The Ones Left Waiting

You know when someone gets sick? Isn't everyone's first thought automatically about them? Worrying about them, wondering if they're okay? Of course, this is how it should be. But sometimes we forget the people closest to the patient: their best friend, their boyfriend, their brother? How does it affect them?

Jackie Bianco has a brain tumor. She has mere months to live, unless a miracle occurs. But this is not her story. This is the story of Daniel, her twin brother, who needs his calm sister to keep him under control. This is the story of Mia, her best friend, who is like a lost soul without her partner in crime. And this is the story of Firth, the love of Jackie's life, who will surely die without her.

This is the story of the people sitting in the waiting room, the people with nothing left to do but worry. The ones left waiting for news, good or bad.

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10. Firth

Okay. I’ve got a lot of issues to deal with. My girlfriend is in a coma. My best friend is dealing with feelings he didn’t know he possessed. And to top it all off, now our parents are forcing us all to see a counselor together.
Our first session was in mid-April. We sat side-by-side in the guidance counselor’s office. Daniel scowled at his knees, scarred hands clenched into fists on his lap.
“So Jackie has been in a coma for a month now,” Miss. Dermott said gently.
“I was just wondering how you guys are dealing with it.”
“Oh, I’m great, thanks.” Daniel said brightly.
“My twin sister probably isn’t ever going to wake up, but other than that, I’m great!”
“Daniel, I know how deeply this is affecting you.” The counselor said.
“Oh, do you? How in God’s name do you know what it’s like to basically lose a sibling forever?” he asked frostily.
“This is a cushy job you’ve got going here. Just talking to messed-up kids like me all day!”
“Daniel!” Mia exclaimed, putting a hand on his arm.
“Calm down!”
He flinched away from her, eyes flashing dangerously.
“You do not tell me to calm down. You’re another primary factor in my mentalness right now!”
They started fighting then, yelling abuse at each other from across the room. I tried to intervene, but Miss. Dermott stopped me.
“Let them. They clearly need to clear the air.”
Once that screaming match ended, we prepared to leave. On our way out, Miss. Dermott called my back in.
“I want to talk to you alone. You seem like a buffer between Mia and Daniel, quite literally in some cases! I’m willing to bet your problems get lost in the shuffle with all of theirs.”
I nodded. This was the truth.
“You’re right.”
“So, is there anything you want to tell me? Anything at all?”

I’m usually not talkative. Jackie used to say waiting for me to talk was like fishing; you wait and wait and only get something small for all your patience. But once I open up, everything overflows. I can’t stop myself talking once I start.
So it was then. It all came pouring out. My worries about Daniel hurting himself, my grades slipping, how no one understood what I was going through, and, above all, how much I missed Jackie. How it was a constant ache in my chest that never relented no matter how hard I tried.
I sighed once I’d finished. It felt wonderful to unload all of my problems onto someone else, horrid as that sounds. Miss. Dermott patted me on the shoulder.
“You’re a remarkable young man, Firth.”
“How am I remarkable?” I scoffed.
“By not giving up on Jackie. You’re only her boyfriend. You aren’t family and you aren’t engaged. Many boys your age would have walked away. But you haven’t. You stood by Jackie and I applaud you for it.”
I stared at her, gob smacked.
“I could never give up on Jackie. I love her! She’s a part of me, and I refuse to let that part go! I mean no disrespect Miss, but honestly, walking away never entered my head once!”
She smiled sadly.
“Then you are lucky. To have found love so early in life. That is truly remarkable.”
Something in my head clicked.
“You have lost someone you love.”
Miss. Dermott sighed.
“Yes, I have. My little brother, Joey, died in the 911 attacks. He was eighteen.”
I spontaneously hugged her.
“Thank you, Miss. Dermott. You’ve given me a lot to think about.”
She hugged me back.
“Its students like you, Firth that make me keep this up!”

I visited Jackie that evening. Except this time, I wasn’t by myself. Colin McDonald, Jackie’s ex-boyfriend, was in the room when I entered. Seeing a fellow class mate at the hospital wasn’t uncommon. Ever since Jackie fell into her coma, all of our class and their mothers seemed to be in the ICU. But with Colin it was weirder. Jackie and he broke up a year and a half ago. God, I still remember screaming with joy and jumping on my bed when Daniel told me over the phone. I never heard why exactly they broke up and just assumed it was mutual. But now I started to worry. What if Colin still loved Jackie?
Colin scrambled up when he saw me.
“Hey Firth.” He said uneasily.
“Hi. How’s she doing?”
“Pretty good, I think. Her vitals are normal.”
“Good.”
I sat down beside him and he awkwardly cleared his throat.
“It doesn’t seem fair: that this should happen to her.” Colin said.
“Who ever told you life was fair? Because, please, introduce me sometime.” I said tiredly.
“She’s just – a great person, you know? You’re a lucky man, Firth.”
And with that, he left, leaving my pissed off. I didn’t feel lucky. Not one bit. No four-leaf clovers or horseshoes tossed my way lately.
But as I observed Jackie’s peaceful form, I saw the sense in his words. I was lucky. Jackie was alive. I was alive. And when she pulled through this, we’d have a long happy future in front of us. And that’s all a person can rightly ask for.
My necklace glimmered on Jackie’s neck. I daringly leant down and placed a kiss on her forehead. She was mine. I was hers. I’m very lucky indeed.
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