Norah felt a sharp jab on her arm, and looked over to see her older sister, Rachel, stick her tongue out at her. The rational part of her mind told Norah that as a fifteen year old high school student, she should be old enough to ignore Rachel's torments, but her more impulsive side insisted that she shouldn't let her impertinent sister get away with anything. "Mom, Rachel pinched me!" she complained.

"Rachel, don't pinch your sister," her mother said automatically, not bothering to glance back at the two. Norah fumed. That might have worked if they were in elementary school again, but a simple word or two from her mother wouldn't deter Norah's eighteen-year-old tormentor.

As if to confirm Norah's thoughts, Rachel stretched out, lifting her feet onto the seat so that they lay across Norah's lap. Norah said nothing, but lifted the heavy feet and pushed them to the ground. "Don't!" Rachel cried. "Mom, Rachel's touching me, and pushing my feet!"

"Her feet are in my lap!" Norah declared in protest. "Mom, would you do something about her? She's really getting on my nerves!"

Surprising everyone, their father suddenly spoke up, shouting, "Would you two keep it down back there! You're in high school, for crying out loud! I'm trying to concentrate on driving!" For a few seconds, the only sound was that of the windshield wipers furiously screeching in their attempt to keep the rain off the window. They didn't seem to be helping much.

Under her breath, Rachel muttered, "Norah started it."

Suddenly, tires were screeching, horns were honking, and Norah's mother was yelling at her father. Her hands reflexively clenched as their speed increased, and Norah could feel the car swerve back and forth in the road. Everything happened very slow as she looked out the window and saw that they were headed for the ditch.

Their father, who rarely cursed, was now yelling something Norah would never repeat on her worst day. Then, the car moving agonizingly slowly, they reached the edge of the road, and Norah felt herself rise off her car seat. Her head brushed the carpeted ceiling before she landed, then everything went dark.

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"It's all right, you're going to be all right, Norah," said an unfamiliar woman's voice. Norah opened her eyes, and was suddenly overcome with waves of pain. Her head hurt, her muscles hurt, and even her eyes hurt when the flashlights around her fell upon her face.

"What's going on?" she asked the woman groggily. She wondered where her parents were, but found nothing unusual about the mysterious woman in the white coat. Maybe she was an angel- she was certainly pretty enough, and she was dressed all in white. But, why would an angel look so worried. "Am I going to die?" she asked, although she couldn't think of any reason why she would die.

"No, you're not going to die," the woman said quickly. "You've lost a lot of blood, but you're in the hands of trained professionals who know what they're doing. Everything's fine, Norah." It didn't seem unusual that the angelic woman would know her name, until she called to the others, "Load her up, and be quick about it."

Suddenly, Norah was aware that she was on a stretcher, and a group of people were loading her into an ambulance. Her head was sticky. Was she bleeding? Where were her family? "Where's my mom and dad?" she called aloud to anyone who would hear. Nobody listened to her, and she feared she'd been left alone when the men who had loaded her on the ambulance turned and hurried away.

Then, someone shut the door, but Norah didn't see, because a man with a stern face was standing over her, distracting her. "Good evening, Norah," he said, faking a smile that wasn't the least bit convincing. "You're going to be just fine. I'm going to give something to help you sleep, now." She felt a pinprick on her arm, and fell asleep.

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Mike hated hospitals. He always had. When he'd been young, his mother had miscarried, and subsequently died in a hospital. Since then, he'd always seen hospitals as places of death, and it didn't help that he would most likely soon loose another parent in the cold, sterile building.

He walked through the cancer ward, and a nurse working at her station smiled warmly. "Good morning, Mike," she said before returning to her work. Mike nodded his acknowledgement. He was at the hospital often enough to visit his dad that most of the staff knew him by name.

Mike walked to a familiar office, and pushed the door opened. Doctor Higgins was at his desk, and Mike cleared his throat before entering, then stood near the doorway, his hands shoved deep into his pockets. When Doctor Higgins looked up, Mike said, "You called. Said I was supposed to come quick."

Doctor Higgins sighed, then took off his glasses to play with them nervously. "It's about your father," he said. "There have been some . . . complications." Mike felt his heart thud in his chest. "I'm sorry," the doctor said quietly. "There was nothing we could do."

"Am I too late?" Mike asked, dreading the answer.

"He's on life support now, but we can't keep him conscious or lucid forever. The most humane thing would be to make him comfortable and give him painkillers and something to help him sleep. I thought you'd like to say good bye first, though."

Mike felt tears well in his eyes. "Take me to him," he said through a sob.

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Lisa sighed in irritation, and slammed the front door closed. She'd had another bad day at school, and the bus ride home hadn't been very much fun either. She stomped all the way up the stairs to her apartment, and pushed open the door. "You will not believe what happened today!" she practically shouted to any family members who were within hearing range.

She stepped inside, and saw what the opened door had concealed. Her jaw dropped, and she was too stunned even to scream.