I was frozen. I couldn’t have heard right.
“What?” I repeated, but Oliver’s face went from shocked to happy as his eyes glanced down at my stomach. “Oliver, that was a really bad joke wasn’t it?”
Oliver reached to touch my stomach, but I slapped his hands away. His smile didn’t fade.
“I can’t believe this.” Oliver said shaking his head. “But how I thought we’d-”
“That doesn’t matter. Is it true? Are you really-”
“How far along are you?” He asked, his attention back on my stomach. I pushed his hands away again harshly.
“This is…I am the father right?” Oliver asked with that stupid smile.
“OLIVER!” I shouted, and this time he finally seemed to get it. “Tell me it isn’t true already!”
“That you’re terminal for Pete’s sake!” I shouted, feeling my chest tighten as I said the words.
Oliver looked away. “Okay fine it isn’t.”
“You f*cking liar.”
“God Erin! What do you want me to say? I told you already.” He said, looking tired. “There’s no need to talk about it.”
“No need to- yes there is! This is serious Oliver! You’re telling me you’re going to die!”
“I now it’s serious Erin!” Oliver sighed loudly, looking more and more like he was regretting telling me. “I’ve known how serious this is for months now! But be it serious or not, it doesn’t mean we have to talk about it. I don’t want to talk about it.”
I clenched my teeth. “Oliver, you couldn’t have expected me not to want to talk about it.”
“Yeah, sorry I shouldn’t have told you.”
“No that’s not – look. There has to be some sort of cure right?” I said before I got angry to the point I shoved him into the pond.
“No that’s why it’s called a terminal disease.” He said rolling his eyes.
“Did you try everything? There has to be some sort of way and if not maybe-”
“Stop it.” Oliver said with a pained voice. It was enough to shut me up.
A sad silence weighed over us. Oliver’s eyes glanced at my stomach and he opened his mouth to speak, but I cut him off.
“How long do you have?”
He clenched his jaw. “At the beginning of the year they told me I had a year at most. You do the math.” He forced himself to say.
My eyes widened in shock.
“You’ve known that long!?” I exclaimed. Even before we became friends, before we became an item…he knew? How did he manage not to tell us? To tell me?
“Don’t you dare get mad at me for not telling you!” Oliver snapped. I stepped back in shock, not used to seeing Oliver so angry. The entirety of this conversation was showing me a whole other side of Oliver.
“It was my secret to tell, and I came close to not to telling you at all! So now you know and we can move on to other conversations and forget this one ever happened.” At the end of his little speech, he suddenly coughed a few times and held his fist against his chest. The painful reality dawned on me.
If at the start of the year he was told he had one year left…that means he barely has a few weeks left.
But he exaggerated. There has to be a cure. There has to be. ‘terminal’ can’t really mean…terminal.
Oliver is too bright! He’s too wonderful. He’s always like a bouncing ball of happy energy. Someone like him isn’t allowed to die.
“You’re actually going to die.” I muttered, fighting back the tears. No. No it can’t be true.
“Erin please don’t.” Oliver pleaded. “Please don’t cry.”
“You just told me you’re going to die. Soon at that!” I snapped feeling my lips starting to tremble.
“Erin I didn’t tell you so you would be sad-”
“How could I not be!?” I shouted, getting angry again.
“I told you as a heads up. A warning. Because the only other people who know are my parents.” Oliver said.
I looked away trying desperately not to cry.
I lunged forwards and hugged him, hiding my face in his shoulder.
“You can’t do that. You can’t just…there’s a cure. I’m sure.” I mumbled, holding him tightly.
Oliver wasn’t very happy with me the next day when I blackmailed him into telling the others. There was no way we were keeping this between us. And either way, the more minds working on this the closer we could get to a cure.
It had taken a whole lot of pushing before Oliver finally agreed to tell the other four about his situation. He forced us all to sit down with a clear “No one says a word until I’m done.”
Just the fact that he was looking pretty pissed was enough to stop the others from talking.
Oliver told them everything he’d told me, and even more.
A week after school started, his parents brought him to the clinic for a checkup after he coughed up a little bit of blood. A few weeks later they learned he had a life-threatening pulmonary disease. Blood clots were lodged in his lung arteries. The doctor prescribed some drugs and pills and told Oliver’s parents that he would need surgery to remove one of the larger clots. He estimated Oliver didn’t have much more than a year if left untreated.
For two months Oliver’s parents evaluated their financial situation and did as much research as they could on the disease. They managed to scrounge up the money needed for the surgery, and during the winter holidays the doctor attempted to remove the clot.
And for all intents and purposes the surgery was successful.
But unexpectedly, another one formed within the next month as large, if not larger, than the last one. Surgery wasn’t an option for Oliver’s parents anymore, and either way, the doctor was reticent about doing another surgery on Oliver.
Their next move was to wait and see if the blood clot would clear out on its own. So they waited and kept an eye on it. The doctor suggested they hospitalized Oliver, but his parents concluded he wouldn’t be much better off in a hospital bed so they let him choose.
“And no before you ask, I don’t know exactly how much time I have left. The doctor said unless it clears up on its own I’ll probably lead to heart failure. It could be right now, could be in a few weeks, I don’t know so don’t ask. And no I don’t want pity, I don’t want all that stupid stuff. If you want to do something for me, all you have to do is what my parents eventually did. Act like nothing happened.” Oliver finished almost daring us to do the opposite with his glare.
Everyone kept silent, and I squeezed my hands painfully. All I wanted to do was run up and hug him now.
Edmund was the one to get up, with a neutral look on his face.
“No. Sit back down.” Oliver ordered through gritted teeth, but Edmund ignored him.
Edmund walked over and hugged his childhood friend tightly, ignoring his protests.
“Edmund stop it.” Oliver ordered.
But Edmund just kept hugging him as I sprung to my feet.
I headed over and hugged Oliver from behind.
“Not you too. Come on guys, that’s enough.”
But then Xavier was next to join the hug, and it wasn’t long before Teo and Xenia got up from the couch as well.
We huddled in a group, holding Oliver hostage in the middle. It’s only once we were all hugging him that Oliver finally stopped struggling.
“I told you guys I didn’t want any-”
“You didn’t say anything about hugs.” I snapped, hugging tighter.
“Seriously though, guys. If you don’t stop I might actually end up crying here.” Oliver said, his voice cracking a bit.
Everyone laughed, our own voices beginning to crack as well.
For the days that followed everyone did as Oliver asked. We didn’t talk about it and we acted as if he hadn’t told us, all with the knowledge that Oliver’s time was limited.
Everyone else lasted longer than I did. As the days wore on, every time I was with Oliver it was painful. Painful to know that at any moment he could leave. And it only got worse every time he coughed or looked in pain.
After three days, I dove into my alchemy book against Oliver’s better wishes. I hadn’t touched it in ages, ever since…that happened.
For the first week, Xavier was by my side eager to help. We combed through the book trying to find some sort of recipe that could cure Oliver. And every time Oliver caught us searching he’d try to get us to stop always repeating that magic couldn’t fix this. Magic can’t heal.
After one week, Xavier started thinking like Oliver. He said he’d realized Oliver was right. Magic has never been able to heal, and if there was a herbal remedy that could help Oliver it would have already been found.
So he gave up, and I was left alone searching for the cure I knew had to exist.
Oliver got more and more despaired with me. He’d obviously already lost hope and I tried to explain to him that there was a way. I could feel it, there was a definitely something that could help him.
But Oliver would just sigh at me and tell me he came here to spend time with me, not watch me waste my time. He’d always repeat that he regretted telling me, that he never should’ve.
It was on the day I’d thought I’d finally found something that could work, when it happened.
I only heard a gasp behind me and when I turned around, Oliver was clutching his chest looking like he couldn’t draw any breath.
And then he fell to the ground. Just like that.
We were all gathered in the hospital’s waiting room. I’d called the hospital and they had called Oliver’s family. And then I’d called the others and we’d all rushed over.
Now we just had to wait. The hospital staff was working on Oliver, to find a way to keep him alive. We’d only been waiting a couple of minutes…but it felt much too long.
Oliver’s little sister Lia had sat beside me. I don’t really get along with her older sister Rona, but every time I went to see Oliver, Lia would be there instantly wanting to know everything that was happening. She’d hung out with us a couple of times.
“My brother is going to be fine you know.” She said. “He’s really annoying like that.”
“Yeah, I know he will.” I replied, hugging my stomach a little tighter.
We hadn’t talked about it. Oliver and I. He’d wanted to a lot, but he never wanted to talk about his situation so I refused to talk about mine.
Funny how it had seemed like such a big deal. A pregnancy! The moment I found out, I’d decided I needed to have an abortion. There was no way I could have a baby. But I’d still felt like I needed to at least tell him. And I regret it as much as he regrets telling me he’s terminal.
Because now…the way his face lit up when I told him…the way he’d keep glancing at my stomach the last few days with that smile at the corner of his mouth…
I’ll keep the child, I will, he just needs to survive! Because I won’t be able to do it without him.
And he will survive this. He will. And if the doctors say there’s nothing to do, that’s okay because I did the elixir. The recipe said it hadn’t been used often and the results were inconclusive, but it was made to heal.
A miracle would be needed for this to work, and I’ve never believed as much in miracles as I do right now.
The doctor stepped out of Oliver’s room and walked over to Oliver’s mother. He whispered to her so the others wouldn’t hear, but I clearly saw it when he said ‘I’m sorry’.
It was like something else had grabbed a hold of me. I sprung from the couch, grabbed the elixir, and sprinted towards Oliver’s room before anyone else did.
I pushed the door open and slowly walked in, almost scared of what I would see.
Oliver was sleeping calmly in the hospital bed. I suddenly felt ridiculous for assuming things because the doctor said two simple words. Oliver wasn’t dead. He was just resting.
But when I walked towards his bed I knew I was lying. The blankets weren’t moving like they should’ve been if he was sleeping. His face was too emotionless for him to be alive.
I pulled out the elixir.
“It’s okay Oliver, this is just a bad dream. With this you’ll wake up. It’s not too late.” I said, my lips trembling as I poured a little bit of the mixture into his mouth.
Then I knelt on the floor and waited. I stared at him, trying to see some sort of life. A flicker behind his eyelids. An intake of breath. A trembling of his lips. Anything. Anything at all.
I stared so intently it almost appeared like his eyes moved, but when I touched his face and checked for a pulse, he was still just as…dead.
I collapsed on the floor, feeling completely alone.
“F*ck you Oliver. F*ck you. You knew all along you bast*rd. You knew you were going to die, but you still made me fall in love with you. You knew it was going to hurt. So why? Why!?” I growled, gripping the bed sheets.
He didn’t respond. All the joyful life he’d had was gone. This was just a corpse now. Another corpse.
The momentary anger dissipated and the tears fell freely down my cheeks.
“Why Oliver? I need you. I can’t do this. I can’t face myself without you. It’s not fair. It’s not fair!” I choked out, watching the tears fall to the floor as the door opened and I heard the cries in the waiting room.
All I asked for was a miracle. Just one miracle. My miracle.