The cold fluid seeps from the IV into my arm, and I press the button to call Kaci back into my room. She takes a few minutes to answer the call, but I don't mind. I'm used to it.
"You buzzed, Honey," Kaci asks as she pokes her blonde head into my room, and I nod.
"Yes. Can you bring me a warm blanket? This new bag is freezing. I can't sleep," I reply as I gesture to the bag of fluids hanging from my IV pole.
She nods and shoots me a smile before leaving, and I lay my head back against the pillows I have fluffed a million times. This has been my longest hospital stay yet, and I am so done.
I miss my soft bed and my pile of warm blankets. I miss homemade meals and mom's whistling in the morning. I miss being able to curl up on my window seat with a good book. But most of all, I miss having energy. I forgot how tiring chemo is. It zaps every ounce of strength from my body and leaves me feeling like a zombie.
"Here you go, Krystal. Do you need anything else," Kaci says as she comes back into my room like a scrubs-covered tornado.
I shake my head as she spreads out the warm white blanket, and she smiles at me.
"Okay. I will see you in a few hours then," she says, and I give her a weak grin.
I instantly feel better as the heat from the blanket warms my bones. I close my eyes, and sleep washes over me within seconds.
"How are you today, Krystal," Doctor Ho asks as he and his colleagues stand at the front of my bed with mixed expressions.
"About the same. Weak," I answer with a slight shrug, and Dr. Ho nods before glancing at Dr. Blaylock.
"We got your test results back, and the numbers aren't looking too good," Dr. Blaylock says, and my eyes connect with his.
"Meaning," I ask, and Dr. Trott moves to the side of the bed.
She gives me a sad little smile, and a lump forms in my throat.
"There are experimental treatments, but it doesn't look good. Your cancer is fast-growing, Krystal. The radiation and chemo don't seem to be as effective as we thought...And your MRI has revealed a tumor on your spine. We have a few options involving removing it, but all will result in the loss of mobility... As it stands right now, your body is too weak. We are hesitant to schedule the surgery," Dr. Trott explains softly, and tears spill down my face as my eyes drop to my lap.
"Don't tell mom. Let me do it," I whisper after a few seconds, and the doctors I have known since I was seven all move in closer.
"We will make sure you are comfortable," Dr. Blaylock says, and I nod while wiping the snot from my nose.
"I know. I'm okay with dying. I knew when the cancer came back, there was a really big chance of it winning this time. I'm just worried about mom. I was her miracle. It's just her and me against the world. I'm going to have to leave her, and that hurts more than having no future," I say as I look up into their teary eyes.
Dr. Trott immediately closes her eyes as tears begin to escape, and Dr. Ho gently takes my hand.
"You will always be her miracle. Every day you are on this Earth, you are her miracle. You beat the unbeatable before and gave her more time with you. I am so proud to be your doctor, Krystal. I am so blessed to have seen you grow into the woman you are today. It's not very professional for me to say, but you are one of my favorites," Dr. Ho says, and I give him a sad smile.
"I am pretty loveable," I reply, and three sad-sounding laughs come from the doctors around my bed.
"We will stop your chemo immediately. The morning shift nurse should be right in after we leave with your pain medication. The dosage was upped a little bit, but we will wait until closer to time before raising it again," Dr.Blaylock says, and I nod.
"How much time do you think I have," I whisper, and Dr. Trott sniffles.
"Maybe a month. Maybe less, depending on how fast it spreads once your medication stops," she replies softly, and I nod again.
"I feel tired, so I know my body won't fight for long," I mumble absently, and the room goes still.
I know without raising my head, my mom has arrived. Her perfume is already filling the room.
"Krystal," mom says, and I reluctantly look up to find her staring at me with a terrified expression.
"What's going on," Mom asks, and the doctors all step away from my bed.
They give me a parting smile for encouragement, and mom watches them as they file out of the room without answering her question. Once the door closes, her scared eyes zoom back to my tired face.
"Krystal? Tell me what they said. Was it about your test results" Mom asks, and I nod before moving to the right side of my bed?
I pat the free space, and mom sits down. Her eyes are searching my face, so I grab her hand and give her my best smile.
"Don't be scared. Everything will be okay," I whisper, and my mom squeezes her eyes closed instantly.
She begins to shake her head back and forth while mumbling to herself. I patiently wait it out.
Denial is my mom's go-to when bad things happen. She will often deny the information and have an episode just like she is having now. But if I just wait, she will calm down and let me explain the facts.
"It's not true...You will get better, just like last time. You beat it then. You will beat it now," mom mumbles, and I rub her knuckles with my thumb.
"This time is different, mom. The cancer is spreading. I have a tumor on my spine, and the treatments aren't helping to slow it down anymore. It's time for me to rest and enjoy what time I have left," I whisper, and a loud sob explodes from my mother's mouth.
"No! No. You will get better, baby. You will. Nineteen years isn't long enough. It isn't long enough," Mom screams, and I yank her to me with my remaining strength.
She collapses into me, and I stroke her hair as we both cry. After a few minutes of loud sobs and disgusting sniffles, mom begins to pray.
Sadness for my mother fills my heart as I listen to her beg the heavens over and over again to heal me, but I stay silent. I know it's my time, even if she doesn't. My body just can't take anymore, and I want to be free of it. The only thing I hate about the fact I will die soon is leaving my mom alone.
She had me young and raised me with nothing but love. She never dated, even though guys asked her out everywhere we went. She said she was happy with it being just us. She would joke when I asked her about it. But she always said the same thing, "I was given my miracle early in life. What would a guy be able to offer me when I already have you?"
As my mom continues to pray, anger enters my heart. It was cruel of God to make her love me so much, but at the same time give me cancer. She didn't deserve this pain. She deserved a healthy child that would take care of her in her golden years. Who will be here for her then?
"I love you, mom," I whisper, and her sobs get louder as she hugs me tighter.
I tilt my head and stare at my sunken appearance in the mirror. I look awful. I have lost so much weight since starting this last treatment, and it shows. I look similar to the black and white images of Jewish WWII victims. Even my hospital gown reminds me of them. I lift my hand and trace my cheekbones with my fingertips. It's been so long sense I felt beautiful. I cried when I relost my hair two years ago. I stopped doing by makeup shortly after because well what was the point. I had no one to impress and I was too tired to do it anyway. Maybe before I die, mom could have a make up artist come give me a makeover. That would be cool. We could do a photo shoot to give mom some more memories before I am gone. I smile at the idea, and watch as my dry lips crack a little. I will ask mom when she gets here at eleven. It will probably make her sad at first, but I think it's a good idea. I wash my hands and walk back to my bed. It's nice to be free of the IV pole. I don't hav
Flashback 6 years old "Mom, I want to help," I whine loudly, and mom shoots me a smile. She bends down and kisses my forehead gently. "I wish you could, baby. But mommy is using a knife," mom says, and I frown. I stand on my tippy toes and stare at the pile of celery. "I am big enough. I can help," I repeat, and mom sighs. She closed her eyes for a minute before lifting me up and placing me on the counter. "You can watch, my little Miracle. But keep your hands away from the knife at all times. You are still too little to cut up veggies," Mom says, and I smile while nodding. I love watching mommy cook. She makes the best food. I want to learn how to make yummy food. So when I have a family, I can make yummy food for them too. I will make all my favorites for them. When mommy comes to my house, she will smell the air and say, "mmm, something smells good." As I stare at the ever-growing pile of green vegetables, a drop of red liquid falls from my face and land
Colors swirl around me as my eyes crack open. The colors alone tell me I'm not in my white hospital room anymore. But instead of relief like Ms. Cummings promised, my body feels worse than ever. I can't even lift my head. I immediately get nervous and scared. Why did I believe her? I probably sold myself to some weird experiment place that tortures people in the name of science. "Hello," I croak, and I hear footsteps approach me from my left. Someone touches my arm, and I manage to roll my head in their direction. My eyelids flutter as my brain tries to recognize the face looking at me, but the person's appearance is all wrong... Their skin is a shiny light purple, and they are towering over me at such a high height. "Who are you," I ask, and the strange person tilts their head to the side before holding their finger to their mouth. I instantly shut my mouth in fear. I don't want to upset whoever this is, but I keep my eyes on the purple being. As I stare, my vision slowly
Zalu hands me a bowl of what looks like different fruits, and I stare down at the bright mixture curiously. "You brought up that Earth has starving people...Do other planets in the universe not have starving people? I mean, do you not have money or any type of economy," I ask as I pick up a squishy green piece of food. "We have something similar to your exchange policy, but unlike Earth, basic necessities are never something you have to pay for. Water and food are not owned. Food grows everywhere. We pick it, and if we want meat, we hunt. Our stores contain products, not needs," Zalu explains as she takes a seat in front of me. "Are you not afraid of over hunting," I ask as I bite into the piece of food. The green plant explodes with juice, and a tangy flavor fills my mouth. I hum as I chew. Whatever it is, it is way better than hospital food. "What do you mean," Zalu asks, and a few more people walk into the communal cafeteria Zalu brought me to. "Well, I mean, on Earth, we hav
"These clothes are fancy," I say to Zalu as we walk towards the cafeteria for breakfast. Last night in my room was magical but also a little scary. After Zalu left to go home to her mate, I decided to head to bed. The plush covers and fluffy pillows were calling my name. But when I turned out the lights and silence fell, I was able to hear the roars and calls from the animals outside. It was intimidating, to say the least. "All Harvested women are dressed in the finest outfits that represent their planet. These clothes are nothing compared to the dresses you will be wearing during the tournament," Zalu replies, and I look at her in surprise before glancing down at the beautiful blouse and straight-leg slacks I put on. "How do you know so much about Earth and what we like," I ask as I try to picture extravagant gowns. "Just because humans don't know about us doesn't mean we are ignorant to you," Zalu says as she points toward a table. I follow the line of her finger an
I grin as Jia gulps down another fizzy drink we got with our room service. When I asked Zalu about the drink, she had smiled and waved good night instead of answering me. So we have been learning what it is on our own. The purple liquid seems to make you feel drunk, but it doesn't make you wobbly or incoherent in any way. It is basically a grape soda that gives you the giggles. "So, what's your story," Jia asks me after I finish describing my first day here, and I giggle as she flops down on the couch beside me. "My story? You came to my room to learn my story," I ask, and Jia smiles. "Pretty much. You seemed nice at breakfast and the most approachable. So spill," Jia replies, and I nod while placing my empty plate down. "Okay, well, I'm from Ohio. My family consisted of my mom and me... And I have been sick off and on the majority of my life," I explain, and Jia looks down at the piece of fruit she is playing with in her fingers. "Single mom, huh," she mumbles,
I can't help but tear up as I stare at my reflection in the full-length mirror. Zalu is an absolute artist.My makeup is light but flawless. The mixture of brown and pale green eyeshadow applied to my eyelids makes my blue-green eyes pop. The pale pink lipstick Zalu brushed my lips with gave them a plump, kissable look. My hair has been swept up into an elegant bun, and the dress...The light green lace ball gown I am wearing is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. I truly feel like a princess."Are you happy," Zalu whispers from behind me, and I spin around.I wrap my arms around her waist, and she giggles before returning my hug."I am honored," she says quietly, and I release her before stepping back."I have never felt like this before. I feel breathtaking," I admit, and she nods while her cat-ish eyes grin at me happily."I am happy I could help. Are you ready," Zalu asks lightly, and my butterflies return.She watches my expression closely, and I nervously lick my lips befo
"Attention, after meeting with your next group, you may retire for thirty minutes. For the last switch, please listen up," the male Kea says, and the female from Hassin, who I was speaking to, stops laughing. I turn my attention to him almost eagerly. Ever since the uncomfortable first round with the Froles, things have run smoothly. The Keas and Hassins being my favorites to talk with, closely followed by the Shikazs and the Peulos. We haven't had any more uncomfortable moments, and I have even made a couple of new friends. The male Kea lists the names and colors quickly as I look around the room with a easy-going grin, but when my eyes land on Zalu, my happy feeling dims a bit. She looks anxious as she stares at the announcer, and the realization hits me slowly as to why. The last group...the ones we haven't met yet. "Makskin, Earth, blue," he says, and a chill runs over my skin. The fact that Zalu is this worried about us talking with Zor is intimidating. It mak