DISCLAIMER: Gena Simon and Aaron Shutt belong to David E. Kelley and are used here without permission.
Author's Note: This story is something that both my sister (Kittles) and I came up with, but she left me to do the actual writing. (Thanks a lot!) Anyway, here goes nothing.
The Reason Why
"It wasn't *that* bad, Aaron," Gena Simon said.
Aaron Shutt, her boyfriend, stood half-dressed in one of the guest rooms in her parents' house in Boston. "Come on, Gena, that was pretty bad." He sighed. "I haven't had to meet parents since...well, since Camille, and let me tell you, that had the same disastrous results." He sat down on the bed, still wearing only his boxers. "What is it about me that all parents hate so much?"
She sat down next to him and put her arm around him. "Oh, Aaron, they didn't *hate* you. They just, um..."
"Nice try Gena." He stood up and pulled on a T-shirt.
"Don't worry, Aaron. They didn't hate you as much as they hated one of my boyfriends."
"Oh? Well, let me congratulate the guy--it's not every day some guy makes me look good in comparison." He turned toward her. "When did you and this guy date?"
Gena sat on the edge of the bed, nervously twisting a ring around and around her finger. "Actually, we dated in high school."
"I thought you dated that guy your parents mentioned at dinner...um, the lawyer?"
She had to smile. "That's Brian--Brian Anthony Jacobs III, to be exact." Her smile faded. "We dated through most of high school, but during our junior year, we broke up, and I started dating another guy."
"The guy your parents hated?" She nodded, and he pressed forward. "What ever happened to the guy?"
She looked kind of shaky, but she motioned for him to sit down. She drew herself toward the head of the bed, curling up underneath the blankets. When she finally spoke, she said, "That's kind of a long story."
"I'd love to hear it," he said, sensing her reluctance.
"It's not just about him and me," she explained. "It's about a lot more..." She sighed. "Do you really want to hear it."
"All right then..."
I was the most popular girl at St. Joan's Academy, and Brian was the most popular boy at St. Mark's Academy. The two schools, one all-girls and the other all-boys, were across the street from one another, so we did a lot of things together.
That was why we were at the Fall Dance together. It was September, and school had just started. I was happy. I was the most popular girl in the junior class, and I had a great looking, popular, athletic boyfriend. Brian was tall, handsome, and a great football player. We had been dating since freshman year, and I fully expected us to be together forever.
It's funny how everything can change so quickly. One moment I was happy and popular, secure in my little world. I was standing with my friends, Kim, Caitlin, and Zoey. We were gossiping happily by the punchbowl when I saw him.
He was standing a few feet away. His arms were crossed defiently. Despite his stiff posture, there was nothing really remarkable about him. He was very handsome, but then most of the boys in the room were. He was wearing a St. Mark's Academy uniform just like all of the other boys. In short, there was nothing that should have caused my eyes to magnetically lock onto him.
I managed to tear my gaze away from him, and I casually asked my friends, "Who's that boy over there?"
All three turned to look at the unfamiliar figure.
"That must be the new boy," Caitlin said. Her twin brother Caleb was a junior at St. Mark's, so Caitlin could always be counted on for the latest gossip.
"He's cute," Zoey commented, raising her eyebrows appraisingly.
"Don't get any ideas, Zoey," Caitlin warned. "His name's Daniel, and he's one of the scholarship kids."
Ah, I thought, that explained why he was standing alone. St. Mark's and St. Joan's were very good schools, but they were also extremely expensive, so a handful of smart students were given scholarships to go to either school. Although the "scholarship kids" were supposed to remain anonymous, the students who received scholarships were never truly accepted into the social structure of either school.
"Still," Zoey said, eyeing the new boy once more, "I wouldn't mind being caught in a supply closet with him."
Kim rolled her eyes. Zoey was the promiscuous one in the group; she was the only one of us who wasn't a virgin.
"You guys shouldn't talk about him like that," I insisted. "He's a regular person like you or me." To prove it, I marched right over there to talk to him.
I'm not sure why I did it. Perhaps I was a little tired of the elaborate social structure of the two schools, where students were judged by their cars, their houses, and the size of their parents' bank account. Perhaps I was simply indulging in a little teenage rebellion. Or perhaps I somehow sensed how important Danny would become in my life. For whatever the reason, I suddenly found myself beside him.
"Hi," I said.
He turned to face me. "Hi," he replied.
"I'm Daniel," he said. "I'm new here."
"How do you like it so far?"
He shrugged. "Not very much, to be honest." He gestured towards Kim, Caitlin, and Zoey. "I saw you and your friends talking before. I guess they're pretty surprised that you would stoop so low as to talk to a--a *scholarship kid*, right?"
The words stung. "Not everyone here is so shallow, Daniel."
He shrugged again.
His silence was obnoxious, so finally I just blurted out, "Do you want to dance?"
He didn't shrug this time. He looked surprised. "Okay," he said, and allowed me to lead him out onto the dance floor.
It was a slow song, and I felt myself melt into his arms. It felt natural, and very comfortable, for me to be standing here pressed against him. Sure, I barely knew the guy, but I already knew that I was in love.
We danced like that for quite some time, through many slow songs, until a hand clamped down on my shoulder.
"Gena," Brian said, "I've been looking all over for you." He grabbed my arm possessively and started to drag me off. "Come on, let's go someplace more...private."
"Brian, let go," I said, squirming slightly. "Ow, you're hurting me."
I don't know what possessed him, but Daniel took that moment to tap Brian on the shoulder. "I believe that she asked you to let go of her," he said, his jaw clenched.
Brian eyed him. Daniel was slender and of average height. Brian was a couple inches taller and quite a bit heavier. Brian had no doubts that he would be able to win in a fight. He very casually knocked Daniel over with one hand and dragged me off. I gave him one last sympathetic look before he disappeared into the night.
I expected that that would be the last time I ever saw him, but fate never works quite the way you would expect. A few weeks later, I was at the movie theater, waiting in the lobby for Kim. I turned to look for her and bumped into Daniel.
"Oh, I'm so sorry," I said.
"No, my fault," he mumbled. "Are you waiting here for someone?"
"Yeah, Kim was supposed to meet me, but I guess she must have forgotten," I told him, checking my watch.
"Oh, well, um..." He stammered for a moment before saying, "Do you want to come up?"
"I have a job here," he said, "running the film projector. I was wondering if maybe you'd like to go up there with me. I've been meaning to talk to you since the dance."
"Oh, well, sure," I said, surprised. I followed him up there.
It was a small room. Projectors sat on tables, displaying movies into the theaters. In the middle of the room was a table and couch. I was surprised to see that the table was covered in books--he had everything from _Gray's Anatomy_ to _A Tale of Two Cities_.
He followed my gaze. "I read them during the movies," he explained. "It gets kind of boring up here."
"Don't you watch the movies?"
"Sure, I watch them all once when they first come, but after that I just read."
I was impressed by the collection of books. "_Pride and Prejudice_, _Oliver Twist_, _Contagion_..." I looked at him. "_Contagion_?"
He shrugged. "I like Robin Cook. Look, um, I didn't ask you up here to look around. I wanted to make sure that you were okay after what happened at the dance."
"What do you mean?"
"You know, how your boyfriend was so upset after we were dancing..." He trailed off. "I...I was worried about you."
"I don't understand. Did you think he hit me or something? Look, Brian isn't like that! He'd never hurt anyone."
Daniel smiled. "Well, he sure didn't mind ruffing me up a bit."
"He hit you?"
"Look, don't worry about it. It wasn't a big deal."
"Big deal! He's twice your size!"
"I can take care of myself. I was just worried about you, that's all. I'm sorry I dragged you up here." He turned away.
I walked towards him and turned his face toward mine. "Thank you," I said. No one had ever showed that much care for me before outside of my family, and I felt very touched. "Thank you," I repeated.
"For what?" He sounded confused.
"For caring about me."
He turned towards me. "I care about you a lot, Gena." His voice was little more than a whisper.
I drew towards him and kissed him. It was slow and gentle, and it made me feel warm all over. I felt him hesitate for a fraction of a second before kissing me back.
When we broke apart, I looked at him. He was flushed and looked startled. "Well," he said hoarsely, "I didn't expect that would happen."
"What does this mean?" I asked.
"Nothing." He looked down. "It was just a kiss."
I lifted his head up until he was looking at me. "Daniel, that wasn't 'just a kiss'...at least not to me. I feel something towards you..."
"Do you believe in love at first sight?"
His question surprised me. "I guess so. What about you?"
"I didn't...until I met you." He moved closer to me. "Just let me ask you: are you sure about this?"
"Good. That makes two of us."
Daniel and I became serious--*very* serious. I broke up with Brian. I didn't care who knew that I loved Daniel. Everyone knew--even my parents. They hated him from the start. They never thought that he was good enough for me. But I didn't care.
A few weeks after that disastrous meeting with my parents, Daniel invited me to meet his mother. I drove in my car to a trailer park off of the highway. I had driven there millions of times, but I had never noticed that small unpaved road that led through some overgrown trees and bushes to the trailer park.
It was small and cozy. In front of the door was a kitchen, a few cupboards, a couch, and a table. Two doors, both closed, branched off from the room.
Daniel knocked gently on the door to the left. "Mom?" He slowly entered before beckoning for me to follow.
"Mom, this is Gena," he said. "Gena, this is my mother."
She was small and very pale. Her hair was pale brown like Daniel's, and her eyes were the same blue-green color.
She smiled, her face lighting up slightly. "I'm so happy to meet you, Gena," she said. "Daniel's told me so much about you."
I smiled. "It's nice to meet you too."
"Do you need something, Mom? Are you hungry?"
She waved his concern away. "No, no, I'm fine. I'm just going to rest." She smiled at me again. "I hope to see you again, Gena."
"Bye," I said as Daniel and I left. "Is your mother all right?" I asked him once we were in the living room again.
"No." He paused before continuing. "She has cancer. She has for several years. She's been in and out of remission many times. The last time, she begged me to take her home. She was so sick, and the medicine wasn't making her any better. So I took her home to wait." He swallowed hard. "That was two months ago."
"I'm so sorry." I didn't know what to say. "How do the two of you manage?"
"We get welfare. I help out to earn some of the rent, and I have that job at the movie theater. During the day I pay the neighbor to make sure she's okay."
"Is that why you want to be a doctor?"
He nodded. "I remember how horribly my mom was treated at the hospital. None of her doctors seemed to care about her. All they cared about was her disease. She was just a statistic to them. When I was ten, I promised that someday I would be a doctor, only I would care about my patients. I told myself that I would never forget that they were real people."
I smiled, attempting to lighten the mood. "Well, meeting your mom was easier than your meeting my parents."
He nodded a little. "She really likes you. She wants me to be able to be a normal kid--to hang out with my friends, stuff like that."
"I like her. She seems really nice."
"Yeah, she is." He kissed me gently. "I love you, Gena."
"I love you too," I whispered.
We kissed again. We kissed for hours. We kissed until I had to go home. I hated to leave him. I wished that I could be with him forever.
Once school ended, I could see him a lot more. I went up into the film projector room with him a lot. We would lie on the couch, kissing and...well, more than kissing for hours. That summer I felt like life was perfect. I was on top.
Until one day in June. It was very hot. The small fan had broken, and Daniel and I were roasting up there.
Suddenly he passed out and starting jerking on the floor. I ran downstairs and called 911. An ambulance came and took us to the hospital. I was so scared.
In the ER, Daniel woke up. He was really mad. He kept saying that he was fine, that he had to go home to his mother. The doctor was definitely not buying it. He ran several tests. We were there for hours. I called his mother and made sure that the neighbor would stay with her, and then I fell asleep in the waiting room.
Several hours later, I woke up and went to see Daniel. The doctor was there, and the two of them were arguing vehemently.
Daniel had a brain tumor. It was inoperable, and it was causing the seizures. I was shocked that Daniel admitted that he had had several seizures earlier. But what really shocked me was his next statement.
"I want to go home."
The doctor and I argued with him, but Daniel was stubborn. He refused to be admitted onto the oncology floor. "I have to go home," he said over and over again.
Daniel finally won. We took the bus back to his home. Silently. I was furious with him for not getting treatment, and he didn't try to argue with me.
Before we walked inside, he said, "You've got to promise not to tell my mom, okay?"
"She deserves to know, Daniel," I said, "if her son is going to die." I started to cry after saying that.
"I don't want her to worry."
"Worry! Why should she be worried? Oh, right, you have a brain tumor and won't go to the hospital to get better!"
"Gena, it's my decision. I don't want to worry her. Please. Promise me."
"Fine," I said. I knew that his mother would go crazy if she knew. "I won't tell her."
Daniel didn't tell his mother until July. That was the day that he almost died.
He was working again, and I had gone up with him. We were kissing when I felt him grow stiff. Then he started to jerk violently on the floor. His eyes rolled up into his head, and blood began to drip from his nose.
I screamed and ran downstairs. Again the ambulance took him to the hospital. This time, though, the doctors admitted him immediately. The tumor had grown dramatically in only a month. At this rate, they told me and his mother, he would be dead before September.
He didn't wake up for days. When he did, he was angry that the doctors had admitted him. He was too weak to protest for long. They started him on chemo. It didn't work. Two weeks later, he was so sick that he couldn't even sit up in bed. The tumor was still growing rapidly. Finally the doctors took him off the medication. They put him on morphine...and waited.
After that he slept a lot. I stayed with him as much as I could. Then I would go back to see his mother. I never went to my own home, but my parents were too busy in Europe to even notice.
One day he asked me to bring a box in his mother's room up to the hospital. He slipped the ring onto my finger and asked me to marry him.
I said yes. I couldn't stop crying. Both of us knew that he would not get better. Both of us knew that this was the end.
We were married a few days later. I checked him out of the hospital, and the two of us went to a small chapel. And we were married.
That night we went back to his home. We curled up on the couch that night. He fell asleep right away, but I stayed awake all night. Finally, at dawn, I got up to tell his mother that Daniel had died.
After she finished, Gena sat twirling the ring around her finger.
"Wow," Aaron said at last. "So, um, what happened after that?"
"Well, I stayed over there to take care of Daniel's mother until my parents got home. She died a month after Daniel did. I finished school at the top of my class. I went to Yale and studied pre-med, and then I went to medical school."
"Is that why you went to medical school?"
She nodded. "I kept thinking about how he would never get to do all the things he wanted to do. And then it came time to chose my major, and I found myself putting down pre-med," she explained.
Aaron didn't know what to say. He realized that she was trembling. He wrapped his arms around her and kissed the top of her head.
After a while, the tears stopped and they climbed into bed. But Gena lay awake for a long time. Thinking. And remembering...