You and Everything After(4)By: Ginger Scott
Kelly stayed with me after the accident, through our junior year of high school. We were going to go to the same college, too—that was always the plan. But I could tell by the look on her face, the look she wore more and more every day, that she was forcing herself to go through with it all. She wanted out. But she loved me too much to hurt me. So I pushed her away instead. I broke it off and went on a dating binge at the end of my senior year. Somehow, through it all, she stayed my friend.
My phone buzzes back with a response, and I hover over the screen for a few seconds, afraid to open it. I just asked her how things were going at home with Jack, the baby. We’ve managed to remain friends for four years. Friends—even though every conversation with her is like driving a stake through my heart. Last year, she got married. A few months later, she told me she was pregnant, and I died a little more.
Swiping the screen, the first thing I see is a picture of tiny feet nestled inside Kelly’s hands—the diamond ring on her left finger like a banner waving in my face. Her husband, Jared, tolerates me, but I don’t think he’d mind at all if Kelly and I just stopped communicating…completely. I have a feeling he’ll get his wish one day; distance and time, they do funny things to the heart—they make you…forget. Or at least, want to forget.
He’s beautiful. That’s all I can say.
Thanks. Her message back is just as simple. I know we’re near the end, and I feel sick. I’m getting drunk tonight—with or without Nate as my wingman. Hell, I might just pull up a stool at Sally’s and join the regulars who plant themselves there all day.
“Oh my god. You literally brought your entire life from Burbank to Oklahoma, didn’t you?” I huff, dragging two extra bags, as well as my own trunk, along the walkway toward our dorm.
“That was the deal. I would come here, but I still get to be me—and I like to have my things,” my sister Paige says, prancing ahead of me with the lighter bags. She’s a full minute older, but you’d think years separated us with the authority she holds over my head.
When it came time to decide on a college, Paige’s choices narrowed down to Berkley and McConnell, and Berkley was definitely her preference. But for me, it was always McConnell, and only McConnell. They had the best sports and rehab-medicine program in the country, and that’s what I wanted to do—what I was destined to do. But my parents wouldn’t support me moving thousands of miles away without someone around to keep an eye on me. Supervision—the word made my skin crawl, I had heard it so often. Supervision and monitoring were words bandied about so often—in conversations about me, but never in conversations with me. God, how I wished just once someone threw in the word normal.
So, as much of a pain-in-the-ass as my sister is, she’s also a saint, because she picked McConnell…and I’m the only reason for that. I owe her—I owe her my life.
“Okay, so here’s the deal,” Paige starts as soon as we get our bags, mostly hers, loaded into our dorm room. “I want this bed. And I’m still going to rush a sorority. Mom and Dad don’t need to know that I won’t technically be living with you.”
“Works for me,” I say, already unzipping my bag and flipping open the lid on my trunk. I feel Paige’s purse abruptly slam into my back. “Ouch! What the hell?” I say, rubbing the spot where the leather strap smacked my bare skin.
“The least you could do is pretend to miss living with me,” she says, her eyes squinting, her frown showing she’s a little hurt.
“Oh, Paigey, I’ll miss you. I just hate that you have to be my babysitter—still!” And I do hate it. I think that’s the worst part about being a teenager with multiple sclerosis—everyone’s always waiting for something to go wrong.
It started in the middle of my freshman year. I would get this pain in my eye. It would come and go, weeks between each occurrence. When I couldn’t ignore it any longer, I told my parents, and we went to the eye doctor. My vision was fine. He told them it was probably stress from school, or the running in soccer leaving me dehydrated. What a simple and succinct diagnosis. It was also complete crap.