That's life.

This is story about a girl, a boy, and the person that stands between them. It's about a brother, a useless aunt and a missing dad. It's about an overworked Mum, a twin and 7 year old that grew up too quickly. But most of all, it's a story about love, in all its forms, and the damage it can do.

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6. Stella

 

The smell of hospital hits me like a bullet. I remember it so well, the shiny polished floor and bright whitewashed walls, nurses and doctors rushing from door to door clutching equipment. An eight year old in crutches limps past us, mother and screaming toddler by his side, and although the mum looks tired, stressed and fed up, and sure, it might have been a long night, at least she knows he’ll be okay. He might not be able to play football for a few months, maybe not be able to write, but he’ll live. That’s more than we can say right now. The paramedic leads us into a little waiting room   filled with brightly coloured posters, and I start to feel very sick when my eyes settle on the breast cancer one.  I force myself to read every single word on it, even though I’ve known them off by heart for years now. Not that any of their stupid reminders and tips did any good anyway. At the end of the day, if cancer wants you dead, it gets you dead, full stop.

 

‘You can go if you want.’

I forgot that Mikey was with me. His voice is flat and expressionless, like he can hardly be bothered to speak. And who would blame him?

‘No, I’m sorry! I should be talking to you or something. Really, I’m-‘I stop talking because I’m scared I’m really pissing him off, and too be honest, I don’t know how to handle people when they’re like this. What happened to me is a lot different to what’s happening to him and I don’t want to say anything wrong. He sighs, and suddenly turns to face me, and I’m pretty convinced he’s gonna yell at me or something.

‘What are you doing here? Why did you come with me?’ This is not what I was expecting, and I realize it’s a very good question. The average teenage girl doesn’t go to a hospital with someone she’s never met.

‘I mean, I don’t even know your name!’ Well, at least I can answer that.

‘Stella…my name’s Stella.’ I watch as his brain clicks and he realises who I am. I already know who he is, Maddie’s friend Poppy’s boyfriend.

‘Oh…Maddie told me about you. You’re living with your aunt, right?’

‘Yeah, today was gonna be my first day at Oakwood.’ I say, relieved to have something to talk about.

‘Sorry for depriving you of your education, then’ A faint trace of a smile is to appear on his face.

‘Oh, don’t worry. I’m sure I’ll live.’ Stupid, stupid, stupid thing to say. Mikey’s face closes down again, his eyes turning grey. Why can’t I be less of an idiot?

‘She might not live. She could die, couldn’t she?’

‘No, I swear I didn’t mean it lik-‘

‘Maybe you should just shut up, yeah?’

A very good idea. We sit in an awkward, uneasy silence until a nurse walks into the room.

‘Mikey, do you think you could come with me? We’d like to have a word with you about Scarlett.’ Mikey gulps and lets her lead him out the room.

 

I sit there in silence for a while, until my phone starts ringing. It’s Sam.

‘Stella? Where are you?’

‘In the hospital.  Mikey’s just been taken out to be told how Scarlett is.’

‘Maddie and all her friends are freaking out, by the way.’

‘You told them?’

‘Stella, when three students who live down the same road, including a new kid, don’t show up, someone’s gonna get a bit suspicious!’

‘Well hopefully we’ll be back soon. I don’t know. I’m not being helpful, anyway. I can’t say anything right.’

‘Shut up and stop feeling sorry for yourself, at least it’s not you who’s fainted!’ For a 12 year old, Sam can be very sensible sometimes.

‘Yeah, I know. But how is school?’

‘Alright, some guys are cool; they let me hang with them during break. Though the lessons are crap.’

‘They always are with you!’

In the background I hear the shrill sound of a school bell ring, and Sam groans.

‘Gotta go, see you when you get back. Bye!’

And just like that he hangs up.  For the next 10 minutes, I distract myself by solving maths sums in my head. I’m stuck on a particularly tricky one when Mikey bursts through the door, and does the most unexpected thing ever. Grinning, he runs towards me and gives me a massive hug, almost lifting me off my feet.

‘She’s gonna be alright! She’s not dead. She’ll be alright!’ He puts me down, and laughs when he sees my face, which is a mixture of shock and relief.

‘What was wrong with her?’ I blurt out, taking in what just happened.

‘She’s got type 1 diabetes. It’s a bit of a pain, but loads of people live with it, so she’ll manage. God, I’m so glad she’ll be alright. ‘

Grinning, we walk out of the horrible waiting room. He turns to me, suddenly looking guilty.

‘I’m sorry if I was a bit of an arse earlier…’

‘No, it was my fault. I shouldn’t have been such a thoughtless idiot…’  We both laugh, and slowly walk out the hospital.

‘Aren’t you allowed to stay with her then?’ I ask, as we go through the car park.

‘I’ve seen her, but Mum’s here now, and she’s insisting we go to school. But I’ll definitely come back afterwards; stay the night if they let me.’

None of us say much for a while, and I just enjoy the sun as we walk to the bus stop. I can’t believe how much has happened in just a few hours, and although it feels like the end of a long day, it’s only 11 o’clock.  And I’ve still got to start school.

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