I heard the door slam, heard Griffin leave me alone with my father. I wished he would have stayed. Everything seemed so much easier when he was beside me.
The silence only thickened in Griffin’s absence; I longed to reach out to my father, to communicate with him in any way at all, but instead I was frozen, silent. As always.
I realized, then, that my father was crying softly. The thought frightened me; I’d never seen him cry before. It made it hurt all the worse that he was crying over me.
“I’m so sorry, baby girl,” he sobbed. “I should have been there for you. I should have done everything I could to be a better father.”
Although he was voicing many of the opinions that I’d held inside for so many years, it filled me with a pain so deep to hear him saying them in such a manner- his voice thick with tears. I thought I felt a few droplets as they collided with the skin of my hand, warm against my icy flesh.
“And if you-” his words were cut off by yet another loud sob. “If something happens- or nothing happens- I could never live with myself for it.”
My father squeezed my hand tighter, and returned to wordlessly crying over me. So many words formed in my mind, so many things that I wanted to tell him, but they remained no more than thoughts. It seemed as though they woud go unspoken forever. Joshua bent down to kiss me atop the head.
Just as he did so, the door swung open. “Joshua?” A clear soprano voice called out from the doorway. I recognized my mother instantly. “What are you doing here?”
My father let my hand go and stood up slowly. “Is everything alright?” His words came out weary, but still wary.
I wasn’t positive, but I was sure my mother let out a deflated sigh.
“I’ll let the doctor do all the explaining,” she mumbled. “I don’t know if I have it in me.”
They were silent for a moment. I could feel the tension that ricocheted off the walls, pouring from the both of them. I could only imagine what was running through their minds. After all, they had barely exchanged three words since he had walked out. And now they had been rejoined in the arms of tragedy.
“I, uh, it was nice of you to come by,” my mom said finally. Her voice was strained.
“Of course,” he said. “She’s my daughter. I want to be here for her.”
“Funny, you never said that the first fifteen years,” my mother sneered.
“Stephanie,” now his voice was the edgy one. “I am not here to fight with you. We’ve both moved on, and for Arielle’s sake, we need to let go of everything else.”
She sighed. “You’re right,” she replied reluctantly. “It’s time we put our differences aside and start to focus on Arielle. We’ve both spent her entire life ignoring her, pretending she wasn’t there, and now we might lose her for real.”
They both fell soundless again, leaving me to wonder what unspoken exchanges were occurring. Not to mention processing what they had just said. If I didn’t know any better I’d have thought they had just made amends.
Who would have thought that one day we would all be reunited again, regardless of the circumstances of said reuniting? I never would have dreamed it possible. I was beginning to think that miracles really could occur.
Things had grown repetitive, and I had lost myself in that. I had fallen victim to the waves of time that carried me along.
A vacancy had taken up residence within me, replacing the sorrow and the agonizing pains that I had endured for weeks on end. Nowadays it was just me and myself trapped alone in my mind with no one for company but demons.
Months passed us. There was no progress. Or at least, not in Arielle. Joshua stayed in the city, and I watched as he and Stephanie made every effort to pick up fragile pieces of their shattered relationship. They did it for Arielle, I knew. They figured they owed her that much.
Spring was heavy in the air. New York City was, as ever, filled with life. Now I could watch from my window as Central Park’s splendor returned. It was magical, but it made me sad too. It hardly seemed fair that the world should know such peace when I was left behind in shadows. When Arielle was walking on the edge of the abyss of death.
And then it came.
I had been waiting for the day, for certainly it was just around the corner. There would be no turning back. Fate had made up its mind.
Cordelia and Stephanie were completely immersed in their conversation, sitting directly beside me, and yet I didn’t hear a word they were saying. My thoughts were, as always, on Arielle and Arielle only.
The sky outside was a miserable shade of gray, the thick clouds gathering overhead promising rain. It was a mirror image to everything I was feeling within. Miserable, cold, helpless, and utterly faithless.
The voice intruded upon my thoughts, and my head shot up to see the familiar nurse standing before us, her over-friendly smile missing amiss from her plain face. That was warning number one. Already I was on edge.
“Um, Dr. Landry would like to speak with you,” she said simply. She was trying to keep her tone light, but it was obviously forced by the fact that it was about three octaves higher than normal.
An expression of worry crossed Stephanie’s face. For the first time I noticed Joshua, standing anxiously behind the nurse, wearing a similar expression. I frowned.
As Stephanie rose to her feet, I stood alongside her. “What’s going on?” I demanded. Someone might as well as it. We were all thinking it.
The nurse looked to me with a look of sympathy so deep I was sure that it had burned a hole straight through me, to my innermost core. “I’m sorry, Mr. Barrett. Parents only.”
I stared back at her in disbelief, my lips parting slightly.
“No,” Stephanie said suddenly. “Griffin needs to be there, too. Arielle would want him there. I want him there for her.”
For the briefest moment, the nurse looked as though she was about to deny Stephanie. But she had this glimmer in her eye, and as she sighed, I thought I saw a relief pass over her. I liked to believe she knew what she would be getting herself into. “I suppose Dr. Landry won’t mind,” she replied before turning and beginning to walk away.
Stephanie, Joshua and I all followed her closely, and as we made each turn that brought us closer to the doctor’s office, my mind racked up dozens of possible things this could be about. When I found that most of them were ideas I preferred not to think about, I shut down my mind completely. Or tried, anyways.
The nurse took a final turn a came to a short stop in front of an oak door. She knocked lightly, and only a second later a deep male voice called us in.
The three of us shuffled into the spacious office, taking seats in the chairs that were placed before Dr. Landry’s heavy-looking desk. The doctor spun his chair around to face us, folding his hands in front of him.
“Mrs. Crayton, Mr. Barrett, a pleasure to see you again. Mr. Kemp, a pleasure to meet you.”
Joshua nodded curtly, reaching out to shake Dr. Landry’s hand.
The doctor paused for a moment, taking a deep breath, before he spoke again.
“I know how hard this has been for you all,” Dr. Landry said each word slowly, letting them sink in individually. “And believe me when I say that we all hoped the best for Arielle. But it’s been almost six months, and she’s made no progress. I told you right off the bat that the chances of her waking up were slim.” Another pause. I used this moment to glance over at both of Arielle’s parents, to try and read their thoughts through their expressions. But both of their faces had gone completely blank. Whatever they were thinking, they were keeping it to themselves.
Dr. Landry continued. “This is hard for you, I’m sure,” he repeated. “She’s not waking up.”
All at once, my world came down around me. His words engulfed me, swallowed me up, became me. My throat constricted, and my heart began to pound ferociously against my ribs. I couldn’t breathe. I was going to die right there. A sudden wave of heat rushed over me as my entire body began to tremble in terror.
“Mr. Kemp, Mrs. Crayton, I really, really don’t want to have to tell you this. I wish it were different. But the hospital is limited on space,” he told them suddenly excluding me from the conversation. It didn’t matter. I didn’t want to hear another word.
“The choice is, of course, completely yours. But the option is there,” Dr. Landry concluded.
Joshua was the first to speak, almost in a defensive tone. “What option?” He knew, of course. We all knew. This was it. This was the end of the road.
The doctor swallowed hard. His words were mumbled. “Well, to pull the life support.”
I jumped out of my chair immediately. “No,” I said bluntly. “Absolutely not. She hasn’t been holding on all this time to have her life taken from her in a matter of seconds.”
I bolted from the office as fast as I could so that none of them would see the tears that were already overflowing my eyes.