The white light was making my eyes hurt. I blinked and looked around. The hospital waiting room was like it had been when I'd been here before, except now, I was definitely in need of help. Before there had been a chance.
"Are you alright?" Sam asked, coming back to me. "I got you some water."
"Thanks." I took the plastic cup and sipped from it. "I'm fine. Maybe a little scared."
"You don't have to be scared." She murmured, cupping her hands around mine as they held the water and she knelt in front of me. "I'm here."
"Cara. Sam. Hey." We both looked up and found Kate looking at us, a clipboard in her hands.
"Kate." Sam stood up, slipping one of her hands in to the pocket of her jeans, and extending the other. "How are you?"
Kate eyed Sam's hand and pursed her lips.
"I was at your party Sam. You don't have to be so formal."
Sam withdrew her hand and slipped it in to her other pocket.
"Sorry. I just... you know." She shrugged and Kate laughed.
"Chill Sam. I'm messing with you." She turned to wink at me. "How're you feeling Cara?"
"Like I'm going to throw up."
"I could get you a bowl?" Kate began as Sam sat next to me and put her hand reassuringly on my back.
"Not that sort of sick. The sort of sick where I'm terrified."
Kate smiled sympathetically and it made me feel worse. I rubbed my eyes and turned in to Sam's shoulder.
"Cara Gramms?" A voice called. I looked up and saw a male nurse with another clipboard.
"That's you." Kate said and smiled. "Good luck." She turned and walked away and Sam stood next to me.
"Come on Cara. Let's get you sorted." I took her hand and we walked to the nurse who we then followed down two corridors and in to Dr. Shappiro's office.
"Cara, good to see you. And this is...?"
"Sam. My girlfriend."
"Nice to meet you Sam. Please, both of you, sit down." We did so. "Now Cara I'm going to run you through all of your options and you can make a decision on how you want to progress okay?"
"O-okay." I muttered. Sam took my hand and squeezed it gently.
"Alright then. Our first option is..."
"You're happy with this?" Sam asked, rubbing her fingers gently against mine.
"Yeah. It... sounds like the best way to go. I think. What do you think?"
"It doesn't matter what I think. It's up to you."
"I think... well it sounds easier. I mean, just an operation and then it does it at night... what's it called again?"
Doctor Shappiro looked up from taking notes.
"Automated peritoneal dialysis. We insert the catheter in your abdomen and then you can set the machine up before you go to bed. We'll teach you how to clean the equipment, drain the fluid etc and you can do basically all of your treatment at home. Meanwhile we'll be looking for a donor for you, since you're eligible."
"How does that process work?" Sam asked, looking at the doctor, her hand still holding mine.
"We put you on the list and wait to see if there is anyone compatible. But your friends and family can be tested Cara, so in that case you would be offered a kidney faster."
"I want to be tested." Sam said and I started.
"I want to be tested. If it's quicker I'd rather give you a kidney than have to watch you wait..."
"Of course you may not be a match." Dr. Shappiro put in.
"I don't want you to give up a kidney for me." I said.
"Why not?" Sam frowned, annoyed.
"There are dangers... what if-?"
"I don't care about the dangers!"
"Cara, Sam, surely it would be better to have this conversation at home? In the meantime, we'll give you some leaflets and I'll set up your appointment for the operation. We should be able get you one within the week..." I was still frowning at Sam and she wasn't looking at me. "Alright then. I'll give you a call if a spot opens up. In the meantime, take these..." He passed some leaflets over to me and I took them slowly. "Read through so you understand. If you change your mind, call me, my direct number is here..." He gave me a card. "And there's also a leaflet on donation in there, for any friends or family that might want to be tested." He finished pointedly. We sat in awkward silence for a moment until he gave me a look, and then Sam was standing and saying thank you and I was doing the same, and then we were leaving.
It took me until we had reached the car before I realised we'd even left. It was all so terrifying, so new... and I had to tell people now. My mum would probably come straight here, want me to go home but I didn't want to...
I looked over at Sam and she pointed to my seatbelt.
"Oh. Right." I did my seat belt up and crossed my arms, the leaflets still clasped in my hand.
"I'm going to get myself tested." Sam said as we arrived home. We'd spent the entire journey in silence.
"No you're not."
"It's my decision."
"Well it's my decision whether I take it or not and I'm not taking your kidney."
Sam pulled the car in to park roughly and put on the hand-break.
"Why the hell not?" She was mad, glaring at me. Yeah well I'm pissed too.
"Because I don't want you putting your life on the line for me!"
"Well are you going to tell everyone they can't be tested? Your parents? Anna?"
"I don't want anyone putting their life on the line for me." I sulked.
"So what you're going to stay on dialysis for the rest of your shortened life? Hooked up to a machine every night?"
"I- I don't know! I just don't want you to have to-"
"Cara it's my damned decision to get tested. If I'm not a match then you won't have my kidney. But if I am then you better have a better reason for not accepting it because I'll give it to you."
"I won't accept that."
"You're so exasperating!" She cried and yanked off her seatbelt, getting out of the car and slamming the door. I watched as she leant on it and gritted my teeth. No way was she giving up a damn kidney for me. I climbed out and slammed my door too.
"Look, I can slam a door too! What an adult that makes me!" I yelled.
"For god's sake Cara!" She cried. "I just want to help you!"
"Yeah well maybe I don't want your help. Not like this!"
She slammed the flat of her hand in to the car door frame and stared at me with angry eyes.
"Maybe I will."
"Fine then. And I'll go figure out how the hell I'm supposed to tell everyone!"
"Oh Jesus Cara, why don't you just keep it from them? I mean heaven forbid they might want to try to help too!" She replied, her voice dripping with sarcasm.
"Oh piss off!" I cried and turned away, stomping up the stairs and going inside, slamming the door behind me. Once inside I slumped against the wall and started crying. It was our first real, proper fight. I mean we'd had others but... this one was important. I slid down the wall and crouched there, crying, until my legs cramped and I had to move. I went and laid on the bed, and the next thing I knew it was dark and Sam still hadn't come home. I figured she'd probably gone in to work so I slipped downstairs but the showroom was empty and of course no one was about for me to ask if they'd seen her. I frowned and went back upstairs to make some tea.
I wouldn't call her. She could damn well sneak in while I was asleep for all I cared.