I grew annoyed and reached over, covering Ben's hand with mine before he could move his thumb to click his pen once more.
He smiled sheepishly at me, apologetic. He made a point of setting his pen down on the edge of his desk before looking back at the substitute, who was struggling to explain to everyone how the polyatomic ions work within a net-ionic equation.
A vast majority of the class had just resorted to tuning her out before she confused us more than we already were.
Mrs. Geisland wondered if we understood it, a question to which most of the class nodded robotically. She didn't seem to catch that no one had a clue what she was talking about and went back to rambling the instructions to us.
Ben reached over and gently pulled down the sleeve of my sweatshirt further, covering the purple that just barely peeked out from underneath it.
I looked at him and saw his light smile with the worry in his eyes and leaned my forehead against my palm. I hated being a cause for worry or for sadness. Ben didn't deserve to watch his best friend slowly deteriorate. I didn't want to be the first of my friends to die either, though.
At least it wasn't Ben. Or Madelyn. Or Madison or Taylor. At least I didn't have to watch them go. I didn't know what I'd do without them.
When the bell rang, Ben lifted my things for me and walked with me out of the class, moving toward the cafeteria.
The others were, surprisingly, already waiting at the table for us. They very rarely beat us to the seats. I slid into my seat beside Madelyn, not needing to glance up to know that Ben was going to go get his lunch after placing his book bag in the seat beside mine.
Madelyn turned away from Tyler, the boy she was conversing with, and smiled at me. "How are you feeling?" she asked, her voice quiet.
I shrugged because Ben wasn't there. "I've been better," I admitted. I had had a persistent headache all morning so far.
Her smooth brow furrowed in evident concern. "Elena, maybe you should at least con-"
I shook my head, holding up my hand to silence her. "Madelyn, you and I both know that I refuse."
She sighed almost silently. "So you'd rather die than get over your ridiculous pride?" she muttered. "Wonderful."
I rolled my eyes. Her attempts to get me to reconsider had varied from guilt to making me feel stupid. I had long since grown used to the petty remarks and prods.
Ben returned, sitting down and sliding his lunch tray in between us. I shook my head, as the idea of eating even the smallest thing made my stomach turn at the moment.
He bit at his bottom lip, his eyes shining with a soft concern that he would not likely express verbally. Ben was one of the few people in my life who did everything he could to keep from upsetting me. He was one of those guys that couldn't stand to see someone hurt, but he didn't want to hurt them in order to get his point across.
It was a tact that few of my other friends had.
I listened to my mother speak with several nurses about my 'condition'. She refused to admit to herself that I was dying. I waved slightly when Mrs. Maggie walked in. She worked as a nurse in this particular section of the hospital.
She knew everything about my 'condition', but was told it all with explicit instructions to keep the information from her son.
I sighed quietly when different machines were hooked up to me so they could get the readings they needed. They were all clinging to the vague hope that my cancer would just disappear so that they wouldn't have to say the goodbyes I knew were inevitable.
My fingers reflexively moved to run along my curls as my doctor walked in with a friendly smiled, his eyes touched with the sadness that seemed present whenever he saw me now. I knew that he had a record of only once losing a patient to cancer, and hated that I was going to be the one to destroy it.
He took down different readings before having them prepare me for an x-ray. He handed me one of the thin hospital gowns and I undressed before pulling it on and allowing them to drape a thick robe over my shoulders.
I was 'forced' to sit in a wheel chair on the way to the room and I laid down on the table, careful not to move from where they placed my limbs.
I closed my eyes and forced down the sprigs of hope that had seeded themselves without my permission.
When I was taken back to 'my' room while the photos were developed, I laid on the bed, listening idly to the commotion that was always present in the hospital.
I imagined feet trampling over grass before hands reaching down and pulling weeds out by the roots, trying to rid myself of the hope that the cancer had started to diminish.
My doctor walked in, though, soon after. And his face was not that of someone who brought good news. He looked devastated, rather. When I saw the cloud on the x-rays before he lifted them to the light, I recognized the reason.
It had grown. It had spread a lot.
My mom brought her hand up to cover her mouth. "It's never…" she trailed off.
"Correct," My doctor responded, his voice somber. "It's much larger. This isn't going to go away without…" he trailed off, catching sight of me. He knew I wasn't going to ask for a new marrow, simply because I knew the most obvious donor was someone I wouldn't ask.
My mom looked devastated and she nodded, her face suddenly appearing her age.
Dr. Huynh said a few more things before kissing my forehead and walking out of the room so that I might get dressed and go home.
I pulled on my clothes and followed my mom to the car, a distinctly gray air settling on the two of us as we drove home in silence. It hadn't really hit me that I was dying.
I mean, sure, I knew it. It wasn't hard to accept.
But when it became potent and practically touchable, it was almost frightening.
When my mom pulled into our driveway, I got out, my footsteps feel unnaturally heavy. I walked inside our home and up the stairs, prepared to hide in my room.
I looked at my book bag and slumped against my bed, resting my head and shoulders against the mound of colorful pillows that were forever present on my bed. I had issues, admittedly. I ran my fingers along the soft fuzz of my pale blue throw, wishing I had a distraction.
The force of the anger I had always felt towards Connor had before served as a distraction, but everything had simmered down to a distinct dislike. But it certainly wasn't any longer a decided hatred.
Instead, my thoughts were now consumed by the x-ray photos that I had been shown and the massive dark spot that seemed to be intent on reaching out and cloaking everything else.
"Slowpoke!" He called, his wide smile stretching as he looked behind to call out the insult so that I would hear it.
I grimaced and tried to force my much shorter legs faster than they were already going, my ear length blonde hair whipping in my eyes. "Meanie!" I shot back.
He responded only by laughing at me, as though he was highly amused by me.
I couldn't help the smile that turned over my lips when I heard his laughter.
I finally caught up with him, tackling him to the ground after I jumped on his back. His breath left him with a 'whoosh!'. He laughed up at me and shifted my hair out of my face once he managed to turn over. "Alright, I give," he said. I blinked at his touch and got off of him, holding my hand out to help him up.
My dream faded into another memory.
"Wow," he said, his wide eyes blinking when I got out of my car.
I stuck my tongue out at him. "Gee, thanks."
"No, Lane, you look wonderful," he said with that familiar half smile of his.
I did a twirl in my pale pink dress. "Thank you," I said with a smile and he helped me steady myself so that our parents could get pictures of us before our-well, his-dates got here. I was going with my best girl friend.
They showed up and his date gave me a horrible condescending look when I stood on his right side and she on his left for pictures. Madelyn showed up and we got pictures together as we were just goofing off.
We rode with him in his new car to go to the homecoming dance and I ignored her withering gaze.
I got out after the others, feeling slightly dizzy and steadying myself with Connor's arm.
His date harrumphed and walked into the school's cafeteria.
I followed with Madelyn and sighed quietly. I had no idea what her problem was.
When we had danced for about an hour, Madelyn and I took a break to get punch and I turned in time to have a full glass spilled down my dress.
Connor's date's eyes went wide with false innocence. "Oh, Elena, I am so sorry," she said, holding a perfectly manicured hand up to her mouth. "Guess you'll have to leave early now."
"You know, she was right!" he shouted, his tone biting and his eyes steely. The look on his face broke my heart, simply because I had always adored him so.
"About what?" I spat back, my own tone shocking.
"You really are just jealous," he stated, sneering. He looked at me like I was pathetic.
"Of what? You and her?" I demanded, making it sound as though the very idea was preposterous. "God, Connor. I knew you were full of yourself but this is low, even for you. Has she brainwashed you into a pathetic, egotistical, superficial, jackass like all of the others?" I asked, my upper lip curling in disgust at the person standing before me, towering over me with anger blackened eyes. I didn't recognize this person. My best friend was gone-had been gone since he got involved with the head cheerleader and he became football star and his friendship to me had become second.
"No, she didn't brainwash me, Elena. She just allowed me to see who the true you is. I should thank her," he stated, spitting the words and stabbing my heart with every word.
I shook my head, not even able to be entirely pissed that he spoke to me this way.
"I cannot believe you're able to speak to me this way. Eight year old Connor would have killed you," I said, barely succeeding in keeping my voice from cracking.
"Well, eight year old Connor had a best friend who was dying. Last I checked, Alec wasn't dying,"
he bit back.
And that was a slap to the face.
I took a step back, blinking rapidly, and saw the way his eyes lost a fraction of the fury, regret taking its place. "Look, El-" He started and I cut him off by shaking my head.
"Well, next time, I'll tell 8 year old Elena not to care about what 8 year old Connor wants. I'll let her know it is alright to not live through five years of hell for someone who wouldn't be there. I'll tell her she's allowed to die," I said, my words growing quieter and quieter as I spoke.
His face paled. "Len, I didn't mea-"
"Leave me alone, Connor. Just... don't. Leave me alone." I shrugged, laughing pathetically before walking away from him.