by - April 04, 2011

 Kaylin Hamilton


I sit beside her bed and wince as the bout of coughing shakes through her body. It sounds like they are ripping her apart from the inside. Short chestnut hair obscures her tattered face, and I knew that I should brush it away. I should be able to make that simple motion—show her I love her.

But I can’t. My hands refuse to move except to curl into fists. The hospital smells sterile, like alcohol. It's sort of an empty smell, like my heart. Not that I shouldn’t be in agony. After all, it is my fault that she's here, attached to at least 20 machines in a hospital 3 hours from home. My hands grip the wooden edges of the chair, and I sense, rather than see, the nurse enter to check her oxygen level.

Anna was slipping away, just as my little sister had. The night of the crash, God had taken my little sister Melanie. For once in my life, I don’t blame him, because the blame is entirely mine.

The nurse leaves and I try to talk. But it's too soon. So instead, I think about what I’d say to her if I could.

Please, don’t go.

Somewhere along the line, my thoughts turn to prayer—something I haven’t done in a long time.

Don’t take Anna.

My knees find the floor. I plead— my heart full of words that lips can’t understand.

If you have to take someone, take me.


The wound on my head begins throbbing again, and I can taste the salt in my mouth from the blood.


I look up, unbelieving. She can’t be awake; the doctor said that she wouldn’t wake up. "Jason, pray for me." Her hazel eyes meet mine, pleading. A thick lump rises in my throat.

"Anna," her name is less than a whisper on my lips. "I am."

She only nods, barely moving her head. I take her hand, and feel her consciousness slowly drifting away again. "I love you," she whispers.

Strength doesn't fill me. I don't have an overwhelming urge to stand. But something about this amazing women gives me the power to sit up a little straighter. My hands find hers and I hold on.

My voice cracks, and the prayer that escaps my mouth is by no means beautiful. I stutter and stop for a moment. Hours seemed to slip by and my voice finally grows hoarse.

By two o'clock the words enter back into my heart because no matter how hard I try, I can't speak. Darkness floods into the room, but the prayer never stops. Anna's lips twitch into a smile. Her dreams look peaceful, and I sigh, letting my head rest on the side of the bed, drifting slowly to sleep.


The dark night erupts around me in a flash of light. I throw my hands up and my head snaps back. Then, it's over. I hear little Mel in the back seat crying. For a moment, my eyes refuse to accept what I am seeing. They cloud, blurring the world.

I climb into the back seat, pulling my little sister's head into my lap. Her hand stretches up to mine, and I grasp it tightly. I stroke her hair, and watch as she leaves, returning to a happier place than this.

I awake as the men in white came to take Anna away. They tell me she has to go into surgery for any chance of survival. My eyes are heavy with tears that refuse to come. They wheel her across the room and out the door. I watch as her fingers slip through mine.

"Son," One of the men looks down at me. "It's time you go see a doctor too."

"I'm fine," my voice is flat, and my head pounds. The dried blood there feels matted.

He narrows his eyes. "I'm taking you to my office anyway."

I sigh, then follow him down the hallway.

When we reach his office, he points to a chair.


I sit down, running my fingers through my hair out of habit and wince immediately.

He notices, and comes over, lightly touching the black section of dried blood. My naturally light brown hair is filled with dirt, coloring it black.

The next hour is agonizing. My head stings as he cleans and stitches up the gash just above my ear. But eventually my eyes go blurry with exhaustion, and I'm forced to close them.

Two days later, I wake up.

The shades of gray around me are confusing. I look around, trying to figure out where I am, but things around me remain the same.

I rub my eyes. There's no difference.

"Jason?" My mom's voice comes from the right side of my bed. I see one of the shadows move, but am unable to focus on it.

So instead I listen to her tear strained voice.

"You're awake," she cries. "Oh David, come here. Jason's awake."

My dad's heavy footsteps come from down the hallway. I look through the door of my bedroom where another gray shadow has appeared.

He comes over beside my mother, next to my bed.

"Mom?" My voice is raspy. It hasn't been used in a while. "What happened to me?"

"You've been in and out of sleep for days. And—"

"Jason." My dad interrupted. "Can you see your mother?"

I stretch out my hand, touching where I guess my mom's face is. My fingertips rest on her cheek.

"No dad." My shoulders shake, but no tears escape from my sightless eyes. "I can't."

The doctors were right when they told my parents that I was blind. The combination of the accident, shock, and sleep deprivation has thrown me into an area of gray.

But mostly it was the accident. They’d said something about damaging my brain.

To me, it wasn’t as big a deal as they made it out to be. I may be blind, but Anna was lying comatose in the hospital. Maybe it just hasn't sunk in yet.

The one time I tried to go see her, they wouldn’t let me in. Her parents had specifically asked for my name to be removed from the visitors list. But from what I've heard, they're not pressing charges.

It isn't untill I hear their message on the answering machine that I understand why.

We've heard about Jason, and we're sorry to hear it. However, he has to realize that his actions effect other people, and as of right now, we aren't allowing him to visit Anna. Tell him that we love him, and this isn't permanant. We'll talk soon.

After that, I don’t leave the house. My mom is relieved that I'm finally awake, and my dad seems to be content to wallow in misery. The cause of his misery, of course, is me—again.

Everyone is hurting because of me: Dad, Mom, Anna. Little Mel is the worst of them all.

My little sister is to be put to rest in the little cemetery that we passed every day on our way to school. We had both loved that graveyard—it's beautiful in the fall. But I can't think of Mel without thinking of Anna. My Anna. Sometimes I think that she understands me better than my parents.

From the first day in tenth grade, she's seen straight through me.

"Could I sit here?"

I look up, planning on an awkward conversation about the dangers of sitting next to the local juvinile deliquent, but the girl was already sitting, nose buried in a book.


The silence stretches through most of the lunch period, but I don't think she notices. I find myself watching her hazel eyes flash across the page. How can she even read that fast, anyway?

"You know I can see you watching me, right?"

I glance away and clear my throat. Was I really stupid enough to get caught staring? Wow. Okay, so now my only option was to talk to her and make up for it.

"So...what are you reading?"

She glances up, "Twilight."

I nearly choke, glancing down at the book in her hands. "Seriously?"

She laughs, shaking her head. "No."

"But then, why" I trail off.

She finishes my thought for me. "does the book cover say Twilight?"

I nod and she smiles.

"It's Harry Potter, but I put on the Twilight cover so that...certain people don't bug me, if you know what I mean." She glances over at a table full of guys three tables away. It's only then that I realize that she's pretty. It's not so obvious in her as it is in some girls, but it's there.

Ovbiously my lack of a response has made her uncomfortable, because she's got this funny half-smile on her face.

"Oh," My voice cracks, and I wince. So much for my bad-boy image. "So why'd you come sit by me then, if you're concerned about stuff like that?"

"You're different," she says. "I can tell you've got manners, though you try to hide it under that scowl."

I don't answer,and she goes back to her book.

But that smile stays on her face, like she knows that she's won.

She hasn't smiled in two days.

The surgery had gone as expected. What wasn't expected was her not waking up. She's in a coma now, her body rejecting almost all stimulation.

That was two lives that I've practically taken. My father's grief and my mother’s tears rest heavily on my shoulders. Paying with my eyesight isn't enough. I should have died.

It should have been me.


"But you've always wanted a dog." I hear mom pacing. Ever since the funeral, she'd been obsessively attending to my every need—even the imaginary ones. It bugs me, but I guess it's how she copes. I can't deprive her of that.

But really, this time she's gone too far.

"No, I don't want a dog." I conjure up what I think is a glare and aim it at the tail that is wagging somewhere in the corner. Why she's brought it home, I don't know. It must have cost so much, being a service dog and all. It's ridiculous. I can't do anything but walk him, and technically, he'd be walking me.

"And you could go back to school up at the college, just like before." She's come and sat down next to me on the bed.

"Why?" I try not to snap, but it comes out that way anyway. "What's the point?"

Her voice hardens. "The point is Jason Andrew Green," I feel her glare, "That you stop living in the dark reality that you've created to torture yourself. Go live your life. It's a gift that you've been given, and you're wasting it."

Wrong, I think to myself. Just as Mom spends all her time now caring for me, I spend all my time deep within the guilt laden recesses of my mind. I think of it as coping, dealing with the problem. Definitely not a waste of time.

Dad says it's survivor's guilt. No way. Anna's still alive, so technically we've both survived. Though I do admit that part of my sorrow is for my sister, and that hurt will never go away.

But who is my dad to talk? If anyone has survivor’s guilt, it's him. He spens his time looking at dusty photo albums. Trying to keep himself together by living in the memories of Melanie that are long gone. At least I live in the present—sort of.

My dad walkes past the door, the family photo album under his arm. "We're keeping the dog, Jason." His voice is firm and it says it all—no arguing.

"His name is Dioge," my mom says as she leaves. She sounds dsappointed. She probably thinks that I don't like the dog.

I flop back on the couch, hanging my arm over the edge. There's scuffling in the corner, and after a few minutes, I hear the patter of footsteps on the wooden floor. Something soft and wet licks my hand. The corners of my lips twitch, almost a smile.

"Hey boy." I whisper, rubbing the golden retriever's ears. His tail thumps the ground, and I smile again.


The school hallway is empty, except for the sound of my footsteps. I look around slowly, than continue down the hall—this time backwards. I bounce as I walk, and hold the note I'm delivering to Mr. Walters tightly to my chest.

Don't ask me why I'm this crazy; it's just how I am. Everyone does weird things.

Well—at least I do.

Woof, Woof

Was that a do—? My back hits something solid. I half turn, surprised to find two startling blue eyes next to mine.

"Sorry!" I grin and jump away from him, picking up the book I dropped. "Didn't mean to run into you."

He doesn't respond, but I hardly notice. What I do notice is the golden colored dog sitting at his feet.

"I'm Charlie," I say. Noticing the schedule in his hands, I tilt my head up to see his face.

See, I'm not that short, but this guy is tall. I mean, really tall.

"Are you new here?" I ask.

"Sort of." As he finally speaks, I noticed that there's something weird in the way his eyes focus on a spot on the wall, just above my head.

"Oh." I bounce up and down on the balls of my feet. "Can I help you find your next class?"

"Could you just tell me what it is?" He holds out a schedule. I take it, less confused now that I realize what the dog is for. I can even see the vest wrapped around the dog's torso. Red block letters run along it, spelling SERVICE DOG.

"You have Calc 2 upstairs with Professer Niltow. I can show you if you want." I wince at the poor word choice, but stick to my offer.

"No," he snaps. "I'm fine." Almost as an afterthought he adds, "Thanks."

"No problem." I smile and stop him as he starts walking away. "Sorry, but I didn't catch your name."

He turns back toward my voice. After a moment he replies. "Jason."

I watch him walk up the stairs. His pace is normal, even hurried. When he disappears, I walk away.

The next three periods I catch myself constantly thinking about the blind boy—and his golden dog.


I find a place before my parents know that I'm gone. Don't ask me why, I'm just tired. Tired of Dad's endless trip down memory lane; tired of Mom’s crying. I swear he sits in front of the fire for hours every day, flipping through old scrapbooks from when Mel was little. I wince. It hurts to even think her name.

That’s probably the reason why Mom cries so often. She can’t forget her daughter, and every memory that comes with Melanie in it makes her unhappy. I just can't live with it anymore. So I left them a note, and snuck out just after dinner.

I know that I'm not crazy. I didn't move out after high school because it was cheeper. I was headed to the college twenty minutes away. I had my motorcycle, my degree figured out, and my eyesight.

Life used to be so good.
Being blind means that I have to completely depend on Dioge. In case you hadn't guessed, people don't take you seriously when you're 20, even under normal circumstances.

Finally, after sleeping a few nights on a park bench, I find someone willing to take me in—Jonny, a boy that Anna used to know.

We were sort of friends, back before the crash. For some reason, his roommate just moved out and he has an open room in his apartment, and said that I could stay there as long as I paid half the rent.

I guess I'd better go find a job.

I haven't seen Jason since sophomore year. He and I were never good friends in high school. It was probably something to do with me being the nerd of the school, you know. Apparently he moved out of his parents house after the crash.
I don't blame him. With his little sister gone, it must be hard staying at home.

But what I do blame him for is that accident.

It's never been a secret that Jason's got problems. I told Anna from the beginning that he was a juvinile delinquent; she should've stayed away from him.

But would she listen? No, she took him on as her project. She told me not to bug her, that by the end of it, he would be an upstanding citizen.

She didn't plan on falling in love, that I know for a fact. And where has it gotten her?

He hasn't gone to see Anna in that hospital once. Not like me. It's nearing the one month mark, and she's still in a coma.

They say two months is the generally the point of no return. You really can't have a full recovery after that much time.

She only has four weeks left.


When my parents cal me, they're frantic. It's my dad who finally changes the subject from my departure.

"The doctor wants to see you, son."


“Come with us to his office Jason; he said that he might be able to help you see again. He’s looked at your case extensively.”

“No thanks,” I say curtly. The doctors said before that it wasn’t fixable—end of story.

I hang up.


All that I can do is dream. There's a few voices, but other than's blank. But I've been missing one voice, and as a result, my dreams bring it back to me. But I still miss him.

The list of names seems to float through one ear and out the other, and I notice Mrs. C glaring at us beneath her blue lined glasses, pairing us up with partners for our project.
“Lucy Harris, Naomi Crandle…”

My last name is McCarthy, and she doesn’t read my name until near the end.

“Anna McCarthy and Jason Green.” Somehow she manages to blow a two inch bubble in her gum before continuing with something less than enthusiasm. Not even the teachers have grown up at this high school.

My eyes flicker across the room to study Jason. I gasp slightly when his eyes met mine. But an instant later, his eyes are unfocused again, and he slumps farther down into his enormous sweater.

This dream is unlike any that I've had before. I recognise what is happening; it's a memory of mine. However, this isn't the Jason I remember and more than anything, I want to know what's up.
I don’t look at him again until we meet up with our partners the next hour, after lunch. All through my turkey sandwich, I think about the last time we talked, at the lunch table last week.

“Hey,” he leans up against the table just as the bell rings. 

In my dream, he's avoiding my eyes. There's a service dog sitting at his feet.

“Hi Jason.” I stuff the rest of the sandwich in my mouth. We aren’t supposed to have food in class.

He laughs. “Turkey?”

“Yeah,” I say after swallowing. “Um, if you don’t mind me asking…how did you know?”

My memories are morphing, turning into something that never happened. But for some odd reason, I feel a sense of truth. What is happening to me?

He smiled again. “Dioge’s freaking out. He loves turkey.” Sure enough, the golden retriever sits on the floor excitedly, his tail thumping the floor with a mild wallop.


The silence isn’t uncomfortable, and it gives me a chance opportunity to study his face.

The memory is returning again, and I understand why it changed. This is my memory of Jason and I in high school—how we used to be. In this dream, I'm the same. I haven't changed. But this is the new Jason. He's different—colder.
 If I was being honest, I would say that he reminded me of me. He wouldn’t be described as attractive, necessarily, but there was something in his eyes and smile that radiated trust. I’d be willing to bet he used to have a witty sense of humor.

Not that you saw it often. The two smiles that he’d let cross his face this period were abnormal. He’d smiled more in the last five minutes than I’d seen for the weeks he’d been in school.

My heart pounds through my chest, and the expanse of white around me stretches for a moment. It's true that Jason didn't used to smile often, but when he smiled, it captured the entire world.

“So,” he begins, “Shakespeare—”

“Can we do Henry V?” I blurt. Blushing, I try to explain. “It’s just that the speech that he gives to his men is amazing.”

“What speech?” Jason asks, his thick eyebrows knitting together.

“You don’t know?” I ask, surprised. It's only one of the most popular speeches of all time.

He shakes his head. “Oh, it’s amazing.” I exclaim. “King Henry was leading his people,the English army, against the French, and they were outnumbered at least 10 to 1. He knew that there was no way they would win unless they had the right spirit.” As I explain, my hands came up to talk with me, adding emphasis to my explanation. “So he gave a speech—an incredible speech. He basically says that years from now, people who see the soldiers’ scars will wish that they had been there. That together, they were a band of brothers.

“It really did happen, except we don’t know what was actually said. So Shakespeare gave it words and added meaning to it. Those poor men were all in it together, and it went from being impossible to probable.”

I don’t know if I should admit to it, but my next words seem to slip out of my mouth. “Whenever I hear it actually acted out, I can’t help but cry.”

He pauses for a moment, then speaks. “I think that one will be perfect.”
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day
William Shakespeare, 1599 (Henry V)

There is one thing that I have learned from this dream, and it breaks my heart.

Jason's blind.

And he's hurting.

And though I can't be with him, I hope he feels me. I hope he remembers what it is that he's fighting for.

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