There’s always been something about staring out my window, watching the world go by that calmed me. It washed all the worry, the fears and the hurt out of my veins and brought me into a place where I could just relax.
People would walk by, some that I knew, others I didn’t. Dogs would bark, cars would drive, but these are the things that didn’t interest me when I sat in my chair. Instead it was the small things.
The way the wind would blow the branches of trees and how the leaves danced on their way to the soft ground cleaned my thoughts. A bird flying in the sky, swirling until it decided to land made me smile. Nature was its own civilization that I could watch for hours, breathing as it went about what it was supposed to do.
A tree would fall, no longer growing and rot on the ground, but life would go on. A mother bird would lose her eggs to a starving animal, desperate for food, but life would go on. I’m going to die from a heart condition that can’t be treated, but life will go on.
With or without me, it will always go on.
I don’t think anyone realizes that but me. My mother is sobbing in the other room, my father trying to comfort her and hide his tears. They’re devastated and have been since the news we found out from the doctor. I think I’m making it worse because I’m not sad, not upset and not freaking out. Maybe that’s what they want me to do; to show some kind of remorse for the news of my short life. But I can’t. Being upset will just make my remaining days full of sorrow.
To make things worse, it’s only my parents, the doctor and I who know. I still have to tell Grayson, my best friend since grade three. I don’t know how to break the news to him. He’s always been easy going and full of life, so his reaction is unknown to me.
On a second matter, I don’t think I can leave my home right now without my parents causing a scene. I know I’m their only daughter and they just received news that they will have to bury their child, but I can’t stand seeing them upset. I don’t want them to feel pain because of me.
A car drives by, kicking up the leaves outside and I lean forward, resting my chin on the tops of my knees. My parents are fighting now. They’re fighting about me, because I’m going to die.
I’m ruining everything like I planned for this to happen.
Taking a deep breath, I climb to my feet and slowly head towards the kitchen> I listen to my socks pad on the floor, each sound calming me more than the last.
“There’s nothing you can do, Sara!” My father shouts, his arms spread out around him. His face is red from frustration and crying while my mother looks like a coward. I expect her to curl up on the floor into the fetal position any second. “We need to spend time with her while we can and stop making things worse!”
My foot hits a creaky spot in the floor and my parents faces snap towards me, full of shock.
“Meadow,” my mother breathes. She reaches for me but my father grabs her, holding her back. I know that if she hugs me she’s going to have another breakdown.
“Look at her,” my father says to my mom, his voice lower. “She’s calm, she’s okay, and she’s breathing. If she can do that, so can you.”
My mother turns away, covering her mouth with her palms as her shoulders shake. She sobs quietly on the other side of the kitchen as my father’s expression grows hard.
“How are you, Meadow?”
“Fine.” Though plain, my voice sounds much more chipper in the room compared to my parent’s. “I was wondering if it is okay that I go see Grayson for a little while. I want to tell him.”
My father runs his hand down his face, a clear sign of how stressed out he is. He shakes his head at first, mumbling something crude under his breath but then sighs, nodding. “If that’s what you think you should do, that’s fine.”
“He deserves to know,” I continue, trying to make the nagging feeling to stay lessen. “And I think you should calm Mom down. She just needs some time…” I trail off and break my eyes away from her shaking body.
“You’re right. If you need a ride home, call.”
Meet me at our place, I text Grayson. After slipping my phone inside my pocket I button up my fall jacket. Fall brings fresh, cool air and with it chilly wind. If it wasn’t for the temperature, I would spend all my time outside.
I’ll be there in five.
He doesn’t ask me why or how my doctor’s appointment went today and I made sure he knew about it. It’s just the way Grayson has always been. Instead of asking questions or talking about what’s bugging him, he holds everything inside, overthinking them until someone else decides to say something.
I remember when his pet turtle died as a child he didn’t tell me. I had no idea for three days that Sampson the turtle had kicked the bucket. By the time I found out it was because I asked where his terrarium went and even then he didn’t dwell on the subject though I knew it hurt him to lose his friend.
I enjoy my walk to our meeting place, happy to feel the stress of my parents fear and anxiety blow away with the wind. The houses slowly get more and more run down, each having one more flaw than the last.
I’ll admit my family doesn’t have a lot of money. We’re not poor, but we’re getting there. Three years ago we lived in a nice, beige house near the elementary school. It was next to a park that had the prettiest of flowers that I loved to stare at. But once I started having the fainting spells, all the money vanished.
Doctors’ appointments cost money and money starts to add up when you have over twenty of them trying to figure out what’s wrong with you.
Grayson’s waiting for me when I get to him. He’s standing between the double train tracks, his hands shoved in his pockets. He doesn’t see me yet so I stop to stare at him, a smile spreading on my lips.
His messy, brown hair is picked up by the wind, blowing it out of his starburst eyes. It’s like they can never make up their mind. It’s always the green fighting the blue for domination, but no colour ever wins.
“Meadow,” Grayson investigates once he catches sight of me. His voice is suspicious of me as I stand at the bottom of the hill before the tracks. “What are you doing?”
I grin as I start to walk up the hill. “Oh, nothing.” I know he can hear the playfulness in my tone and I watch his shoulders drop. He must have been worried when I asked him to meet me. “Just admiring your beauty.”
Grayson laughs. His smile is strained at first but then relaxes into the normalcy of us being together. When I reach the top of the hill I step over the first set of tracks, careful not to trip. Last year I made the mistake of not watching my step and almost broke my nose. Luckily the only outer wound was a cut on my bottom lip.
“Are you cold?” He asks as I come to a stop in front of him.
I shake my head and lie. Though I’m chilled, it’s the last thing on my mind. Besides, I don’t want to take his navy jacket away from him. When there’s an accident officers put blankets over the victims to comfort them and right now, I think he will need all the comfort he can get.
“You’re lying, Meadow.” He frowns as he slips his arms from his sleeves. I object as he places it around my shoulders but he doesn’t take no for an answer.
“But now you’ll be cold,” I mumble. He’s only wearing a blue long sleeved shirt, surely not enough to keep him warm in this wind.
“You’re more important. Besides,” he adjusts his coat on my shoulder, moving it closer to my exposed neck. “Seeing you warm makes me warm.”
A small smile creeps its way onto my lips. “I don’t think it works that way.”
He brushes off my comment and breaks my gaze, turning his attention to the forest of rustling green trees on the other side of us. The train tracks are the only thing that separates the rural string of houses from the untouched forests.
“How are you?” I know he’s purposely not looking at me as he asks this question. He never meets my eyes when the topic goes to something he’s serious about.
“You know, I’m really sick of people asking me that question.” My words come across as defeated rather than a snap about how annoyed I am. “I’m okay. I’m fine. It’s always going to be the same answer because that’s the way I’m always going to be.” I smile and Grayson turns to stare down at my lips. A scowl forms on his own as he sees how calm I am.
“So you’re saying you’re okay?”
“Grayson,” I whine, letting my head fall back as I laugh. “Yes, I’m okay.”
He wraps me in his arms before I can breathe. There’s an audible sound of us colliding because he pulled me into him roughly, despite how gentle he is. I feel his head brush the top of mine as I breathe in everything that’s Grayson. If there’s something else that can calm me as much as staring outside at the world, it’s him.
“There’s something I need to tell you.” There’s no change in my voice that Grayson can hear; no sign to tell him things aren’t really okay. However he detects what I’m about to say before I can even find the words in my head.
Pulling back, he’s still hugging me but we’re far enough away so that I can meet his eyes.
“So you’re not okay?”
I think I’ll always remember how much pain showed in his voice when he said this. It’s like I can hear the sound of his heart breaking through his tone without having to put my ear to his chest.
“Physically, no,” I admit, tearing my eyes away for a brief moment. When I look back at Grayson there are already tears in his eyes. “But I am okay.”
He takes a few moments of staring at me, unblinking, to process this. Finally, he chokes out, “what’s wrong?”
“My heart,” I whisper, finally losing my composure after all this time of being so put together. My parents breaking down I can handle. But Grayson? He’s always been a rock, never letting his emotions getting the best of him. Seeing him sad – no, miserable – is breaking my heart.
Except technically, my heart is already broken.
“How long?” The words come out in two separate bursts, separated by the most painful sob I’ve ever heard.
“A few months at most.”
Grayson pulls me into him again but this time it’s different. I feel like there’s something between us, as if there’s some kind of new thread joining us together, creating the most magnificent bond. But despite feeling safe in his arms, tears start rolling down my cheeks.
For the first time in my life, I realize that maybe my outlook is wrong. These last few years I’ve vowed never to be sad, to miss what’s gone and to be happy in the moment because of my unknown-at-the-time condition.
But right now, I see that there’s a reason to be sad. I’m sad because I now know that when I’m gone, I’m never going to get to have another moment like this.