I had more chemo over the weekend, and was back in school for wednesday. One advantage to my condition was that I didn't have to do any work. I still did, so no one felt obliged to talk with me; I wouldn't let them get behind with their education. I spent more time helping everyone around me, making sure Heidi understood everything. I wanted her to be the best she could be, which would involve her having a good maths result. I had to do all I could while I still had the chance.
I could tell I was nearing my end. Exhaustion was my constant companion, blood poured from my gums and bruises popped up unexplainably over my body from the chemo. Hospitals swallowed me during the mornings, tablets were being consumed by me every hour or so. Drips were fixed to me once a week. And yet I could still feel myself slipping away. Only then did I decide to discontinue the treatment. I had fulfilled my promise to Miss Davis, now I owed it to myself to let myself go peacefully.
Friday came quickly the day before my two month diagnosis. I wasn't even sure I should go, but I did any way, it was my passion, my skill, my home.
"Are you sure you're alright to play, Alli?" Miss Davis asked as we prepared for a match.
"Yes. Just one last game." Our eyes locked for a long time and she knew what I was saying. This would be my last match. I couldn't do it anymore. That was hard for both of us.
I ignored my pain and protesting limbs as I sprinted, dribbling the ball. I slipped past Elli easily, the ball staying beside me like it was nailed to my foot. But then Julia got it off me. Gasping already, I chased after her. Heidi tackled but missed and soon the ball was in the back of our net. Clapping as I always did, I returned to my position, hands on my knees.
"You okay, Alli?" Heidi was beside me.
"Just one more game. One more." More tears escaped me, I wanted to plead with God to give me more time to play football. I wanted more than anything to make my last game full of me running and laughing. Like the old Alli. The one who wasn't dying.
Then, like God had heard me, I felt a jolt of strength course through me and I stood up.
"Let me make a run." I nodded to Dana who had the ball. Shrugging, she kicked it to me.
Enthralled by this new energy, I ran with ease I had long forgotten and I as good as sailed past the mid fielders and the defenders.
"Go on, Alli! At a girl!" Miss Davis screamed.
With one final kick of the ball, I booted it and it swished in the back of the net. I carried on running to the side of the goal where Miss Davis stood, cheering us on. Right up to her I ran before collapsing into her arms where she sunk to her knees on the floor. I wondered what it must have looked like. A woman bent over a girl with no hair and just a body of skin and bones; a wasted human being. But I didn't care. My beloved teacher wrapped her coat around me and Heidi rushed over with my bag and my bottle of water. Mechanically I reached into one of the pockets and drew out two packets of tablets. I swallowed two from each and half emptied my bottle. Then I leant back into Miss Davis.
"Do you need an ambulance?"
"No," I shook my head, "Give me a minute."
I could sense everyone standing around me, I could hear their panicked breathing and I could feel Miss Davis' heart pounding against my arm.
Once I regained some of my strength, I lifted my head and tried to get up.
"What are you doing?" Trying to prevent me from moving, Miss Davis protectively tightened her arms around me and I suddenly wished she had been my mother. Biting back the sudden pang of longing, I answered.
"I have to finish the game."
"Alli, don't you think it's time you give it up?"
"I can't. I mustn't ever give up." I mumbled.
"Of course not, but you can barely stand."
"Let me at least try then." As her arms slackened, I staggered to my feet. I swayed and Miss Davis took my elbow.
"I have to, I have to do this." I whispered quietly.
"Maybe next week, not today."
"I won't be here. I have to do this now."
Almost in tears, my teacher shook her head at me slowly and I reaslied what I was doing to her.
"Okay." She said as my feet were swept from the ground. I didn't have enough energy to scream in protest.
All of a sudden, I found myself taking my position up, in Miss Davis' arms. I looked up and she smiled.
"One last game." She promised.
"And than I'll stop."
Because I weighed so little, Miss Davis played with me in her arms. They all made allowances for her, I knew that. But Miss Davis was such a fast runner that soon enough, all the defenders were far behind us. Only then did Miss Davis set me down. Still, keeping my arms in her hands, she instructed me.
"Kick it, Alli, kick it." She whispered in my ear. My vision was so obscured by exhaustion that I could barely see the ball. I launched my foot at a white object and, with more speed that I thought I had, sent it into the net again.
All my last reserves of energy extinguished as everyone cheered for us. Seeing this, Miss Davis carried me over to the side of the pitch. In disbelief, I shook my head in wonder at my glorious teacher.
They carried on playing. My team lost, but they didn't care; they were still practicing everything I had taught them and I was proud of them. At the end of practice, I stayed behind to talk to Miss Davis.
"Goodbye." I said to everyone as they hugged me and left.
I waited a few minutes, letting the cold air bring me to terms with what was happening.
"I won't be in on monday." I swallowed, my throat suddenly closing around the liquid even though I had been swallowing since I was born.
"I know." She sat down beside me, "I figured."
"For what you did today, thank you. You can never quite know how much it meant to me. You made a dying girl's final dream come true."
"It wasn't much."
"No," I disagreed, "It was everything I could have asked for."
"I want to thank you," I started, "For everything. Without the team, I would have given up hope long ago and without you I wouldn't have survived living without the brain tumor. I owe you my life, Miss Davis. I know I'm dying, that was the last time I will see Heidi. I won't see her ever again now. Nor you. You have been such a big part of my life. But I'm sick of life now, I have to go and it has to be this wekend."
"Alli." Miss Davis cooed, pulling me against her shoulder.
"I love you, Miss. Probably more than I should because you are just my teacher. But you've never just been that. You have always been my friend. But not anymore. I'm going." I paused for a while, "Will you miss me?"
"Every day." She bit her lip.
"I'll miss you more."
We sat in silence again.
"So is this really it? You can tell you are going to die?"
"Yes, this is it. Goodbye Miss Davis. I will miss you so much. Never stop this club, for me. Goodbye." I kissed her on the cheek.
Overcome with emotion, she turned to face me and threw her arms around me again. Both of us were crying now.