The week leading to the state tournament did not go as coach had planned. This year an awful round of the flu was cycling through and it chose this week to work on the team. Three girls had been out. Then with the boys’ accident Stephanie spent Tuesday at the orthopedist with Jake while they removed the cast ran another set of x-rays and an MRI. Everything seemed to have been handled correctly at the emergency room so they re-casted it.
Stephanie dropped him off at home with Brett who’d stayed home with Tyler. They were supposed to keep an eye on the boys for 48 hours for any signs of concussion. Brett was staying with them today and tomorrow Stephanie would take the day. It was almost 2:00 when she finally made it back to school. The girls’ team had practice right after school today. Brett wasn’t there, three of the girls were missing, and Stephanie was so exhausted that they shot a lot and walked through plays. They spend the last 30 minutes just shooting free throws with music blaring throughout the speakers. Coach was preparing them for what the crowd would be like at the tournament.
Emmy made it through practice without incident. The shot from Brett this morning had certainly helped with the nausea. The shake she’d had at lunch had stayed down. When she had started the kids teased her about drinking them but she always just said they were protein shakes, that coach wanted her to put on some weight before next season. They seemed to buy it and after the first week or so left her alone about it.
She was thankful for the shakes. In the last week or so the sores in her mouth and throat had gotten so bad that it hurt to even swallow. She’d started making sure that she locked the door to the bathroom even when she brushed her teeth. There was always so much blood that she didn’t want either of the coaches or the guys to see. She even thought she tasted blood throughout the day.
After practice she rode home with Stephanie who was as quiet as Emmy today. Emmy knew that she had to be tired and exhausted. Both the girls grabbed their things and went in. In the family room Jake was asleep in the chair, Tyler in the corner of the couch and Brett on the floor with his head propped against couch. Stephanie smiled and put a finger over her lips indicating to Emmy to be quiet. After she did it she felt stupid. Emmy never made noise. She was the quietest kid Stephanie had ever met and she hoped that that changed when the cancer and the treatments were a thing of the past.
Emmy slid into the kitchen and grabbed another shake. She shook it and took it to her room. The cans were a little loud when they popped open. Closing the door she placed it on her desk and got out the homework for Language Arts. Her teachers didn’t seem to care that this was State week. They were pilling on the work, getting as much as possible in before the Christmas break. It was Ok with Emmy the more her mind was busy the less she thought about how she felt. That may have been part of the reason she didn’t realize the signs earlier.
Tonight, even though practice had been easy Emmy felt wiped. She had a headache, which was a common occurrence and her muscles were achy. Something she hadn’t really felt since the early practices. With the chemicals swirling around in her body she just chalked all the symptoms to the final stages of chemotherapy and went to bed.
By 3 in the morning her nose had started running and she felt congested. It felt a lot like the last time she’d been sick. She knew that they’d spent the night at the hospital for nothing. Another night at the hospital wasn’t something that Brett or Stephanie could handle right now so she didn’t say anything.
The next morning Stephanie was staying home with Jake while Brett took Tyler to the orthopedist. Their appointment was at 9:30 so they dropped Emmy at school and then headed in. Jake seemed to be doing OK but she knew the look in Tyler’s eyes, she’d seen it staring back at her in the mirror often and knew that he was in a lot of pain. She hoped that the doctor today could do something to relieve that.
Emmy muddled through the day. Her head was full and pounding but the teachers talking took her mind off everything else. Just after lunch Emmy was called to the office. Stephanie was on the phone to talk to her.
“Hello” Emmy was hesitant.
“Emmy, I wanted you to know that the doctor thought that Tyler would heal faster if they put a little pin in his collarbone. So we are at the hospital now and they are already working on him. They didn’t think it would take much more than an hour and we should be home by 6:00 when you get done. Jake is with us and we’ve already talked to Rick and he’s going to bring you home. Is that Ok?
“Yes Ma’am” Mrs. Stamper the school secretary smiled as Emmy spoke. She had never talked with the girl much but was pleased with the respect she was giving Mrs. Miles. Emmy must have finished her call. She laid the phone back down “Thank you.” Emmy never made eye contact and walked out of the office. In the hall she stopped when she began coughing. This was a new and unwelcome development. Coughing was something that she was going to have a hard time hiding.
Practice was early again and Coach Jameson told the girls about where coach was and they got down to business. They had a fairly easy practice again. They did go full speed a little and Emmy started coughing. Coach Jameson reached in his coat pocket and tossed her a package of cough drops. She stuck one in and it was disgusting but seemed to work. When she tried to give them back as he drove her home he said, “Just hang on to those. Sounds like you might need them. I’ve got another pack at home.”
They pulled in and all the lights were still off. “Guess they haven’t made it back. Will you be Ok?”
“Yes sir.” She grabbed her bags. “Thanks again.”
“No problem take care of that cough.” She nodded and closed the door.
Inside there was a message on the machine. “Emmy, we are so sorry, we are running late. Tyler got sick when he woke up. Apparently it’s pretty common for the anesthesia to make you sick. He’s feeling better now so they are working on discharging him. We’ll see you soon.” The machine said that message was left 30 minutes ago so she ran and bath, hoping to soak all her aches and pains away.
Emmy felt bad for Tyler but knew from experience that pins would indeed make it feel better faster.
A year before the cancer diagnosis she’d been sent to a home with two other foster kids. The family already had three of their own. The foster kids stayed in the basement and the husband was a drunk. Emmy was the oldest of the foster kids by three years and took the brunt of the man’s abuse.
A veteran of the foster system by this point, it wasn’t the first time she’d been hit. It was the first time she’d been hit this much or this hard. The man liked to break hands. Apparently it was something his father had done to him. Three times he’d broken one of Emmy’s fingers. The line was always the same “you say anything and I’ll hurt the others twice as bad.” Emmy could care less about herself but she wouldn’t be the cause of anyone else’s pain. So she obeyed and didn’t say anything.
In the spring during the NCAA tournament his team lost in the first round to a nobody team and he went crazy. He stomped down the stairs slamming the door behind him. Snatching Emmy up first he went to work. He made quick work of her right hand and just like always she never whimpered, but started at him. Apparently he was hoping for more and lost interest in her before his anger subsided and he grabbed James. Emmy heard a bone snap and James scream “What a sissy.” The man screamed in his face. “I bet this little one won’t scream as loud as you.” He threw James back onto the mattress that the kids shared and grabbed Alison, James’ little sister. Emmy wasn’t going to have any of it. She lunged at the guy knocking him backwards.
As he struggled to get up she yelled for the others to run upstairs. They listened and took off. Emmy tried to follow but the man grabbed her leg. Holding her already broken hand down on the workbench he grabbed a hammer and smashed it. She couldn’t resist and screamed. “I knew I’d get a scream out of you eventually.” He let go and Emmy collapsed on the ground cradling her hand.
From upstairs came shouts and two policemen rushed down the stairs with their guns drawn. The man tried to say that Emmy had attacked him. Apparently the other kids’ stories and James’ broken fingers were enough. They cuffed him and loaded him in the back of a police car. Linda Hall their caseworker arrived and Emmy and James were taken to the hospital.
Linda stayed with them while they were x-rayed. James’ fingers were broken so they were splinted. The doctors called Linda outside after Emmy’s x-ray. They asked her about all the old breaks that showed up on the x-ray. Emmy didn’t speak at first still worried that the man would hurt the others. Finally Linda convinced her that the only way to make sure he went to prison was for her to tell them what happened. So she did and Linda had to wipe her eyes. Her fingers and hand had been broken on three other occasions and she had never said anything.
The doctors took her into surgery and put pins in her hand even re-breaking the fingers in several locations in order to set them correctly. When she woke up the relief was almost instant. The Doctor told Linda that she’d spent the last six months with at least one bone broken. The man always went for her right hand for some reason and she was thankful for being left-handed. It had allowed her to continue doing her schoolwork and made keeping quiet much easier.
Much like Tyler’s today, the surgery had been outpatient and she’d gone straight to a home for abused kids. This was different from any other place she’d been placed. It was a small group home. There was one lady, Mrs. Stewart, that ran it and eight girls lived there at one time.
Mrs. Stewart was actually Dr. Stewart, a child psychologist, much like Dr. Brown at St. Thomas. The purpose of her time there was to help her overcome the abuse. Daily sessions with the Mrs. Stewart were required, as were the group sessions. Emmy lived there for six months and never once spoke in the group sessions and she only answered questions when asked in the individual ones. Even Mrs. Stewart cringed or had that look of pity whenever Emmy talked about what had happened. She knew that adults didn’t really want to hear about it so Emmy just didn’t talk unless she had to.
After six months in the house, her caseworker had pulled some strings and called in favors to get her placed with one of their solid families. The Brennen family went to church with Linda and she knew them personally. Seven months later Emmy’s cancer diagnosis happened and it was simply too much for the Brennen’s to deal with. Linda came to the hospital and introduced Emmy to Mr. Case, from that point on she was his problem.
Emmy wasn’t sure how long she’d been sitting in the tub, but she knew that the water had gotten cold. The cold went straight to her bones. Stepping out of the tub Emmy dressed. The sweatpants and hoodie warmed her quickly. After straightening up the bathroom she stepped across the hall to her room. The house was still dark and Emmy had no way of knowing how long they might be so she skipped her injection again and went to bed. Sucking on a cough drop she pulled the covers over her head and prayed she’d feel better in the morning.