AUTHOR'S NOTES: I just have to say that if it weren't for Google, I couldn't write this medical stuff as well as I do. And I know this chapter focuses on Breanna and Harry but next chapter will be mostly about Morgan.
For Morgan, it was amazing at how quickly she had grown used to the soft, steady hiss of the ventilator. Even in just the past few weeks the sound had gone from keeping her awake all night to gently lulling her into a surprisingly peaceful slumber.
But that bright side didn't make up for the side effects of the radiation and chemo treatments. The area of Morgan's lower chest and neck where she'd been receiving the radiation therapy had already become red and itchy and nausea was a regular occurrence, although Morgan had been lucky that she hadn't actually thrown up yet. However, she was just starting treatment and it was sure to get worse before it got better.
Hearing someone knock at the doorway of her hospital room, Morgan looked up and saw Breanna standing there. 'Come on in,' she signed to her older sister, waving her into the room. 'Mum and Dad went to get something to eat in the coffee shop.'
Bree walked into the room and sat down on her sister's bed and after a while, she asked, 'Did they tell you about what happened? To me when I was little?' When Morgan nodded, Bree sighed and took a moment before adding, 'I don't know how I'm supposed to live with this.'
Morgan was quiet for a while and after a few seconds she took her big sister's hand and gave it a squeeze. 'You were 3 years old,' Morgan reminded Bree. 'It happened and you didn't know what to do back then. Now that you do know you can either hide or you can move on.'
Bree stared in disbelief. 'Move on'? This wasn't something you could just push to the side. 'I can't just move on! How am I supposed to even do that? I just wish I could go back to not knowing what happened that night.'
The sisters just sat for a while but finally, Morgan asked, 'Why did you stop talking after that night?'
Breanna was caught off guard by the question and for the first time she really thought about it. Looking down at her hands, she thought of how for the past 12 years they had been her means of communicating. But why? Because the night her family was attacked, not only had that Death Eater stolen her innocence, but he'd taken her voice as well. 'I don't know,' she answered. When Morgan looked confused, Bree sighed and tried to think of the best way to explain. 'I just… shut down. I was scared. I didn't understand what had happened to me. I just couldn't articulate what I went through. I couldn't find the words. And I didn't want to talk about it because I didn't want someone finding out. So I guess I just stopped talking all together.'
Morgan considered that for a while and she shifted her position in bed, wincing as the stitches in her lower chest and neck pulled. Waving off Bree who tried to help, Morgan said, 'I'm worried about Harry. He hasn't talked to me about what the Death Eaters did to him.' Giving her sister a pointed look, she added, 'Maybe you should talk to him.'
'And say what?' Bree asked, not sure what difference it would make. '"It'll get better"? You have no idea what it feels like to be physically assaulted or violated!'
Morgan bristled at that and she angrily signed back, 'I don't understand physical trauma?' She pointed at her throat and the tube leading to the ventilator. 'I had a bloody hole cut in my throat and a tube inserted so I could breathe! I had surgeons cut out half of one of my lungs and part of another. I will never be able to get off this machine! And to make things even worse, I still have nearly two months of cancer treatments left!'
Bree stopped at that and she instantly felt the guilt rising up as she looked at her younger sister. She was being so focused on her own problems when her brother and sister were dealing with their own. 'I'm sorry.' Seeing Morgan still giving her a glare, Bree sighed again. 'I got wrapped up in my own problems and I am really, really sorry. You're right. What happened to me was 14 years ago and it was something I had no control over. I just need to deal with it.'
'I'm sorry, too,' Morgan replied with a sad smile. Running a hand through her frizzy black hair, she added, 'Ever since Mum told me I had cancer I just… I didn't know what to think or say… If I hadn't been on the ventilator I probably would have stopped breathing when she told me the news.'
It was a question Breanna wanted to know the answer to but at the same time, she was afraid to know. But at the same time the question had been bugging her for the past few weeks—ever since Lily had called from the hospital after Morgan had collapsed. Looking at her sister, Bree asked, 'Did the doctors say how long you've been sick?'
Morgan looked away, not wanting to meet her sister's eyes. Yes, the oncologist had gone through the timeline of the cancer that had taken over her body. And Morgan had been shocked at what she'd been told. The cancer had started to develop back in January and the tumors had started developing around March. When Bree touched her hand, Morgan hesitated before looking at her sister who again signed the question. 'About 6 months,' she finally replied before waiting for the inevitable outburst.
'What?' Bree asked, shocked by the response.
'Six months,' Morgan repeated. 'That's when Dr. Brady figures the cancer started.'
Breanna was stunned by that but she knew it wasn't the whole story. 'But you were only feeling sick for two months.' After a few moments to let that news sink in, she let out a deep breath and added, 'You should have said something.'
'I know,' Morgan replied, looking morose. 'But Mum and Dad were already so worried about Harry I just didn't want to add to the drama.'
Harry was walking around the rooftop garden when Breanna found him later that afternoon. He looked tired, like he hadn't been sleeping lately and Bree found that that didn't surprise her much. 'Who's with Morgan?' Harry asked, curiously when he saw his older sister.
'Mum and Dad are with her,' Bree replied, although she hesitated before replying. 'Morgan had a radiation treatment this afternoon.' She didn't say anything else for a while as she thought about her little brother. She was worried about him—Harry was starting to pull away from the rest of the family just like Bree had as she'd started getting older. "We need to talk," she said aloud, even though it hurt her throat to do so. Switching back to signing, she went on. 'You're shutting down, Harry.' When Harry started to argue, Bree quickly cut him off. 'Don't deny it. I know the signs, remember?'
'So what if I am?' Harry replied, frowning. 'You did it!'
Bree let out a deep sigh and nodded. 'You're right,' She admitted. 'I did.' It was a few moments before she could think of how to explain, but finally she signed, 'It's hard to explain something that you don't understand at the time. I didn't understand that I was molested. I was 3, for God's sake! But you… We know you were tortured, Harry. Everyone knows and understands that. What we don't know… is what you're not telling us.'
Harry started to head past his sister but she stopped him and wouldn't let him head for the door. For almost 10 minutes, the two siblings just stood there, waiting for the other to stand down. But when Harry saw that Breanna wasn't going to budge, he sighed. He raised his hands to sign but he stopped when he saw the pain in Bree's eyes. Maybe she was remembering the way he used to talk to her when they were kids or perhaps she was thinking of what her life had become by not speaking—being around people who didn't know sign language, isolation even from friends and family.
Sitting down on a wooden crate nearby, Harry sighed again as he said, "They didn't…" Looking up at Bree, he shrugged. "You know."
Bree seemed to relax a touch as she replied, 'I wondered.'
Harry nodded and shrugged again. He didn't want to talk about what had happened out loud. Signing had become easier because you had to learn to truncate your sentences. But verbal communication was far more detailed. Details Harry didn't want to talk about, but he knew that Bree wouldn't let him leave until he did. "The Death Eaters kept talking about how they were going to kill me," he said, finally. "They weren't going to use magic—said it was too easy. They wanted me to suffer first."
Bree withdrew her wand and conjured another crate and sat down next to her brother. "It's okay," she said, not caring how bad her voice sounded. Harry just nodded as Bree put her hand on his.
Harry kept talking, telling Bree everything he could remember. "I think I blacked out a few times, but the Death Eaters woke me by stabbing me in the legs or arms. It was almost a relief when they hit me in the back, paralyzing me from the stomach down. At least them my legs didn't hurt."
Bree imagined Harry lying on the floor of some dirty basement, arms and legs broken, blind and paralyzed. She leaned towards Harry, pulling him into a hug, tears falling down her cheeks.
As soon as his big sister embraced him, Harry started sobbing as he held onto Bree.
"It's okay," Bree repeated over and over, mouthing the words when her voice finally gave out.