Slipping Away – 20 August 2003

He made it to the elevator almost a dozen times but he could never push the button for her floor. He knew she must wonder where he was—wondered if he even gave a damn.

His sister had always been so full of life, so vivacious and spunky. He couldn’t imagine what she’d look like in a hospital bed, connected to tubes. It wasn’t like that April when they’d thought it was a drug overdose. Drugs…they could fight that, change it. Cancer. He couldn’t even begin to think how to fight that.

But when his mother had told him about the bacterial meningitis…he knew he couldn’t put it off any longer. He couldn’t avoid it to make himself feel better.

It was dark when he slipped into her room—well past visiting hours. He wore the yellow scrubs over his clothes and sat at her bedside.

Her eyes were sunken, she had dark circles and her skin nearly blended in with her sheets. His eyes watered and he reached for her hand.

“I’m so sorry,” he whispered brokenly. “I should—I should have been here for you. I should have…” He bowed his head and started to cry.

He felt her other hand in his hair and he lifted his head. “Emily…”

“AJ…” Emily breathed. She managed a weak smile. “Hey…”

He sat up and wiped his eyes. “I’m sorry I haven’t been here, Em.”

She shook her head. “Don’t…don’t worry about it.”

“But I do,” he protested. “You’re my sister, Emily. God, I remember you when you were so young and you came into our family…God, you’re the best of us, Em. You really are.”

“AJ…you’re my favorite, you know that?” she breathed. Her eyes were closing—she was falling asleep.

“I thought that was Jason,” AJ replied.

She shook her head, her eyes closed again. “No. I mean…I love him…but you’re my favorite. The way you keep…fighting, keep living…you’re so strong. And you quit drinking, too. You’re doing so well…I’m proud of you AJ. I really am.”

“I love you so much, Em.” He kissed her forehead. “And I promise…if you think you’re proud of me now…just you wait.”

“You promise?” she said softly.

“Yeah. I promise.” He listened to her breathing even out and he knew she was asleep then. He smoothed her hair away from her face and sat back in his chair to wait for morning.

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