Disclaimer: The song "Windows" belongs to Kansas and the poem at the end to Judy Burnette. I don´t want to make money with it so don´t sue me.

A/N: Please read and review. It´s a kind of a sad story, and I´m sure that the medical facts are not completely correct but generally they are right.

The sun shines, no matter what?

The room was silent. Completely silent. That was something she had never experienced before. With him there had always been life. But now.only her breath filled the silence. Only hers. There should be his, too. With him lying on the bed in front of her, there should be his, too. But it wasn't. It hadn't been there for three hours now. Three hours of silence and darkness.

Everything was different. Three hours ago a part of her life had cruelly been taken away. It literally felt like something had been ripped out of her body. He had always been her friend, someone she could count on in good and bad times. He had made the good ones even better and the bad ones hadn't felt as bad as they had before. How often had he flashed this radiant smile of his at her? How often had he held her and murmured comforting words in her ear when she had felt completely alone? Too many times to count, she realized now.

Why hadn't she been there for him when he had needed her most? Why hadn't she noticed a change in his behavior? Why hadn't he told her? He must had known that she would have helped him with everything even if it had been difficult for her. He had said that he hadn't wanted her to worry and that she should live her life but. How hard must it have been for him to hide his feelings and pain that she wouldn't notice? She couldn't imagine. The last weeks of his life must have been horrible. Oh yes, she had become aware of some things but she hadn't thought too much about it. When she had asked he had always said that his head had ached and that this had been the last effect of the flu he had caught some weeks before. She had believed him. It was the same thing with his constant weakness. This year's flu wave had been a severe one and he really had had to stay in bed for more than ten days.

She brushed a few strands of his blond hair out of his face. Not that it mattered anymore. He wouldn't mind. His body was already cold - an apparent sign that life had left it. The tears she had held back so successfully till now began streaming down her face. She was weeping with the loss of her best friend whose life had been far too short to be taken away by leukemia at the age of 22. With the tears also the painful memories of his last few days came back to her mind.



***



The music was loud. It echoed from wall to wall and you had to shout to make yourself audible. She was dancing with Andy, someone she just knew by his name, but had a lot of fun. This Andy was a sweet guy, she'd like to get to know more about him, Selena thought. But for now, it was enough to dance with him. He was a good dancer who didn't just make the right steps but could feel the rhythm behind the music. She hadn't met many men with this talent before and enjoyed it really. Andy had been invited by Sheena as Selena herself had been. Sheena became 24 this day and wanted to have a big party with lots of people so she had just asked everyone she knew to come. But although she and Sheena were pretty close she hadn't met Andy before. Now, however, she enjoyed him even more.

Selena and Ryan had come to the party together, nevertheless she had lost her friend soon after. He had been pretty strange all day and she really didn't mind being separated from him now. He'd been quiet all the time and hadn't wanted to come. Very strange. Normally he was a big party animal who had a lot of fun flirting and joking with girls. Also, he had seemed to be quite upset about something. Selena hadn't asked, though. She had gotten to know this behavior over the last weeks quite well. He had changed, she had thought as they had been on their way to Sheena´s house. Now, his smile often seemed to be forced and not real. Before, as she called it, since she couldn't name the time when his behavior had changed exactly, he was the funniest guy she had ever known. Laughed a lot and loved to joke. But every time she had asked, she had gotten the same answer: The last effects of the flu.



The music suddenly stopped to play and Andy let her go out of his arms. He leaned in and whispered something in her ear: "Will you wait for me? I'll be back in a few minutes." A shy smile followed his words. "Of course, I'll be over at the bar..." Selena replied pleased. Everything went as she wanted. She made her way through the couples still standing on the dance floor and then ordered a drink from the barkeeper who happened to be a good friend of hers. After he had handed her the Vodka Lemon, he looked at her curiously. "What is it?" Selena demanded to know. She didn't like such looks - even if they came from a friend like Karim. He glanced away for a moment. "Don't you think that something's wrong with Ryan? He's not his normal self today. Look, he's just sitting over there and holding his drink." Karim indicated to his right. "You're quite close friends. Maybe you should talk to him." Selena paused for a moment. "You're right, Karim, I should do this." She turned and walked over to her best friend who was sitting in the corner and had a drink in his hands. His eyes were closed. He looked horrible. Sweat stood on his forehead and he appeared to be feverish. Selena cautiously laid her left hand on his forearm. She didn't want to startle him. Ryan slowly opened his eyes and lifted his head to look at her. Selena was terrified. There seemed to be no life in those normally so expressive eyes, they were dull and he seemed to have problems with focusing.

"Ryan, you're ill! You should have told me sooner. You should have stayed at home. Let's go, I'm taking you out of here." Selena grabbed his arm and wanted him to stand up. Andy was forgotten completely. Slowly Ryan did as he was requested.



He was dizzy. Everything was spinning in front of him, he couldn't see clear anymore. His whole body hurt. He knew the time had come now. The doctors had told him about this as he had refused medical treatment. For weeks now he had been waiting for this day - when it would finally be over. He had thought he would go crazy if he had had to endure this uncertainty any longer. He had wanted to be strong for Selena and his family but he hadn't known how difficult this could be when you were in such great pain as he had been for the past three or four weeks.

As time passed he caught himself thinking about death more and more often. How would it feel to die? Was it really like the Bible said it to be? Or was it painful? Did you feel anything at all? Was there an afterlife? Or was everything over the moment your heart stopped? He wanted to believe in the Holy Scriptures so badly but it was difficult for him. Before he had gotten the diagnosis of leukemia he had never even looked at the book. He had always thought he would die as an old man with his children and grandchildren gathered around him to say good-bye.

After April 29th this year he had just been devastated. Last year's Christmas had been the last he lived to see. The doctors had given him four more months. Today was September 12th. They were good at estimating, Ryan thought absently as he was led out of the house where the air was clean and breathing suddenly felt easier again. He hadn't even noticed how harsh his breathing had sounded.



"Ryan?" He didn't answer. Selena doubted that he had heard her. So she took his chin and turned his head to her slowly. "Ryan, do you want to sit down?" Again no answer came. The girl led him over to a bench on the veranda. "How do you feel?" she asked gently. "Horrible." he eventually answered. "Just horrible." His voice was hoarse and sounded tired. Selena knew that something had had to be really wrong when her friend admitted it so freely. Normally he was someone who tried to hide his negative feelings and faked being well. For the first time since she had discovered him being sick some minutes ago she considered taking him to hospital.



"Ryan, I'm worried. I think I should take you."

"No! Please don't do that! I'll be okay in a few minutes. Just let me be sitting here for some time." the young man trailed away. He was shivering although the night wasn't as cold as it would have been usual for this time of the year. The stars were bright tonight, he thought. Had it been in school or elsewhere, where he had heard of some natives who believed that the dead continued to live on the stars? He couldn't remember anymore. So many things had been forgotten over the years. So many things. Mostly just some little details, missing pieces in a puzzle but weren't they as important as the others? Of course, they were, he answered himself, but in this way humans were strange. They remember what they got for Christmas each year but no one knows how spring flowers smell when you ask for it. The really important things, the things a dying man can hold onto, are forgotten. There is no place for them in the human mind. Ryan felt like crying, he was so sad, so upset. He just wanted to sit there, to cling to Selena and cry - cry until all the pain would be gone.

Suddenly he felt like being moved and then the warm fabric of Selena´s sweater against his cheek. Somehow Selena must had read his thoughts since she had put her arm around his shoulders and pulled him to her chest. She hugged him tightly for a moment, then opened her mouth to say something. But before a single sound could escape her lips she had stopped herself. This moment needed no words. In a way, it felt suddenly important to say nothing at all. Deep in her she knew she'd have to keep these minutes. What she didn't know by now was, that this picture would be in her mind forever: Sitting on a bench in front of Sheena´s house, her best friend lying in her arms, the moonlight giving it a surreal touch.



It struck midnight. Ryan slowly lifted his head and offered a small smile. "I didn't want to spoil the party for you, I'm sorry."

"There is nothing to be sorry about. You're my best friend, you've always been. As a friend, it is my ´duty` to be there for you in good and bad times."

Ryan laughed gently: "That wasn't one of the best, was it?" It hurt to say these words. Worse times would come, he knew. "Maybe I should go home now.I'm a little bit tired, I have to admit."

"I'll come with you." Selena offered this without thinking and wanted to get up.

"No, no. You'll stay here and have fun. I can find my way home without your help." He was grinning again. Selena guessed that the clean air might had really helped.

"Is this an order?"

He nudged her playfully in the ribs and tried to make a serious face. "How do you say?"

"Is this an order, Sir?" Selena didn't want him to hear her giggling but there was no chance.

"Yes, it is. You stay here and have fun. I go home and get some sleep. That's it." He paused for a moment and became serious again. "We're going to see each other tomorrow?"

"Of course. I'll stop by at - let's say - 11 o'clock. How does that sound?"

"That's okay to me. Good night, then." Ryan got up and wanted to leave. But suddenly he turned around again and hugged Selena tightly. He held her for a moment and let her go then. The girl was stunned. Before she could say anything, Ryan had already left.



She continued standing there for a couple of moments, utterly shocked. Why did he do this? This just didn't fit in his normal behavior.

After some moments of thinking she had still found no answer to this question, so she finally turned and went back into the house.

"Hey, is there something going on I don't know about?" Sheena asked playfully. "With you and Ryan? I'd say that's highly unlikely but."

"No, no. He just didn't feel well and wanted to get some clean air. It didn't get much better, though, so he asked me to tell you that he's deeply sorry that he had to leave. You're not angry, are you?" Selena excused her friend although he hadn't thought about it in anyway.

"Of course, I'm not. When Ryan feels sick enough to leave a party. he really must feel bad. The guy's the biggest party animal I've ever met. But I'm sure you know this."

Sheena didn't wait for Selena´s reply, she had spotted some other people to talk to. Selena didn't mind. She had discovered Andy waiting at the bar and suddenly she remembered that she didn't even tell him where she had gone. ´Oh my God! He must think that I didn't like him!` She went over to the bar and placed herself next to him.

"Oh Andy, I'm so sorry, I didn't want you to wait here, but you have to understand. A very good friend of mine."



Ryan was walking down the dark street. The lights had been switched off over one hour ago, only the moon and the stars were illuminating his way. The young man cursed himself. He shouldn't have hugged her like this. It would only make her worried and he wanted her to enjoy the party. If he'd really die the next few days, there would be many sad times for her. They were too close friends just to live on like nothing had happened. He felt like crying again. He didn't want to die, didn't want to leave his family and friends behind. He thought about his parents. They were already old, his mum had just celebrated her 61st birthday. He'd been born late and he had stayed the only one although his parents had wanted to have another child. It just wasn't meant to be. And now fate was even crueler and took away their only son. There would be no one to care for them when they would need help, no children, no grandchildren.

The young man felt weak, something he had gotten used to over the past few weeks. Luckily, he thought, the way home wouldn't be far anymore. He just wanted to lie down and sleep. The strength holding himself upright required was almost too much for Ryan. Before, he had been an enthusiastic soccer- player. He had just loved every kind of sport. Selena had always said that he hadn't been able to be still for one single moment, he always had to be in motion. Now it was different. Even walking was exhausting. But it was even more tiring to hide this lack of strength. Yes, that was the thing that was most difficult in these days. Hiding his illness. Often he had thought about telling everything. It surely would be good for him. Not anymore faking the healthy young man but being able to show his weakness. He remembered how safe he had felt in Selena´s arms. If there hadn't been a party going on behind the door, he probably would have told her the truth. She would have been shocked first, he guessed, but then she'd have given him the safety and the comfort he needed right now. Maybe he should have revealed everything just after the diagnosis. Things would have been easier then. But otherwise, everyone would have treated him like he'd have been dead already. Don't do this, don't do that, rest some time, you don't get enough sleep, don't wear yourself out..awful. That was the reason why he had decided against telling the truth. He had wanted to enjoy his last four months and not be treated like a sick man.

Ryan chuckled softly. He had done well - until the middle of August. Since then things had begun to get worse. Till then he surprisingly had had a good time, he had been able to do everything he wanted to, even if it was a four-hour biking-tour through the mountains or taking part in a basketball tournament. No problem at all.

He had even thought about beating the cancer. Ha, what did he believe? The cancer didn't let you win, it was just hiding behind the trees until you came by and then it jumped at you with all of its force. And it didn't miss, it didn't let you get by unharmed, no, it hit. At least, it had done this to Ryan. It had hit him with full force, without giving him time to adjust or to defend himself. Suddenly it had jumped on him and thrown him to the ground. There he was lying now, defenseless and vulnerable, no match for the cancer.

Ryan was angry. Fate hadn't given him a chance, a possibility to stay alive. From the beginning there had only been death at the end of the road. Oh yeah, he had been able to choose between two ways to get there but there had been absolutely no way to get by. The one the doctors had suggested would have been longer and would have given him more time but it was rocky and exhausting. He'd have to have stayed in hospital for quite a lot of time before he finally died. Six months the doctors had given him. Six months, four of them spent in bed, wasting away. Ryan shook his head. He had taken the shorter way, the one without delays, the one that led straight to the end. When he really had to die, he'd die with dignity. He'd tell everyone in the last possible moment. When it would be much too late to convince him otherwise. To let his life be prolonged by chemotherapy. Even thinking about it terrified him. In the hospital he'd been to have his blood sample checked he'd seen some of the people who had agreed to chemotherapy. No hair, thin as sticks, pale as sheets. No way to get him doing this. It was better his way.

Last week he had asked one of his doctors to prescribe some painkillers for him. Ryan grinned shortly at this memory. The guy had been surprised to see him that late, he'd expected him sooner. That had given him self- confidence. He'd die bravely and courageously. And with the painkillers life had become a little better again. Not that the pain ceased, no, no, but sometimes it could be forgotten. Only when he was preoccupied doing something, of course, but nevertheless he was grateful for this little mercy.

Unfortunately even the best painkillers couldn't give back his strength. He often felt so useless. Maybe death wouldn't be so bad at all. At least there would be no more pain, no more being afraid of what was to come.

He sighed. Only a few more steps then he would be home. He hoped that his parents would be asleep already so that there wouldn't be any questions about the party and why he had come home so early. The windows were dark, a good sign, he thought. No questions, at least not this night. Things would be easier tomorrow. Maybe he'd tell them that he hadn't liked it there or maybe he'd admit that he hadn't felt too well and needed to rest. He'd decide that in the morning.

Ryan fumbled out his key and opened the door. But before he went in, he paused for a minute and gazed at the stars. Like diamonds, he thought, so beautiful. For a short moment he felt like he was the only living being in the whole universe. A happy smile spread across his lips. The stars seemed to shine just for him. Mother nature's saying goodbye to one of its children. The expression on his face became sad again. Abruptly he closed the door and disappeared into the dark house.



Selena rubbed the sleep out of the corners of her eyes. She had come home at 5 a.m. and the only reason why she had got up was that she had promised Ryan to visit him. Now she was standing in front of the Jordans´ door and waited for someone to let her in. The party had become really funny in the end and she had enjoyed herself a lot. Andy was a cute guy and he had asked her whether they might meet again sometime. Selena had agreed happily. Maybe Andy would be different, not so boring like her former boyfriends. They had been so dull, so annoying!

Ryan would be happy for her. He had always comforted her when she had been disappointed or hopeless. Selena was looking forward to tell him. They'd be giggling and joking around, she knew how it was to talk to him. He could get everyone laughing just by looking at you or making a silly comment. No one could stay serious for a long time when being with Ryan. Of course, when you really needed him he stopped immediately whatever he had been doing at the moment and was there for you. You truly could tell him everything. Moreover, often he knew some good advice but most times Selena just needed a good listener who didn't interrupt after every second sentence. Ryan was a person who had that rare gift.



Again Selena rang the bell. That was strange. Normally Ryan would already be awake at this time or at least his mother would come to open the door. Only now she noticed that the house seemed to be unusually quiet and abandoned. Selena decided to peak around the corner, maybe the three of them were having a late breakfast in the garden or just doing some work to prepare the vegetable patches for the winter.

"Ryan!" she shouted. "Where are you?". No answer. "Mr. Jordan, Mrs. Jordan, anyone here?" Again she only heard the song of the birds. They might have gone shopping, Selena thought. And Ryan had forgotten to call or maybe her own mother hadn't remembered to tell her. Crap! If she'd known that, she could have stayed in bed for some more hours. Selena left the garden again and went back to the front of the house. But just as she turned round the corner, an old woman stood there. She seemed to have come out of nothing and Selena was totally startled.

"W.W.What are you doing here? I've never seen you here before." The girl was angry, she really didn't like to be shocked as much as in the moment before.

"My name is Harrison, Martha Harrison, and I am a neighbor of the Jordans. I'm living right over there." The old woman pointed to a small house just at the other side of the road. "I've seen you quite often before, you are a good friend of the Jordans´ boy, aren't you?" Selena didn't have the time to answer since the lady continued to speak without a pause. "Some minutes ago I saw you waiting at the front door and so I assumed that no one has told you yet."

"What? No, I haven't been told anything by anyone. What has happened? Is there something with Ryan? Or his mom? His dad?" Selena suddenly felt cold. She remembered Ryan's sickness from the day before. But he really had seemed better when he had left.

Mrs. Harrison looked at her friendly. However, Selena didn't miss the sad look in her eyes when she gestured to the step leading to the front door. "Maybe you should sit down", she suggested. Selena looked at her scared, she feared the worst. Ryan had had a car accident yesterday night. His father died of a heart stroke. His mother fell down the stairs and broke her neck. These were only some of the thoughts, which raced through her mind.

"Two hours ago the boy - Ryan - had to be taken to hospital. I don't know what happened exactly but it must have been something serious since the paramedics had to come." Her voice trailed away as she saw the shock in Selena´s eyes.



Abruptly Selena stood up again.

"Do you know which hospital?" she asked quietly. ´Something terrible must have happened`, the girl thought.

"St. George's, down in Cherokee Falls." The old woman paused. "Can you get there by yourself or shall I call you a taxi?"

After a moment of confusion Selena remembered that she couldn't just walk there. After all it was about 15 miles. "That would be nice of you, thank you." Selena cursed silently. This morning she had lent her car to her younger brother who didn't have one of his own yet.



Selena rushed through the doors at the entrance of St. George's. Only 30 minutes had passed since Mrs. Harrison had called to get a taxi for her. When she had told the driver that she had been in a hurry to get to hospital he hadn't hesitated for one single moment and had sped up. She had been grateful for that and her tip seemed to have been far more than he had expected since he had thanked her for about thousand times. She had thought she'd never get rid of him.

Where was the registration desk? Ah, there! Right in front of her.

"This morning.a young man.must have been taken in.Can you tell me.where he is.and what's wrong with him?" Selena was completely out of breath.

"First of all, you have to tell me his name. Without this, I'm not able to tell you anything." The man behind the desk didn't loose his nerves. Most likely he was used to episodes like that.

"Ryan Jordan. He's 22 years old. Taken in this morning, about two or three hours ago, I was told."

He leafed through some record sheets. "Hmm, here. Ryan Samuel Jordan, is that right?"

"Yes, that's him. Where is he?"

"One moment please." Another rustle with some sheets. "Room no. 289. You take the elevator to the 2nd floor, turn right then, and you'll find it on the left side at the end of the corridor."

"Thanks a lot." Selena said. Maybe she'd find somewhere a doctor who could tell her why Ryan was in hospital. It just couldn't be because of his sickness yesterday.



Room no. 289. She was standing in front of it and was about to knock as the door was opened and a doctor came out.

"Hello" he absently said without even looking at her.

Selena was too surprised to get out another word than "Hello" either. "I should have asked him. Well, Ryan's parents might also be able to tell me what's wrong. I'm sure they're here, at their son's side and the doctor didn't keep them uninformed about his sickness or injury."

The girl knocked. No answer. Selena again checked whether the number was right. Yes, 289. Carefully she opened the door and made quietly her way over to Ryan's bed, which was standing at the far end of the room, just below the huge window covering the whole front. His parents were sitting on both of his sides.

Mrs. Jordan was holding his hand.

Ryan himself seemed to be fast asleep, maybe he wasn't even conscious. Selena didn't know. She cleared her throat and Mr. Jordan turned his head. His eyes were red like he had been crying.

"Oh. Hi, Selena," he said with a quiet and gentle voice, "sorry, we forgot to call but." He looked at his sleeping son again, ".we had other things on our mind."

"There is nothing to be sorry about. I understand you pretty well. Ryan goes first. Well, how is he?"

For some heartbeats there seemed to be no single sound in the room. Only Ryan's breathing could be heard. Selena absently noticed that it was somehow labored but she didn't think about it anymore.

Again his father spoke, his wife hadn't even turned her head yet. She seemed to be in her own world, separated from reality, only being there with her body.

"So I assume, he hasn't told you either." A pause.

"I'd really like to be easy on you, but I think there is no way. The doctor also tried." Another pause.

"Ryan suffers from leukemia." His father's voice was merely a whisper, choked with tears.

"What?!" That can't be true!" Selena cried out. "He's never been ill. No, no, no! Not Ryan!"

Her knees gave away and she almost fell to the floor. Ryan's father got up and helped her over to his chair.

"We, my girl, can't believe it either. There's no need to be ashamed." He spoke so quietly that Selena could hardly understand him while she was sobbing badly.

"I can't accept what the doctor has told us. He said that Ryan would be lucky to survive the next three days."

Selena was hit by the next shock. Lucky to survive the next few days? Was there no chance to cure him? "Is there no possibility to..?"

"No, there's not. The doctor said that he couldn't do anything to prolong his life, to give him more time. The only thing he can do is giving Ryan painkillers and drugs that he won't be tormented by pain anymore. He must have experienced a lot of that in the last few weeks." Mr. Jordan was now crying also. Selena had always admired the close relationship between father and soon. They had been getting along so well on each other, despite the great difference in age. Now his life had to be in ruins.



"Ryan, Ryan, wake up please. Talk to us. Tell us, that everything's a mistake, that the doctors had the wrong file." Selena´s voice was pleading.

She couldn't believe what she had heard only moments ago. Cancer? No, not Ryan, not her best friend, a guy who had never been mean to any other people on purpose. Of course, he had been no ´angel`, but he had always been a good man, trying not to hurt anyone, and if he did it without purpose, it tormented him until he had spoken to the other one and everything was right again. Life was just not fair!

"I know what you're thinking right now", Ryan's father's voice interrupted her quietly, "we also can't understand why this is happening to him. He's still so young, had hardly any time to experience the world as it really is, and now his life should just be taken away. No, my girl, life is so cruel. No one should die so young." Tears stood in his eyes now and his voice was lost in quiet sobbing.

Only now Ryan's mother turned her head and seemed to come out of her state of total apathy. She was pale as a white painted wall and the blonde hair hung down in her face, uncombed. For the first time Selena noticed that it had exactly the same color like Ryan's - sandy with a hint of gold in the sunlight shining into the room through the window.

"God needs an angel up in heaven and he decided to take our Ryan." Selena had to think twice to understand the quiet words. She had never known Mrs. Jordan to be a Christian and never even heard her talking of God.

´Maybe that's the only thing she can hold onto right now, the only thing that can give her some strength, the only thing that can give her some reason.`, Selena thought. ´Maybe it's not so bad at all.` In her family no one believed in God, she had never been to a church service in her whole life.

Ryan wasn't a Christian either, although she had caught him reading the Bible some weeks ago. Had this been the first sign? Why hadn't she seen it? He had said he had been reading it just for fun, to have some information about things like that. After all, he had added, to know answers to such questions could lead to a lot of money. He had referred to all those kinds of quiz shows on TV at the moment. Both of them had laughed a great deal about that afterwards.

Selena took Ryan's hand in hers. It was a strange feeling. He, who had always been so full of life, was lying in that hospital bed right now, waiting for his death. For a short moment the girl thought that this was a dream - a nightmare - and she was still sleeping soundly at home with the alarm-clock set to wake her at half past ten. But this only lasted for the tiniest bit of a second. She knew that everything was true, that there was no escape in dreaming.

Suddenly Ryan stirred slightly. A silent moan escaped his lips and he turned his head towards his mother. Then, after a couple of moments he finally opened his eyes. He blinked a few times against the sun before he looked around the room. Before having realized where he was total confusion appeared on his face.

"Oh my God", he finally got out, "I'm in hospital." His voice showed clear signs of anger. Selena smiled. She knew how much her friend hated clinics and everything that had to do with them. He had always preferred not taking any medicine to seeing a doctor. That was also one of his most characteristic features besides the all-time smile on his face.

"Was it really that bad?" he complained towards his dad.

´Doesn't he remember or doesn't he know about the leukemia?` Ryan's question seemed to be totally out of place.

Mr. Jordan smiled also. Maybe he was thinking about the times when ´doctor` had meant some stitches in the knee after the five-year-old had tripped while trying to catch the football his father had thrown.

But although the older man was trying to hide his real feelings with a smile Ryan didn't miss the sad look in his eyes. Selena could see how realization hit him.

The young man groaned and turned his head away. He seemed to curse himself. Now his parents knew everything he had wanted to hide for so long. Now they'd try to persuade him to chemotherapy and all the other things. ´oh, no, my life as a normal person is over now.` He drew a deep breath as if to prepare himself for the next words.

"So you know now." Ryan's voice was toneless and instead of looking at someone he starred at the ceiling.

No one answered. Questions like those didn't need a reply.

The blond haired gathered his strength and propped himself up on his elbows. "But I tell you you can't convince me to chemotherapy. I've sworn myself that I wouldn't do that even if it would be the only possibility to help me." Anger was in him but Selena knew exactly that this was Ryan's way to hide his fear. ´He must be scared like hell`, she thought, ´to deny himself the chance to live.`

Then something spoken some moments before popped in her mind. *The doctor said that he couldn't do anything to prolong his life, to give him more time.*

´He doesn't know that there is nothing at all to cure him.`

His mom got up and bent over him. Gently she touched his cheek. "We won't try to persuade you to chemotherapy, my son. It's far too late."

The tension in his shoulders disappeared immediately, he looked small and out of strength again. With a silent moan he lay down and closed his eyes.

For some moments it was completely quiet.

"I've wanted to tell you for a long time," Ryan suddenly started to speak. He starred at the ceiling, didn't want to look at them.

"I really wanted to but I just couldn't. I had . I was afraid that you would treat me as if I had changed completely - as if I would have been dead already. I didn't want that. I wanted to continue my life as normal as possible. I know that's difficult to understand but try it, please. Maybe I made a mistake with hiding the cancer, but I would have gone crazy if you would have treated me like a small child - unable to make its own decisions. Please don't think that it was easy for me not to show it. I often doubted whether it was wrong or right not to tell you. And suddenly it seemed to be too late. I only had a few days left and somehow I couldn't tell you the truth anymore. I think I didn't accept the fact that I had leukemia until now and with not telling you I could refuse to believe. For months I tried getting it into my mind but I've always been thinking that I might be able to beat the cancer and then it would just have been an unnecessary worry for you if you had known everything.."

He paused for a moment, seemed to think about what to say next.

"I beg you to forgive me." Merely a whisper, choked with tears, hardly to understand.



Selena held her breath. She had forgiven him as soon as he had finished the first sentence. Somehow it was easy to understand him although she didn't know if she had acted the same way had she been in his situation. The anger she had felt at first had disappeared completely. After all he was her best friend and his reasons were totally true. Even if he had asked to be treated normally no one would have been able to act so. Behind everything said and done would have been the question ´Can he do that? Isn't that too exhausting?`.

Ryan's mom stroked her son over his head. "There is nothing to forgive, my darling. Don't worry, we're not angry, are we?" The last part was directed to her husband.

"Of course, not. How could we be?" His voice was as gentle as his wife's one.

Silence again. Nobody seemed to know what to say. Ryan appeared to be waiting for something and suddenly Selena got it although he hadn't given any indication what for.

"My friend" she just said, "I forgive you."

The blond haired relaxed. A great burden seemed to be taken off his shoulders. The thought that his family and friends would not understand him seemed to have tormented him for a long time.

Ryan nodded off again. He was completely exhausted and his normal strength had left him altogether. Selena remained sitting at his side, as were his parents. No one wanted to leave, even not for some minutes, afraid to miss one waking moment.

Time was passing quickly, too quickly Selena thought. The only thing that made her glancing at her watch was the empty feeling in her stomach. It was already 5 p.m., she had already spent more than five hours in the hospital. Five hours at the side of her dying friend and she hadn't had a real chance to talk to him yet.

Ryan's parents hadn't said much in this time either. Everyone somehow wanted to be alone with his feelings, wanted to try alone to understand what was happening. But finally Ryan's parents also seemed to get hungry since his father asked his wife whether he should get something to eat or if they'd go down to the small cafeteria in the hall.

The woman seemed to debate with herself but finally she gave in and she asked Selena if it was okay when they'd go down for half an hour and have something to eat.

"Sure it is. No problem at all." The girl guessed that they hadn't had something to eat since yesterday evening with all the things happening that morning.

"It won't take us long," Mr. Jordan said and placed his arm around his wife's shoulders. Both of them looked drawn and worn out - not that this was strange in this situation - but nevertheless it was worrying Selena. The couple had always been strong and full of live - just like their son. The girl only hoped that they wouldn't fall apart completely when Ryan wouldn't be there anymore.

The door closed behind the Jordan's. For the first time Selena was alone with her friend. On the one side she wanted him to wake up that she'd be able to talk to him, on the other she guessed that it would be better for him to sleep.

Selena looked at him closely. He seemed to be a completely other person when he wasn't awake. He was so still, so unlike his normal self. His vibrant personality kind of distracted you from his little details she could spot now so easily. Every mark on his body could tell a tale of its own. There was the small scar on his forehead he had gotten as he had once long ago fallen off his bike, another one just below his brow from a fight with some boys who had insulted Selena badly. The girl smiled. He had always protected her and hadn't mind defending her with his fists.

Unnoticed tears were running down her cheeks. It felt so good, so relieving just to let go and cry. She couldn't remember how long she was sitting there but after the tears had subsided she felt better, her thoughts were clearer again.

Ryan neither woke up in the time his parents were gone eating nor as they had come back. The cancer had drained his body and didn't give him the time he would need to tell everyone everything he wanted to. The only thing he could do was sleeping, anything else was to exhausting.

Outside it slowly got dark, the sun was disappearing behind the distant mountains, coloring them red, orange, yellow and golden. The leaves of the trees were shining bright, the day had been a typical Indian Summer day. Selena remembered how much Ryan had loved living in Montana, surrounded by the Rockies, with the most beautiful sunsets in the world. She guessed that no day in his life had passed without him doing something outside. Just sitting down at the river not half a mile away from his home, spending a weekend camping in the mountains, he just loved everything.

Within some moments it had gone dark. With the mountains covering the whole west the sun wasn't able to send its last rays into the hospital room the dying young man was laying. Suddenly Selena felt a wave of sadness washing over her.

´The sun was taking Ryan's life with it.`

She tried to suppress the thought but that was easier said than done.

Was this the last sunset Ryan would be alive? The doctors had said something about three days but somehow the girl knew that he wouldn't survive the next night. An inner voice seemed to tell her not to leave his side tonight, she might never be able to see him alive later again.

Three hours later Ryan stirred again slightly. Yawning he opened his eyes.

"Why is it so dark in here?" A surprising question.

No one had thought of switching on the light, they preferred sitting in the dark without having to look at each other, without being able to see the signs of Ryan's near death already visible on his face.

"Shall I." Selena wanted to ask.

"No, if you don't want to it's okay with me." The blond haired fell silent again. Then he cleared his throat.

"I know I won't have much time left." A glance at his mother who wanted to say something to talk him out of it.

"I just wanted to tell you how much I love you all before I won't be here anymore. Selena, you've been such a good friend through all the good and bad times. I remember all the fun we had together. We were a pretty good team, weren't we?" Ryan didn't expect an answer since he didn't stop talking.

"Would you do me one favor, my friend?" Selena nodded slightly. She'd do anything he wanted. "Light a candle for me on my birthdays. That's all I ask you to do. Let your life go on but do not forget me - even if my birthday is the only day in the whole year you'll remember me."

The girl squeezed his hand. "You know that I'll never forget you. How could I? You've been my friend, my brother - sometimes I felt like we were twins. Don't be afraid, you'll be remembered as long as I will live." She didn't know from where the strength to say this had come but it had somehow felt easy - maybe this was the first step in accepting that her friend wouldn't be there for all the time, beyond the end of the world as it was called in the ancient myths.

For some moments everyone was silent, then Ryan continued to speak.

"Mom, Dad, you've been the best parents one could imagine. I love you so much and believe me, I don't want to leave. If there had been a chance I would have taken it, but the only option the doctors gave me was either to live on like I did or to go through the horror of chemotherapy and die sooner or later weak as a baby, maybe not even able to think a conscious thought anymore. I hope you understand." His look was pleading, it really seemed to be important to him, otherwise he wouldn't have talked about it twice. Ryan had always been a man who made his point clear but didn't repeat it for three or four times.

"I'm sorry that I can't stay with you forever. I know it must be difficult to see me dying but try to overcome it. That's the only thing I ask from you. Don't get desperate and try to find happiness in your lives. In the past few weeks I realized that there are so many things one can be happy about, things, which are so wonderful if you look at them closely. At first after I had gotten the diagnosis I thought I'd never feel any joy again but it turned out differently: Not only I could be happy, I also could forget my fate for minutes, even whole hours. Try to find this strength! I know that it lies inside you, otherwise I wouldn't have been able to inherit it."

He again paused.

"I love you so much."

Ryan's mother smiled through her tears. "My son, my beloved son, I understand your decision and I'm not angry at you in any way. I'm just terribly sad that you only were allowed to live for 22 years. That's far too short. I guess you've been thinking about that for a long time but we didn't have any time to adjust. We just have to accept it, that makes it so difficult. But don't bother about us, we'll get along if you wish so. It'll be hard but the last thing that came to my mind would be not to respect my only son's last request. I'd take this burden for you if things could be reversed. I love you so much."

Her husband had stood behind her with his left hand on her shoulder, but now he stepped forth, laid his palm on his son's upper arm and lowered himself to face Ryan.

"There'd be so many things to tell you, so many things to talk about, but I only want to say to you that I love you more than anything in the world. No other words from the best poets that ever had lived on this planet could express my feelings more truly. Remember us, my son, in your next life. Wherever you'll be."

Selena also had tears in her eyes. These people tried to show the strength Ryan had asked for but in reality the pain they must feel had to be enormous and tormenting. Loosing their only child. That said everything. It was against every natural law that this happened. Normally children bury their parents and themselves would be buried by their own many years later.



Ryan tried to stay awake and fought the sleep. He had the undetermined feeling that he wouldn't wake again when he had fallen asleep this time. Nevertheless this was a too great effort. Talking for so long had exhausted him and he knew that fight would be useless now.

For a last time he looked at his parents closely. Weary they seemed, no surprise for him, but he'd like it better to remember them as they'd been throughout his entire childhood. Full of life and love, affectionate and fast to forgive.

He turned his head to look at Selena, who was sitting on his right side.

"Hey, my friend, don't be sad." His thumb stroked over her fingers reassuringly. "Remember the fun we had together. Don't let this day consume your memories. All the wonderful days, our laughter, don't let them get shadowed. When you're thinking about me, think about the camping trip to Cloud Peak last summer. What fun we had there, sitting by the fire, talking for hours, telling stories, fishing in the river. I still have it in my mind like if it had been yesterday. These four days were some of the best in my entire life. Think about them and not about this one today."

Selena chuckled. Her friend was right. Those days had been wonderful and full of fun. First they had thought about taking some other guys with them but in the end they had decided to go just for themselves. They had done many different things during the days but the evenings had been the best of all. He had told her some really spooky ghost stories or they'd just talked about the things which had been on their minds. She recalled that he had taken his guitar with him and once they'd even sung some songs together. This, however, had ended in a fit of laughter since Ryan had said something about the old Western on TV and a missing harmonica and they hadn't been able to go on seriously without thinking of the typical cowboy cliché.

She was so lost in thought that she absently began to hum a tune of the songs they'd been singing on this trip, once, when times had been happier and without worry.

Ryan listened for some moments intensely, then his look turned questioningly.

"You want me to sing that song? Right here? Now?" Selena wondered whether she hadn't misinterpreted his look.

"I'd really like you to." After a short minute he added, mischievously grinning: "Please."

"Okay, but just because it's you," she replied. "You know I'm not a good singer."

Selena closed her eyes and began quietly to sing the song they both had always loved listening to. Actually it was a party song, easy to dance to, but only now as she was singing it, it came to her mind that it had a sad meaning behind it.

Windows to the world are what we're looking through.

Who knows, if what we find is true?

Seeing is believing as some people say.

Knowing is to get a better view.

For the windows of the world

Are never open all the way.

And the voices of the past

Are not forgotten ´till you leave it all behind.

You will never see the day

´Cause your life is on the line.

Tasting of the wine of some forbidden fruit.

Reaping the sorrows that we sow.

Reaching to the stars will never bring us home.

Teaching what we really could not know.

For the windows of the world

Are never open all the way.

And the voices of the past

Are not forgotten ´till you leave it all behind.

You will never see the day

´Cause your life is on the line.

Touching we are moving to the things we feel.

Trying to be what we could never be.

Turning if we'd only open up our hearts.

Yearning for the things we cannot see.

For the windows of the world

Are never open all the way.

And the voices of the past

Are not forgotten ´till you leave it all behind.

You will never see the day,

´Cause your life is on the line.



As the last tunes of the song faded away in the still dark room, Selena opened her eyes again and looked at Ryan. The young man had fallen asleep again, the quiet singing had lulled him in. Right now he had a peaceful expression on his face and all the weariness seemed to have fallen off. Yet, he appeared different as he had before: More relaxed but at the same time - she couldn't put it otherwise - somehow further away. Maybe he had after all lost consciousness, a first step to leave this world. She didn't know, but she guessed so. There was no other way to explain this sudden ´distance`. His mother also seemed to feel it since she tightened the grip on his hand. Her grief was written all over her face. She didn't say anything, though. Selena guessed that only her son's request for strength held her upright now - what would happen in the moment Ryan died she didn't even dare thinking.

In the east the moon began to rise. It was some minutes past 9.30 p.m. The night would still last for about eleven hours - what would the world be like then? Would Ryan still be alive or hadn't her feeling failed and he'd be dead by then? ´Would the windows of the world be open for him? Would he hear the voices of the past revealing some long forgotten secrets?`



The hours continued to pass, more slowly now than before as if they knew that something was going to happen this night.

It finally struck midnight. Selena could hardly believe it: Only 24 hours ago Ryan and she had been sitting on a bench together without her knowing anything and believing that everything would go on as it always had, without major changes. And now? Ryan was about to die and she'd be left behind having to deal with the loss of her best friend.

Nothing had happened in the hours since Ryan had last woken. Neither his parents nor she had said anything, they'd just continued sitting next to his bed, holding his hand, trying to give him comfort -whether he felt it or not. He hadn't stirred at all - Selena´s guess about him being unconscious seemed to have turned out right.

Half an hour ago a doctor had come into the room for some minutes and had checked on the young man. He had again explained to them that it had been too late to do anything but furthermore he had been the first to tell them exactly about the kind of cancer Ryan suffered from. It was the rarest one of leukemia - the acute form. There was absolutely no way to cure it and the ill persons didn't show the distinct signs of the other kinds - no overproduction of white blood corpuscles, no attacks of high fever and no spleen tumors at all. But when the cancer had processed as far as it had with Ryan, the end - the death - came fast and often it was a relief for the sick since the weeks before had been painful and exhausting. For a ´normal` doctor it was quite difficult to detect this kind of leukemia since the only signs - weakness, tiredness, headache, occasional rises of body temperature - but only for about one or two days - could easily be mistaken for a completely different illness. In Ryan's case, the doctor had added, the diagnosis had been made quite soon, though, but even if he had revealed his ´secret` sooner, absolutely no one would have been able to help him. Chemotherapy had only kept him from living his last weeks as he'd chosen to do. Often, he had said before he had left, even the doctors suggested not to do the chemotherapy but to try to enjoy the rest of their lives.

Selena had been thinking about that since the man had left them alone again. Somehow it comforted her: Knowing that she couldn't have done anything to prevent his death and that Ryan himself wouldn't have to experience anymore pain - dying is ´relief` as the doctor had put it. Before the guilt had been overwhelming, now it was bearable - not disappeared, though. She guessed that it would never leave her completely - despite all the medical explanations about not being able to help someone who suffered from acute leukemia.

But also she thought about Ryan's last weeks. How painful must they have been when it was the common case that those people experienced their death as a relief? Selena had often heard about the things people in danger of their lives were capable of - things someone wouldn't even consider otherwise. The will to life was great in men.

And Ryan hadn't even said anything, tried to hide everything. Selena didn't know whether she should count that as courageous or fearful. She finally settled on the first since it fit better in her friends normal attitude. On the other side it had been an unusual situation.

Her thoughts were interrupted by Ryan drawing a rough breath, a sudden loud sound in the otherwise quiet room. His hands tensed for a moment, then relaxed again. His breath, however, didn't settle in the normal rhythm from before. It seemed to be more shallow, less deep - a not too good sign, Selena thought. Ryan's parents leaned in closer to their son. The couple exchanged a short glance.

"Shall I get a doctor?" his father asked then.

His wife slowly shook her head. "He won't be able to help our son either. Let Ryan go when he wants to and not when the doctors allow him to. Let him make this final decision."

Selena wondered where from this woman got her strength. After all, Ryan was her only son. Either it was a mother's special love for her children or she had somehow found an inner acceptance the others still were looking for.



In the following half an hour no one spoke anything, everyone listened for Ryan's next breath. ´His way comes to an end,` Selena thought. With each breath the young man seemed to have more difficulty but he was far from fighting. Instead of an obvious struggle he just let it happen that his breathing got more and more shallow. He also looked like he had achieved this inner acceptance of his mother although she had had far less time for it than her son.



It was five minutes past one o'clock in the morning of September 14th when Ryan drew his last breath.

Neither a shudder ran through his body, nor his head fell sideward. His death was quiet, if you hadn't watched him as closely as the three gathered round him did, you could have failed noticing it at all.

The world seemed to have gone silent for a moment, seemed to have stopped breathing either, otherwise not anything happened. It neither went crazy nor stopped rotating. Nothing had changed except the lives of three people loving someone who wasn't anymore.

Silent tears were running down their cheeks, no one wiped them away.



***



"I don't know where you've been going, where you are now. And I don't know why it had to be you but if I listen to my heart it tells me that you are okay."

Three hours. Three hours ago Ryan had taken his last breath. Selena couldn't bring herself to think of him as ´dead`, for her it was as if he had gone away and lived elsewhere now - out of sight but not forgotten.

She was alone with him. Ryan's parents had left one hour ago, they hadn't been able to stand looking at her boy's body anymore. His mother's sobbing was the last thing Selena had heard before they had closed the door behind them.

Selena herself, on the other side, wouldn't be able to bear being separated from him now. Somehow she felt so close and guessed that Ryan wouldn't like being alone. He had always liked having people around him so she wouldn't leave him now when he might need her more than ever. She'd sit there beyond the end of the world if he had asked for that.

In three hours the sun would begin to rise. It would shine upon a completely different world, a world which had changed its face overnight and lost one of its most lovely people. ´The sun won't care,` Selena thought absently, ´it never had. It has been shining since the first day and will continue shining until the world won't be anymore, no matter what happened, no matter who died.`



FINISH



I heard your voice in the wind today

And I turned to see your face;

The warmth of the wind caressed me

As I stood silently in my place.

I felt your touch in the sun today

As its warmth filled the sky;

I closed my eyes for your embrace

And my spirit soared high.

I saw your eyes in the window pane

As I watched the falling rain;

It seemed as each raindrop fell

It quietly said your name.

I held you close in my heart today

It made me feel complete;

You may have died.but you are not gone,

You will always be a part of me.

As long as the sun shines.

The wind blows.

The rain falls.

You will live on inside of me forever

For that is all my heart knows.



[Judy Burnette]