Adrian comes to the barren house of Paisley at dusk, after his body has been drained of any possible tears left to cry.
He wanders through the house, reminiscing his childhood with her.
Where he had sat on the floor and given her a hedgehog to play with.
Where he had asked her to prom.
Where she had written her bucket list.
The bucket list sparks something in his mind, and he walks up the stairs to her room.
The room smells like her; he's not sure what smell it was that made it her own. He chokes back another cry, his face tired of mourning his best friend. The bed is unmade; probably something an organized girl like her would be bothered by.
He sees the list on the wall, from a distance, with the first thirteen struck through with a sharpie.
He approaches it slowly, as if feeling like he's invading her privacy. He wishes she would come into her room and tell him to leave, something she would definitely do if she found him here.
He tries not to think about it. He carefully pulls the thumbtack from the wall and takes the paper from under it, careful not to add any wrinkles that weren't from her own touch to it.
There are only two left uncrossed.
Help someone else achieve a bucket list goal.
He stares at it forlornly for a few minutes, but is tired of feeling sorry for himself and for her.
Her life is over. That's true.
But that doesn't mean these things can't still happen.
He flips open her computer, ready to hack, to find that it's already on. She must have been logging her progress in The Book Thief.
She'll never get to finish it.
He takes a breath and finds her contact list in her email, finding Jayson's email and phone number. He calls him.
Jayson picks up on the second ring. "Jaxson Prince."
"Jaxson? Or Jayson?" he can't help smirking at his greeting.
"Who are you??"
"Autumn's... friend. You're her brother, right?"
"Oh! Uh, yeah. What's up?"
"Did... You knew she had cancer, right?"
He responds quickly. "Yeah... How's she doing?"
Adrian hesitates. One of his worst nightmares was always being the one to tell someone bad news.
And this was BAD news.
"She, uh... she passed last night." Saying it makes it seem final, like he's confirming the fact. She's dead.
She's not going to talk to him again.
Jayson is silent on the other end as well.
When he speaks, he can't choke out more than one word at a time. "I... Wow. No. Just. I..."
Silence overtakes the house once more. What bothers Adrian most about the empty house is the utter silence.
"Well, I called you for a different reason," Adrian says to Jayson, shaking his mind out of his daydream and remembering the purpose of his call. "You said you worked as a genetic scientist for a while?"
"Technically, I was just training to be one. Never actually got to do experiments. Sort of died before I got the chance," he laughs nervously. Adrian copies.
"Well, after this summer, I'm majoring in engineering," Adrian tells him.
"Cool," Jayson approves.
"Well... What I really want to do before I die is cure cancer. The top thing on my bucket list. Ya know?"
He hears the smile through Jayson's next words. "Yes. I most definitely know."
Adrian explains his ambitions in further detail, describing exactly what he wanted to do. Autumn had, apparently, donated her body to science to try to find the cure for her specific type of cancer. It was something getting her closer to the ultimate goal.
Jayson and Adrian work together in a lab of their own, using Autumn's journal (which she had left to Adrian in her will - something discovered in a mound of hospital paperwork) where she wrote in detail her exact symptoms, and Adrian suspects it's for this exact purpose. Maybe, no matter how confident she seemed that she would beat cancer, she was really worried there wasn't really a chance at all. He wishes, again, she had told him everything, but realizes how hypocritical that wish is.
And he can't make it up to her anymore. She'll never understand the whole truth.
They use her blood and put one drop in twenty-five containers. Each one comes back positive for containing cancer cells.
They work together to compare the notes of other cancer researchers, knowing what works and what doesn't after their intensive research, both in college and in their spare time.
Their determination is what fuels them, the ghost of Autumn's memory pushing them along and telling them it's possible.
And as they attempt to mix different chemicals and substances into her blood, to kill the cancer but leave the blood cells intact, they know Autumn is with them.
They work for months, eventually wondering how they'll work when she has no more blood to test. They sincerely hope it doesn't come to that.
Adrian is the one who works the extra hour, after Jayson left for the day. He feels he's so close to an answer that he can taste it.
His hour pays off.
It's the 24th of the 25 samples that catches his attention. He goes through the chemical-rich blood, checking each one for cancer cells.
Sample one has them.
So does Sample two.
And Sample 3.
And Sample 4.
And Sample 5.
He checks every one of them. There has to be one, he thinks. I've tried everything else.
He goes through, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23... and stops on 24.
He tests it for cancer cells.
His heart pounds when there are significantly less. He attempts it in another one, which comes back with almost zero cells within a matter of minutes.
A grin spreads across his face, and, since he's alone, he stares at the sky. He puts his hand to his lips, then holds it up above his head.
He calls Jayson, and even though it's two in the morning, he picks up almost right away.
"I did it,"
She didn't beat cancer.
But, at the same time, she did.
If it weren't for her journal, her influence, her inspiration to Jayson and Adrian both, her generous donation to science, there would be no cure at all.
She didn't beat cancer.
But, in the end, she was the one who beat cancer.
YOU ARE READING
15 ThingsTeen Fiction
At age 15, Autumn Paisley is diagnosed with lymphoma and told she only has a year left. She creates a bucket list of fifteen different things she wants to do before she dies. 1. Read 1,000 books 2. Own a pet hedgehog 3. Buy a stranger a cookie 4. T...