I opened my eyes. It was bright. I took in my surroundings. Ugly light blue walls held me in and a light orange and green curtain. A plain white blanket lay draped over me. White and grey floor tiles sat beneath me. Above me was a small black out-dated TV and some old black and white hallmark movie was playing. I looked to my left, there was an old turquoise chair-empty. I looked to my right, there was a bright window, and four familiar faces. Mom, Wendy, Mary, and Billy. I didn't understand their expressions. They all were painted with a weird mixture of concern and relief—like when you mix green and red—you got an ugly questionable brown. I wasn't sure what my own expression was. It was probably somewhere within the boundaries of confusion and worry.
Tears streamed from Mom's and Wendy's eyes. "Matt!" they cried in unison and attacked me with hugs. I grunted in pain, they pulled back looking concerned.
"Sorry." I said
"No," Mom stroked the side of my face, "It's OK honey, it's OK."
"Why are we here?" I asked. Then I remembered what happened. The torment, the stairs, the fall, the convulsions… "Oh…Right." I looked away from their faces. I expected them to look disappointed and angry. I half-expected them to turn a cold shoulder on me. But they didn't. They just watched me with hopeful and apprehensive eyes. Mom and Wendy seemed to care so much. It felt so weird to me…
"Are you okay, Matt?" Said a small, familiar little voice; Mary. She came out from behind Mom holding her favorite doll. I smiled at her innocence.
"Yes, Mary, I'll be OK." I responded. Then quietly Billy came out from behind Wendy. He didn't say a word. He knew that I had no idea that if what I said to Mary was true. I had no clue if I'd be OK or not.
I noticed one person missing; Dad.
"Where's Dad?" I asked
No one answered, though Mom and Wendy exchanged a silent conversation with their eyes.
Mom looked back at me. "Matt… your father…he…we don't know where he is."
"He went to the bar again didn't he?"
Cue the long pause.
They all looked at the floor as Mom said, "Yes, He did. Matt."
I wasn't surprised. This wasn't the first time he'd gone missing. Every time something went wrong, Dad snuck out at night, drank a few too many drinks at the bar (then some more), then either came home drunk or went missing for a couple days. Yeah, I wasn't surprised anymore, but I was still worried and anxious. Who knows where he went and what he was doing there? One day he could get lost in a drunken haze somewhere in the forest or something and get mauled my some wild animal. Then three days later we'd get a call asking to claim his body.
I brushed the thought away before I could imagine my own father as lunch for some creature.
The room stayed silent for the longest time. Then a question hit me.
"How long have you guys been waiting for me to wake up?"
"Since last week." Said the quiet, almost forgotten, Billy.
I had been asleep for a week? I knew I was sixteen but I didn't think I could hibernate like a bear. I guess in a hospital it's a called comatose. What had been so messed up in my brain that I fell into a deep, dreamless sleep for an entire week; 168 hours?
"Ahem," Everyone's head turned to the door.
"Hello Dr. Johns," said Mom.
"Can I speak with you and Matt for just a moment, please?"
"Uh, yeah, sure. Wendy, go take Billy and Mary to get some food."
"Okay." Wendy guided the children out of the room.
Cue another long pause.
Mom cleared her throat, "So, doctor, how can we help you?"
"Um, well, Mrs. Campbell," he tried to look professional but there was something itching in the back of his throat. I became suspicious, curious, and instinctively worried. " We ran some tests on your son, and he has been diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma. It's a Cancer that attacks the immune system."
Mother cracked at the word Cancer. I could see her heart break. Tears immediately flowed from her eyes. Not only was it just Cancer, but it was Hodgkin's Lymphoma. My heart shattered from shock. I was immediately engulfed by fear, fear of the pain, fear for my family, fear of death. My life seemed to turn 180 degrees. So many questions raced in my head. Too many to distinguish from each other. Nothing made sense in my brain. I felt tears roll down my face. There was a longing in my chest to rewind time and never hear those words; a longing to go back a do whatever I had to to prevent this from ever happening. I wanted to return to five minutes ago and stop my mother from hearing it. She was broken-shattered- to small little pieces. I had never seen my mother so fragile and vulnerable before. But most of all I wanted to run. I wanted to run far away and have everyone forget about me, my newly found disease, and all the problems that came with it. But no, that's not how life worked. I had to stay here and stand up against it.