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   Chapter 15 Start Your Engines

Cuddle Application By Anna Rae Characters: 17198

Updated: 2018-01-10 14:36

"In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace" ~Ephesians 1:7


I hate the smell of hospitals. Bleach, blood, and bodies. Tall and looming, the buildings reek of cleaning products that scrub away the dirt and grime, but do nothing to wash away the stains of the memories you make during your stay.

Molly didn't mind. She was happy wherever she went, always lighting up the room with a smile, even in her worst condition.

There's not much to do in a hospital - except to cry, which gets old after a few hours. When Molly was in for her brain tumor, the initial surgery took fourteen hours. The time it took her small brain to recover was going to be, they said, nearly her entire childhood. She stayed in the hospital for three months.

The tumor was the size of my thumb nail, and was mostly referred to as "Gary." Apparently giving a name to something makes it less scary, though I've never found this to be true.

It was located in the left hemisphere of Molly's brain, towards the center. It hovered between Wernicke's Area and her temporal lobe.

"The procedure is guaranteed to negatively affect her speech and hearing, " the main oncologist told us after the first scans were printed. "It's in a tough spot."

I looked it up, because if the doctor is about to sauté your little sister's brain, you at least want to know where he's doing it. According to Google, Wernicke's Area involves the understanding of speech. After the surgery, after they nicked her brain in two important places, Molly couldn't comprehend the words we spoke to her.

"How are you feeling?" My mother asked the moment Molly's small eyes fluttered open after the long surgery.

Molly blinked and furrowed her brows, looking nervously at the doctor. My mom asked again and whimper escaped my wide-eyed little sister. The doctor cleared his throat.

"Mr. and Mrs. Lane, I regret to inform you that Molly cannot, at this time, understand speech, " he announced in monotone, as if he was talking about the weather.

My mom, who'd been holding my hand, pulled away, face collapsing, and rushed out of the room. You could hear her shoes clack against the linoleum as she fled down the hallway. My father, who stood in the corner, gave me a long look. You could watch the wrinkles forming on his face.

Molly couldn't understand the words I spoke to her. She couldn't hear out of her left ear. She could speak, but barely.

I'd say "I love you, " and she would cock her head in confusion. I'd tell a story, and all the while her brain fought to understand the words. Letters were pulled from our mouths and pushed into her little ears, without much success of getting through to her.

The stress of being at the hospital for three months pushed my parents apart. The stress of those three months pushed me under.

You think you know how to swim until the undertow grabs you in it's wake, dragging your body under.

You think you can weather the storm until the tsunami hits, gigantic waves plummeting down on you from above.

I tried to visit her, I really did. I went every day the first week. I'd show up crying and leave in the same condition. "She's going to be okay, " the doctors working with Molly would say. But talking to Molly was like talking to someone who didn't speak your language. My little sister was gone.

As the weeks went on, I visited her less and less. The last month she spent in the hospital, I didn't show up a single time.

My parents took her home and she refused to even look at me.

Molly's hearing came back, and so did her ability to understand words. The brain is malleable at a young age like that, the doctors told us. After three months in the hospital, and another three at home, her brain had fully healed itself.

And she was young, only three years old. She grew up and eventually loved me again, having forgotten most of her stay at the hospital, including my betrayal of never visiting. She asked for me to tell her stories, and I did. I told endless tales of dragons and princesses, using stories as my currency to buy back my little sister's love.

She forgave me, in time. The tumor was gone and our family slowly stitched itself back together. I never really forgave myself, though. Looking in the mirror, there's a bitter taste in my mouth. Who I see is trying her hardest to be good, but she is failing.

She pushed away her parents, ignored her sister at the worst point in her young life, and allowed herself to be pushed around by the only boy she thought she deserved. She drank, partied, and let herself be beaten by monsters disguised as Prince Charming.

Sometimes there's a hole in your chest that needs to be filled, and in trying to fix it, you make it deeper.

Sometimes it's hard to let other people love you when you know you don't deserve it.


Oliver, it turns out, is a bit of a tentative teacher. He started out his motorcycle driving lesson with the words, "If you crash my baby, I don't care how cute you are, I'm throwing you in the nearest ditch."

But I was determined. Ever since we'd

his hoodie.

"I'm so, " I start, interrupted when my body is wracked with a sob. I cry for a moment, then breathe deep. "Sad."

"I know, " he just murmurs. "I know."

He holds me for who knows how long. The sun slides all the way down in the sky, changing the hues of the earth with every shift in positioning. Darkness completely settles in, disturbed only by the headlights of Jame's car, parked behind mine.

"How did you find me?" I manage to ask.

James pulls away slowly, examining my face. "Oliver texted me." He waits for me to react but I don't. I focus on breathing steadily. "He said you looked upset when you left, and when you didn't show up at home, I asked him if he knew where you were. He gave me the road he'd last seen you on and I drove for a while to find you."

I exhale. "Thank you."

James grabs my left hand and wraps it between his. He's quiet for a while before he tentatively says, "Sky, you know it's not your fault what happened to Molly... right?"

My heart speeds up but I force myself to stay frozen.

"She had a brain tumor. They removed it. She's okay now, " he says.

I smile sadly.

"It was a hard year, " James continues softly. "Mom and dad aren't the same, I'm not the same, and you're not the same. Events like that change people, Sky, and it's okay."

My face breaks. The tears I was trying so hard to hold in fall down my face in rapid succession. A sob escapes my chest and it feels like everything inside me is shattered. "I didn't even visit, James, " I cry. "I didn't even visit."

He lets me collapse into his arms and cry into his shoulder. Rubbing my back, he whispers, "Skylar, you have to forgive yourself for that." I cry harder into his shirt.

I'm a horrible person I'm a horrible person I'm a horrible person I'm a horrible personI'm a horrible person I'm a horrible

"Skylar, " James says through the negative thoughts rushing my brain. "Molly loves you. And everyone knows you'd die for her." His strong arms wrap tighter around me. "No one blames you. No one thinks less of you for how you dealt with Molly's cancer."

I blame myself, I think. I think less of me.

"You're never going to get past this if you don't learn to love yourself, " James whispers in my ear. "I love you. Cora and Lina love you. Park loves you. Mom, dad, and Molly love you. Why don't you?"

I blink, because I don't even know anymore. I used to think that I spent so much time with a monster that I started to become one, but that wasn't true.

I spent so much time building armor to defend myself from a monster, that I shielded myself from the love I actually deserved.

"Start loving yourself, Skylar, " my brother says. "Because most people already do."

I manage to stop crying. When my breathing becomes normal, James checks that I'm able to drive. I start my car up again and make the journey home, my brother following close behind to ensure my safety.

I don't deserve this, is the thought that immediately comes to mind. But I shield it away and come up with a new sentence:

I deserve this, and more. I deserve happiness. I deserve love.

And I deserved the smile on my baby sister's face when I went home, ran to her, and scooped her up in my arms.

Everyone is deserving of the best things life has to offer. No one is defined by their past mistakes.

We deserve love, happiness, and the freedom to feel.

Everyone deserves the world.

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