I knew I’d regret stepping outside into the snow storm as soon as the large hospital doors opened. The wind howls a terrible and horrifying song as it whips small snow hurricanes around the parking lot laid out before me. A sad excuse of a path is made, leading out to the lot and to the road beyond it. I already know that I’ll be forced to walk on the road because none of the sidewalks will be plowed yet.
Time is slowly continuing on and it’ll soon be 10 at night. A time when children my age should be in bed, snuggled up warm and dreaming of sweets and happy places. Not a time where a child of seven should be leaving the hospital alone and walking to a friends house in the dark.
I sniffle and hastily wipe at the tears that stain my cheeks and seem to continue on forever no matter how many have already fallen. If they continue, I know they’ll freeze and become painful.
My eyes dart around as I take my first step outside into the blizzardy hell laid out before me. I’m still in the light that’s streaming out from the open hospital doors. It only seems to make the outside world that much scarier.
I want nothing more than to go back inside and snuggle up beside momma and pappa where it’s warm and safe, but I know that I can’t. I tighten my gloved hands into fists as I remember what pappa said to me before I left the room.
“You’ve become such a brave and strong girl Belle.”
“I’m strong and I’m brave. I can handle this.” My voice doesn’t hold near the amount of confidence I wish it had, but I start walking nonetheless.
“Belle?! What’re you doing here this late?” I’m not sure what it is that seems to completely break me, but, as soon as I see Bradley’s face and the concerned look in his beautiful blue eyes my tears overflow and I’m no longer able to stand.
I fall to my knees right there on his humongous front porch like the child I am and start bawling. For a moment, Bradley is completely shocked into silence. It’s not until I reach out Blindly for him that he regains his senses.
“Belle, what’s wrong? What happened? How did you get here?” I sniffle and cough as I try to regain some semblance of control of myself.
“I-I walked.” I manage to stutter out. Bradley’s eyes pracitically pop out of his head at that.
“You walked?! From your house? In this weather? It’s the middle of winter Belle! Have you lost your mind?! You’ll get pneumonia! Hurry and get inside.” Bradley helps me to stand and hurries me inside as I say,
“N-n-not my house. I wal-walked fr-from the h-h-hospital.” My teeth chatter together stronger than before and I know that can’t be a good sign.
“That’s even further. What were you doing at the hospital and why couldn’t anyone give you a ride? I know for a fact that your dad would never have let you walk all the way here by yourself.”
“Pappa does-doesn’t know. I t-told him that-that y-your par-parents picked me u-up.” Bradley looks at me confused as he asks,
“You lied to your dad?” My thoughts drift back to the hospital where my momma and pappa are. It only servers to bring on more tears. Bradley notices this as well. “Okay, okay, don’t cry. It’s going to be alright Belle.” I stop walking and look up at Bradley.
I’m shivering a ridiculous amount now and I can see the worry and concern growing in his eyes.
“Y-you promise Brad? It’s all going to be okay?” Bradley holds my eyes for a long time before moving to stand parallel to me. He rests both his hands on my shoulders and gently squeezes to reassure me.
“Until the last petal falls.” I nearly break down again as I say,
“My momma has cancer.”
The bright light from the computer screen lights the living room like a becan in the night making me paranoid that my father will find out I’m still awake. My eyes flicker to the time in the bottom right corner.
Ten minutes passed twelve midnight. It’s a school night and I have to be up and ready to go in six hours. I should be sleeping right now. My eyes move an inch over to the left where todays date resides.
November seventh. My birthday. I’m offically sixteen and able to start working part-time outside of school which is exactly what I’ve been counting down to ever since I was seven.
“Come on.” I whisper, my annoyance and paranoia growing. The screen is completely white and the mouse has turned into a weird circle thing that tells me the page is loading. I look towards the open doorway that leads into the hall. My pappa sleeps on the ground floor which makes this even more worse. If pappa finds me now, I know he’ll be upset with me for being up this late. Even more so when he finds out why I’m awake at this hour. I start chewing on my thumb nail as my eyes start moving between the screen and the doorway. “Load already.” I muttered as sweat forms on my brow.
Thankfully, the screen loads and I immediatey start creating an account on the job website the school guidence counselor, Mrs. Laurance, told me about. She’s known that I’ve been interested in finding part-time work ever since I started as a freshman at the local high school.
It doesn’t take long to fill everything in considering I’ve never had an honest job before. I help pappa around the garage when I can and I used to help my momma with her paintings before she was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer. Sometimes, I’ll babysit my friends younger brother, but I enjoy that, so I’m not sure it can be labeled as work.
Just as I hit the ‘save changes’ button I hear a creak and a door opening. My breath catches in my throat and I quickly work to shut down the computer. All light goes out leaving me in darkness and I listen as my pappa leaves his room and walks towards the kitchen. I catch his shadowy figure moving past the dining room and hold my breath in fear that he’ll hear me.
A cabinet door opens and a second later the sink turns on. It feels like an eternity before the sink turns back off and he makes the slow journey back to his room. I only start breathing again when I hear his door softly close behind him.
“That,” I start as I look at the doorway. “Was too close.” I look back towards the dark computer screen and boot it back up, praying that everything saved before it was shut down. Luck is on my side because everything is still there. “Thank the stars.” I get back to work on the website and start moving through the list of jobs that are hiring.
“Morning pappa.” I said as I walk into the kitchen. Pappa turns around from his place at the stove and greets me with the smile I’ve grown up with.
“Happy birthday Belle.” I smile brightly until a yawn breaks it. My pappa’s own smile falters at that. “Did you get enough sleep last night?” He asked and my eyes inadvertantly flicker to the dining room where the computer sits before meeting his once more.
“I was a little excited last night.” I said, doing my best not to lie to him without actually giving the whole truth. Pappa looks at me uncertaintly, but lets any further questioning go.
“I made your favorite this morning.” He turns back to the stove and I move to pull plates from the cabinets and silverware from the drawer to set up the table.
“Blueberry pancakes?” I asked, my excitement growing. The smile I catch curling his lips answers my question. As soon as I take a seat at the table he places two perfectly cooked hotcakes on my plate.
“I know it’s not a lot-”
“It’s perfect.” I said, cutting him off because, it’s the truth. It may not be a lot, but it doesn’t have to be. I look at pappa and give him the best smile I have. “It truly is, I promise.” He seems to relax at that and it brings out the dark circles under his eyes and the deep stress lines that have taken up perminent residence on his face. His greying brown hair seems to have lost more of it’s color and his complexion looks worse than a few days ago.
“I’m glad.” He said, drawing me from myself and back to the now. I blink once, before looking down at my plate of pancakes. Pappa takes a seat across from me and places a single pancake on his own. I know he won’t eat more than that until he knows I’m full.
“We’re going to visit momma today at the hospital, right?” The relaxed expression disappears from his face and my worry spikes. “Is she alright?” My voice becomes elevated with fear and pappa notices this.
“She’s alright, Annabella. She’s fine, but she has a treatment today, so I’m not sure it’s best to go and visit. How about tomorrow?” I calm down only slightly at that before my dissapointment takes over. I quickly cover it up with a smle and a nod.
“That’ll be great, pappa. I can’t wait to see her.” He smiles at that. Before we can say anything else to one another a car horn honks and I know who it is.
“Bradley’s here awful early.” Pappa said as I stand from the table. I smile brightly, no longer feeling upset or worried.
“He told me a few days ago he has a surprise for me.” Pappa raises an eyebrow at that. He knows that I hate surprises and overly large presents that aren’t practicle. “I told him nothing large or overdone. He knows me by now, pappa.” Pappa snorts and takes a sip of his water.
“I’d hope so. You two have been friends since you were both kids.” I grab a plastic container from the over head cabinets and quickly transfer my pancakes to it. Pappa hands me the syrup and I hasitly cover the pancakes with it.
“I’ll be home after school, pappa.” I said and place a single kiss on his cheek.
“Be careful.” He calls as I walk out the doorway. I stop and look back at him.
“Always.” I smile before hurrying to the front door, grabbing my bag and sneakers on the way. I practically hop to get each shoe on before throwing open the door and crashing headfirst into my best friend.
“Whoa there speed runner.” Bradley laughs as he places steadying hands on my shoulders. I look up at him and smile.
“Sorry about that. I’m just excited.” He lifts an eyebrow at that and his smile only grows.
“You are, are you? I’m assuming it’s not because you’re just that eager to see my devishly handsome face on this fine morning?” I laugh at that and move around Bradley.
It’s chilly out this morning and I regret not checking the weather before hand. In only a light coat the wind easily sneaks it’s way under my thin layers. I shiver as I walk towards Bradley’s car.
“Oh Brad,” I start. “When will you learn that you’re just not that pretty.”
“Hey, I said handsome, not pretty.” He falls into step beside me and I roll my eyes.
“Oh, I’m sorry, let me reword that. When will you learn that you’re just not that handsome?” Bradley playfully slaps his hand over his heart like I’ve just struck him with a spear.
“You wound me Belle. You truly do.” He quickly recovers from this so called wound and smiles like a cheshire. “Maybe I won’t give you your surprise after all.”
“Aw, come on Brad. You can’t do that!” I said, sounding like a two year old who isn’t getting her way. It only seems to amuse Bradley. He flicks some of his light auburn blond hair out of his face. It’s gotten longer again and he needs to get it trimmed, but he refuses to go until I go with.
“You should really get over this irrational fear of hair stylists, you realize this, right?” I asked as I absentmindely reach up and brush his hair aside. My fingers skim against his cool skin in the process. Bradley doesn’t say anything and I meet his stunning blue eyes which I now have a good view of. When he continues to remain silent I raise an eyebrow in curiosity.
“Hello? Brad? Bradley? Anyone home in there?” I asked, waving my hand in front of his face. I’m caught off guard when he grabs it and slightly squeezes. There’s a strange look in his eyes, like he’s fighting a war. It’s gone before I can question it and his smile returns.
“I’ll get over my irrational fear when you get over yours.” I roll my eyes at this and remove my hand from his.
“Never gonna happen because my fear isn’t irrational. It’s something that happens to millions of people everyday.” My eyes go back to the small and rundown building I call home. Shingles from the roof are gone and missing. The gutters are falling apart. Paint is chipping from the side of the house. Our drive way is cracked and terrible.
“You’re not going to lose your house, Belle.” Bradley said as he steps into my line of view, forcing me to focus solely on him. I sigh and shake my head as I cross my arms over my chest.
“You don’t know that for a fact Brad. You can’t know that.” Bradley places both of his hands on my shoulders and gently squeezes them in the reassuring way that I’ve come to know over the past years we’ve been together.
“I promise you, Belle, that everything will be fine. Your family will be fine and so will you.” I look into Bradley’s beautiful blue eyes. The eyes that I’ve grown up looking into. The eyes that I’ve often sought out for reassurance in times of fear and saddness.
“Really?” I asked, my voice hopeful and pathetic at the same time. I know that Bradley can’t really make sure that everything will remain safe and fine, but it’s nice to believe in it every once in a while.
“Until the last petal drops.” He said and, as if with magic, he produces a single red rose from behind his back and my breath catches. I shouldn’t be surprsied, he always gives me a rose on my birthday. I gently take it from him, doing my best to stop the floodgate of tears that I know will fall if I’m not careful.
“It’s beautiful.” Bradley gives me a smile that I know is meant for no one else, before moving around me and opening the passenger door of his car.
“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. You’re carriage awaits your highness.” I laugh and qucikly swipe at my eyes before climbing into the car. Bradley closes the door behind me and I find my eyes moving away from the rose in my hands and back to my home.
Bradley promised me that everything would be okay. That my family would be okay. That we wouldn’t lose everything. He doesn’t know how bad it truly is, though. He only knows what I’ve told him.
This morning had been perfect. That wasn’t a lie, but it would have been even better had there not been a large stack of impending bills on the table with pappa and I when we sat down to eat.