TW: This is not a story for the faint of heart. I had trouble getting through writing this story because of certain things that I had to research. It is not mentioned in depth, but you can read my comment at the bottom for a better disclaimer. There is death and cancer in this as well as mentions of depression and a whole lot of sadness.
Authors note: Anything that rouses questions if it does, check my comment at the bottom, and if its not answered there, be careful what you go off searching. What you find isn't always good. Oook, anyways, enjoy!!!
I groan as my pencil breaks and throw it onto the ground, grabbing a new one.
I cross out “archery,” on my list and sigh. That was the end of list number four.
I pick up my phone and open a random contact who happened to be my best friend and look back on our messages. Her suggestion, writing.
I start typing out a message asking her if she had any tips and if I really should write.
Her response is as quick as ever telling me I definitely should.
I pull out a small black notebook and jot down the tips she left me.
You’re gonna suck
Write every day.
Write what you enjoy.
Don't hold back.
Don't doubt yourself.
I flip to the next page and start writing the first things that come into my brain.
𝒟𝑒𝒶𝓉𝒽. 𝐼𝓉 𝒸𝒶𝓃 𝒷𝑒 𝓉𝒽𝑒 𝓈𝒾𝓂𝓅𝓁𝑒𝓈𝓉 𝓉𝒽𝒾𝓃𝑔 𝒻𝑜𝓇 𝑜𝓃𝑒 𝓅𝑒𝓇𝓈𝑜𝓃 𝓎𝑒𝓉 𝓉𝒽𝑒 𝒽𝒶𝓇𝒹𝑒𝓈𝓉 𝓉𝒽𝒾𝓃𝑔 𝒻𝑜𝓇 𝒶𝓃𝑜𝓉𝒽𝑒𝓇.
𝒩𝑒𝓍𝓉 𝓁𝒾𝓃𝑒, 𝓃𝑒𝓍𝓉 𝓌𝑜𝓇𝒹.
𝐼𝓉 𝒸𝑜𝓃𝓈𝓊𝓂𝑒𝓈 𝓎𝑜𝓊 𝒾𝓃 𝑜𝓃𝑒 𝒷𝒾𝓉𝑒, 𝓃𝑜𝓉 𝑒𝓋𝑒𝓃 𝑔𝒾𝓋𝒾𝓃𝑔 𝓎𝑜𝓊 𝒶 𝒸𝒽𝒶𝓃𝒸𝑒 𝓉𝑜 𝓁𝑜𝑜𝓀 𝒷𝒶𝒸𝓀.
𝐼 𝒷𝓁𝒾𝓃𝓀 𝒶 𝒻𝑒𝓌 𝓉𝒾𝓂𝑒𝓈, 𝓈𝓉𝒶𝓇𝒾𝓃𝑔 𝒶𝓉 𝓉𝒽𝑒 𝓉𝓌𝑜 𝓌𝑜𝓇𝒹𝓈 𝐼’𝓋𝑒 𝓌𝓇𝒾𝓉𝓉𝑒𝓃, 𝒶𝓃𝒹 𝓈𝓉𝓇𝒶𝓃𝑔𝑒𝓁𝓎 𝒻𝑒𝑒𝓁 𝓂𝓎𝓈𝑒𝓁𝒻 𝒸𝓇𝒶𝓋𝒾𝓃𝑔 𝓂𝑜𝓇𝑒. 𝒯𝒽𝑒 𝓌𝑜𝓇𝒹𝓈 𝒻𝑒𝑒𝓁 𝓈𝑜 𝓌𝑒𝓁𝒸𝑜𝓂𝒾𝓃𝑔. 𝐹𝒶𝓂𝒾𝓁𝒾𝒶𝓇 𝒶𝓁𝓂𝑜𝓈𝓉.
𝐵𝑒𝒾𝓃𝑔 𝓊𝓃𝒶𝓌𝒶𝓇𝑒 𝑜𝒻 𝓌𝒽𝒶𝓉’𝓈 𝒽𝒶𝓅𝓅𝑒𝓃𝒾𝓃𝑔 𝒶𝓇𝑜𝓊𝓃𝒹 𝓎𝑜𝓊.
𝒴𝑜𝓊 𝒸𝒶𝓃 𝓂𝒶𝓀𝑒 𝑜𝓃𝑒 𝑜𝓊𝓉 𝑜𝒻 𝓎𝑜𝓊𝓇𝓈𝑒𝓁𝒻 𝓎𝑜𝓊 𝒸𝒶𝓃 𝓂𝒶𝓀𝑒 𝑜𝓃𝑒 𝑜𝓊𝓉 𝑜𝒻 𝒶𝓃𝓎𝑜𝓃𝑒.
𝒲𝒽𝑒𝓃 𝓎𝑜𝓊 𝒽𝒶𝓋𝑒 𝓃𝑜 𝓂𝑜𝓇𝑒 𝒻𝑒𝑒𝓁𝒾𝓃𝑔𝓈 𝒷𝑒𝒸𝒶𝓊𝓈𝑒 𝓎𝑜𝓊’𝓋𝑒 𝒻𝑒𝓁𝓉 𝓉𝑜𝑜 𝓂𝓊𝒸𝒽.
𝑅𝒾𝓅𝓈 𝓅𝑒𝑜𝓅𝓁𝑒 𝒶𝓅𝒶𝓇𝓉 𝓁𝑒𝒶𝓋𝒾𝓃𝑔 𝓉𝒽𝑒𝓂 𝓉𝑜 𝓅𝒾𝒸𝓀 𝓊𝓅 𝓉𝒽𝑒 𝓈𝒽𝒶𝓉𝓉𝑒𝓇𝑒𝒹 𝓅𝒾𝑒𝒸𝑒𝓈.
My hand grazes the pearly paper of which I just inflicted my own shattered sorrows upon, ink bleeding onto manuscript the way blood settles on skin.
I rub my eyes and close my notebook before standing up, walking two steps, and flopping onto my bed.
I lay in the darkness, the numbness of my feelings settling fresh in my brains as I try to force myself to sleep.
I close my eyes and pull my blankets over my head.
Maybe I’ll wake up tomorrow and it’ll all be over. Maybe I’ll wake up tomorrow and everything will be back to normal.
I wake up the next morning and, surprise, everything’s the same.
I pulled on a pair of sweatpants and a sweatshirt before shoving my notebook and pen into my pocket.
Write every day.
I run a brush loosely through my blonde hair as I head downstairs.
I grab a piece of bacon off of the table and run out to the garage, sliding into the backseat of the van.
Marin climbs in next to me and my parents follow.
And there we were, a big...sort of happy family, only missing one piece.
I lean back in my seat and pull out my notebook, drafting what to write.
Maybe something a little less depressing? Nope.
I instead decide to list my feelings, which could count as equally depressing.
I stuff the notebook and pen in my pocket as we pull into the parking garage and hurry out of the car, our visiting hours being limited.
We walk down the sidewalk and my dad pulls open the double doors, and we walk straight past the front desk, showing them our passes. My Nana stands outside room 134 with a tired look on her face.
She grabs Marin and my hand and walks us away from our parents, taking us to a nearby bench.
Marin bites on her long fingernails as we sit down and I can see the question dangling over her head.
We both wait in silence for my Nana to tell us, something.
Marin gives in and blurts out, “Nana what's going on?”
Nana smiles again, though I can easily tell it's fake and rests one of her hands on Marin’s shoulder.
“Slow down sweet pea,” she says and Marin looks away, tears filling her eyes.
“He’s not gonna get better is he?” Marin asks, stubborn tears rolling down her cheeks.
My heart plummets to the ground as Nana sighs and says nothing, tears rolling down her own cheeks.
I can feel the anger boiling inside of me.
Couldn't they have done something?
I shoved my emotions done and raised a shaky hand to my face, rubbing my eyes to hide the tears.
Nana hugs Marin closer and nods to the door of room 134. I nod and stand, seeing mom standing outside with a tear-stained face.
I squeeze Marin’s shoulder before quickly walking over to mom.
I meet my mom's brown eyes and she bites her lip, opening the door for me.
“I’ll call you out in a few minutes.” She says quietly.
I nod and clench my fists, refusing to cry.
What happened to being numb, Eli?
I step inside and lock my knees so I don't collapse.
Through the tangle of cords, I can see my brother laying on the hospital bed.
That uncomfortable hospital bed that he’d been in for months. I hate seeing him like this.
Cal smiles as I get closer and I swallow hard.
“Don't look at me like that Eli.” He manages.
I meet his brown eyes, identical to Mom’s, and let out a small sob.
“Nana wasn't supposed to tell you yet,” Cal says, figuring out too quickly that I already know. That I knew from the expressions on my parent’s faces last night.
“God don’t do this to me, Eli. I don't want you to see me as this weak person who's about to die!” Cal sputters.
My heart aches as I open my mouth, then close it, not knowing what to say.
“Think of me the way I used to be. That crazy over-energetic kid.”
I smile and nod, still not knowing what to say.
We sit in silence for a little, nothing left to talk about before I finally manage to gather enough courage to ask the daunting question.
“H-how long do you have?”
“It’s a bit more complicate than that.”
“What do you mean?” Cal looks away.
“Dad will explain.”
My heart starts to pound against my chest.
“What does that mean Cal?”
“You’ll understand in a bit.”
They were just giving up? And Cal’s ok with it? Grief turns to anger as I sit on my knees next to Cal.
Mom knocks quietly on the door and I nod, glancing at Cal before hurrying out.
Once the door is safely shut behind me, I stumble over to Nana and collapse onto the bench. The weight of weeks being the oldest, and in charge, and trying to take care of everything so everyone else can be there for Cal.
It’s too heavy and I can't take it. I can’t take it anymore.
Nana puts her arm around my shoulder and holds me in silence.
The bustling sounds of the hospital fade away, leaving me in a silent abyss with my thoughts. Everything just feels dark and hopeless.
What happens after Cal’s gone? Will I ever be happy again? How long will we have Cal with us? Can the doctors do something? It’s their job to fix people! They said he was better three years ago! They said the cancer was gone! What changed? Why did it have to change? Why did Cal have to give in? They said they could fix him. They said they fixed him!!
I sit up and Nana’s soft grey eyes lock with mine.
I can tell there’s something my parents and Nana are hiding.
“Nana, what’s going on with Cal? You guys arent telling me something.”
Nana sighs and shakes her head.
“That’s something for your parents to tell you.”
I clench my fists in frustration and resist the urge to scream.
“Everyone keeps telling me that and it’s just making it worse!”
“Your sister will be out in a few minutes and that’s when they’ll explain. I promise.”
I nodded and leaned back, trying to think about something else.
Marin steps out of the room, chewing on one of her long blonde braids.
I get up and calm her shaking hands, hugging her close.
“It’ll be ok,” I whisper, trying to convince Marin as well as myself.
Marin sobs in my arms and I can do nothing but stand there and try to soothe her.
My parents step outside the room and my dad takes Marin’s hand, walking us over to the side. He crouches down to Marin’s level and hugs her tightly for a few minutes. After he lets her go I decide I cant hold in the question any longer.
“What’s going on? There’s something you, Nana and Cal aren’t telling us.”
Dad sighs and his face falls.
“It’s called death with dignity.” Dad starts and I can already feel myself guessing where he’s going.
“Your brother is in a lot of pain, and he has decided with the help from family and doctors that he’s ready to move on.”
Marin gasps and I force myself to stay silent as my dad tries to explain it in an easier way for her 6-year-old brain to process.
I walk over to the bench where Nana sat and collapse. I sit up and she grips onto my hands. I take ten deep breaths before standing up and walking into Cal’s room.
As soon as he sees me his face falls and I nod.
I drag the chair from the corner and sit next to his bed, fiddling with the strap on my notebook.
“Got any novels for me?” Cal asks, avoiding the gaping question swallowing any small talk.
I shake my head and Cal smiles.
“Can I write something?”
I nod, surprised, and quickly flip to a new page
Cal winces slightly as his shaky hand grips onto the pen. He flips to the very last page and hides what he’s writing adding even more curiosity into my brain.
Once he’s done he hands them back and says,
“Now I want you to write something for me.”
I nod again and open up the notebook.
“Just two words. Ellipsism and Exulansis.”
I look up and raise my eyebrows.
“Look them up when you get home. Then they’ll make sense.”
I nod slowly, about to ask something else but Cal cuts me off.
“So um, Dad told you?”
I nod and look away, swallowing back more tears.
“I don’t have to go through with it,” Cal says loudly.
I snap my head forward and meet his eyes.
“I won’t do it unless you give me your approval.”
“Cal I don’t think that’s my call to ma-”
“All the other calls have been made Eli. But I wouldn’t go through with it if I didn’t have your approval. I would back out at the last minute. I’ve got a few more weeks, and I’ll live those weeks out if you tell me to.”
“Why do you want to do this?”
Tears start to form in Cal’s eyes as he stutters a response.
“It hurts Eli. It really, really hurts. The pain varies on levels. But it never goes away. It’s always there and it’s literally killing me. I don’t think I can stand it any longer. I’ve tried to be strong and say it doesn’t hurt that bad, but I can’t do it anymore.”
Cal stays silent like he wants me to say something, but all I can think about is Cal not being around anymore.
“Eli, I wouldn’t ask this of you if I didny mean it. If I hadn’t reached the very end of my rope. But I have. I dangling by the string and everything tired. I’m just tired. I’m tired of the pain.” Cal presses.
“Cant you grip onto your rope a little tighter?” I blurt out.
Cal shakes his head and looks me dead in the eyes.
“I can’t do this without you. Please. Let them cut the rope.”
I count my breaths and finally stop at 14.
“You’re sure this is what you want?”
Cal nods and my heart drops as the words form in my mouth.
“Then I’ll be with you every step of the way.”
Cak smiles lightly out of relief and tears roll down his cheek.
I grip onto my notebook as Marin, mom, and dad all come in. I stand up and Marin runs to my side, grabbing onto my arm. All eyes fall onto the two cups in Dad’s hands.
Dad walks to the other side of Cal’s bed and sets the cups down on the bedside table.
I can hear him muttering instructions but my mind takes over as I realize that it’s actually happening.
I move Marin to the back of the room as Dad and Mom start talking to Cal.
I hug Marin close as my parents step away and allow us to come closer.
Marin lets go of my arm and lays her head next to Cal’s on the bed.
“I love you, Cal.” She whispers.
“Love you too ladybug.”
I can see the pain building in Cal’s eyes as Marin runs to my mom.
I kneel on the floor and meet Cal’s eyes.
“I don’t know what to say,” I mumble.
“I’ll miss you,” Cal whispers.
“You’re sure you want to do this?”
Cal nods and I sigh.
“We’ll be with you through it all. Keep watch once you get up there. You’ve been strong for too long. Thanks for everything.”
Cal bites his lip and I gently wrap my arms around him, wishing I could go back in time and hug that athletic kid that used to be Cal.
I stay there as dad raises Cal’s bed a little and hands him the cup.
Cal meets eyes with each of us, raising the cup to his lips.
He tips it back and swallows it in one gulp. Then drinks the second cup to wash it down.
Marin collapses in a fit of sobs by mom as dad lowers Cal’s bed.
Minutes tick by as we talk about old memories and all four of us watch as Cal leans back and starts to close his eyes.
I hold in a sob as he shuts his eyes.
“I love you guys.”
And then everything goes silent, the only thing moving is Cal’s chest, slowly rising and falling. Dad grabs my hand and I turn to cry, to let out strangled sobs for I can’t hold them in anymore. Cal can’t be gone.
Hours later and we’re in the car on the way home.
We spent the rest of the day, driving around town and letting everything out.
What a miserable family we are.
I pull out my phone and notebook and flip to the page with the two words.
I scribble down the definitions beneath the words and it makes me miss Cal even more.
𝑀𝑒𝒶𝓃𝒾𝓃𝑔: 𝒯𝒽𝑒 𝓈𝒶𝒹𝓃𝑒𝓈𝓈 𝓈𝑜𝓂𝑒𝑜𝓃𝑒 𝑒𝓍𝓅𝑒𝓇𝒾𝑒𝓃𝒸𝑒𝓈 𝓌𝒽𝑒𝓃 𝓉𝒽𝑒𝓎 𝓇𝑒𝒶𝓁𝒾𝓏𝑒 𝓉𝒽𝑒𝓎 𝓌𝑜𝓃’𝓉 𝓁𝒾𝓋𝑒 𝓉𝑜 𝓈𝑒𝑒 𝓉𝒽𝑒 𝒻𝓊𝓉𝓊𝓇𝑒
𝑀𝑒𝒶𝓃𝒾𝓃𝑔: 𝒯𝒽𝑒 𝓉𝑒𝓃𝒹𝑒𝓃𝒸𝓎 𝓉𝑜 𝑔𝒾𝓋𝑒 𝓊𝓅 𝓉𝓇𝓎𝒾𝓃𝑔 𝓉𝑜 𝓉𝒶𝓁𝓀 𝒶𝒷𝑜𝓊𝓉 𝒶𝓃 𝑒𝓍𝓅𝑒𝓇𝒾𝑒𝓃𝒸𝑒 𝒷𝑒𝒸𝒶𝓊𝓈𝑒 𝓅𝑒𝑜𝓅𝓁𝑒 𝒶𝓇𝑒 𝓊𝓃𝒶𝒷𝓁𝑒 𝓉𝑜 𝓇𝑒𝓁𝒶𝓉𝑒 𝓉𝑜 𝒾𝓉
I lean back in my seat and let a tear roll down my cheek.
This was definitely something Cal would do.
Two words that completely described how he was feeling and what he was going through.
I flip to the back of the notebook and find Cal’s shaky handwriting.
ᵂᵃᵗᶜʰⁱⁿᵍ ʸᵒᵘ ᶠʳᵒᵐ ᵃᵇᵒᵛᵉ ˡⁱᵗᵗˡᵉ ᵇʳᵒ. ᴹⁱˢˢ ʸᵒᵘ.
I sigh and stare up at the roof of the car.
“Miss you too.”