"Thanks, mom," Josh said into his phone. Andy slipped into the room, closing the door behind her. "Yeah, I love you, too." She placed a pair of mesh shorts and a T-Shirt on her bed and put a small container of blue paint on her bureau next to where she had put the T-Shirt her mothers had given her. "Okay, bye."
Josh hung up the phone.
"So, are you grounded?" Andy asked.
"Let's just say that if it weren't for the fact that my mom totally loves you, I would be."
"Is she okay with you staying over?"
"Well, let's just say that I forgot to tell her that we'd be staying in the same room."
Andy smiled as she pulled out a tank top and green and pink striped pajama pants out of her bureau.
"I brought you some clothes," Andy said, pointing to the bed.
"Thanks," Josh replied, walking over to the bed.
Andy faced her bureau once more, turning her back to him. She bit her lip nervously as she began to unbutton her shirt. Josh watched her intently for a moment, wondering what she was doing. When her shirt fell to the floor, he gasped. She heard the quiet noise escape his lips and she began to second guess her decision to change there in front of them. Then again, she knew that allowing Josh to be with her when she battled her cancer would bring them closer than any two people could be and they had to learn to be comfortable with each other in every situation. That, and she enjoyed teasing him.
She kept her back towards him as she reached to unhook her purple bra. Josh watched as she threw it carelessly to the floor. He knew that he probably shouldn't be staring. Not that he could see anything anyway, but he still felt somewhat voyeuristic. Then again, Andy was the one who started taking off her clothes in front of him.
She pulled the green tank top over her head and adjusted it before reaching for her Jeans. She pulled them off in one motion. Josh couldn't help but stare at her behind, which was covered by a rather lacy pair of purple underwear, which Josh realized matched the bra she had been wearing seconds earlier.
"How many times do I have to tell you, Tregar," she began as she pulled the pajama pants up and over her hips, "stop staring at my butt."
She turned around, her eyes sparkling and her lips turned upward in a smirk.
"Are you trying to kill me, woman?" Josh asked.
"Maybe just a little," Andy replied as she picked up the bottle of paint that she had brought in.
"What's that for?" Josh questioned.
"Andy, it's nearly midnight. I don't know if it's quite the right time to start painting."
"It's not for me. It's for you."
Josh looked at her quizzically and Andy walked over to her closet. She opened the door and pushed all of the hangers to one side. She reached for the very last shirt. She stood for a moment, simply staring at it. It had been a long time since she had seen it, but the memories it held still remained strong in her mind.
"I was diagnosed with cancer when I was ten," she explained quietly, clutching the shirt. "My moms were…devastated. Sometimes when I think about it, all I can see is them crying. There were always tears. I don't even think I really understood it all, you know, but I knew that it was bad." Andy could feel the tears forming in her eyes. "And then I started the chemo and the treatments and…it was so hard. It was harder than anything you can ever imagine. And when I would see my moms crying, I knew it was because of me and sometimes…sometimes I just wanted to give up because I was so tired of fighting and I thought that if I just let go, they'd stop crying."
Josh wanted to walk over to her and hug her and tell her that everything was going to be okay, but he didn't move.
"And then one morning, I had had an awful round of chemo the night before. I was constantly throwing up and the headaches were…unbearable. And in walked my moms, smiling. I hadn't seen them smile in so long and it just made me so…happy. I know now that they were just smiling because they wanted to be strong for me, but they handed me this shirt. They told me that whenever I felt bad, whenever I felt like I couldn't keep fighting, whenever I felt like there was nothing to live for, to look at the shirt of all the people I loved, all the people who loved me, and I'd know what I was fighting for."
Andy turned around, revealing the shirt to Josh. It was a simple, white cotton T-Shirt with four sets of handprints on it, one for each member of Andy's family. They were all a different color and each print had the name of the person whose hand it was below it.
"I know it's just stupid handprints, but, after they gave me the shirt, I got better. I wore the shirt night and day for weeks and I know it wasn't the shirt that made me better, but every time I felt like dying, I looked at it and I knew that I was going to be okay. It gave me hope." Andy wiped the tears from her cheeks. "You must think I'm stupid." She hung the shirt back in her closet as Josh closed the gap between them and reached for both her hands.
"You, Andy Jensen, are not stupid. You're amazing and strong and beautiful. And I think the shirt is…perfect."
"Well, it's almost perfect," Andy whispered.
She let go of Josh's hands and grabbed the shirt from the bureau. She held it out, showing it to Josh. Both her mother's handprints, one in yellow and one in orange were towards the top of the shirt with the words ma and mom written respectively. Her brothers' handprints, much bigger than the ones they had left on her shirt from when she was a child, were towards the bottom also with their names written below. In the middle, there was a large, empty spot with one simple word written, 'Josh.'
"Your moms made this for you?"
"I guess they knew how important you were to me."
"And you're sure you want my handprint on the shirt? I mean, I know this is sort of a family thing."
"It's supposed to be a shirt to remind me of all the reasons to live. I can't think of a better reason to live than you."
Josh didn't know how to respond. He simply nodded as Andy laid the shirt down flat on the floor. She picked up the bottle of blue paint and squeezed some of it onto Josh's hands. He rubbed his hands together until the paint covered them. He placed his hands in the center of the shirt above his name. He held them there, longer than necessary, but he wanted to make sure that the shape came out. He wanted her to remember that he would always be there for her.
"Thank you," Andy whispered as he picked his hands up. Josh reached to wipe a tear from her cheek, but she pulled away. "Uh-uh," she said, smiling. "Not until you clean up." Smirking, Josh playfully lunged for her, but she darted out of the way.
"You. Bathroom. Now."
Andy pointed to her bedroom door.
"You take all the fun out of everything," Josh said, joking.
"I promise you that when this is all over it'll be worth the wait."
"Pinky swear?" Josh asked, approaching her with his pinky finger outstretched.
"Go!" Andy shouted, shoving him towards the door.
Josh gave her a wink before exiting her room. Sighing, Andy slid the shirt across the floor so that it wouldn't be in the way, but that it could still dry flat. Realizing just how exhausted she was, she laid down in her bed. Normally the night before chemo began meant one thing – staying up all night nervously waiting the next morning. But, for the first time, she felt like everything really was going to be okay. She closed her eyes.
When Josh opened the door minutes later, with clean hands, he could tell that she was already sleeping. He smiled to himself as he approached the bed. She was lying on her left side towards the edge of the bed, giving him plenty of room to scoot in next to her. Josh quickly discarded his clothes and changed into her brother's clothes. He slowly climbed into bed with her and pulled the sheet and blanket over both of them. He tried to do the least amount of moving possible, but he desperately wanted to hold her. He laid one arm across her waist as he played with the ends of her hair with the other hand.
"Mm…" Andy moaned, snuggling against to him. He slipped his arm underneath her as she rested her head against his chest. He placed his leg over hers as he pulled her even closer to him.
He listened as her breathing slowed and regulated and he realized that no matter what obstacles they had to face, one thing would always be true.
"I love you," he whispered, planting a light kiss on her forehead.
"I love you, too," she replied quietly before she fell into a peaceful, deep sleep.
Okay, wow, my nice short little one-short turned into a 10 chapter story! This story actually went places that I never expected to, which just makes me realize that no matter how much planning I do, sometimes stories take on a life of their own. A big thank you to all of my reviewers because you all are the reason why I kept this story going and really wanted to make it the best it could be. I've already got a few more Jandy stories in the works and some more floating around in my head so be on the lookout!