Emily Anderson is stuck. Her and her best friend, Todd, are about to graduate college with no future plans. In response to her personal crisis Emily decides to pack everything up after graduation and head out for a road trip with Todd. What happens when they leave will change their relationship and their lives forever.
“Then how many rooms will it be?” asked the man, who was now standing behind the counter.
“Just one please,” Todd said, after picking up on Emily’s anger. “One with two beds please.”
The man scanned through his bulky computer mumbling numbers to himself. “Alright,” he said eventually. “We do have one room available but it only has one bed and a pull out couch, how does that sound?”
“Lovely,” Todd replied, “Just lovely, thank you. We will just be here for tonight.” Todd finished up the transaction and got the room key. He walked outside with Emily to get their bags.
“What an ass,” Emily stated.
"I agree, but it’s one night and it’s a cheap room.” Todd patted Emily on the back. She smiled, but then she started coughing. At first it seemed innocent, something went down the wrong tube, but soon enough Todd could see the pain coming over Emily’s pale face. He lead her to their room as she continued to suck in as much air as she could before wheezing and coughing all over again.
When they got into the room, Todd laid Emily down on the bed. He turned her on her side and held her as she continued to cough. Todd rubbed Emily’s back, comforting her. He closed his eyes, hoping that this fit would be over soon. As he continued to run his hand along Emily’s spine he felt something moist.
He opened his eyes to discover his hands were covered in blood, Emily’s blood. He began screaming. At the sound of his fear, Emily began to cry. A look of complete helplessness came over her face. She ran into the bathroom holding her stomach. She yelled at Todd to get her bag for her as she slammed the door closed. Todd ran out to the car and threw all the bags on the ground in search for Emily’s suitcase. When he found it, he sprinted back to the room and knocked on the bathroom door. Emily’s shaking hand reached out from the door, covered in red. Todd passed the suitcase through.
“Emily, how can I help you? What can I do? Should I can you an ambulance?” Todd asked, chaos drowning him.
"Todd, I need help,” Emily said weakly from the other side of the door. With that, Todd got onto his phone and dialed 9-1-1. Within minutes, paramedics came in and saw Emily on the bathroom floor, soaked in her own blood, crying. Todd was holding her, rocking her back and forth, and humming one of Grandma Betsy’s old country songs.
“Sir, we can take it from here,” a male paramedic said, a box of medical supplies in his hand. Another paramedic came in and pulled Todd off of Emily. He was ushered outside, Emily’s blood stained red on his clothing. Shaking, Todd told himself to pull it together.
“This isn’t about me,” he told himself as he waited outside. “I need to be strong from Em.” He wiped his eyes and straightened his clothes. Stoically, Todd sat by Emily as they drove her to the hospital. His face showed no emotion, but his eyes gave away his interior chaos. As they pull into the hospital parking lot, doctors came and took Emily away. The sliding doors opened and the doctors rolled her down the fluorescent lit hallways.
Todd was asked to stay in the waiting room. Soon after he sat down, a male nurse came to give him a change of clothes. Todd had almost forgotten that the liquid soaking through his clothing was Emily’s blood. He went to the bathroom to change. He walked in and closed the door behind him. Across from him was a mirror.
He could see his reflection, from his head to the top of his pants. Everywhere he looked he was covered in blood. He went over to the sink and started the water. He lead his hands into the stream and began to rub his arms and face. Freeing himself from the red.
As he scrubbed off the blood, he felt as if he was rubbing Emily off of him. He looked up at the sink to meet his eyes. Blood shot from held back tears, Todd could barely recognize the agony he was feeling. He let the water run over his hands and onto the floor. He nelt staring at himself, in disbelieve and then began to cry.
When Todd came out of the bathroom he was greeted by a nurse with a clipboard. He was asked to fill out all the information he had on Emily to the best of his knowledge. He took a seat near the sliding doors where carts of patients came wheeling in and out. Todd looked down at the piece of paper in front of him and began answering the questions.
To his surprise, he could fill in the majority of the information. Birth date, weight, that kind of stuff was easy, but medical history and dietary needs was no problem for him to answer either. Soon enough he walked up to the nurses’ station and handed them the filled out form
The woman who seemed to be the head nurse, took the clipboard and flipped through the pages. “You’re a great husband to know all of this information,” she commented, almost to herself.
“Oh,” Todd paused, “No, I’m not her husband, I’m her best friend.” He stood their awkwardly as the nurse sifted through the paperwork.
“I’m sorry,” the nurse said, almost callously. Not looking up from the clipboard.
Todd found his way back to the chair and called Grandma Betsy. She told him she would get in the car right after calling Emily’s mother. Todd clicked off his phone and stared at the floor.
Two hours passed by before a doctor came in. Todd looked up to see the female doctor coming towards him in bloody scrubs. He stood up, but didn’t try to prepare himself. He knew this was going to be bad news.
“Hello, I’m Dr. Kensington,” said the women in a British accent. She extended her hand which Todd promptly shook. He was noticeably shaking, but the doctor did not comment. “Emily is stable. She has gone through some serious trauma. The bleeding does not usually occur in cancer patients, but at her advanced stage I am not surprised…”
The sounds of the intercom overcame Todd, doctors began paged here and there. Then the swishing of the sliding door behind him. Todd could see the doctor’s lips moving, but he just didn’t hear anything. He felt wetness against his cheeks. He raised his hands and at the touch of his damp tears was reminded of Emily’s bloody body laying on the motel room bed.
Todd glanced up at the doctor, still holding his hand to his cheek. He then noticed the doctor had stopped talking. She placed her hand on his shoulder as he began to sob.
“Ca-....” Todd stuttered, “Ca-an…” as he began to speak, the word forming in his mouth seemed to take a life of its own. Todd could feel it, smell it, hear it being born. The vial taste, the putrid smell, the horrid touch- “Cancer…” he finally muttered out.
“Why, yes. Emily has cancer,” the doctor said confused by his struggle. “She has stage three ovarian cancer. Did you not know?”
Todd shook his head in dismay. He didn’t believe that he didn’t know that Emily had cancer, ovarian cancer. The same cancer her mother survived a decade earlier. How though, how could he have not known.
A nurse in pink scrubs came in the waiting room holding a tray of untouched food. “She’s been asking for you,” she said, motioning to Todd. “You can follow me, she’s just down the hall.”
Todd left the doctor standing in the waiting room, nothing else said between them. He followed the nurse in pink scrubs down a wing of the hospital, turning right and then left. She walked into a room labeled 14C and pulled the curtain away that was blocking the bed. In the bed, Emily was laying on her back, an IV attached to her left forearm. Her head was propped up against a few white, hospital pillows. From where Todd stood he could see her tear stained cheeks and the remnants of dry blood on her hands.
He walked over to her bedside and looked upon his friend who usually stood so tall, so proud, so confident. The Emily that he used to know was now a shriveled, weakened child. Emily’s eyes were closed when Todd walked into the room, but they opened now that he was near.
“Hi,” Emily whispered, her voice so soft it seemed to drift of in the breeze.
“Hi,” Todd replied. Emily scooched over on the bed to make room for him to sit down, but immediately as she started moving, she winced in pain. Todd leaped forward to stop her. He knelt down and sat on the bed, his arms wrapped around Emily’s fragile figure.
“Please don’t move,” Todd said, “How are you feeling?”
Emily reached up and touched Todd’s face. Her delicate hands, were cold against his burning cheeks. Tears began escaping from his eyes, wettening Emily’s hands.
“Todd, I’m okay. Really, truly I am,” Emily attempted to explain.
What she did not tell him was the constant pain she has been feeling for six months. The night sweats, bloating, and bleeding. She did not tell him about the time she was in so much pain that she honestly considered killing herself. And she would never tell him about the anger and bitterness she felt when she was diagnosed.
But he didn’t understand.
“What are you talking about, Em? You are NOT okay!” Todd began, his voice elevating, “Of course, you’re not okay. Your sick Emily! Sick! You have cancer!”
“I’m well aware of that Todd!” Emily yelled back, “I’m the one in the fucking hospital bed because I almost fucking died Todd!”
This took him back, “Emily could have died today,” he thought, “died.”
“I know,” he whispered, his voice as quiet as Emily’s previously was. He swatted away the tear that had continued to fall. He needed to stop crying.
Emily returned her hand to his cheek and began to silently weep alongside him. Todd told Emily that her family was coming and she nodded.
“I knew I would have to tell everyone eventually,” she said, gazing into Todd’s saddened eyes.
“How long have you known?” he asked, meeting her gaze.
Emily sighed, “Since December, that is when I went in for my annual check-up. I told my doctor about some peculiar symptoms I was having. And two hours later I left. Blood tests were run, xrays were administered, and a few weeks later I got the call.”
“Why did you keep it a secret, Em? We could have helped you,” Todd asked, confused and shocked that he hadn’t known about her condition for the last six months.
“When they caught it I was borderline stage three. I knew what my mom went through with the chemotherapy and the radiation. Sores covered her body, her hair fell out after the first session of chemo. I couldn't do it. I didn’t want to live my life like that, at least not the rest of my life.
And then I just came back to college and classes and my life in Colorado. It was easy to forget my prognosis while I was swamped in school work and reports. So I just ignored it and after awhile it became hard to believe that I was sick. Like it was a bad dream or something. But I never forgot, never truly forgot.
I mean, how could I? The pain was always there.” Emily looked away from Todd and sighed. Her shoulders lurched forward, displaying the weight that she was feeling. Todd sat there staring at the back of her head. Eventually, Emily was too tired to stay sitting up and gave into laying down.
“I’m sorry,” Todd said, all he could think about was the pain she’s been going through. The terrifying, life ending pain.
“I know you are,” Emily whispered from her position below Todd, “I knew I was going to die soon. That is why I wanted to go on this crazy goose case of a trip with you. I wanted to go to the places that I loved so much just one more time.”
“And the star on the map?” Todd asked, as he reached down and took her hand in his.
“The star is where my dad is living. I wanted to say goodbye to him. I wanted closure, as you said.” She grinned up, but her eyes were heavy with sadness, “I think I’m going to take a nap.”
Her eyes gently closed as her breathing steadied. Todd lay down next to her resting body, and held her in his arms. He could feel her heartbeat as her shallow breathe moved across his hands.
The nurse in the pink scrubs came in, but didn’t ask Todd to move. She just stood there and gently smiled down at him. Todd eventually allowed himself to drift off to sleep. The buzz of the fluorescent lights above them ceased as the hospital seemed to nod off into a peaceful sleep.