One day in the middle of December Whitney Russell came home from school with a horrible cold. She was so glad that Friday had finally come. Now she could lay down and relax all weekend—and totally ignore her Physics homework.

She walks into the house, and her mother says to her, "Whitney, honey, how was your day?"

Now, Whitney has had a HORRIBLE day. She was feeling like shit, she had a pop quiz in PreCalc, and she had gotten a D+ on her last History test. She was in a horrible mood. But—she knew that she had to put on a happy face for her mom. "I'm doing good, Mom," she says, sounding VERY stuffy.

"Honey, are you feeling ok? You sound like you're coming down with something."

"I think I'm getting a cold. I was just going to go and lay down. Take a nap."

"Ok, honey. I'll make sure Simone doesn't bother you. Go get some sleep."

So Whitney goes upstairs, lays down on her bed, and falls asleep.

/\/\/\/\/\/\

Later that night, her mother comes into her room, and gently wakes her up. "Whitney, sweetie, your dad's Christmas party is tonight. If you want I can stay home with you."

"Mom, go! I'd feel guilty if I made you miss the party because of me! Go!" Whitney insists.

"Ok, then. We're taking Simone with us. We'll be home late tonight. We'll see you tomorrow morning. Feel better." Then, she kisses her on the forehead and walks out of the room. Whitney falls asleep for the night.

/\/\/\/\/\/\

Then next morning, she wakes up around noon and walks downstairs, feeling MUCH better. She walks downstairs with a smile upon her face. Surprisingly, she sees her Aunt Margaret sitting on the couch. "Good morning, Aunt Margaret. What are you doing here?" she asks cheerily.

Then she notices the sad expression upon her aunt's face. "What's wrong?" she worries.

"Whitney, I'm afraid I have some bad news for you. Last night, when your parents and Simone were on their way to the party, they skidded on some ice. They slipped off the road, flipped over a few times and landed in a ditch. The car crashed into a tree. Soon, an ambulance arrived. They are all in critical condition," she tries to tell her gently.

Whitney cannot believe this. It must be a dream, she thinks. I'll wake up soon, and Mom and Dad and Simone will all be there. She soon realizes that it WASN'T a dream. Then, she begins to cry. "Ohmigod. I can't believe this. Can I go see them?"

"Yes, we'll go visit them later today. But there are a couple of things I should warn you about. They have very serious injuries and were taken to Castleton General Hospital. They each have some broken bones and burns. They're all in comas right now. But, the doctors say that we should talk to hem since they may be able to hear us." Aunt Margaret pauses before she continues, "I know that this is a lot to tell you all at once. But you also have to find a place to stay. You can stay with me, but if you'd rather stay with a friend…I know it's much easier to talk about things with a good friend."

"I—I—I don't know what to do. I'm going to go up to my room right now. I need to think about this."

/\/\/\/\/\/\

So Whitney goes upstairs and thinks. She realizes that Aunt Margaret has a point—it would be much easier to get through this if she had a friend that she could talk to.

So she calls up her best friend Theresa Lopez-Fitzgerald and tells her the whole story. Theresa can't believe what happened, but she checks with her parents and tells Whitney that she has permission to stay over for as long as necessary. Whitney is so relieved. She tells Aunt Margaret, packs up some clothes, and drives over to Theresa's house.

Theresa meets her at the door and gives her a big hug, "Oh, Whitney, this is so horrible! C'mon in. You can put your stuff in my room. We put a mattress down here, next to my bed. I cleared out part of my closet and 2 drawers. We can get you unpacked, and then we can hang."

"I was going to go visit my family today, but I don't know if I can handle it. Just hearing about it is bad enough. Seeing them would just make it seem too real."

"That's cool. If you want, we can go over to the Bennett house. They're having a couple of people over tonight. You don't have to tell anyone what's going on if you don't want to. They probably don't already know about it. You can just have fun and try to forget about it all for a night. What do you say?"

Whitney grins and says, "Sure, that sounds like fun. I really would like to forget about how badly hurt my family is."

So they sit around and watch TV and talk before it's time to get ready. Luckily the Bennett house is close enough to walk to since Whitney is very worried about getting in car after what happened the night before. She wasn't in the car, but she just feels so terrible and scared about what happened and about the possibility that it could happen again.

/\/\/\/\/\/\

They arrive at the party and have a good time. Everyone is laughing and having a good time, but Whitney just can't seem to get in the mood. Whitney suddenly knows she has to be alone, so she walks outside and goes to the nearby park.

She sits on a frozen swing and says to herself, "How am I going to get through this? I can't do this alone."

"You won't have to," a surprising voice says behind her.

Whitney turns around and sees Chad Harris. What is he doing here? she wonders.

"You're probably wondering what I'm doing here. My mom works at the hospital. She knows that we're friends so she told me what happened to your family. Since I knew, I was surprised to see you here. I noticed you sneak outside, and…I figured you might need someone to talk to."

"Yeah, I do. Thanks."

"You want to move into my car?"

"I—I—I'd rather not."

"We don't have to go anywhere—I just figured it would be a little bit warmer. If you don't want to though…"

"No, thanks, that sounds great."

So they go to his car and sit in it and talk about everything under the sun. They talk about Whitney's worries about her family are her new car-phobia. They talk about life in general and about random nothingness. Before they know it, lots of people are coming out of the house. Whitney can't believe the party is already ending. "Chad, I'm so sorry! I made you miss the entire party!"

"I wouldn't have been here if I hadn't wanted to be. I'll always be here for you, Whitney."

"Thank you so much." She hugs him and climbs out of the car to find Theresa and walk back to her house.

/\/\/\/\/\/\

That night, Whitney and Theresa are talking the night away. "So, where did you go? You were there and then, suddenly, you weren't. What happened?"

"I needed to be alone, so I went outside. Chad followed me out. We talked in his car for the rest of the night. He's a really great guy. I still can't believe he missed most of the party to talk to me."

"Whitney, what are you—BLIND?!? He likes you. I think it's pretty obvious."

"Theresa, he doesn't like me. He's just a really good friend."

Theresa can't believe how ignorant she is. "Whatever you want to believe."

Whitney can't believe that Theresa would think Chad would like HER! It was just unbelievable! Even IF he DID like her, she didn't like him back anyhow—did she? Yes, he was a great guy—easy to talk to, lots of fun. And he was pretty cute too. But they were great friends—she could never date a friend—could she?

Then Theresa cuts through her thoughts by saying, "Well, what do you think of Ethan?"

"What about him?"

Theresa sighs and gets a dreamy look on her face. "Isn't he just, like, a total hottie?"

"He's ok, I guess."

"OK!?! YOU GUESS!?! Whitney, what the hell is your problem! He is only THE hottest guy in the history of the world!"

"I've never really thought about him like that. But I can tell that SOMEONE HAS A CRUSH!!" Whitney teases in a singsong voice.

In response Theresa mutters, "At least I'm not in denial."

"What are you talking about?"

"Hey, girl, denial is NOT just a river in Egypt!"

"What?"

"You…Like…Chad." Whitney just looks at her blankly. "Well? Don't you?"

"I—I—I don't know. He's just such a great friend." Whitney thinks about what a great guy he is. She LIKES Chad! She can't believe it! "Yeah, I, uh, guess you're right."

So, since they have finally admitted their true feelings to each other, they obviously spend the rest of the night talking about their guys.

/\/\/\/\/\/\

The next morning, everyone hears about Whitney's parents, and they feel terrible. All the girls come over to try to comfort Whitney, but she really isn't in the mood, and they don't seem to be getting her hints. She excuses herself for a minute, to use the phone.

"Hello?" answers Chad.

"Hey, it's me, Whitney. Can you pick me up at Theresa's as soon as you can?"

Chad is confused. Wasn't she afraid of cars? "Are you sure—"

"I'm sure. See ya soon. Bye." And with that, she hangs up the phone.

Soon, she sees Chad's car pull up outside. "Girls, I'm sorry, but I need to go. I'm gonna go visit my family. Thanks for coming though. I really appreciate it. Bye!" And then she runs out the door, jumps in the car, and says, "Let's get outta here."

Chad is still confused, but he does as she asks. He stops the car later and asks, "Whitney, weren't you afraid to get in a car again?"

"Well, yeah, but all my girlfriends were over, and I didn't really feel like dealing with them, so I said I was going to visit my family in Castleton. Basically, a car was the lesser of the two evils. Thanks for coming to pick me up."

"No problem. Did you want to go visit your parents?"

"I was going to go with my aunt yesterday, but I just couldn't. I can't do it alone. I just don't know if I'll be able to handle it!"

Then Whitney bursts into tears, and Chad takes her in his arms. "It'll be ok, Whitney. If you want, I can come with you. That way you won't be alone."

Whitney knows that she SHOULD visit her family. But she also knows that she can't do it alone. "Ok, let's go. If you'll come with me, I think I can do it."

"Ok. If you're sure, we'll go."

"I'm sure," she says, hugging him. "Let's go."

Chad starts the car and drives to Castleton. Soon, they arrive at Castleton General. Chad walks up to the front desk and asks the receptionist, "This is Whitney. She's here to visit her parents and sister. They were in a bad car accident. I was wondering which one was the least serious. She's nervous about visiting them and I wanted to try and make it easy on her." Chad then gives the secretary the names the names, and he looks them up in the computer.

"Ummmm…it appears that her mother is doing the best of the three. Ummm…she's in the 3rd floor ICU."

Then Whitney and Chad begin to walk to her mother's cubicle. They walk into the ICU and a nurse stops them. "Wait. Who are you visiting?"

"My mother," Whitney replies, giving her name.

"Ok. You can go on in. Cubicle 3. What about you?" she asks Chad. "Immediate family only."

Whitney pales, and Chad knows he'll have to lie. "I'm not IMMEDIATE family. I'm Whitney's cousin. She's staying with my family since the rest of her family is in the hospital." He then confides to the nurse in a much lower tone, "She's very nervous about seeing her family. I know I shouldn't be here, but since I AM a relative and she's so nervous I was hoping you'd make an exception."

The nurse isn't completely convinced. "Couldn't she have come with your mother or father?"

"We're really close. My parents are divorced, and she doesn't really get along with my mother. I offered to take her this morning to get her out of the house."

The nurse's heart goes out to Whitney. First her family gets in a horrible car wreck. Then she is forced to go and live with her aunt, who she doesn't particularly care for. But at least she is close to her cousin, who is kind enough to give up a Sunday to take her to visit her family. "Sure. Go on in."

Relieved, Chad thanks the nurse and walks in with Whitney.

Whitney can hardly believe the sight before her. Her mother is lying in a bed, with tons of tubes and machines connected to her body. Even in her imagination, she has never even imagined anything this bad! "Oh, Mom!" she sobs.

Chad pulls her into his arms. "Maybe we should go."

"No. No, I can do this," Whitney insists. She stops crying and talks to her mom a little longer. "I can't believe this happened. If I hadn't been sick, I—I—I would be in a bed like that one."

She begins crying again and Chad leads her out of the cubicle. "We're going. You're not ready to deal with this yet. It's too soon. You're too emotional."

Whitney can't stop the tears so she just nods and walks out of the hospital, with Chad's arm around her.

Once they get back to the car, Chad puts his arms around her and attempts to comfort her. But Whitney cannot be consoled. "Chad! It was so horrible! If I hadn't been sick, I would've been in the hospital, just like them. I could even be dead!"

"But you're not! And you shouldn't feel bad about that! You should thank God that you're alive. You family WILL get better. And your life WILL return to normal eventually. But, until then, I'll be here for you, whenever you need me. Whether it's 3 in the morning, or in the middle of 7th hour, I'll be more than happy to talk to you. Especially during my 1st hour History class."

He sees Whitney grin and adds, "There you go! C'mon. It'll all be ok sooner or later." Soon, she stops crying, and they head home.

/\/\/\/\/\/\

The next day, Whitney goes to school. Everyone knows what is going on and they are all kind enough not to mention it. All of her teachers are very understanding. Each of them says that she can take all the time that she needs to do her homework. She knows that these are the types of things that she would have LOVED under normal circumstances, but now she just wishes that everything was back to normal.

She sits through her 8th hour class, and as soon as school is over, she runs to Chad's locker. Chad sees the upset look on her face, grabs his stuff, and leads her out of the school. They go to his car and drive to a quiet park.

"You ok? You don't look so good."

"I just couldn't take it anymore. Why was I the one who got sick? Why wasn't my mother sick? Or my dad? If he was sick, none of us would have gone! Why did God let this happen? All of my family is in the hospital, on the brink of death!" And, with that, Whitney bursts into tears.

"Ok, first off, they're not 'on the brink of death.' And maybe this is going to make you stronger. I know it's gotta be difficult to go to school, pretending nothing's wrong. And you're not living in your house, or sleeping in your own bed. I know that Theresa is a really close friend of yours, but it's just not the same."

"Yeah. But why am I ok and everyone else so badly hurt? Why me?"

"Whitney, you shouldn't feel guilty. It's not like you CHOSE to get sick because you KNEW that an accident would happen that would threaten the health of your family. You didn't decide not to go to save yourself from the car accident. You didn't go so you could rest and get over your cold."

Suddenly, Chad leans in and kisses Whitney. Then, the next moment, he pulls away and whispers "Damn" under his breath. Then, he drives her back to Theresa's, not mentioning the kiss again.

Now Whitney is very puzzled by the kiss. Did it mean something? Or did he just kiss her on accident? What is going on?

He drops her off and drives away, leaving her questioning what just happened. Whitney wants to tell Theresa, but she can't bear it. She wants to keep it to herself until she thinks she has it figured out. But this may mean that Theresa will never know since Whitney has no idea how she is ever going to figure out what that kiss meant.

/\/\/\/\/\/\

Later that night, Whitney figures that the kiss was just an accident. Chad must have just imagined that she was someone else—like the girl he REALLY liked. After all, they are just really good friends. And even if he HADN'T been imagining someone else, the only reason for the kiss could have been that it was just a really emotional moment, and he thought he felt something he didn't. Otherwise, why would he have whispered "Damn" after the kiss?

/\/\/\/\/\/\

The next day, Whitney only goes to school for hours 1 through 3. Chad is in 2 of those classes and she sees Theresa a lot in the halls.

After her 3rd hour class, she drives herself to her house. She walks around and remembers all the great things that happened there. She is surprised that she even looks back on her fights with Simone as GOOD things! She can't believe that she is the only one in her family who is ok and healthy!

Just like every time this thought flashes through her mind, Whitney begins to cry. She curls up on the couch, hugs her teddy bear and sobs on and on.

Before any time seems to pass, she feels arms go around her. She looks over and sees Chad sit down beside her.

"Hey. How're you doing?" he asks.

"I still can't believe that they're all in the hospital. It's so horrible."

"Yeah, I know."

"Wait. What are you doing here? Should you be at lunch?"

"I noticed you weren't at lunch. Theresa didn't know where you went, but I figured you went here. I signed out in the office and drove over. I'm glad I did come. You are in such bad shape—you really need someone right about now. If you ever need to just go somewhere and talk, or just get away from everyone, come find me. I'll always be here for you."

"Thank you. Thank you so much."

/\/\/\/\/\/\

Soon, she calms down and he drives her back to school—this way she can't take off without him again. She goes to her last 2 classes (she missed Spanish—depressing!) and then Chad drives her back out to her house and they each drive to Theresa's in their own car.

"So, you wanna go somewhere and talk?" Chad asks.

"I really should get inside. I haven't seen Theresa since I got back to school. She's probably kinda worried about me. But thank you—I really needed you. You were right."

She hugs him tight and walks inside where Theresa is waiting anxiously. Theresa pounces on her immediately. "Where were you? Why weren't you in Spanish? Did something happen?"

Whitney grins and shakes her head. Theresa can be so hyper sometimes! "After 3rd hour, I went to my house. I started to cry since I remembered so much about my life with my ENTIRE family."

"Oh, that must have been so horrible! Are you ok?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. Chad came and found me during lunch. He comforted me, and we went back to school for 7th and 8th hours. I'm sorry I didn't see you and let you know I was ok! You must have been so worried!"

"Chad found you, huh?"

Whitney can't believe that after all of Theresa's worries about her that day, all she can concentrate on is the fact that Chad had brought her home. "Yeah, he did."

"I KNEW it!" Theresa exclaims.

Whitney is so confused. "What did you know?"

"It's so obvious! I can't believe I didn't see it before!"

Whitney is still 100% confused. "See WHAT?!?"

"You mean you don't know?"

Whitney can't believe it so she says VERY sarcastically, "Of course I know! Everyone knows. I've known for years. That's why I'm ASKING!!"

"Sheesh. Sor-ry!"

"Well? What's so obvious?"

"He likes you! He likes you A LOT!!"

"Riiiiiight. Look, Theresa, I don't know what you're on, but you're obviously hallucinating. We're just friends!"

"Even though you both wish it was more?"

"He doesn't want it to be more! And, even if he DID like me like that, I don't know if I'd go out with him."

"Why not? I know you want him!"

"That's past tense. WANTED him. I don't like him that way any more. And, even if I DID like him like that, I STILL might not go out with him 'cause I'd be afraid that we'd ruin our friendship."

"Yeah, I guess I know what you mean about the friendship thing. But I don't believe that you don't like him anymore!"

"I don't! And I don't know how to convince you otherwise, so I'm just going to drop the subject." Whitney does so and then begins to work on her US History homework.

/\/\/\/\/\/\

Finally, Friday comes, and Whitney heads "home" after school. Theresa pounces on her the second that she walks in the door. "Are you SURE you don't like Chad like that?"

"YES!!! For the millionth-billionth time, I don't want him."

"Well, would you want to go see a movie or something with him tomorrow night?"

"I guess we COULD. But I'm not really in the mood to go and see a movie. I'd rather just stay here," Whitney tells her. Then Whitney starts to get suspicious about all of Theresa's questions. "Why?"

"No reason…except that I'm gonna be going the movies on Saturday."

"Really? With who?"

Theresa blushes and says softly, with a smile upon her face, "Ethan."

"That's fantastic!"

"Really? You won't mind if I go on the date?"

"Of course not! I know how much you like him! Go have fun!"

"Whitney, you're the greatest! Thanks so much!"

Then Theresa goes to call Ethan and tell him that Whitney won't mind if she goes on the date.

/\/\/\/\/\/\

Once Saturday actually comes, Theresa goes out and has fun with Ethan. Chad comes over to Theresa's house so that Whitney won't be all alone. They sit and watch movies on the couch. Soon, Whitney starts to cry, as always.

"What's wrong now, Whitney?"

"It's just, well, we always used to watch this movie as a family, you know, when I was little. And I just couldn't help thinking of them and knowing that it's my fault that the are there!"

"Whitney, we've been over this. It's not your fault that they got in an accident. It's not your fault that they're hurt and you're ok. You need to stop blaming yourself over this," Chad assures her quietly.

"But you don't understand! It IS my fault! I—I never told you this, but, well, my mom volunteered to stay at home with me since I was sick."

"But you told her to go," Chad finishes, knowingly.

"Yeah. And if she hadn't gone, then my sister probably wouldn't have gone. So that's two members of my family who would have been ok! And if my mom wasn't gonna go, my dad might not have gone either! So, see? It's all my fault."

"Whitney, c'mon. Think about this. Why did you tell your mom to go?"

"Cause I thought she wanted to go."

"So if you were just trying to make her happy… I don't see what's wrong with that. You had no way of knowing that they would get into a serious car accident if they went."

"Yeah, I guess. But why aren't I ever selfish? I WANTED my mom to stay, but I knew that she needed to have a night of fun, so I told her to go. Why?"

"Well, no matter which decision you made, you would have felt bad. If you had decided to ask your mom to stay home, and no one had gone to the party, you would have felt guilty about being so selfish. So, see? Either way you lose."

"Yeah, I guess," Whitney concedes.

Whitney looks up and sees Chad staring deeply into her eyes. She wants to hope that it means something, even though she knows it doesn't. She lied to Theresa when she told her that she didn't like him anymore. If anything, she likes him more than ever! With those chocolate brown eyes and that dark, sexy hair…oh, she wanted him SO bad! But she knows that he doesn't feel the same way. He slowly begins to lean forward, when the phone rings. Whitney jumps about 7 feet in the air. She recovers quickly and picks it up.

"Hello?"

"Hey, sugar. This is Aunt Margaret. I just got a call from the hospital. Your mom seems to be coming out of her coma. I'm heading down there right now. I just wanted to let you know that I'll be over to pick you up in about 5 minutes."

Whitney can't believe her good luck! Her mom was doing better! "That's great! I'll see you then!" She hangs up the phone and turns to Chad with a hug smile upon her face.

"Good news, I guess. What happened?"

"It's my mom! She's coming out of her coma! Oh, I can't believe this! This is fantastic!"

Chad picks up Whitney, twirls her around and around. Once he finally sets her back down, he gives her a big hug. She hugs him back with all of her heart. He pulls back, looks into her eyes, and kisses her. Whitney can't believe that all of her dreams are coming true! He's kissing her! She kisses him back, but suddenly, the doorbell rings. Whitney pulls back reluctantly and answers the door. It's Aunt Margaret.

"Hey! Ready to go?" Aunt Margaret asks.

"Yeah. See ya tomorrow, Chad?"

"Actually, could I come along? I wanna make sure that you'll be ok. I know how you reacted last time you went to visit your mom. I told you that I'll always be here for you, and I want to make sure that I am—whenever you need me."

"Would that be ok?" she asks her aunt.

"That's fine. I have plenty of room in my car."

They get in the car and start driving when Aunt Margaret says, "Whitney, honey, I didn't know that you went down to Castleton."

"Yeah. Chad drove me a week ago."

"Well, that was awfully nice of him."

"Thanks, Aunt Margaret, but, really, it wasn't that big of a deal. But—for the record, if anyone asks, I'm Whitney's cousin. That's the only way that I could get in."

Aunt Margaret laughs and tells them that she'll be sure to remember that.

/\/\/\/\/\/\

Once they get to the 3rd floor, the nurses in the ICU stop them again. "Who are you visiting and how are you related to them?"

Chad speaks up after he scans the room. "We're here to visit her mother," he told them, pointing towards Whitney.

The nurse regards him and Aunt Margaret coldly. "And how are you two related, may I ask?"

"She's my mother, and Whitney is my cousin. We heard that she might be coming out of her coma."

"You heard correctly. You can go in there and sit by her bed, if you'd like."

Whitney smiles, very relieved that Chad has managed to find a way into the cubicle again. "That'd be great, thanks."

So they walk over to her mom's bed and notice that they are only 2 chairs beside her bed. Aunt Margaret volunteers to stand, but Chad sits down and pulls Whitney onto his lap. Whitney sees her mom stir. She opens her eyes and says, "Whitney, honey, I love you," before closing her eyes and falling back against her pillow. Then, her heart monitor flatlines and begins to beep. The nurses quickly usher them away from her bed so the doctors can attempt to resuscitate her.

/\/\/\/\/\/\

Once they're out in the hallway, Chad takes her in his arms where she surrenders willingly.

With tears streaming down her face, Whitney cries, "Oh, God! Did you hear what the last thing she said was? She said that she loved me. It's almost as if she KNEW she was going to die and wanted to make sure that I knew how she felt. Oh! This is horrible!"

Chad sits down in and chair and pulls Whitney down with him. "Whitney she's not gone yet. The doctors may be able to bring her back. They have a lot of technology available. She might be fine. You never can tell."

They sit for a few more minutes, before Chad stands up and says, "C'mon, let's go for a walk."

He takes her hand and leads her down the hallway. They walk until they reach the chapel of the hospital. "I thought it might help you if you prayed for your family to get better," he tells her.

"You might be right. Thanks." And with that, Whitney sits down and prays to God to please give her her family back.

/\/\/\/\/\/\

After a few minutes, they walk back upstairs and sit down with Aunt Margaret once again. Whitney knows that if Chad wasn't there, she would be a nervous wreck. She was still a mess as it is! She sits down, once again, with Chad's arms around her. Soon, Chad leaves to go and call Theresa's house. If she's still not back from her date, he was planning on leaving a message on the machine. Whitney would have done it herself, but she was too worried that she'd miss news about her mom.

Seconds after he was out of earshot, Aunt Margaret asks her, "So? What's going on between you two?"

"Between me and Chad? Nothing! We're just friends," she claims.

"But you want it to be more."

"How did you know?"

"I can sense these things—and I think he wants more too."

"No, he doesn't. He just really cares about me—as a FRIEND!"

Aunt Margaret is skeptical, but she says, "If you say so," not wanting to argue with her very worried niece.

Soon, Chad returns. He tells Whitney that Theresa wasn't home, but he left a message that she shouldn't try to meet them at the hospital since Whitney will probably be home later that night. Whitney is glad that Chad is back so she won't have to face the news about her mother all alone. Just as she is getting comfortable in his arms once again, a doctor comes into the hallway to speak with them. Whitney tries to relax, but she can't seem to fight this horrible premonition of dread that she's feeling.

"Your mother suffered a severe heart attack, but we have managed to get her heart restarted and she is now in stable condition. She is in a coma again, and I would rather that you not go and visit her just yet. In about 15-20 minutes, it should be fine. Do you have any questions?"

Whitney is now really relieved about her mother, but she is still worried about the rest of her family. "The rest of my family—my dad and Simone—are they doing any better? Or are you not involved in their cases?"

"I don't happen to know any of the details regarding their health situations, but from what I have heard, they seem to be improving. If there aren't any other questions, I'm going to go check on some of my other patients." And with that, the doctor leaves.

Whitney is so happy and relieved that she just relaxes completely into Chad's arms. He hugs her tight, glad that the news that she got was happy, rather than depressing. "Tired?" he asks.

"No, I'm just going to rest my eyes for a moment. If I fall asleep, wake me up when I can go visit my mom." So Whitney closes her eyes and soon falls fast asleep in the only place she wants to be—Chad's arms.

He knows how tired and exhausted she must be after spending these last few days worrying about her family so he does his best not to move and wake her up. Even though he is very uncomfortable, he falls asleep too, with his arms around her.

/\/\/\/\/\/\

Hours pass before Whitney wakes up. She feels arms around her and tries to remember whose they are and where she is. Then she remembers—she's in the hospital and Chad's arms are around her. As much as she wants to go and see her mom, she knows she shouldn't wake Chad up. He's been there for her whenever she's needed him. She knows how tired he must be, so she lets him sleep. As much as she tries to stay still, he feels her move in his arms and wakes up.

"Morning, Whitney. How're you doing?"

"I'm ok, but I'm worried about my mom. Will you go with me to check on her? Aunt Margaret isn't here anymore."

"Sure. C'mon." Then, Chad slowly stands up, and pulls Whitney up with him.

/\/\/\/\/\/\

They walk anxiously into the ICU where the same nurse meets them. "Here to see your mom?" she asks.

"Yeah," Whitney says. "How's she doing?"

"She's doing good. She might be sleeping, but she came out of her coma last night."

"Do you know where my aunt is?"

"She was in here before, but I think she went to get something to eat. She should be back soon."

"C'mon, let's go in," Chad tells her, pulling her towards the cubicle. "She'll be back soon."

They go inside and sit down on a chair. Soon, Whitney's mom wakes up.

"Hey, sweetie. How are you?"

"I'm doing just fine, Mom. Oh, and just so you know, Chad is Aunt Margaret's son. That's the only way we could get him in here."

Whitney's mom is confused as to why he had to get into the ICU to see her, but she doesn't ask. They talk about what's going on in Whitney's life now and how the rest of her family is doing. Once Aunt Margaret comes back, she takes her "son" out of the room so that mother and daughter can have a heart-to-heart chat.

After they leave, her mother asks, "So, why is Chad here?"

"Ok, well, after the car accident, Theresa took me to a party at the Bennett house. I just couldn't handle the crowd so soon afterwards. I ran outside, and he followed me. We talked a lot that night—and after that. We're really close. He came with me the last time that I came here. I couldn't handle seeing you like this, so he drove me home. He just is always here for me."

"That's great, dear."

They continue talking about a variety of different things until Aunt Margaret and Chad get back. Whitney's mom thinks that she likes Chad, but doesn't say anything since she knows that her daughter will tell her when she's ready.

/\/\/\/\/\/\

Soon, Chad returns and tells Whitney, "Hey, I hope you don't mind, but I gave Theresa a call. I figured she'd be worried since you didn't come back last night. She and Ethan are on their way over."

"Why is Ethan coming?" Whitney asks, puzzled.

"I'm not really sure. But she said she was going to call him and that they'd be here soon. I didn't really ask. But, Whitney, are you hungry? We can run down to the cafeteria and have some food—well, I THINK that's what they call it, but it sure doesn't look like it," he confides with a grin.

Whitney cracks a smile for the first time in a long time. "That sounds great. I'm really hungry, I guess. I'll see ya later, mom."

They walk downstairs to the cafeteria and eat the rather unappetizing food. They walk around for awhile, to give Aunt Margaret her Whitney's mom a chance to talk.

"So, Whitney, you must be so thrilled that your mom's doing so much better."

Whitney grins. "Yeah, I am."

Then they look towards the door and see Theresa and Ethan walk though them. Theresa runs towards them. "Whitney! How's your mom? I was SO worried when you didn't come home. I figured something HORRIBLE had happened!"

"Don't worry. Everything's ok. My mom's out of her coma and doing great. I was waiting to go in and visit her when I fell asleep—in Chad's arms. He didn't have the heart to wake me up. We just woke up about an hour ago."

The group continues to talk for a little longer, but then they split up into two groups. Theresa and Whitney begin to talk.

"I can't believe that you two aren't together yet! I figured you didn't come home cause you were doing something with Chad."

"Like WHAT?!? No, seriously, we're just friends!"

"Oh, c'mon. Admit it! You want him!"

"I do not!" Whitney says strongly.

"Whitney, I am your best friend. Admit it."

"I don't!" Whitney tells her. Then she sees Theresa look at her skeptically. "Well, maybe just a little."

/\/\/\/\/\/\

Meanwhile, Ethan and Chad are walking around the hospital, checking out the garden.

"Do you mean to tell me that you STILL haven't told Whitney how you feel?" Ethan accuses.

"Well, I WAS going to tell her a few weeks ago—the night of the party at the Bennett's. But then my mom told me about the horrible accident that her family was in, and I just couldn't do it. And I probably could have done it since then, but I just haven't felt right. I mean, she's been so worried about her family. I just can't complicate her life any further."

"Yeah, I guess I do see your point."

"But at least we're getting to be really good friends."

"True. You do seem to be together 24/7."

"Yeah. I told her she could call me whenever she needed me. I said I'd always be there for her. I intend to keep that promise—whether we end up going out or not."

They continue talking and soon end up back upstairs by Whitney's mom. Soon, they all head home.

/\/\/\/\/\/\

The next morning, Whitney goes to the hospital with Aunt Margaret. Chad is planning to meet Whitney there later in the day.

When he walks in the room (her mom has been moved to a regular room by now since she is doing so much better), she thinks Damn! That boy is SOOO hot. I want him so frickin' bad!

She can't believe herself. She's in the hospital, trying to help her mom feel better and praying that the rest of her family will recover quickly, and all can think about is how hot Chad looks in his tight, red shirt with his dark, tousled hair. She wants nothing more than to pull him close to her, run her hands up and down his back, and kiss him deeply.

What am I doing, thinking about him like this? He doesn't like me like that! Whitney, get a grip!

They hug, and he asks, "So? How's she doing?"

Whitney grins. "She's doing great. She may get to go home in a week or so. She's really improving a lot."

They talk awhile longer, but soon Chad has to go to work. "Bye, Whitney—but I'll see you in school tomorrow?"

"Yeah, I'll be there. See ya then."

/\/\/\/\/\/\

The next morning, Whitney shows up at school a little late. She runs to her locker and then looks for Chad. She is just about to give up on the search when she hears a voice behind her say, "What's going on?"

She spins around and replies, "Oh, Chad! It's fantastic! My sister and my dad woke up yesterday too! They'll probably be in private rooms by today! Oh, this is just so great!"

She throws herself into his arms, and he hugs her tightly. After a moment, he pulls back from the hug a little and without thinking twice, leans down and kisses her. Whitney cannot believe that her dreams are coming true.

Chad!! He's kissing me!! In public! This can't be a mistake!! she thinks. She pours her heart into the kiss, trying to show him just how strongly she feels about him. Eventually, they break apart. As the five-minute bell rings, Chad puts his arm around Whitney and walks her off to English Lit.

When Theresa and Ethan see them walk into class with his arm around her and Whitney smiling like a maniac, they know something great must have happened. "Whitney? What happened?" Theresa asks.

She tells them exactly what happened yesterday at the hospital, and they're both very happy for her.

But Ethan KNOWS that something more is going on. "So are you guys still just friends? Or has is changed to 'friends with benefits'?"

Whitney smacks Ethan but grins even bigger so that they know that his guess was right. The two couples sit beside each other in class and turn English Literature into Flirting 101.

After school, Chad and Whitney head out to his car. They're going to visit Whitney's family and then go catch a movie at the Harmony Theater.

"Ready for the time of your life?" Whitney asks jokingly.

Seriously, Chad responds, "The best time in my life already happened—it was the day I met you." And with that, he reaches for her, pulls her into his arms and kisses her soundly. "And my life just keeps getting better. And it's all because of you."

THE END!!