A Million Paper Birds

Julia has just found out her best friend is probably going to die. Diagnosed with leukaemia, Jake doesn't know how much time he has left. Scared of loosing her friend, Julia plans to make every second count.


1. A Million Paper Birds

I cried myself to sleep that night.

It wasn't fair. Why Jake? Why did Jake, my best friend. My stupid friend who ate paper when I dared him to in third grade and then ended up being sick all over Mrs Smith's leather shoes. The boy with the sun-kissed skin and brown hair that his mother tried to tame and often have up.

The person who had been there when Amanda told me 'to go die' and when my floppy eared rabbit fell sick and had to be put down. Everyone in the world and it picks him as it's victim. The sweetest and kindest person that has ever existed. 

I couldn't believe the news when Jake's mother had phoned me. She said she'd phoned me first, I'd been there for him and he'd been there for me so I deserved to know first.

Jake was dying.

My best friend was dying.


Leukaemia. It was leukaemia.

Jake had smiled weakly as soon as I entered his house. I was greeted by his mum, whose eyes were red and mascara slightly smudged. She'd told me to come in, Jake would be happy to see me.

'They don't know how much longer.' He spoke, interrupting the unusual silence between us
'You... You know,' 
'Oh.' It hadn't really sunk in yet, 
'They are going to try chemotherapy and I'm on a list for a bone marrow transparent, but if it doesn't work... I dunno.'

I didn't know what to say. I didn't know what to do.

'Julia,' Jake stared into my eyes, I could see he was unsuccessfully trying to force back his tears 'There is a forty percent to fifty percent chance that I survive the next five years. I may live a long and happy life after that but I still could die. They don't know how much longer I have, they said they can't tell but just give the averages. I could have less than a year left,'

I looked into my lap, I didn't want to to say anything. I didn't know what I could say.

A few minutes passed

'Have you told Kellie yet?'

Jake shook his head and let out a small whimper. Kellie is Jake's girlfriend. She is just as good looking as him, tall, slim, pretty, with long blonde hair. Kellie didn't really like how close me and Jake were, but she accepted it. I think she realised we were more like brother and sister, after all we'd pretty much grown up together. Kellie was popular, always invited to the parties and wore the right things. Jake couldn't believe his luck when he found out she fancied him.  I was short, not really tiny but not really tall either. I had dark blonde hair and brown eyes, I was the total opposite of her.

'You probably should. I'm sorry Jake, I just don't know what to say,' I sighed

'I understand, sort of. I don't really know what to say either.' He paused 'The hospital gave me the details of this group. It's for kids and teenagers who have terminal and serious life-effective illnesses. You know? I'll probably go for my mum. I'm not sure I want to go myself,'

'Yeah, you should go. Might as well talk to other people about it. Are you dropping out of college?' I asked 

'I dunno, yeah. Maybe.' He kind of laughed nervously 'I might take a year out if I need to.'

'You'll beat it.' I smiled weakly 'Go call Kellie. I'll go and leave you in peace. See you tomorrow?'

'Yeah, sure. College?' He grinned

I stood up, grinned back and nodded.


'Hey' I smiled

'Hey' he smiled back

Monday morning, second period and my free, two days since Jake called me, one day since I'd last seen him but it hadn't quite sunk in yet. 

'So. Kellie dumped me.' He shrugged

I was shocked 'what, why?' 

'She told me that I shouldn't be with her if I was going to be in hospital. It wasn't fair on her, so she just ended it.' 

'Oh, I'm sorry Jake.' 

Jake had really liked Kellie. I honestly didn't know her very well, but I knew she cared for him. They suited each other, even though Jake wasn't quite as popular as Kellie.

'Don't be. I understand why, she couldn't handle it. Better get it out of the way now then later at my worst. Anyway,' he shrugged of the topic of Kellie 'I'm going to that support group tonight,' 

'Yay!' I smiled 'Make sure you let me know how it goes,'

'Like I would tell you that,' he laughed 'yeah sure, as soon as I get home. Promise.'

We joked around for the rest of the hour, just like normal, until we had to go our separate ways to our lessons. 


'I start treatment in a few weeks, I'm going to be bald.' He laughed in a sort-of disbelief way. 'Imagine, me with no hair. I'm going to look like an egg.'

I couldn't help but let out a giggle. Jake had always had uncontrollable hair, it seemed strange to imagine him with out his messy locks. Unfortunately, I wouldn't have to imagine.

'So at the support group, the guy that runs it Terry, he's like this psychologist-therapist; he told us to create a list of things to do. Apparently, if we, if I, live through my leukaemia we should experience everything we want to, even if I don't survive.' He shrugged

'So?' I asked

'I came up with a list. Life is too short anyway, why not?' 

'Can I see it?' 

'No... No. Terry said to keep it mainly private, but you can help me as I do the things on my list if I need to.' He blushed

'Oh, okay, sure!' I agreed, I should really experience new, different things too.

'I want to swim with sharks,' he suddenly said

'You're joking right?' I laughed 'How are we meant to find sharks to swim with? What's next on the list?'

'To visit New York and see everything in one day, at least as much as possible,' He grinned

'That's more like it!' I exclaimed 

'And I want the sky filled with a million brightly coloured birds, like parrots,' he joked

'Thats not like it,' 


I paced through the local supermarket. My mother want me to pick up some stuff, but I couldn't find anything. I was also trying to find some stuff to take to New York. Jake's mum had agreed to take us on the train, we'd have to leave early and get back late, but it would be worth it. We had decided to go before Jake treatments started, we were going to miss a day of college but Jake was probably going to miss more than a few months, so it didn't matter. We didn't want to wait too long, Jake wanted to be strong enough to go.

I ended up in the beach section, trying to find sunglasses that suited my heart-shaped face. On the aisle behind me there were boxes and boxes of inflatable toys, the sort children play with at the beach or in swimming pools. I smiled, they had sharks too. That stupid idiot could swim with sharks.

 I'd covered swimming with sharks but what about a sky filled with a million brightly coloured birds...

What about... Yes. I smiled to myself, it would be perfect.


 'Got enough stuff,' Jake joked 

I was carrying a massive backpack full of deflated sharks. I had about 50 in my bag with a pump. I had phoned a swimming pool to make sure it was okay of I could do it. They'd happily agreed to my plan and even volunteered to blow the damn things up so Jake didn't suspect a thing.

'You never need too much stuff. If we're going to a spa I need stuff for that too.' I said

'Tell me again, you are you dragging me to a spa?' He laughed

'Someone from my mum's work got these free vouchers but obviously it was too far for it to be worth going,' I tried to stop myself from blushing, I didn't want him to think I was up to anything!

'Its only for an hour Jake, sure you'll live? I'm sure you'll be grateful for it when we get there, it'll be really relaxing,' Jake's mum smiled

'Yeah, yeah. Just promise we'll see as much as we can?'

She smiled and nodded 'of course,'

Jake's mum looked tired and a mixture between scared and stressed. I suppose it was got be be hard to know you might loose your kid. I felt terrible, awful. I couldn't even imagine how she could feel, my pain could never compare to hers. 


Ready at the pool, I'd just told Jake I was going to the toilet before we were taken to our treatment. I was really taking the sharks for the swimming people to get ready and set up while we changed. Jake didn't suspect a thing as we wear going to wear swimming costumes to the 'spa'. 

We changed in to our swimming outfits and the woman who worked at the pool took us to a pool they'd blocked off for our private use. 

Jake was shocked. Then he started laughing. 

'Oh my god Julia,' he was laughing so hard he was struggling to speak 'I can't believe this,' 

'Should we swim with sharks?' I giggled 

'Yes! Just be careful, they bite!' He joked


Jake wanted to see New York, so his mother had organised a trip to the top of one of New York's tallest building so he could see the city from the highest point. We were going to the Empire State Building 

I'd contacted the building and told them about Jake. I smiled to myself as we walked towards the building he wasn't going to believe it. 

'Hi, we're here for a tour to the top,' Jake's mum told a smartly dressed woman, her brunette hair in a high pony tail.

'Right this way,' she smiled

She lead us to the lift.

'So, I'll be showing you the best parts of New York. It's a beautiful view up there, although some people are a bit over whelmed by the sights. Do you want to go to the top?' She asked

'Um.' I said

'Oh.' She said, suddenly realising that my plan wasn't going to work on the top floor. 'It might be busy, would that be a problem? Two big tour buses came earlier,'

'Maybe the second to top floor?' I suggested, going along with it

'Sure!' She nodded

'Aw...' Jake complained


'So here we are! At the top! Well, almost,' she laughed to herself 'lets go to the barrier so I can show you the sights,'

I shivered, it was chilly out on the roof. I wished I had brought something to cover my arms. It'd be worth it, totally worth it to see Jake's face though. 

I leaned against the barrier, stopping me from plummeting to my death. I quickly looked upwards, there were a handful of people clutching bags. Perfect. 

Jake stood next to me, gawping at the tiny buildings and toy sized cars. 

Suddenly, a flurry of rainbow colours fell down infront of us. 

I smiled, it had gone exactly as I wanted.

Jake laughed as the paper cranes fell.

'Really?' He beamed 
The tourists, that looked like little ants, below were pointing at us, or above us, snapping photos. 

'So, this is why you didn't want to go to the top?' He laughed

'Sorr-ee,' I smiled 

Jake caught a handful of falling origami birds. 

'Not quite a million birds, but it's close enough right?' I smiled

'This is perfect. Julia, thank you. Thank you so much,' 

We didn't know how long we had left together. We didn't know if he'd survive or die. All I knew was I that I loved Jake and he would always be my friend. I wanted to make the most of the time we had because either way, we'd loose each other at some point. 

Illness just reminds us some people have less time than others, but that doesn't mean you can't make the most of it. No one knows when you'll die, so you need to make every second count.







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