Without realizing my actions, I follow my sister out of the room. Her blonde hair sways as she excuses her way around several nurses and an elderly couple. Her sneakers screech on the waxed floor as she races towards the elevators. We'd been here before back when Jason had his accident, so I understand how she knows her way around the hospital.
"Leah, wait," I yell out to her and of course, she can't hear me. She turns the corner into the alcove that houses four elevators, one of which is large enough for a patient's bed and several other medical staff members. "Please, don't run from this."
But she is gone, the elevator beeping as the doors close. The stainless steel reflects the wall behind me, it too forgets that I am here. A loud guffaw from an older man brings me back to my senses. It is then that I realize that in my haste to catch my sister, I have ventured out of my room. Something that I hadn't even thought of.
I wring my hands together as I stand in the same spot, looking at the bustling nurses' station and hurried doctors, who hold clipboards in their hands. This place is in a constant state of chaos.
"But she can't be," a woman cries from somewhere off to my right. Slowly, I start in that direction, registering that the small visitors' room is there. A Black woman is shaking her head decisively, while an older Caucasian man gently comforts her by rubbing her back. "She was fine when we brought her here. The doctors said that she only had a minor back injury, how did it get this bad?"
"I'm sorry ma'am," the young doctor (he has deep blue scrubs on and a clipboard is gripped tightly by his gloved hands) says sympathetically. "Right now, the best thing for Chelsea is to make her comfortable and for you to be prepared for the worst."
The woman, who I now see has startling hazel eyes, stares in bewilderment at the doctor. The words then, clearly visible as her face slowly crumbles, start to sink in. "No, no, no," the man whispers gently, as if that single word could take back everything that has just been said. "Please, God no! Doctor, she's only fourteen. No, no, no." Even the man becomes no consolation as the two parents break down in loud, angry, heart-wrenching tears.
It's weird how in moments like these, where people are at their weakest and most fragile without seeing others take note of them, that backgrounds become more distinguishable. I can see that the tall, red-haired doctor is standing, his pose awkward, in the door frame, prepared for the onslaught of questions that is sure to ensue. Through the pale, white blinds of the visitors' room, the t.v. is on--some random Hollywood story sounds softly as a reminder that the world continues on, despite any pain happening to the viewers. There are other families in the room too. A young teenage girl watches the scene unfolding in front of her with tearful eyes. She whispers something to a man with black hair beside her. He shakes his head and lowers his eyes, holding her hand tightly.
"It's weird that I can't say anything," a voice sounds behind me. "I can't even tell them that I'm okay."
I turn around and see a pretty, mixed girl. Her black curls hang in a loosely tied ponytail and her solemn eyes are glued to the crying couple. Her arms are at her sides and the yellow sleeping gown that she is wearing ends just below her knees, leaving her two bare feet visible. Her eyes are as light as the woman's and her chest barely fills in the gown. Then her eyes widen when she sees me looking at her.
"Can you see me?" she whispers, taking a step forward. I nod and watch idiotically with my mouth open as she comes sprinting at me. Her hug is the most solid thing that I've felt in almost two days. "I thought I was alone in this, I thought I had no one to see me before I go."
"Before you go?" I ask through her soft hair that tickles my face in her tight hug. She looks younger than me, but she is nearly my height. I pull back and hold her at an arms reach. I look behind me at the couple and look back at her. "Those are your parents," I state simply. Her eyes tell me the answer before she nods. "But you can't just leave them, they love you--look!" I point back at her crying parents, her mother is nearly hysterical.
"I know and I love them too," her voice is small and a weak smile grows on her face. "But I can't stay here forever, it'll only make things worse."
"You don't have to stay here forever though, you can fight and get back to your body," I am on the verge of begging now, shaking her softly by her shoulders. "Do it for them, you're too young to be here!"
"It's not my choice," she says sadly, avoiding my eyes. "None of this is my choice."
I stop shaking her and let her go, her words leaving a big hole in me. "What?"
"I was in an accident," she says. "My dad and I were at the park with my little cousins and I was watching over them on the jungle gym."
I search her face for any hints of a lie, but she is clearly telling the truth. "What happened?"
"I slipped when I was up on one of the slides and fell on my back, but my head bumped the side of the slide really hard. Everything just went black," she inhales deeply. "Then I woke up here, shivering and alone."
Shaking my head, my thoughts escape from me thinking about how I too had woken up full of shivers.
"How did you get here?" she asks, looking up at me.
"I wasn't supposed to be here either," I say calmly, which is the truth. I never intended to survive.
Chelsea nods in understanding and walks around me. Her hands reach out to her parents, but she takes a step back as if remembering something. "I have to go," she says faintly. "It's time."
"Wait," I yell at her, "you can't!"
Turning back to me, she smiles. A white light is already encircling her silhouette. "If you escape this place, please, promise me one thing."
Tears sting my eyes as I nod silently.
"Tell them I love them and that I'm okay," she looks longingly back at her mother. "Tell her not to be so sad, because her smile was the brightest thing I ever knew. Please, promise me you'll let them know."
I sob quietly and nod as she lifts her hand to say goodbye. "Thank you," she says, her voice slowly beginning to fade. "Thank you for being with me, thank you..." then she is gone, lost in a marvelous streak of light.
All is quiet for a moment, as if the hospital registers the little girl that has left. But then all noises return, the sniffling of the parents and the coughing of the sick, and I realize that it was I who imagined the silence. Almost instantly, an alarm sounds and someone on an overhead speaker signals a code that only hospital employees know. As the parents and the doctor rush past me, I begin to think of all the people in here that have been brought in unwillingly. The ones who are at death's door because they didn't have a say in their fate.
I hug myself tightly as I think about everything that has led me to believe that I was completely unlovable. The tears flow freely as I see doctors and nurses rushing down a hallway, where the parents of the little girl have lost their greatest treasure.
Why was I in a hurry to leave a world that so few got to see for a desired amount of time? Why was I so selfish?