Gabriel knew he had done something right in order for Ai to have to expect him in her hospital room nearly every day right after school. The problem with that was that he would have to take several routes in a subway in order for him to arrive at the hospital without the hassle of the dangers of hitch hiking or asking his licensed friends for rides. It would just spike their unwanted curiosity.
A rich boy like him could have easily found a ride in a taxi, or even a limousine, but he hated flaunting his wealth like the rest of his family and friends. So, if it meant taking a filthy and grubby subway to get to Ai, then so be it. He didn’t flaunt his wealth like a typical rich boy, but he did have the attitude and pride of a typical rich boy—and this included bribing the ticket handler when someone finally asked him for his identification, being unable to travel alone as a minor.
He finally got off the last stop, a couple of blocks away from the hospital Ai settled in. Quickly getting off the overly crowded station, he sucked in breath that he never knew he was holding. It never occurred to him that he was possibly claustrophobic, but it made the most sense considering he had always had a personal bubble and no one dared enter it, no one except for Ai.
Making his way up the steps to the hospital, his cyclical thoughts were immediately interrupted by a loud and abrasive voice, “Gabriel. You are not allowed here, remember?” He chose to ignore the voice and continued walking. “You can’t bribe us like you do with the station workers. Your father wouldn’t allow it.”
The mention of his father hit a cord causing him to retaliate, “My father doesn’t know anything.”
A third familiar voice cut into the conversation, like a deep caramelized knife slicing through thick whip cream, “Let the poor boy go.” Gabriel looked up to meet onyx eyes and dark skin. It was one of the nurses he saw constantly, Nurse Shanti.
It wasn’t common to find an African-American nurse in such an establishment as this due to the long past’s social standards, but much of that has changed and the little suburban area he lived in began to gradually and slowly thrive with a diversity of color, and of course, he didn’t mind or really cared—after all, Ai was a Japanese-American.
“But—” the previous nurse stammered.
“He’s not here for his father Doctor Shaner,” Nurse Shanti scowled, waving her thin hand towards the nurse in a ‘shoo’ motion, “now go, you’ve got a lot of work to do for being new around this hospital.” The nurse’s face turned a deep scarlet, quickly turning around and ran off, the sound of her tiny heels clicking against the standard white hospital tiles.
Gabriel was a bit stunned at how quickly the previous nurse had fled in embarrassment—it was obvious Nurse Shanti had more authority over her. He couldn’t bite back his curiosity, “You know I don’t come here for my father?” Most nurses and other doctors had always assumed so. How could they not? They took a striking resemblance.
“No,” she shook her head, “Ai talks a lot about you when you’re not here.”
This shocked him even more, “You know about Ai?”
At this point, Nurse Shanti couldn’t hold back a chuckle, seeing the fear evident in the younger boy’s dark seafoam eyes, “Of course, I’m her personal nurse since day one in this hospital.”
“Since the day they admitted her into this hospital to stay.”
“How long has it been since she’s been here…?”
Nurse Shanti mumbled, “Boy, you sure do ask a lot of questions—but since the day her parents found out she had a brain tumor. Unfortunately, after it was removed, doctors discovered more and so they categorized it as malignant, in other words, cancerous.” There was a long silence as Gabriel thought long and deep about this, until Nurse Shanti interrupted his thoughts, “You know, I haven’t seen her this thrilled about anything or anyone before. Not even at the mention of her parents—but she won’t stop talking about you.”
“When did she stop,” Gabriel looked down, “you know, when did she stop being excited about the little things?” He wasn’t one to feel thrilled or excited about the smaller and finer things in life, but he did know that most people Ai’s age would be excited over even small things. This excluded himself due to the fact that he practically saw everything the world could provide for a filthy rich teenage boy growing up in a rich community farther off from the suburbs and hospital.
“She was the kind that had to grow up. In the end she grew a day quicker than the other girls.”
He was silent for a prolong amount of time at what she had told him just now. It didn’t seem fair, how something internal can cause so much external pain for a single person—enough to change them completely. But, he smiled at the fact that he was the one that brought back this childish side of Ai despite the fact that she never really showed it to him. “You said she couldn’t stop talking about me? What does she say?” He smirked.
Nurse Shanti burst out laughing, “She talks about how annoying you are.”