they have to meet me here and not our house. And the cops, ah I bet them called and are so mad I didn’t pick up.” I am about to go on when Nick stops me. “Everything is taken care of Brooke. Your brothers should be here in the next hour and the police only called to let you know that an officer will be coming by to make sure Craig and Eric report the station after they get here.” “But how did you…?” “A lot can get accomplished with a cellphone and twelve hours of staying in the same place.” “Thank you.” Two simple words, but I can’t express how grateful I am to have him with me, especially now. If I can’t show my gratitude, I have to at least show regret. “Nick, I’m sorry we’ve been fighting recently. With school and work and just everything, it’s all gotten to me. I didn’t mean to take it out on you.” “Brooke, after all you’ve been through in the past twenty-four hours, you think I am even thinking about that? This is why I love you, always thinking about others before yourself.” He kisses my forehead and stumbles as he gets out of bed. “Get dressed, Craig and Eric will refuse to wait any longer to see you once they get here.”                      At six a police car arrives and about twenty minutes later, Craig’s car pulls up. I don’t know who’s faster as both my brothers and I rush to embrace, but when we all connect, tears are flowing and words are being exchanged all at the same time that it barely makes sense. I don’t care though; these two are the last in my family and now that they are here, in front of me, I can’t think of anything else of relevance. As we all calm down, Craig begins, “Brooke, of all the weekends we are gone, this happens.” “Thank God you weren’t there,” Eric adds, “Losing Mom and Dad is hard enough, but our baby sister too—” “I’m sorry to cut this reunion short, but you two have to come with me,” the officer interrupts. It’s difficult to hide my distaste, but I know they have to go. “Get back as soon as you can, okay?” I plead. They nod in agreement, each gives me one last hug, and I watch as the car disappears around the corner. As if waiting for them to come back in the state wasn’t bad enough, waiting for them to get through interrogation is even worse. All I can think about was how Detective Fields accused my own brothers of killing our parents. I can only imagine how he is treating them now. Three long hours and I am on the verge of a breakdown when my brothers walk through the door. “They had absolutely nothing on us, but they kept us there to try to extract the information they swore we had,” Eric explains. Entering the living room, Craig sits on the couch and isn’t adding to Eric’s complaints in the slightest, extremely uncharacteristic for my oldest brother. “They showed him pictures of the murder scene and he broke down,” Eric replies to my puzzling gaze. “They showed me too, but I barely got a glance. There’s no way I’m remembering my parents that way.” After all the frustration is released, I manage to get Eric and even Craig to eat the dinner Nick’s mom has prepared. That night Nick is not needed in my room as my brothers and I all stay in the one guest room. It’s a tight sleeping situation, but I wouldn’t feel safer anywhere else than in between Craig and Eric. The next morning, we get another visit from Detectives Fields and Vee. They come to tell us that their investigation is ongoing and they will update us as time goes on, yet unfortunately they had nothing new to report. Two days later, we are allowed to return back to our house. I appreciated Nick and his family for all they had done, but after a while, one changes feelings from a guest to a nuisance. The reentry was horrible. As soon as I locked eyes on the beige carpet, that is now free from any stain thanks to crime scene clean up team, the whole night came right back to me. Fortunately, with my brothers by my side, I was able to work through it.           
          A week goes by and still nothing. My brothers and I attempt to return to some state of normalcy, but it’s difficult going on day after day and knowing that Mom and Dad are never coming home. The wounds are reopened every morning after the stupor of sleep wears off and we are reminded again of the dark reality.           
          Today I vow to be different. I am awake at a reasonable hour and I have a full day planned with Kaya. Arriving at her house, I am relieved to see her smiling. The first few times I saw her after “the incident” were tough because she didn’t know what to say and she didn’t hide that fact. However, now as she gets in my car and we drive to the nearest hiking trails, I can’t help but be thankful to have my best friend back in working order. Hiking from path to path, we stop every so often to look at the wild flowers and waterfalls. The fresh air filling my lungs and the dirt crushing beneath my feet feel invigorating and for the first time in almost two weeks, I feel happy. It is approaching four o’clock when the hunger and exhaustion of the day start to come down on Kaya and me. Once we reach my car, my cellphone starts to flash wildly. This is a usual occurrence once we exit the park, since reception is spotty on the trails. This time, the action worries me because five calls are from police department. I quickly redial the call and am told to come to the station immediately.           
          Due to my distance away and dropping off Kaya, it takes an hour and a half for me to reach the station. As she was waiting outside when I got there, Detective Vee is the first person to meet me. “Brooke, we have to go now,” she commands. “We know who killed your parents and now he has your brother Craig.” “What? Who? Where? Is Craig okay?” The questions are pouring out of me and Vee answers them all with great patience as we make our way to the location unknown to me. “One of your neighbors called in and said they saw Nick’s car in front of your house the night your parents were killed. She didn’t think much of it then because she’s seen the car many times before. However, once she heard the details of the crime on the news, she couldn’t stop herself from feeling suspicious and gave us a call. We’ve been tracking Nick’s every move since and we’ve had no physical evidence to even question him about, until now.” She pauses in what I think is a window for me to ask questions, but I’m silent and she continues. “Today, he called your house posing as the funeral director and asked Eric and Craig meet him downtown to discuss your parents’ arrangements. Eric was busy on his cellphone with the insurance company and sent Craig to go alone. From there, our officers saw Craig enter the rundown building that they followed Nick to and knew something was wrong. They immediately followed your brother in, but by the time they found the correct room, Nick already had taken Craig hostage.” “Is he alive?” I swallow hard. “Yes, and the officers are doing everything in their power to keep it that way. Detective Fields is talking with Nick now and he’s demanding to see you or he threatened to hurt Craig.” I hear the words come out of her mouth, but they don’t compute. I feel like she has just spoken to me in another language that I can’t comprehend. Nick, my boyfriend, the one who’s been soothing all my cries and wiping away my tears, is behind my parents’ murders and has now taken my brother hostage? How am I supposed to take this? It feels even more unbelievable than the murder itself. Part of me wants to protest, but I have no strength. In two weeks time, this is far too much for anyone to digest. I internally plead with every fiber of my being that this is a nightmare and soon I will be woken up by Craig, Eric, or even my own screams.                     
           My wish is never granted. Soon, we arrive at a building that is surrounded by police and I am greeted by a hysterical Eric. “How was I supposed to know that the police didn’t get funeral directors to call you? It seemed to make sense to me, but look where it’s got us, look where it’s got him!” Had it had been any other time, I would have thrown my arms around Eric to comfort him and dispel his self-blame. However, right now it was too much for me to handle. I callously walked past Eric with nothing more than a squeeze of his hand and a look in the eye. In the elevator, Detective Vee coaches me on the proper way to talk to Nick as she helps me slip on a bulletproof vest. “You have to stay calm. The calmer you are, the calmer he will be and the less likely he is to do anything to Craig.” It’s still hard for me to speak when I am ushered to the door that houses Nick and my brother.                     
          “Nick, Brooke is here.” Detective Fields informs. “I don’t believe you! Have her say something,” Nick shouts. The detectives look at me and give a nod as a cue to begin. “Nick, it’s Brooke. Please don’t hurt my brother.” “I was never going to hurt him, I just wanted to see you and I still do.” Nick’s voice settles down. “I am going to come and unlock the door and I want Brooke to come in. If anyone else comes in, I will shoot Craig and anyone I can after.” “No! You can’t let her in there! He’ll kill them both!” Eric bursts out, “I can’t lose my whole family!” There is a sudden burst of activity as Eric is apprehended and taken away. Then, from behind the door, a gunshot. “Listen, I am in charge here and if I don’t get my way. It’s all over.” Nick commands. “That was just a warning shot, but the next one will be right through his skull.” Taking a deep breath, I respond. “It will just be me, Nick; I promise.” After approval nods from the detectives, I make my way towards the door and turn the knob. As soon as both my feet are just in the room, Nick slams the door behind me, locking it again.                           Craig is in the middle of a studio apartment, tied to a chair, and gagged with a white cloth. Nick circles around and touches my face. “Oh Brooke, my sweet, sweet love, don’t look so frightened. You are just here with me. I won’t let anyone hurt you, remember?” Stay calm, whatever you do, stay calm. “You may not have hurt me physically, but you have hurt me in other ways.” Nick lets out an aggravated sigh, throws his hands up in the air, and starts pacing. “I knew you were going to act like this. They’ve brainwashed you into thinking I’m a monster, when all I ever did was love you.” “Who brainwashed me?” “Your parents and now your brothers. They’ve pinned everything on me and they have you hating me.” “Why would you say that?” “The fighting, Brooke. We couldn’t go a day without an argument and I knew where it was heading and I couldn’t let that happen. I couldn’t lose you.” “Nick, what did you do?” “I did what was best for us. Haven’t you seen? Since they’ve been gone, we have been closer than we’ve been in months! All thanks to me.” “You killed my parents to save our relationship?” I let too much emotion slip out with my question and it immediately reflects on Nick. “Don’t you see? I had to. They were going to split us up and I couldn’t bear it. I needed to be with you forever and I couldn’t let anyone get in our way.” I feel tears build in my eyes, but I try to hold them back. “If you already dealt with my parents, why my brothers? They never had anything bad to say about you.” “They might not have yet, but they were going to and I couldn’t let them get in the way.” He is back in front of me and grabs my hands. “Don’t you see Brooke? It might not have gone as planned, but you and I, we can run away. We can be together without any distractions, just me and you.” He pulls me in for a kiss, but I force myself away. “Did you ever think it was you who caused our fights? Out of nowhere, you stopped wanting to go out, and if I did convince you to leave, you would act so weird around other people. Even when it was just me and you, all you wanted to do was stay in and watch a movie or sleep. I tried to ask you what was wrong, but you never let me in. I couldn’t take it anymore.” The anger was boiling up inside Nick and I could almost see the steam waiting to escape his head. “Don’t say that Brooke, you loved me. You wanted to be with me.” “Yes, at a time, I loved you and wanted you. But now, now I . . .I” I’m stopped by Nick’s actions. He’s breathing heavy and his hands wring the gun. “I thought we would be so perfect Brooke, but you’re just like all of them and I can’t have that in my life.” He walks towards me with the gun pointed directly at me. “Nick, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said those things. I was wrong. Please don’t kill me.” “It’s a little too late for that.” Just before the gun goes off, the door to the apartment is busted down and police swarm in. Due to the commotion, a bullet only grazes my arm as a shooting war begins to erupt out. It’s all too much for me and despite any major injuries, I black out.           
           The next thing I know, I wake up in a hospital bed with Craig and Eric in chairs on either side of me, each holding my hand. “Oh thank God,” Craig lets out a sigh of relief. “Brooke! You’re awake. We were so worried!” Eric cries. “Was I shot? What happened?” I ask. “No, he wasn’t able to get you. However, the cops and the hospital psychiatrist think the mental trauma was too much for you to handle and you passed out. They sedated you for the night, but they are keeping you here for a few days to make sure you are mentally and emotionally stable.” I nod in understanding, but then I turn my head away. I find myself in the middle of an internal battle in my head. Going back and forth in my head, one side finally wins and I blurt out what I’ve been trying to avoid. “Is Nick alive?” “No, the police took him down trying to protect you and he didn’t survive.” Eric is livid. “Now the bastard doesn’t even get to face his punishment, such a coward.”                   
           A few days later, we find out from the autopsy that Nick had Schizophrenia. Now who am I supposed to be mad at, him or the disease? Despite his actions, I truly that Nick didn’t know what was happening. I’d been with him three years and I thought his altered behavior was just laziness. However, through research of the illness, I found that Nick’s strange actions were all linked to common Schizophrenic symptoms. I don’t mean to excuse Nick and I am still angry, hurt, and surprised by his actions. Yet, it does give me something that keeps awake long hours of the night. As a result of this entire ordeal, I’ve entered a vacuuming depression, sprinkled with bouts of anxiety. Who’s to say I won’t be the next one to go on a murderous rampage due to the demons that occupy my mind?

The Other Half

            The day someone enters the world, he or she is not complete. In fact, people wander around the Earth for years, doing their daily activities as only half-beings. A person’s true potential as a whole cannot be earned until one finds his or her other half—another half-being that is predestined to connect perfectly with the first. For some people, it may take years to occur; for others, it may never happen. However, the biggest tragedy of all is finding one’s other half and losing him or her to an inescapable twist of cruel fate.  
            Lily Warner was born on a freezing winter’s night and the cold that chilled the infant’s bones on that first evening was just the start of a life of harsh blows that rocked her to her core. Lily came into this world unwanted, for she was found in a dark alleyway by a fireman with nothing more than a tattered shirt wrapped around her as a makeshift blanket. The man just happened to hear a wailing cry while walking to get a cup of coffee after a rough night of being on call and he couldn’t believe a mother would leave a newborn out in such harsh conditions. With no trace of identification nor knowledge of how the child got there, he wrapped the helpless baby in his coat and brought her back to the station. At eleven o’clock, the state arrived and took her away.
            One would think that being rescued from the streets and having a chance at life would have meant great things for the baby; however, through the years, Lily’s life evolved into what could never be classified as great. Although her first foster home was a child’s dream: brothers and sisters, a playroom, and even a dog, the year she was four years old, her foster father suffered from a debilitating car accident. As a result, even though they were heartbroken to do it, the only family she ever knew put her back into the foster care system. For the next few years, the girl switched from three foster homes, deemed too rambunctious and a bad influence on the other children. Both of these traits resulted from the emotional scars of never having a true place to call home. When she was ten, she was finally placed in a house that ended up being her final stop in the system.
            Despite staying at one residence, Lily’s house was not a home. While her foster mother favored her biological children, she was extremely verbally abusive to Lily. The insults were constant as the years progressed. “You’re worthless.” “You’re going nowhere in life.” “You are a useless loser.” “I can’t stand you.” “Just having you here disgusts me.” “You’re nothing more than a check to me.” Though each attack damaged her self-esteem more and more, the one insult Lily hated more than all the rest was when her foster mother would taunt, “Your own mother didn’t want you, that’s why she left you out to dead with the trash.”
            Lily felt powerless; there was no physical evidence of her mother’s awful words so she thought nothing could be done. This led to years of suffering in silence. The other children in the house tried to defend their foster sister a few times, but were punished severely for their disobedient actions which quickly stopped any further avenges.
            Fortunately school was her comfort zone, because the longer she stayed there, the longer she could avoid the torment at her house. Lily joined every club she could in high school and went even further by earning high grades after she found another escape—the library. All the time spent at school and studying forged a path to college, a permanent escape to finally get loose from the tight grip of her abusive upbringing. After she turned eighteen and aged out of the foster care system. Since there were no checks coming to the house every month, Lily’s exit was not protested because she was used for all she was worth.
            Though it hurt on “Move-In Day,” as she watched as all the parents help their children to their dorms, Lily was so jubilant to be out on her own that the negative feelings didn’t last long. Also, because she was an independent and had such high grades, the school worked out all her financial concerns with scholarships, grants, and a work study program that brought her into giving campus tours. This is where she really thrived. By being so grateful to be at the school, she channeled all her enthusiasm into her tours. Soon, she became a mentor for the new guides that were hired every semester. This is how she met Danny Conklin, who was born into a loving suburban American family—a stark contrast to her own upbringing.
            In his sophomore year of college, Danny started working for the school’s admissions office. The department he was placed in was titled, “Campus Tours.” He had never been one to be particularly comfortable with talking in front of groups of people. Throughout his school years, Danny was always overshadowed by his athletic, intelligent older brother, Tommy. He was an average student who was into music and didn’t care much for the spectacles that surrounded Tommy. In fact, when he graduated high school, he was happy when he was not called up for an award because he hated being the center of attention. However, he needed the money, so he tried to not let his fear get the best of him. The following week he was paired with an experienced tour guide to shadow, so he could learn the effective way to give a campus tour. Although he knew the campus very well and there was a script to follow for certain points, the university would do this to give the new guides first hand observation. The girl he was matched with was named Lily. She had long brunette hair, deep brown eyes, and a bubbly personality. These features made Danny immediately attracted to her.
            During the tours, Lily seemed like a pro as she knew all the locations perfectly and could answer every question from the group with ease. She even had a way of engaging the crowd with jokes and activities. For instance, there was one time their tour group was approaching another, so Lily told the group to wave at them. The prospective students were reluctant, but once she did it with such eagerness, the whole group joined in. “This may seem awkward, but you have to understand that you have to step out of your comfort zone to meet new people in college,” she explained. “Those people in that other group could possibly be your future classmates. That girl in the red dress could be in your math class begging you to let her copy your homework. You now have an excuse to say no because she was rude and didn’t wave to you during this tour. She won’t remember, but you will! And that guy in the back with a bright orange shirt, he could be a great writer that can help you with your papers. You never know someone until you start the conversation. It may seem silly or weird, but if you want to make friends, you have to take risks.” Danny admired her philosophy and was eager to incorporate his own into the tours he would man in the future.
            After the pair completed a total of four tours and the day was done, Lily stopped Danny as they were walking back to the admissions office. “So what did you think of the tours? You think you have what it takes,” she asked. “I think I have what it takes to guide a tour, but I’m not sure I’ll be as good as you. You really know how to command a crowd,” Danny complimented. “You really think so? I was so nervous! I was afraid it would show! I have been doing these tours for about a year now and I still get anxious every time. I hate talking in front of people,” she admitted. Her openness led them deeper into conversation, and Danny was enjoying every minute. “What’s your major,” Danny asked. “Psychology,” Lily revealed, “I want to help kids, maybe through social work or counseling, but I’m not sure where I want to take it. How about you?” “I’m studying music. I really want to open my own recording studio one day,” Danny began. “My parents aren’t too happy with that though because my older brother is currently in law school and is bound to be extremely successful. Meanwhile, they aren’t as confident in my future as I am.” “I think it’s great that you have a dream and are going for it! So many people are too scared to risk it all for a dream, but you aren’t, despite your family’s opinions. That’s inspiring,” Lily commended. “Yeah, that’s easy for you to say, I bet your parents are ecstatic with your major,” Danny protested. Lily looked away from him and tried to act as if there was something more interesting happening in the distance. Do I really want to get into this with him? She thought. No, I can’t stand the look of pity that people give me, like my roommate from freshman year. I’ll just keep it short and casual. Her eyes darted back to Danny’s and she saw a confused look on his face. “I’m sorry; there was a bird behind you. Yeah, about my parents. . . I don’t really have any. It’s just me and I’m happy with my choice of major and that’s all I’m worried about!” Lily declared with as much confidence as she could. Before he could ask any questions, she switched the topic swiftly, “Anyway, do you dorm or commute?” Danny hesitated, but welcomed the change because he felt guilty for bringing up the topic, even though he had no idea it was going to be an issue.   
            The two ended up talking for over an hour when Lily looked at her cellphone and gasped. “I have class across campus in five minutes! I have to go,” she confessed. “But hey could we trade numbers in case you need any help with work?” Danny couldn’t help but smile and agree. She might have said it was for work, but I hope it means more, he thought as Lily walked away. Those days seemed so innocent and given the choice, the two would go back to that time in a heartbeat if they could, for the present was too disheartening to bear.
            The strong smell of antiseptic grazed Lily’s nose as she walked through the bare, white hospital hallways. The odor used to burn, but she had been there so many times since the first frightening visit that it was a surprise that she even smelled it at all anymore. After a long walk through the winding corridors, she cautiously approached an all-too-familiar hospital room, labeled 306. Although the room changed with each visit, they all started to seem the same as the number of Danny’s stays in the hospital increased. A chill ran up her spine as she touched the cold, metal doorknob, knowing that Danny, the love of her life, would be behind that door looking as worse as he ever had. He had always been a fighter, battling every obstacle that had come his way ever since he was first diagnosed with cancer. However, the doctors said that he didn’t have much time left, so Lily has spent every possible moment that she could by his side.  
            The door slowly opened with a loud creak. Lily tried to quiet the squeal, but it was too late. Danny’s eyelids weakly separated. Such a simple task seemed to take away most of his energy. As their eyes locked, a memory flashed into Lily’s mind. It was of him and her in the past, before the deadly disease, on their first date.
            Before the actual date happened, it is important to describe the events leading up to it also, as it took quite a while for these two to get together. Three months after Danny first met Lily, he finally summed up all his courage to ask her on a date. He had tried a few times before, but always backed out at the last second for fear of rejection. Little did he know, Lily was waiting in excited anticipation for him to make the first move. She had an inkling that he had feelings for her, but she would quickly quiet those thoughts with her own insecurities. Danny doesn’t like me, she thought, there are so many other pretty girls he could get. He would never want me. Fortunately, Lily was wrong.
            One day, as they were eating lunch together, just like they did every Thursday, she could see Danny was not the laid back guy he usually was. He wasn’t talking much and kept playing with his hair, a nervous habit that Lily had observed as she got more acquainted to him. After thirty minutes of this treatment, Lily couldn’t take it anymore. “Are you okay? You seem. . . upset,” she asked softly. “Yeah, I’m sorry. I just have a lot on my mind,” Danny replied in a shaky manner. “Do you want to talk about it,” Lily offered. “No, it’s alright. Don’t worry about me.” He tried to assure her with a half-smile.
            For the next fifteen minutes, they attempted to make small talk. However, Danny’s manner was making it too awkward, and it made Lily withdrawn too. Danny had never acted this way before and she wanted to figure out why. However, before they knew it, it was time for them to part. Lily said she’d see him later and started to walk away. Just then, Danny gently grabbed her arm. “There actually was something I wanted to talk to you about,” he confessed. “Do you want to go to the St. Dominic’s Fair with me this Saturday?” “Of course,” Lily agreed eagerly.
            What she remembered now, as she looked into his weak eyes in the hospital room, was when they were at the top of a Ferris wheel, at a local town’s annual fair. The scene was as if it was taken out of a brochure. The sun was just setting past the trees and the autumn wind cooled the air. Lily watched as the breeze blew Danny’s shoulder length, black hair in all different directions. She smiled at the sight; soon after, they kissed.
            A groan escaped into the silence of the moment and broke Lily out of her blissful flashback to see Danny for what he was now. His once tan skin was now a pale grey. His once full head was bare; and worst of all, his once optimistic attitude was now a distant memory.

“You didn’t tell me you were coming today,” Danny complained as he turned his head in an attempt to shield his face from her sight. He knew what he looked like and didn’t want her to see him as such because he knew it would upset her. Lily smiled lightly, “You know I come here as often I can.” She turned his face to her and kissed his forehead. “Can you get me some water? My mouth is so dry, and the nurse hasn’t been in to check on me in a while.” He feebly pointed to the pitcher of water on a small wooden table by foot of his bed. Immediately, Lily had the container in her hand and was pouring water into a small cup. She then handed it to him. It happened so fast that one would think that Danny had had the glass in his hand the whole time.    
            “I didn’t want to talk about this, but it has to be dealt with.” He took in a long, deep breath. “Call Tommy; I want him to help you gather all my things once I’m. . .I can’t,” He couldn’t bring himself to say it. He had accepted his grim fate, but he knew Lily hadn’t. Still, as he gave her the instructions, a sad distant look was held in his eyes. Lily settled in the chair next to his bedside and shook her head. “Don’t talk that way, honey. You’re going to be fine. It’s hard now and things look bad, but they will turn around. I don’t care what the doctors say.” Lily tried her best to hold back the tears.
            In an attempt to distract herself from the dismal reality, Lily found herself yet again daydreaming of a memory from the past. In this instance, she thought of the first time the pair exchanged “I love you’s.” It had been six months since Danny and Lily had officially become a couple, and they were spending the day at Danny’s brother’s wedding. It had been a beautiful, outdoor ceremony, and now everyone was celebrating the momentous event at the reception. They both didn’t like to dance, as they were self-conscious of their lack of technique, but the DJ pulled everyone to the dance floor with a casual hit that told the guests the moves to make as the song went on. Therefore, the couple knew they couldn’t mess it up too much and decided to give it a try.
            After a while, the song was over and although it was fun, Danny and Lily were eager to retreat back to their seats, but then something happened that made them both pause. As he asked for the couples to remain on the floor, the DJ played a slow song that just happened to be their song—“Iris” by the Goo Goo Dolls. A few months later Tommy had revealed that he requested the song, “to help his little brother get some game,” but for the moment, Lily and Danny were both surprised. Since this was their first formal event, the two had never slow danced together before, so in the beginning it was a bit gawky. However, as the notes played on, their moves became more in sync. With Danny’s hands on her hips and her arms around him, Lily felt so at peace in this pose as they swayed back and forth. Then, she felt his grip tighten and his hands move as he repositioned to dip her. Though surprised, she smiled as she was impressed at his skill. “I’ve been practicing that with my mom for weeks,” he confessed with a small blush on his face. “Practice makes perfect I see,” Lily replied with a grin. He drew her in closer and put his mouth to her ear, “I love you,” Danny whispered. She hesitated and bit her lip. A guy had never said those three words to her first and the last guy she said them to, back in high school, had broken her heart. Was she really ready to let someone in like that again?
            Just then, the song stopped and transitioned to another. Despite the alteration of movement from the other couples, Lily and Danny stayed where they were. “It’s okay. You don’t have to say it back; I get it,” he said disappointed as he began to pull away. No, he’s not like the others, she thought, I can’t let bad experiences from the past stop me from this moment. “Danny, I love you too,” she blurted out. “You know how I am; I always have to think before I do something. I’m sorry it took so long.” He looked at her with doubt and she knew she had to fix the situation before she lost him irrevocably. Lily then grabbed hold of the lapels of Danny’s suit and pulled him in for a passionate kiss. Merely thinking of that memory made Lily smile in the present day which brought her back to the hospital room. She suddenly wanted to kiss him again.       
            She bent forward and just as her lips were about to make contact with his, Danny protested, “No, stop. You know I don’t like kissing.” When he had first started chemotherapy, Danny was instructed not to kiss anyone because he had to be very cautious of infection. However, after the doctors warned he was approaching the end, they said there was nothing a kiss could do to make it any worse and that it might even help his morale. It was the worst conflict of emotions within them both. They longed to be able to kiss again, but the price of it, Danny’s life, could never outweigh their desire for affection. Their first kiss since they were given the okay was only a month ago; however, for a week now Danny hadn’t let Lily go near him in that respect. She let out a frustrated sigh and sat back down. “You have to get used to it, you know, not kissing me. I’m actually helping you. It’s tough for me too; because where I’m going, I won’t have you either,” Danny said faintly, yet was adamant. “No, it’s not tough because you aren’t going anywhere. You’ll always be here, right by my side.” She always lied to him and even herself. She couldn’t bear the thought of him losing forever, no matter how inevitable that possibility was.
            “I don’t even know why you’re here with me now,” Danny admitted depressingly. “Have you looked at me? I look like some kind of experiment gone wrong with a bald head and such pale skin. If I were you, I wouldn’t stay with Sci-Fi me.” He often had these moments of insecurity, anxious that his mere appearance would make Lily leave him. “No, you don’t. If you did, would I have stayed with you this long,” she asked to try and lighten the mood, but it was hopeless. “You know what really gets me though?” Danny inquired while jumping topics, “how I will never get to marry you.”
            Lily had considered about that very notion so many times. As a matter of fact, the thought would keep her up in the middle of the night in tears. It was such a stark contrast from the first few years they dated, when she would often have dreams about her and Danny standing in front of an alter as a priest pronounced them man and wife. She imagined Danny in a classic black tuxedo and herself in a long, white, sleeveless dress, all surrounded by their family and friends in an elaborately decorated church. Now that those plans would never be and with Danny being so casual in assuring that, she couldn’t help herself or hide her emotions any longer. “I said don’t talk that way!” Lily shouted as she jumped up from her chair. “You think I like thinking about the thought of not having you in my life? Do you think it’s easy to know that one day, much earlier than I would have ever imagined, I won’t be able to hear your voice or hold your hand or even just tell you that I love you?” She bowed her head and breathed heavily as a rebellious tear fell down her cheek.
            Danny was ashamed. Great, look what I did now, he thought. He didn’t mean to hurt her. He was just having a rough day and was carelessly venting out his emotions. He sighed and motioned for her to come over to him. This time, she sat on his bed, just as Danny wanted—she always knew the best thing to do—and he softly grabbed her hand. “Baby, I’m just exhausted and my mind’s all messed up from the chemo.” He tried to apologize for his behavior, looking her in the eye. “I know it’s hard for you and you have been the best girlfriend anyone could ever ask for. I am so lucky to have you in my life and by my side throughout this whole thing.” He gripped her hand tighter. “But Lily, it’s even harder for me to deal with if you don’t let me talk about what’s going to happen. If you keep pretending I’ll get better and it will all go back to what it used to be, once I’m gone you’re going to be destroyed. And I can’t stand the idea of that happening. I love you more than anything in this world and I hate that this disease is taking me from you…but it is.” “I know Danny, but you have to get in a better mood…even if it’s your last.” That was it, she couldn’t handle it anymore. Lily fell apart right in front of Danny, something she swore she never would. She had to be his rock, but then, in that moment, she crumbled. Her body slumped over and shook violently as she sobbed heavily. Danny, although lacking an appropriate amount of energy, wrapped his arms around her and held her.
            It’d been a long time since he’d done this very action. In the past, Lily had been the one holding him, like the day he got diagnosed with Stage III Glioblastoma—brain cancer. He had been getting headaches a lot, but blamed them on the stress of being a recent college graduate and still looking for a job. However, one day when he was driving, his vision became very blurry. Just as he was able to pull over, his field of sight went black. Although it was only out for a few minutes and he was able to drive home without another issue after that, he knew he had to get it checked out. After a few visits to different physicians and an MRI later, Danny sat in front of his doctor when he was told the awful prognosis. Beforehand, he purposely wanted to go alone so he wouldn’t worry his parents, Tommy, or Lily, but now he wished he had someone there with him. Danny’s mind was spinning so fast with thoughts that he could barely hear the doctor as he used the words “oncology,” “chemotherapy,” and “radiation.” All he could think about was how worried he was that he would die. I’m only twenty-three years old. I have so many plans: my record studio, traveling, and growing old with Lily, he thought. Could it really all be gone in one visit to the doctor?
            While he was waiting at the bus stop for the next bus home, as he was unable to drive for fear that he would go blind again, all he could think of was how he wanted to see Lily. She always made him smile on his worst days, and he knew he needed her now more than ever. Danny walked into their apartment where he saw Lily sitting on the couch. She stood up and asked, “Are you okay? Why didn’t you answer my calls?” “It’s cancer, Stage III brain cancer. The doctor told me a lot of things, but I could barely understand him. I was too busy worried about dying.” Danny hadn’t admitted that thought out loud until that point and once he had, it felt too real. He started to cry and Lily put her arm around him and walked him over to the couch she had just been seated in. She let him reveal all his fears and soothed his cries. Once he calmed down, she kneeled in front of him and looked him in the eye. “Danny, you are going to get through this. You are going to fight. You are so strong and you can beat this. You won’t be alone, your parents, Tommy, and I will be there for you every step of the way. No matter how hard it gets, you can never give up. I won’t let you.” For the past three years, she had kept that promise and had always been there for Danny no matter what: holding his hair as he got sick from his first round of chemo, shaving her own head when his hair fell out, and even now, during his darkest hour yet. Although he was so weak, he knew he had to be there for her too.            
            “Never give up, right Lily Pad?” Danny asked, using a nickname he’d given her years ago. She looked at him and smiled. “I love you,” she said as she snuggled next to him. “I love you too,” he replied and kissed her lips. Then it was apparent that the entire event used up all his energy and just as they got settled, Danny fell into a slumber. Lily laid there for a while, in his arms, listening to his gentle breathing in and out, and feeling his heart beat. A few years earlier, she would have taken these little things for granted, but now every second she experienced them, she felt as if she had won the lottery. Because in her opinion, every extra moment she had with him was better than any cash prize in the world could have ever been. 
            Eventually, Lily delicately moved from the bed to her chair, taking the greatest care not to stir him. She treasured his sleep since it seemed to be the only time he wasn’t in pain. From the moment she met Danny, she knew their journey would be one she would never forget. However, Lily would have never thought it would have been cut so short. The future was bleak, but whatever it would bring, Lily promised to stay by Danny’s side—even if that meant kneeling by a tombstone. Cancer may take her other half from her world, but it would never take him from her heart.

The Things Seen Through a Photographer’s Eye

The things seen through a photographer’s eye
Are begging to be shot.
The many subjects make them hard to deny.

Kites flying way up high
Burning feet in the sand that is hot.
The things seen through a photographer’s eye

The fireworks blowing up on the 4th of July
A worried mother as she chases her tot
The many subjects make them hard to deny.

A nervous prom date adjusting his tie
Awesome patterns that the painter’s colors blot
The things seen through a photographer’s eye

Speedy joggers running by
A young boy scout as he practices his knot.
The many subjects make them hard to deny.

Two lovers saying good-bye
An overflowing mail slot
The things seen through a photographer’s eye
The many subjects make them make to deny.

If My Car Radio Could Hear

Oh, if my car radio could hear
The things it would know
For everything it picked up would be sincere.

The joyous good grade cheer
As my knowledge and GPA grow.
Oh, if my car radio could hear.

The angry road rage jeer
After the car in front of me was going too slow.
For everything it picked up would be sincere.

The hopeless tear
When my mood is low
Oh, if my car radio could hear.

The anxious “first day” fear
That I try not to show.
For everything it picked up would be sincere.

Even simply shifting into first gear
On the high way, hoping my engine doesn’t blow.
Oh, if my car radio could hear.
For everything it picked up would be sincere.

Short Story Revision

 

It’s often said that true love can conquer all, but is that true? Can two strangers ever form a connection that is typically first formed in a household between close family members? It is a rare, but magical force to be taken hold of by. No one in recent history knows the power of true love more than Lily and Danny, a pair who is currently facing an ultimate battle of life and death against an enemy that cannot be seen with the ocharacters like backstory because they didn’t care that the guy was dying because they didn’t know him. I wanted my story to be about true love conquering all and how death wasn’t going to end their relationship. I don’t know. I guess I don’t understand the creative process. Finally, how do I find your online piece so I can share it with my professor and read it myself?dds not in their favor. Despite their now unbreakable bond, that even this invisible assassin could not shake, the two started off as nothing more than strangers from separate worlds. Lily Warner was born on a freezing winter’s night and the cold that chilled the infant’s bones on that first evening was just the start of a life of harsh blows that rocked her to her core. Lily came into this world unwanted, for she was found in a dark alleyway by a fireman with nothing more than a tattered shirt wrapped around her as a makeshift blanket. The man just happened to hear a wailing cry while walking to get a cup of coffee after a rough night of being on call and he couldn’t believe a mother would leave a newborn out in such harsh conditions. With no trace of identification nor knowledge of how the child got there, he wrapped her in his coat and brought her back to the station. At eleven o’clock, the state arrived and took her away. One would think that being rescued from the streets and having a chance at life would have meant great things for the baby; however, in a cruel twist of fate, Lily’s life evolved into what could never be classified as great. Although her first foster home was a child’s dream: brothers and sisters, a playroom, and even a dog, the year she was four years old, her foster father suffered from a debilitating car accident. As a result, even though they were heartbroken to do it, the only family she ever knew put her back into the foster care system. For the next few years, the girl switched from three foster homes, deemed too rambunctious and a bad influence on the other children. Both of these traits resulting from the emotional scars of never having a true place to call home. When she was ten, she was finally placed in a house that ended up being her final stop in the system. It may seem fortunate to an outsider, but despite staying at one residence, Lily’s house was not a home. While her foster mother favored her biological children, she was extremely verbally abusive to Lily. The insults were constant as the years progressed. “You’re worthless.” “You’re going nowhere in life.” “You are a useless loser.” “I can’t stand you.” “Just having you here disgusts me.” “You’re nothing more than a check to me.” Though each attack damaged her self-esteem more and more, the one Lily hated more than all the rest was when her foster mother would taunt, “Your own mother didn’t want you, that’s why she left you out to dead with the trash.” Lily felt powerless; there was no physical evidence of her mother’s awful words so she thought nothing could be done. This led to years of suffering in silence. The other children in the house tried to defend their foster sister a few times, but were punished severely for their disobedient actions which quickly stopped any further avenges. Fortunately school was her comfort zone, because the longer she stayed there, the longer she could avoid the torment at her house. Lily joined every club she could in high school and went even further by earning high grades after she found another escape—the library. All the time spent at school and studying forged a path to college, a permanent escape to finally get loose from the tight grip of her abusive upbringing. After she turned eighteen and aged out of the foster care system, there were no checks coming to the house every month, so Lily’s exit was not protested since she was used for all she was worth. Though it hurt on “Move-In Day,” as she watched as all the parents help their children to their dorms, Lily was so jubilant to be out on her own that the negative feelings didn’t last long. Also, because she was an independent and had such high grades, the school worked out all her financial concerns with scholarships, grants, and a work study program that brought her into giving campus tours. This is where she really thrived, by being so grateful to be at the school, she channeled all her enthusiasm into her tours; soon, she became a mentor for the new guides that were hired every semester. This is how she met Danny.

Danny Conklin was born into a classic, suburban American family on a sunny day in March. His mother always enjoys telling the story of how she was at the playground with his older brother Tommy when she got the first pains that told her Danny was on his way to the world. The Conklins lived in a blue, two-story Colonial house that was encased in a white picket fence, built by Danny’s father. Early on, he had done this to prevent the mass of neighborhood kids that visited daily from ruining his fresh green lawn with their bike tires. Throughout his school years, Danny was always shadowed by his athletic, intelligent older brother. On the contrary, he was an average student that was into music and didn’t care much for the spectacles that surrounded Tommy. In fact, when he graduated high school, he was happy when he was not called up for an award because he hated being the center of attention. As his brother went the out-of-state honor’s college route, Danny was content in a state school. Despite the money they were saving from the difference in institutions, Mr. and Mrs. Conklin eventually told their younger son that he needed to get a part-time job. In his sophomore year of college, Danny started working for the school’s admissions office. The department he was placed in was titled, “Campus Tours.” He had never been one to be particularly comfortable with talking in front of groups of people, but he needed the money, so he tried to not let his fear get the best of him. The next week he was paired with an experienced tour guide to shadow, so he could learn the effective way to give a campus tour. Although he knew the campus very well and there was a script to follow for certain points, the university would do this to give the new guides first hand observation. The girl he was matched with was named Lily. She had long brunette hair, deep brown eyes, and a bubbly personality. These features made Danny immediately attracted to her. During the tours, Lily seemed like a pro as she knew all the locations perfectly and could answer every question from the group with ease. She even had a way of engaging the crowd with jokes and activities. For instance, there was one time their tour group was approaching another, so Lily told the group to wave at them. The prospective students were reluctant, but once she did it with such enthusiasm, the whole group joined in. “This may seem awkward, but you have to understand that you have to step out of your comfort zone to meet new people in college,” she explained. “Those people in that other group could possibly be your future classmates. That girl in the red dress could be in your math class begging you to let her copy your homework. You now have an excuse to say no because she was rude and didn’t wave to you during this tour. She won’t remember, but you will! And that guy in the back with a bright orange shirt, he could be a great writer that can help you with your papers. You never know someone until you start the conversation. It may seem silly or weird, but if you want to make friends, you have to take risks.” Danny admired her philosophy and was eager to incorporate his own into the tours he would man in the future. After the pair completed a total of four tours and the day was done, Lily stopped Danny as they were walking back to the admissions office. “So what did you think of the tours? You think you have what it takes,” she asked. “I think I have what it takes to guide a tour, but I’m not sure I’ll be as good as you. You really know how to command a crowd,” Danny complimented. “You really think so? I was so nervous! I was afraid it would show! I have been doing these tours for about a year now and I still get anxious every time. I hate talking in front of people,” she admitted. Her openness led them deeper into conversation, and Danny was enjoying every minute. “What’s your major,” Danny asked. “Psychology,” Lily revealed, “I want to help kids, maybe through social work or counseling, but I’m not sure where I want to take it. How about you?” “I’m studying music. I really want to open my own recording studio one day,” Danny began. “My parents aren’t too happy with that though because my older brother is currently in law school and is bound to be extremely successful. Meanwhile, they aren’t as confident in my future as I am.” “I think it’s great that you have a dream and are going for it! So many people are too scared to risk it all for a dream, but you aren’t, despite your family’s opinions. That’s inspiring,” Lily commended. “Yeah, that’s easy for you to say, I bet your parents are ecstatic with your major,” Danny protested. Lily looked away from him and tried to act as if there was something more interesting happening in the distance. Do I really want to get into this with him? She thought. No, I can’t stand the look of pity that people give me, like my roommate from freshman year. I’ll just keep it short and casual. Her eyes darted back to Danny’s and she saw a confused look on his face. “I’m sorry; there was a bird behind you. Yeah, about my parents. . . I don’t really have any. It’s just me and I’m happy with my choice of major and that’s all I’m worried about!” Lily declared with as much confidence as she could. Before he could ask any questions, she switched the topic swiftly, “Anyway, do you dorm or commute?” Danny hesitated, but welcomed the change because he felt guilty for bringing up the topic, even though he had no idea it was going to be an issue. The two ended up talking for over an hour when Lily looked at her cellphone and gasped. “I have class across campus in five minutes! I have to go,” she confessed. “But hey could we trade numbers in case you need any help with work?” Danny couldn’t help but smile and agree. She might have said it was for work, but I hope it means more, he thought as Lily walked away. Those days seemed so innocent and given the choice, the two would go back to that time in a heartbeat if they could, for the present was anything but innocent. The strong smell of antiseptic grazed Lily’s nose as she walked through the bare, white hospital hallways. The odor used to burn, but she had been there so many times since the first frightening visit that it was a surprise that she even smelled it at all anymore. After a long walk through the winding corridors, she cautiously approached an all-too-familiar hospital room, labeled 306. Although the room changed with each visit, they all started to seem the same as the number of Danny’s stays in the hospital increased. A chill ran up her spine as she touched the cold, metal doorknob, knowing that Danny, the love of her life, would be behind that door looking as worse as he ever had. He had always been a fighter, battling every obstacle that had come his way ever since he was first diagnosed with cancer. However, the doctors said that he didn’t have much time left, so Lily has spent every possible moment that she could by his side. The door slowly opened with a loud creak. Lily tried to quiet the squeal, but it was too late. Danny’s eyelids weakly separated. Such a simple task seemed to take away most of his energy. As their eyes locked, a memory flashed into Lily’s mind. It was of him and her in the past, before the deadly disease, on their first date. Before the actual date happened, it is important to describe the events leading up to it also, as it took quite a while for these two to get together. It took three months after Danny first met Lily for him to finally sum up all his courage to ask her on a date. He had tried a few times before, but always backed out at the last second for fear of rejection. Little did he know, Lily was waiting in excited anticipation for him to make the first move. She had an inkling that he had feelings for her, but she would quickly quiet those thoughts with her own insecurities. Danny doesn’t like me, she thought, there are so many other pretty girls he could get. He would never want me. Fortunately, Lily was wrong. One day, as they were eating lunch together, just like they did every Thursday, she could see Danny was not the laid back guy he usually was. He wasn’t talking much and kept playing with his hair, a nervous habit that Lily had observed as she got more acquainted to him. After thirty minutes of this treatment, Lily couldn’t take it anymore. “Are you okay? You seem. . . upset,” she asked softly. “Yeah, I’m sorry. I just have a lot on my mind,” Danny replied in a shaky manner. “Do you want to talk about it,” Lily offered. “No, it’s alright. Don’t worry about me.” He tried to assure her with a half-smile. For the next fifteen minutes, they attempted to make small talk. However, Danny’s manner was making it too awkward, and it made Lily withdrawn too. Danny had never acted this way before and she wanted to figure out why. However, before they knew it, it was time for them tcharacters like backstory because they didn’t care that the guy was dying because they didn’t know him. I wanted my story to be about true love characters like backstory because they didn’t care that the guy was dying because they didn’t know him. I wanted my story to be about true love conquering all and how death wasn’t going to end their relationship. I don’t know. I guess I don’t understand the creative process. Finally, how do I find your online piece so I can share it with my professor and read it myself?conquering all and how death wasn’t going to end their relationship. I don’t know. I guess I don’t understand the creative process. Finally, how do I find your online piece so I can share it with my professor and read it myself?o part. Lily said she’d see him later and started to walk away. Just then, Danny gently grabbed her arm. “There actually was something I wanted to talk to you about,” he confessed. “Do you want to go to the St. Dominic’s Fair with me this Saturday?” “Of course,” Lily agreed eagerly. What she remembered now, as she looked into his weak eyes in the hospital room, was when they were at the top of a Ferris wheel, at a local town’s annual fair. The scene was as if it was taken out of a brochure. The sun was just setting past the trees and the autumn wind cooled the air. Lily watched as the breeze blew Danny’s shoulder length, black hair in all different directions. She smiled at the sight; soon after, they kissed. A groan escaped into the silence of the moment and broke Lily out of her blissful flashback to see Danny for what he was now. His once tan skin was now a pale grey. His once full head was bare; and worst of all, his once optimistic attitude was now a distant memory.

“You didn’t tell me you were coming today,” Danny complained as he turned his head in an attempt to shield his face from her sight. He knew what he looked like and didn’t want her to see him as such because he knew it would upset her. Lily smiled lightly, “You know I come here as often I can.” She turned his face to her and kissed his forehead. “Can you get me some water? My mouth is so dry, and the nurse hasn’t been in to check on me in a while.” He feebly pointed to the pitcher of water on a small wooden table by foot of his bed. Immediately, Lily had the container in her hand and was pouring water intocharacters like backstory because they didn’t care that the guy was dying because they didn’t know him. I wanted my story to be about true love conquering all and how death wasn’t going to end their relationship. I don’t know. I guess I don’t understand the creative process. Finally, how do I find your online piece so I can share it with my professor and read it myself? a small cup. She then handed it to him. It happened so fast that one would think that Danny had had the glass in his hand the whole time. “I didn’t want to talk about this, but it has to be dealt with.” He took in a long, deep breath. “Call Tommy; I want him to help you gather all my things once I’m. . .I can’t,” He couldn’t bring himself to say it. He had accepted his grim fate, but he knew Lily hadn’t. Still, as he gave her the instructions, a sad distant look was held in his eyes. Lily settled in the chair next to his bedside and shook her head. “Don’t talk that way, honey. You’re going to be fine. It’s hard now and things look bad, but they will turn around. I don’t care what the doctors say.” Lily tried her best to hold back the tears. In an attempt to distract herself from the dismal reality, Lily found herself yet again daydreaming of a memory from the past. In this instance, she thought of the first time the pair exchanged “I love you’s.” It had been six months since Danny and Lily had officially become a couple, and they were spending the day at Danny’s brother’s wedding. It had been a beautiful, outdoor ceremony, and now everyone was celebrating the momentous event at the reception. They both didn’t like to dance, as they were self-conscious of their lack of technique, but the DJ pulled everyone to the dance floor with a casual hit that told the guests the moves to make as the song went on. Therefore, the couple knew they couldn’t mess it up too much and decided to give it a try. After a while, the song was over and although it was fun, Danny and Lily were eager to retreat back to their seats, but then something happened that made them both pause. As he asked for the couples to remain on the floor, the DJ played a slow song that just happened to be their song—“Iris” by the Goo Goo Dolls. A few months later Tommy had revealed that he requested the song, “to help his little brother get some game,” but for the moment, Lily and Danny were both surprised. Since this was their first formal event, the two had never slow danced together before, so in the beginning it was a bit gawky. However, as the notes played on, their moves became more in sync. With Danny’s hands on her hips and her arms around him, Lily felt so at peace in this pose as they swayed back and forth. Then, she felt his grip tighten and his hands move as he repositioned to dip her. Though surprised, she smiled as she was impressed at his skill. “I’ve been practicing that with my mom for weeks,” he confessed with a small blush on his face. “Practice makes perfect I see,” Lily replied with a grin. He drew her in closer and put his mouth to her ear, “I love you,” Danny whispered. She hesitated and bit her lip. A guy had never said those three words to her first and the last guy she said them to, back in high school, had broken her heart. Was she really ready to let someone in like that again? Just then, the song stopped and transitioned to another. Despite the alteration of movement from the other couples, Lily and Danny stayed where they were. “It’s okay. You don’t have to say it back; I get it,” he said disappointed as he began to pull away. No, he’s not like the others, she thought, I can’t let bad experiences from the past stop me from this moment. “Danny, I love you too,” she blurted out. “You know how I am; I always have to think before I do something. I’m sorry it took so long.” He looked at her with doubt and she knew she had to fix the situation before she lost him irrevocably. Lily then grabbed hold of the lapels of Danny’s suit and pulled him in for a passionate kiss. Merely thinking of that memory made Lily smile in the present day which brought her back to the hospital room. She suddenly wanted to kiss him again. She bent forward and just as her lips were about to make contact with his, Danny protested, “No, stop. You know, I don’t like kissing.” When he had first started chemotherapy, Danny was instructed not to kiss anyone because he had to be very cautious of infection. However, after the doctors warned he was approaching the end, they said there was nothing a kiss could do to make it any worse and that it might even help his morale. It was the worst conflict of emotions within them both. They longed to be able to kiss again, but the price of it, Danny’s life, could never outweigh their desire for affection. Their first kiss since they were given the okay was only a month ago; however, for a week now Danny hadn’t let Lily go near him in that respect. She let out a frustrated sigh and sat back down. “You have to get used to it, you know, not kissing me. I’m actually helping you. It’s tough for me too; because where I’m going, I won’t have you either,” Danny said faintly, yet was adamant. “No, it’s not tough because you aren’t going anywhere. You’ll always be here, right by my side.” She always lied to him and even herself. She couldn’t bear the thought of him losing forever, no matter how inevitable that possibility was. “I don’t even know why you’re here with me now,” Danny admitted depressingly. “Have you looked at me? I look like some kind of experiment gone wrong with a bald head and such pale skin. If I were you, I wouldn’t stay with Sci-Fi me.” He often had these moments of insecurity, anxious that his mere appearance would make Lily leave him. “No, you don’t. If you did, would I have stayed with you this long,” she asked to try and lighten the mood, but it was hopeless. “You know what really gets me though?” Danny inquired while jumping topics, “how I will never get to marry you.” Lily had considered about that very notion so many times. As a matter of fact, the thought would keep her up in the middle of the night in tears. It was such a stark contrast from the first few years they dated, when she would often have dreams about her and Danny standing in front of an alter as a priest pronounced them man and wife. She imagined Danny in a classic black tuxedo and herself in a long, white, sleeveless dress, all surrounded by their family and friends in an elaborately decorated church. Now that those plans would never be and with Danny being so casual in assuring that, she couldn’t help herself or hide her emotions any longer. “I said don’t talk that way!” Lily shouted as she jumped up from her chair. “You think I like thinking about the thought of not having you in my life? Do you think it’s easy to know that one day, much earlier than I would have ever imagined, I won’t be able to hear your voice or hold your hand or even just tell you that I love you?” She bowed her head and breathed heavily as a rebellious tear fell down her cheek. Danny was ashamed. Great, look what I did now, he thought. He didn’t mean to hurt her. He was just having a rough day and was carelessly venting out his emotions. He sighed and motioned for her to come over to him. This time, she sat on his bed, just as Danny wanted—she always knew the best thing to do—and he softly grabbed her hand. “Baby, I’m just exhausted and my mind’s all messed up from the chemo.” He tried to apologize for his behavior, looking her in the eye. “I know it’s hard for you and you have been the best girlfriend anyone could ever ask for. I am so lucky to have you in my life and by my side throughout this whole thing.” He gripped her hand tighter. “But Lily, it’s even harder for me to deal with if you don’t let me talk about what’s going to happen. If you keep pretending I’ll get better and it will all go back to what it used to be, once I’m gone you’re going to be destroyed. And I can’t stand the idea of that happening. I love you more than anything in this world and I hate that this disease is taking me from you…but it is.” “I know Danny, but you have to get in a better mood…even if it’s your last.” That was it, she couldn’t handle it anymore. Lily fell apart right in front of Danny, something she swore she never would. She had to be his rock, but then, in that moment, she crumbled. Her body slumped over and shook violently as she sobbed heavily. Danny, although lacking an appropriate amount of energy, wrapped his arms around her and held her. It’d been a long time since he’d done this very action. In the past, Lily had been the one holding him, like the day he got diagnosed with Stage III Glioblastoma—brain cancer. He had been getting headaches a lot, but blamed them on the stress of being a recent college graduate and still looking for a job. However, one day when he was driving, his vision became very blurry. Just as he was able to pull over, his field of sight went black. Although it was only out for a few minutes and he was able to drive home without another issue after that, he knew he had to get it checked out. After a few visits to different physicians and an MRI later, Danny sat in front of his doctor when he was told the awful prognosis. Beforehand, he purposely wanted to go alone so he wouldn’t worry his parents, his brother, or Lily, but now he wished he had someone there with him. Danny’s mind was spinning so fast with thoughts that he could barely hear the doctor as he used the words “oncology,” “chemotherapy,” and “radiation.” All he could think about was how worried he was that he would die. I’m only twenty-three years old. I have so many plans: my record studio, traveling, and growing old with Lily, he thought. Could it really all be gone in one visit to the doctor? While he was waiting at the bus stop for the next bus home, as he was unable to drive for fear that he would go blind again, all he could think of was how he wanted to see Lily. She always made him smile on his worst days, and he knew he needed her now more than ever. Danny walked into their apartment where he saw Lily sitting on the couch. She stood up and asked, “Are you okay? Why didn’t you answer my calls?” “It’s cancer, Stage III brain cancer. The doctor told me a lot of things, but I could barely understand him. I was too busy worried about dying.” Danny hadn’t admitted that thought out loud until that point and once he had, it felt too real. He started to cry and Lily put her arm around him and walked him over to the couch she had just been seated in. She let him reveal all his fears and soothed his cries. Once he calmed down, she kneeled in front of him and looked him in the eye. “Danny, you are going to get through this. You are going to fight. You are so strong and you can beat this. You won’t be alone, your parents, Tommy, and I will be there for you every step of the way. No matter how hard it gets, you can never give up. I won’t let you.” For the past three years, she had kept that promise and had always been there for Danny no matter what: holding his hair as he got sick from his first round of chemo, shaving her own head when his hair fell out, and even now, during his darkest hour yet. Although he was so weak, he knew he had to be there for her too. “Never give up, right Lily Pad?” Danny asked, using a nickname he’d given her years ago. She looked at him and smiled. “I love you,” she said as she snuggled next to him. “I love you too,” he replied and kissed her lips. Man, I am so lucky to be with her, he thought. Then it was apparent that the entire event used up all his energy and just as they got settled, Danny fell into a slumber. Lily laid there for a while, in his arms, listening to his gentle breathing in and out, and feeling his heart beat. A few years earlier, she would h ave taken these little things for granted, but now every second she experienced them, she felt as if she had won the lottery. Because in her opinion, every extra moment she had with him was better than any cash prize in the world could have ever been. Eventually, Lily delicately moved from the bed to her chair, taking the greatest care not to stir him. She treasured his sleep since it seemed to be the only time he wasn’t in pain. From the moment she met Danny, she knew their journey would be one she would never forget. However, Lily would have never thought it would have been cut so short. The future was bleak, but whatever it would bring, Lily promised to stay by Danny’s side—even if that meant kneeling by a tombstone because that’s what true love is all about: staying by your partner’s side until the very end. Cancer may take Danny from her world, but would never take him from her heart.

Looking for Feedback on my Short Story

   Any comment would be helpful. Please and thank you.

        It’s often said that true love can conquer all, but is it true? Can two strangers ever form a connection that is typically first formed in a household between close family members? It is a rare, but magical force to be taken hold of by.  No one in recent history can know the power of true love more than Lily and Danny, a pair who is currently facing an ultimate battle of life and death against an enemy that cannot be seen with the odds not in their favor. Despite their now unbreakable bond, that even this invisible assassin could not shake, the two started off as nothing more than strangers from separate worlds.
            Lily Warner was born on a freezing, winter’s night and the cold that chilled infant bones that first evening was just the start of a life of harsh blows that rocked her at her core. Lily came into this world unwanted, for she was found in a dark alleyway by a fireman with nothing more than a tattered shirt wrapped around her as a makeshift blanket. The man just happened to hear the wailing cry while walking to get a cup of coffee after a rough night at the station, and he couldn’t believe a mother could leave a newborn out in such harsh conditions. With no trace of identification or even how the child got there, he wrapped her in his coat and brought her back to the station. At eleven o’clock, the state arrived and took her away.
            One would think being rescued from the streets and having a chance at life would have meant great things for the baby; however, in a cruel twist of fate, Lily’s life evolved into what could never be classified as great. Although her first foster home was a child’s dream: brothers and sisters, a playroom, and even a dog, the year she was four years old, her foster father suffered from a debilitating car accident. As a result, even though they were heartbroken to do it, the only family she ever knew put her back into the foster care system. For the next few years, the girl switched from three foster homes, deemed too rambunctious and a bad influence on the other children, all from the emotional scars of never having a true home. When she was ten, she was finally placed in a home that ended up being her final stop in the system.
            It may seem fortunate to an outsider, but despite staying at one residence, Lily’s house was not a home. Her foster mother was extremely verbally abusive to her, while she favored her biological children. The insults were constant as the years progressed. “You’re worthless.” “You’re going nowhere in life.” “You are useless loser.” “I can’t stand you.” “Just having you here disgusts me.” “You’re nothing more than a check to me.” Each attack damaging her self-esteem more and more. However, the one Lily hated more than all the rest was when her foster mother would taunt, “Your own mother didn’t want you, that’s why she left you out to dead with the trash.”
            Lily felt powerless; there was no physical evidence of her mother’s awful words so she thought nothing could be done. This led to years of suffering in silence. The other children in the house tried to defend their foster sister a few times, but were punished severely for their disobedient actions which quickly stopped any further avenges.
            Fortunately school was her comfort zone, because the longer she stayed there, the longer she could avoid the tormenter at her house. Lily joined every club she could in high school and even earned high grades when she found another escape—the library. All the time spent at school and studying forged a path to go to college, a permanent escape to finally get loose of the tight grip of her abusive upbringing. After she turned eighteen and aged out of the foster care system, there was no check coming to the house every month, so Lily’s exit was not protested since she was used for all she was worth.
            Though it hurt on “Move-In Day,” as she watched watching as all the parents helped their children to their dorms, Lily was so jubilant to be out on her own that the negative feelings didn’t last long. Also, because she was an independent and had such high grades, the school worked out all her financial concerns with scholarships, grants, and a work study program that brought her into giving campus tours. This is where she really thrived, by being so grateful to be at the school, she channeled all her enthusiasm into her tours; soon, she became a mentor for the new guides that were hired every semester. This is how she met Danny.

Danny Conklin was born into a classic, suburban American family on a sunny day in March. His mother always likes to tell the story of how she was at the playground with his older brother Tommy when she got the first pains that told her Danny was on his way to the world. The Conklins lived in a blue, two-story house that had was encased in a white picket fence that Danny’s father built himself to prevent the mass of neighborhood kids that visited daily from ruining his fresh green lawn with their bike tires. Throughout his school years, Danny was always shadowed by his athletic, smart older brother. He was an average student that was into music and didn’t care much for the spectacles that surrounded Tommy. In fact, when he graduated high school, he was happy when he was not called up for an award because he hated being the center of attention. As his brother went the out-of-state honor’s college route, Danny was content in a state school. Despite the money they were saving from the difference in institutions, Mr. and Mrs. Conklin eventually told their younger son that he needed to get a part-time job. 
            In his sophomore of college, Danny started working for the school’s admissions office. The department he was placed in was titled, “Campus Tours.” He had never been one to be particularly comfortable with talking in front of groups of people, but he needed the money, so he tried to not let his fear get the best of him. The next week he was paired with an experienced tour guide to shadow, so he could learn the effective way to give a campus tour. Although he knew the campus very well and there was a script to follow for certain points, the university would do this to give the new guides first hand observation. The girl he was matched with was named Lily. She had long brunette hair, deep brown eyes, and a bubbly personality. These features made Danny immediately attracted to her.
            During the tours, Lily seemed like a pro as she knew all the locations perfectly and could answer every question from the group with ease. She even had a way of engaging the crowd with jokes and activities. For instance, there was one time their tour group was approaching another, so Lily told the group to wave at them. The prospective students were reluctant, but once she did it with such enthusiasm, the whole group joined in. “This may seem awkward, but you have to understand, you have to step out of your comfort zone to meet new people in college,” she explained. “Those people in that other group could possibly be your future classmates. That girl in the red dress could be in your math class begging you to let her copy your homework. You now have an excuse to say no because she was rude and didn’t wave to you during this tour. She won’t remember, but you will! And that guy in the back with a bright orange shirt, he could be a great writer that can help you with your papers. You never know someone until you start the conversation. It may seem silly or weird, but if you want to make friends, you have to take risks.” Danny admired her philosophy and was eager to incorporate his own into the tours he would man in the future. After the day was done and the pair completed a total of four tours, Lily stopped Danny as they were walking back to the admissions office. “So what did you think of the tours? You think you have what it takes,” she asked. “I think I have what it takes to guide a tour, but I’m not sure I’ll be as good as you. You really know how to command a crowd,” Danny complimented. “You really think so? I was so nervous! I was afraid it would show! I have been doing these tours for about a year now and I still get anxious every time. I hate talking in front of people,” she admitted. Her openness led them deeper into conversation, and Danny was enjoying every minute.
            The two ended up talking for over an hour when Lily looked at the time and realized she had to leave for a class. Before they split ways, Lily insisted they exchange numbers. She said it was for work purposes, but Danny hoped it meant more. Those days seemed so innocent and given the choice, the two would go back to that time in a heartbeat if they could, for the present was anything but innocent.
            The strong smell of antiseptic grazed Lily’s nose as she walked through the bare, white hospital hallways. The odor used to burn, but she had been there so many times since the first frightening visit that it was a surprise that she even smelled it at all anymore. After a long walk through the winding corridors, she cautiously approached the all-too-familiar hospital room, labeled 306. A chill ran up her spine as she touched the cold, metal doorknob, knowing that Danny, the love of her life, would be behind that door looking as worse as he ever had. He had always been a fighter, battling every challenge that had come his way ever since he was first diagnosed with cancer. However, the doctors said that he didn’t have much time left, so Lily has spent every possible moment that she could by his side. The door slowly opened with a loud creak. Lily tried to quiet the squeal, but it was too late. Danny’s eyelids weakly separated. Such a simple task seemed to take away most of his energy. As their eyes locked, a memory flashed into Lily’s mind. It was of him and her in the past, before the deadly disease, on their first date.
            Before the actual date happened, it is important to describe the events leading up to it also, as it took quite a while for these two to get together. It was three months after Danny first met Lily for him to finally sum up all his courage to ask her on a date. He had tried a few times before, but always backed out at the last second for fear of rejection. Little did he know, Lily was waiting in excited anticipation for him to make the first move. She had an inkling that he had feelings for her, but she would quickly quiet those thoughts with her own insecurities. Danny doesn’t like me, she thought, there are so many other pretty girls he could get. He would never want me. Fortunately, Lily was wrong. One day, as they were eating lunch together, just like they did every Thursday, she could see Danny was not the laid back guy he usually was. He wasn’t talking much and kept playing with his hair, a nervous habit that Lily had observed as she got more acquainted to him. After thirty minutes of this treatment, Lily couldn’t take it anymore. “Are you okay? You seem. . . upset,” she asked softly. “Yeah, I’m sorry. I just have a lot on my mind,” Danny replied in a shaky manner. “Do you want to talk about it,” Lily offered. “No, it’s alright. Don’t worry about me.” He tried to assure her with a half-smile.
            For the next fifteen minutes, they attempted to make small talk. However, Danny’s manner was making it too awkward, and Lily was baffled. Danny had never acted this way before and she wanted to figure out why. However, before they knew it, it was time for them to part. Lily said she’d see him later and started to walk away. Just then, Danny gently grabbed her arm. “There actually was something I wanted to talk to you about,” he confessed, “Do you want to go  to the St. Dominic Fair with me this Saturday?” “Of course,” Lily agreed eagerly.
            What she remembered now, as she looked into his weak eyes in the hospital room, was when they were at the top of a Ferris wheel, at a local town’s annual fair. The scene was as if it was taken out of a brochure. The sun was just setting past the trees and the autumn wind cooled the air. Lily watched as the breeze blew Danny’s shoulder length, black hair in all different directions. She smiled at the sight; soon after, they kissed.
            A groan escaped into the silence of the moment and broke Lily out of her blissful flashback to see Danny for what he was now. His once tan skin was now a pale grey. His once full head was bare; and worst of all, his once optimistic attitude was now a distant memory.

“You didn’t tell me you were coming today,” Danny complained as he turned his head in an attempt to shield his face from her sight. He knew what he looked like and didn’t want her to see him as such because he knew it would upset her. Lily smiled lightly, “You know I come here as often I can.” She turned his face to her and kissed his forehead. “Can you get me some water? My mouth is so dry, and the nurse hasn’t been in to check on me in a while.” He feebly pointed to the pitcher of water on a small wooden table by foot of his bed. Immediately, Lily had the container in her hand and was pouring water into a small cup. She then handed it to him. It happened so fast that one would think that Danny had had the glass in his hand the whole time.    
            “I didn’t want to talk about this, but it has to be dealt with.” He took in a long, deep breath. “Call Tommy; I want him to help you gather all my things once I’m. . .I can’t,” He couldn’t bring himself to say it. He had accepted his grim fate, but he knew Lily hadn’t. Still, as he gave her the instructions, a sad distant look was held in his eyes. Lily settled in the chair next to his bedside and shook her head. “Don’t talk that way, honey. You’re going to be fine. It’s hard now and things look bad, but they will turn around. I don’t care what the doctors say.” Lily tried her best to hold back the tears.
            In an attempt to distract herself from the dismal reality, Lily found herself yet again daydreaming of a memory from the past. In this instance, she thought of the first time the pair exchanged “I love you’s.” It had been six months since Danny and Lily had officially become a couple, and they were spending the day at Danny’s brother’s wedding. It had been a beautiful, outdoor ceremony, and now everyone was celebrating the momentous event at the reception. They both didn’t like to dance, as they were self-conscious of their lack of technique, but the DJ pulled everyone to the dance floor with a casual hit that told the guests the moves to make as the song went on. Therefore, the couple knew they couldn’t mess it up too much and decided to give it a try. The song was over and although it was fun, Danny and Lily were eager to retreat back to their seats, but then something happened that made them both pause. As he asked for the couples to remain on the floor, the DJ played a slow song that just happened to be their song—“Iris” by the Goo Goo Dolls. A few months later Tommy had revealed that he requested the song, “to help his little brother get some game,” but for the moment, Lily and Danny were both surprised. Since this was their first formal event, the two had never slow danced together before, so in the beginning it was a bit gawky. However, as the notes played on, their moves became more in sync. With Danny’s hands on her hips and her arms around him, Lily felt so at peace in this pose as they swayed back and forth. Then, she felt his grip tighten and his hands move as he repositioned to dip her. Though surprised, she smiled as she was impressed at his skill. “I’ve been practicing that with my mom for weeks,” he confessed with a small blush on his face. “Practice makes perfect I see,” Lily replied with a grin. He drew her in closer and put his mouth to her ear, “I love you,” Danny whispered. She hesitated and bit her lip. A guy had never said those three words to her first and the last guy she said them to had broken her heart. Was she really ready to let someone in like that again? Just then, the song stopped and transitioned to another. Despite the alteration of movement from the other couples, Lily and Danny stayed where they were. “It’s okay. You don’t have to say it back; I get it,” he said disappointed as he began to pull away. No, he’s not like the others, she thought, I can’t let bad experiences from the past stop me from this moment. “Danny, I love you too,” she blurted out. “You know how I am; I always have to think before I do something. I’m sorry it took so long.” He looked at her with doubt and she knew she had to fix the situation before she lost him irrevocably. Lily then grabbed hold of the lapels of Danny’s suit and pulled him in for a passionate kiss. Merely thinking of that memory made Lily smile in the present day which brought her back to the hospital room. She suddenly wanted to kiss him again.       
            She bent forward and just as her lips were about to make contact with his, Danny protested, “No, stop. You know, I don’t like kissing.” When he had first started chemotherapy, Danny was instructed not to kiss anyone because he had to be very cautious of infection. However, after the doctors warned he was approaching the end, they said there was nothing a kiss could do to make it any worse and that it might even help his morale. It was the worst conflict of emotions within them both. They longed to be able to kiss again, but the price of it, Danny’s life, could never outweigh their desire. Their first kiss since they were given the okay was only a month ago; however, for a week now he hadn’t let her go near him in that respect. Lily let out a frustrated sigh and sat back down. “You have to get used to it, you know, not kissing me. I’m actually helping you. It’s tough for me too; because where I’m going, I won’t have you either.” Danny said faintly, yet was adamant. “No, it’s not tough because you aren’t going anywhere. You’ll always be here, right by my side.” She always lied to him and even herself. She couldn’t bear the thought of him losing forever, no matter how inevitable that possibility was.
            “I don’t even know why you’re here with me now,” Danny admitted depressingly. “Have you looked at me? I look like some kind of experiment gone wrong with a bald head and such pale skin. If I were you, I wouldn’t stay with Sci-Fi me.” He often had these moments of insecurity, anxious that his mere appearance would make Lily leave him. “No, you don’t. If you did, would I have stayed with you this long?” She asked to try and lighten the mood, but it was hopeless. “You know what really gets me though?” Danny inquired while jumping topics feebly. “How I will never get to marry you.”
            Lily had thought about that very notion so many times. As a matter of fact, the thought would keep her up in the middle of the night in tears. It was such a stark contrast from the first few years they dated, when she would often have dreams about her and Danny standing in front of an alter as a priest pronounced them man and wife. She imagined Danny in a classic black tuxedo and herself in a long, white, sleeveless dress, all surrounded by their family and friends in an elaborately decorated church. Now that those plans would never be and with Danny being so casual in assuring that, she couldn’t help herself or hide her emotions any longer. “I said don’t talk that way!” Lily shouted as she jumped up from her chair. “You think I like thinking about the thought of not having you in my life? Do you think it’s easy to know that one day, much earlier than I would have ever imagined, I won’t be able to hear your voice or hold your hand or even just tell you that I love you?” She bowed her head and breathed heavily as a rebellious tear fell down her cheek.
            Danny was ashamed. He didn’t mean to hurt her. He was just having a rough day and was carelessly venting out his emotions. He sighed and motioned for her to come over to him. This time, she sat on his bed, just as Danny wanted—she always knew the best thing to do—and he softly grabbed her hand. “Baby, I’m just exhausted and foggy from the chemo.” He tried to apologize for his behavior, looking her in the eye. “I know it’s hard for you and you have been the best girlfriend anyone could ever ask for. I am so lucky to have you in my life and by my side throughout this whole thing.” He gripped her hand tighter. “But Lily, it’s even harder for me to deal with if you don’t let me talk about what’s going to happen. If you keep pretending I’ll get better and it will all go back to what it used to be, once I’m gone you’re going to be destroyed. And I can’t stand the idea of that happening. I love you more than anything in this world and I hate that this disease is taking me from you…but it is.” “I know Danny, but you have to get in a better mood…even if it’s your last.” That was it, she couldn’t handle it anymore. Lily fell apart right in front of Danny, something she swore she never would. She had to be his rock, but then in that moment, she crumbled. Her body slumped over and shook violently as she sobbed heavily. Danny, although lacking an appropriate amount of energy, wrapped his arms around her and held her.
            It’d been a long time since he’d done this very action. In the past, Lily had been the one holding him, like the day he got diagnosed with Stage III Glioblastoma—brain cancer. He had been getting headaches a lot, but blamed them on the stress of being a recent college graduate and still looking for a job. However, one day when he was driving, his vision became very blurry. Just as he was able to pull over, his field of sight went black. Although it was only out for a few minutes and he was able to drive home without another issue after that, he knew he had to get it checked out. After a few visits to different physicians and an MRI later, Danny sat in front of his doctor when he was told the awful prognosis. Beforehand, he purposely wanted to go alone so he wouldn’t worry his parents, his brother, or Lily, but now he wished he had someone there with him. Danny’s mind was spinning so fast with thoughts that he could barely hear the doctor as he used the words “oncology,” “chemotherapy,” and “radiation.” All he could think about was how worried he was that he would die. He was only twenty-three years old; he had so many plans and expectations for the future. Could it really all be gone in one visit to the doctor?
            He was waiting at the bus stop for the next bus home, as he was unable to drive for fear that he would go blind again; all he could think of was how he wanted to see Lily. She always made him smile on his worst days, and he knew he needed her now more than ever. Danny walked into the apartment where he saw Lily sitting on the couch. She stood up and asked, “Are you okay? Why didn’t you answer my calls?” “It’s cancer, Stage III brain cancer. The doctor told me a lot of things, but I could barely understand him. I was too busy worried about dying.” Danny hadn’t admitted that thought out loud until that point and once he had, it felt too real. He started to cry and Lily put her arm around him and walked him over to the couch. She let him reveal all his fears and soothed his cries. Once he calmed down, she kneeled in front of him and looked him in the eye. “Danny, you are going to get together this. You are going to fight. You are so strong and you can beat this. You won’t be alone, your parents, your brother, and I will be there for you every step of the way. No matter how hard it gets, you can never give up. I won’t let you.” For the past three years, she had held that promise and had always been there for Danny no matter what: holding his hair as he got sick from his first round of chemo, shaving her own head when his hair fell out, and even now, during his darkest hour yet. Although he was so weak, he knew he had to be there for her too.            
            “Never give up, right Lily pad?” Danny asked, using a nickname he’d given her years ago. She looked at him and smiled. “I love you,” she said as she snuggled next to him. “I love you too,” he replied and kissed her lips. This entire event used up all his energy and just as they got settled, Danny fell into a slumber. Lily laid there for a while, in his arms, listening to his gentle breathing in and out, and feeling his heart beat. A few years earlier, she would have taken these little things for granted, but now every second she experienced them, she felt as if she had won the lottery. Because in her opinion, every extra moment she had with him was better than any cash prize in the world could have ever been. 
            Eventually, Lily delicately moved from the bed to her chair, taking the greatest care not to stir him. She treasured his sleep since it seemed to be the only time he wasn’t in pain. From the moment she met Danny, she knew their journey would be one she would never forget. However, Lily would have never thought it would have been cut so short. The future was bleak and uncertain, but whatever it would bring, Lily promised to stay by Danny’s side—even if that meant kneeling by a tombstone.