Quinton looked out the window and watched the never ending stream of people on the sidewalks. To them, it was probably just a normal morning. But, somehow the day felt off, like he was part of a movie or something. A very boring movie. His throat hurt like hell, but he was too lazy to reach for the ice slivers the nurse had brought. Whatever, they were probably all melted by now, he thought.
Sometimes the young boy had found himself wishing something interesting could happen outside his little window, like a crime or an argument. One time, he'd seen a guy walk head-first into a mailbox. That was pretty funny. He wished that would happen again.
A bleach blond young lady in a green polka dotted sundress waltzed in and abruptly yanked back the curtains the rest of the way. Quinton winced, his eyes stinging. He didn't think his sister was coming today, but he wasn't really keeping track of the days either. It must have been a Sunday. Or maybe a Tuesday?
"Hey," He whined, his voice scratchy from the constant coughing, "Why do you always have to barge in here like that? I was trying to think." he was happy to see her, but it wasn't like he was going to tell her that.
She shrugged, crossing her arms "Can't have too many interesting thoughts cooped up here all day. Besides this room was too dark and gloomy, it's bad for your skin."
"Car, the only people who see me are doctors, why the hell should I-" The boy's complaints were cut off by more coughing, he didn't have the energy to pull his arm up so he just turned to cough into the bed. They didn't know if what he had was contagious after all.
His sister silently handed him the cup on the stand. Quinton couldn't see her face but he's sure she had that same sad helpless expression his family always had coming in here. God, he's so tired.
"Still coughing?" she asked him quietly.
He just gave her a dry look, not wanting to waste his energy on such a dumb question. But there was something he was meaning to ask.
"Did the doctors say anything about the test results?"
She stared out the window for a while, then sighed. Quinton guessed that was probably a yes.
"Look... It's almost time for your transfusion, you need-"
"Carmen." he looked up at her, but… he was so exhausted. If she really didn't want to tell him, he wouldn't have the energy to argue, and she knew it.
There was a long beat of silence.
"Mom said not to tell you."
The boy sighed "Ah, so that means not good." he looked into the cup Carmen had handed him. Yep, he thought, Just water, and barely cold too. Typical.
"Of course it's not good! You couldn't breathe yesterday, how could what you have possibly be anything good?"
Quinton startled. He hadn't heard her raise her voice in years and probably would've dropped the cup if he had had the energy to hold it off the bed. He watched as she walked over to sit on the windowsill, though the 'walk' was about two steps. The room was uncomfortably small despite it being Quinton's home for the past 2 years.
It was the same boring washed out green hospital room that almost everyone gets when they come in, just on a different floor. Not that he needed the space anymore, he used to have an Xbox and TV in here for when he had felt up to it. He barely even left his bed these days.
They sat in silence for a while, sprinkled with some coughing.
He hoped Carmen wasn't crying, but he didn't feel like saying anything. It took too much energy these days to fake being okay. Or at least, his family's version of okay.
"You have pneumonia."
Quinton hummed. That wasn't good, but it wasn't any worse than what he was expecting. Though he supposed it made sense why Carmen was so shook up about it. He's always been a pessimist in a family of optimists. Sometimes he wondered if it would be easier on them if it was the other way around.
"Are you not going to say anything?" she didn't seem angry, just … drained.
"What would you like me to say?" he replied, "that sucks?"
It did, he supposed. From what he had heard, pneumonia was known to finish off a lot of old and weak people. He let out another dry cough that he could feel down to his bones. Carmen had that stupid sad look again.
"Why do you never take your condition seriously Quinton?"
"I do take it seriously. I think that's the problem." he looked at her with a bitter smile "You and mom… still have some kind of hope." A stuffy silence followed his words.
He could hear the telltale fast clopping of his mom's heels down the hallway. "Quinton! You need to get ready for your transfusion!" she said, walking swiftly into the room.
Their mother was a short and cheerful lady, with mid-length brown hair. She always wore some type of high heel. She told them it was because she liked how they felt on her feet, but Quinton was pretty sure it was just because they made her feel taller. She didn't seem to be particularly emotional today, but he knew that was only because she was better at hiding it.
"I'm ready mom, it's not like I really need to do anything" he responded "Just shove me in the chair and wheel me to my doom" he tried to raise his arms in the air for the dramatic effect but they didn't make it very high.
"Oh it can't be that bad, you nouille" Carmen smirked at him, getting off the windowsill.
"No Car, it's worse. Trust me, it really sucks." he paused, oh no "no pun intended"
Carmen let out a shriek of laughter as their mother began helping Quinton into his wheelchair "Oh my God!" she slapped her knee. "Sucks!" he rolled his eyes. He had forgotten how insufferable her sense of humour was.
The transfusions weren't that painful but they went on forever and really sapped his energy. Last month they had started him on one a day, and now he feels like he spends all his time hooked up to that thing.
The transfusion was as tiring as always, but his mom and sister's chatter managed to take his mind off it a bit.
"So Quinton, are you still having those dreams?" his mother asked, brushing his dirty blond hair out of his face, it was almost getting long, the longest it had been in years. "The ones with the little girl?"
"Yep." he replied. It was easier for him to use short sentences, that way he didn't need to stop short for a breath and needlessly worry his family. "Almost every night actually. It's kind of weird but I'm used to it."
"I'm telling you, dear, she has to be your guardian angel or something." she smiled at him excitedly, her curls bouncing as she turned her head, "It makes sense, right?"
It didn't. For one, he was pretty sure angels didn't exist, and also the girl that he'd been dreaming up didn't exactly radiate friendliness. She never said anything so he guessed he really had no idea what she was like, but she seemed to glare and roll her eyes a lot. He didn't say any of that to his mom though. She really liked the angel idea, and he didn't want to ruin that. Especially if he wasn't going to be there for much longer.
"What do you think they mean, nounou?" Carmen asked, smiling. She knew he wouldn't believe the angel thing, he doubted she did either.
"They probably don't mean anything." he muttered quietly and shrugged as best as he could around the tubes "Just the meds."
Carmen nodded slowly, accepting his answer, but their mother pouted. She wasn't particularly religious but liked to believe in fate and an afterlife of some kind. Whereas Quinton and his sister were usually more realistic.
The end of the transfusion also marked the end of the visit. Quinton was sad to see them go, but he really needed the rest. Not that his family was particularly tiring, but he found everything exhausting these days. Being around them made him feel guilty, they were always so sad when they came, and it might not be his fault but it was because of him.
His mom assured him that they would be back next week to celebrate his birthday. She sounded like she might be crying, but they were both out of sight by the time I lifted my head up.
It took Quinton a while to realize what was going on. The rest of the day had passed in a series of naps and coughing fits. The nurse had taken his temperature and informed him that his fever hadn't gotten any worse than this morning. It was getting harder and harder for him to swallow but he couldn't tell if that was because of his sore throat or just lack of energy. The sky was dark now but he wasn't sure of the time. He couldn't find the willpower to look at the old clock that hung beside his door. Nighttime was when thinking was easiest, not that he looked forward to it. This was his life now and he sure hated it. There was nothing to do and the constant tiredness felt like it was eating away at him. It made it hard to talk. It made it hard to think. But worst of all it made it hard to breathe.
He finally found the willpower to turn and look at the clock and squinted.
It was all blurry. He couldn't make it out. That's never happened before. Come to think of it his eyes were getting harder to keep open. Oh, he must be dreaming, that's it. Weird dream. But then where was the little girl? The one with the silver eyes? She was in all his dreams lately. Why is his head spinning, he's not moving. And he doesn't remember closing his eyes either, that's weird.
Oh. He couldn't… he couldn't take a breath.
That's bad right? And yet... it was hard to remember why. He heard a far off beeping noise. Is it his alarm, waking him up? He hopes so, he doesn't like this dream. He still couldn't breathe. He couldn't move either. He really wanted to wake up now. Where was the girl? His mom had said she was his guardian angel, right? Where was she? Where was his mom? He wants his maman. He can't breathe. He needs his maman.
He was going to die.
He had known that for a while. He thought he would be okay. But he didn't know it would be like this. He felt like he had been buried alive. He could hear the pounding of his heartbeat. Usually, at this point he wouldn't be able to stop hyperventilating. He didn't want to die. It's not fair. It's not fair, it's not. He hadn't even turned 18 yet. He never got to do half the things he wanted, even knowing his hopelessly short life. The things teenagers are promised. Messy relationships and hard changes. Life. Where was his guardian angel? It seemed like the beeping was getting farther and farther away the more he desperately tried to take a breath. He didn't want to die. Please.
There was no response, only darkness and the feeling of never-ending pressure.
Was he dead? No. No, he couldn't be dead! There was so much he had wanted to do. He had known he would never get to do them really. It just didn't feel real until now.
He had wanted to go to college. To be an engineer. To see someone walk into that mailbox one more damn time. He wanted to live. He wanted to live.
He wanted to live!
Quinton took a choking breath and woke up.