69: Adrian's Change

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She picks up her phone and is about to call him but it vibrates in her hand before she can press the first number, making her flinch.

She nearly drops it when she sees it's from Adrian.

New Message! From: Adrian Strickland
Message: hey where have u been? u havent been at school in a week

She sighs an enormous sigh of relief, texting him back as fast as her thumbs humanly can.

Reply: im okay. my condition got worse.

She tells him which hospital she's in case by some miracle he wants to visit her.

Against all the odds she's tried to calculate in her mind, he shows up at two, half an hour before school technically lets out.

She almost 'aww's like it's cute that he would skip last period to see her. But she doesn't have the energy.

He wordlessly enters and sits on the edge of her hospital bed. "Hey,"

She coughs in reply.

"Can I ask you a question?"

She nods.

"Why... er, what... what kind of friend are you?"

She looks at him, and for the first time sees the lines of frustration around his eyebrows that she somehow failed to notice before.

"What? I... don't understand the question?" she looks at him curiously.

What was he so angry about? She'd never seen him like this, in all the years that she'd known him. He was one of those people that never seemed to be upset, and when he was, it was something extremely serious and wrong. She's afraid to ask, and doesn't feel like asking just yet. She needs as little stress as possible, especially right now.

What had she done wrong? She had asked him before if it was about... that, and he laughed at her. She had been told whatever was bothering him was 'quite the opposite' of a kiss. She couldn't remember if he had mentioned if it had anything to do with her or not. She wishes she knew, but wishing does no justice for curiosity. She can't understand what it was she did.

"Look. Just look at all I did for you. I wasted my last summer break in high school to ride around and see things I've never really cared about, and how many times did you thank me? ONCE. Right before you got into the car a year ago. I support your dreams, but you just vaguely say 'cool' when I'm proud of something I've done. Why didn't you even ask what was on MY bucket list? Why is it I can't do any of it?!" At this point he's almost yelling, and he looks away from her emaciated figure and stares at a speck on the wall to his right. "Why?" he says, so quietly she might not have heard it if she wasn't waiting for him to say something else.

"Last summer break?" she voices her first question. "What about this year?"

He looks at her incredulously. "Next year I'm off to college. It won't be a relaxing summer that I can spend sitting on the couch reading all day. No. It's going to be all stress, all preparation, all parents-never-satisfied."

"I... I never asked you to-"

"But isn't that what you expected me to do??"

He stares at her unblinkingly, waiting impatiently for a response. She isn't sure what to say. It's not true of course, but would he ever take "You're wrong" for an answer?

"That's... not what I expected you to do. I was surprised... I just... it was how I told you I had cancer. That's all. I didn't expect you to do anything else on that list for me."

He's silent for a moment, considering her answer.

"You're my best friend, Autumn. I want you to live the life you want to probably as much as you do. And knowing-" His voice cracks, scaring Autumn. She's never seen him cry. "Knowing that you might not get to do everything you can to be happy made me so sad. So sad."

There is silence again.

Autumn uses some of her strength to ask Adrian something that's been itching at her mind. "What... is on your bucket list?"

For the first time since he got here, he looks her in the eye. "Impossible things. Such impossible things."

She can tell by the way he says it that he's not going to get more specific than that.

She has a week left of life, if that, and her best and only friend was mad at her for his own actions, and her soul was full of regrets.

She isn't ready to die.

She isn't ready.

She isn't ready.

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