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Pen Your Pride

Prologue

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At 2:01 on a cold Friday morning, her world shifted off its axis.

It started with something along the lines of – "Emma, there's been an accident. It's Dylan, he's – " And she didn't hear anything more after that. Because right at that moment, it felt like some invisible force had kicked her right in the gut, dragging out all the oxygen from her lungs and leaving her completely empty.

Sometime later, she didn't know how, but she would pick her phone up from the floor and slide the dislodged cover back into its original place with a click. A new text from Dylan's sister, Morgan, would flash across the screen with the details of the hospital's location and room number. And she would make that long drive down, with shaky fingers clasped around the steering wheel and the car's headlights illuminating the dark road ahead.

Everything she did after learning about Dylan's accident was a convoluted blur that she couldn't quite make sense of, until she was running down the lit hallway towards Room 302, her cheeks flushed and honey blond hair in a frizzy mess. Clutching her bag tightly to her chest, she pushed the doors open, pausing briefly as the people in the room turned to look at her.

"How is – "

But the words froze in her throat when someone shifted aside, and she managed to get a clear view of the man lying on the bed. To say he looked broken was an understatement. Tubes and bandages lay interconnected around various parts of his body like an intricate, painful puzzle, and his bruised face was so pale that he seemed almost lifeless.

"Dylan," his name left her lips in a breath lighter than a feather, but the gravity of the situation was crushing and she was rushing over to his bedside in a matter of seconds. Her fingers reached out almost desperately for him, to feel the warmth of his skin on hers, to feel for a pulse, anything, really – but she stopped herself just in time, snatching her hands back and bracing them on the edge of the bed.

"He's out of danger now," Morgan was the only one who spoke, the expression on her face calm as she leaned back against the chair in an almost languid manner. "A bad concussion, couple of fractures here and there, a broken wrist and two ribs. We're just waiting for him to actually wake up."

"How long has he been – "?

"Just over two hours now."

Emma fell silent as she looked at him. It almost felt like he would slip from her fingers again if she so much as took her eyes off him, and she was terrified to, even for a second. Unable to stop herself, she reached forward with one hand, fingers sliding up the plane of his cheek and delicately brushing her thumb against his freckled skin.

Wake up, she thought, swallowing a rising sob in her throat and remembering how he'd once joked about them knowing each other so well that they were practically telepathic. Please wake up.

Nothing.

Dragging in a deep breath, she pulled her fingers away from his face and numbly settled down on the plastic chair that Dylan's father pulled over for her. The room was filled with the slow but steady beeping of Dylan's pulse transmitted to the ECG monitor, interspersed with a devastated silence that she knew she wouldn't ever get used to.

"He'll be fine, Mom," Morgan said, after awhile, to the woman sobbing silently as she sat on the other side of Dylan's bed. "You know he will. He always pulls through."

"I know," Dylan's mother returned quietly, pressing the back of her hand against her tear-stained cheek. She slowly climbed to her feet, smiling faintly as her eyes locked with Emma's. "I'm going to get coffee. Do you want anything?"

"No, it's fine," Emma shook her head. "Thank you."

Dylan's father stood up. "I'll go with you," he headed out of the room after his wife, letting the door swing shut after them.

Emma silently laced her fingers through Dylan's motionless ones. His other wrist was in a cast, and she shuddered to think of the pain he'd feel once he regained his consciousness. "How did the accident happen?" She asked quietly, directing her question to Morgan although she kept her eyes on him.

Morgan let out a heavy sigh and looked up from the book she was reading. "Some jackass was speeding and slammed right into his car. When the paramedics found him, the car was flipped and they had to extract him from the wreckage. At least, that's what the doctors said when we asked."

Emma tried to picture it, everything that Morgan had just described for her – Dylan's bloodied, fractured body amidst the shards of smashed metal. She felt her chest constrict painfully at the thought of it, and blinked away the tears that sprung to her eyes.

"I'm going to give you two lovebirds a moment," Morgan said, getting up from her chair and shooting Emma a quick, impish grin. "Just don't – you know, jump his bones while I'm gone because I don't think he's in a good shape for anything physical right now."

Through the blur of tears, Emma found herself smiling at Morgan's words. But the smile faded as soon as the door clicked shut, and it was just she and Dylan, just the two of them, the way it had always been.

Gently, she lifted his hand and pressed her lips to his knuckles. "I love you," she whispered, her breath warm on his skin and her eyes fixed on his face, "so very much."

***

Love is kind of a complicated thing, but that doesn't make it any less beautiful. And Nicholas Sparks, one of the most acclaimed authors of our time, encapsulates that perfectly in The Choice. It's an inspirational story about a love that transcends boundaries and overcomes even the worst obstacles life has to offer, and it's definitely a must-watch when it hits the big screen on the 5th of February 2016.

I was commissioned by Lionsgate Films to write a short story to celebrate the upcoming theatrical release of the aforementioned film. My story is called Forget Me Not, and it's a short piece about the trials and tribulations of love when life unexpectedly throws you a curveball and, as difficult as it may be, we still see it through, and we still continue to love.

After all, for many of us, love is the best thing we do.

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