Ricky sat bolt upright in his bed, completely disoriented, gasping like he'd been running for his life, and drenched in a cold sweat. Ricky frantically scanned his surroundings. Why is it pitch black!? Where's the doctor!? Slowly his brain began to function again and he realized he was in bed at his apartment. Placing his hands over his eyes, he noticed that his skin felt wet. He turned on his bedside lamp and saw that his clothes were soaked, as were the sheets where he'd been lying down. I need a shower. Looking at his alarm clock he saw that is was 2:15 AM. Getting out of bed, he noticed that he was shaking slightly. He stripped his sheets before making his way to the bathroom where he peeled off his soaked clothes and got in the shower. The warm water helped him relax. He made his way to the kitchen to get a glass of water before sitting down on the couch. It seemed so real. And just like that, the dream came flooding back to him.
They were in the courtyard at school and Amy was walking away from him, coughing a little. "Amy, we need to talk," he said, while gently grabbing her wrist to stop her."
"No we don't" she said, turning around to face him, another brief coughing spell coming over her.
"Amy, are you sure you're not sick?"
"I'm fine," she said, once again stopped by coughs, only this time the coughing sounded worse. She looked at her hand suddenly and saw blood. Ricky panicked when he saw it as well. He looked up and saw her knees buckle just before she began to pitch sideways. He caught her and slowly lowered them both to the ground.
"Maybe I'm not okay," she said.
"AMY!" Ricky screamed in terror as her eyes rolled back and she passed out. Thankfully a teacher heard his scream and saw him holding a passed out Amy. She called 911 right away. Ricky was too scared to take his eyes off of her as he frantically tried to wake her.
"Come on Amy, wake up! You can't leave me! We need you!" It felt like hours that he had been holding her but it was actually only three minutes. An ambulance was already dispatched a block away but the patient in question had refused the ambulance ride so they'd been rerouted to the school. Ricky was allowed to ride in the ambulance with her and even though he'd been pushed aside so she could be placed on a stretcher, he never once let go of her hand.
At the hospital the doctor asked for Amy's name, age, and medical allergies and Ricky answered as best he could. Upon learning he was not a relative, however, Ricky was told he had to wait in the emergency room. He paced like he was hopped up on caffeine. Please don't let her die, God, please! I know I stopped believing in you after everything I went through but I'm begging you, don't take her way from me! She's still needed here. I'll stop sleeping around, I'll be at her house EVERY spare moment I have, I'll take better care of her, I'll never hurt her or lie to her again, just please! Ricky paced for an hour. He had called George and Anne on the way to the hospital and he was relieved to finally see them run into the ER just then.
"Ricky!" Anne called out. "What happened? Do you know what's wrong with her?!" Ricky shook his head.
"Once minute we were talking and she started coughing and the next she coughed up some blood then passed out." Ricky couldn't hold back his tears any longer and they streamed down his face. He was terrified. The doctor came out with a grim look on his face and walked towards Ricky. He froze, paralyzed with panic and unable to move or breathe.
"You came in with the young woman named Amy, correct?" He nodded but George jumped in. "Doctor, we're her parents. What's wrong with our daughter?"
"Your daughter had blood clots in her lungs and brain. While the clot in her lungs broke free without causing much damage, the clot in her brain burst. The clot was near the area of her brain that controls the muscles of her heart and lungs and when it burst she went into cardiac arrest." The three of them were listening but were only vaguely aware of what the doctor was actually saying until his final words. "We couldn't get her heart to restart or her lungs to re-inflate. I'm sorry but we lost her."
It was at that moment that Ricky had woken up. He finished drinking his water to soothe his dry throat. It had felt so real. I don't know what I'd do without her. I made God all these promises. I don't know if he's out there but Amy, I give you my word, I intend to keep them!
Across town Ruben woke up feeling sad. It was all a dream. Turning his head to the right, he saw that his alarm clock read 3:30 AM. He felt dampness beneath his right cheek and placing his hand on his face he realized that he had been crying. He quietly got up, put on his house shoes and robe and went downstairs for a glass of water. Taking a drink, he sat at the kitchen table. Rubbing his eyes, the dream replayed in his mind.
"Do you like my dress daddy?"
"I love it pumpkin." Adrian squealed with delight and ran to her father. Ruben smiled as he watched his five year old daughter run to him and the smile only grew as he scooped her up and walked into the kitchen.
"Ready to go?" Cindy asked, as she finished packing up their picnic.
"All set." Ruben held the door as his wife walked out ahead of him and then he locked it behind them. Taking her hand they walked down the short two flights of steps to the ground floor of their apartment building and then walked the block and a half to the park. Cindy and Ruben took turns pushing Adrian on the swings and she laughed and giggled with glee. After watching her go down the slide several times, Adrian declared she was hungry and they sat down to eat their picnic lunch.
"Adrian!" She turned to see who had called her and frowned before turning back around to continue eating. Ruben looked up and noticed one of her classmates waving at her, even though she was ignoring him.
"Don't you wanna wave back to your friend?" Cindy asked her.
"He's not my friend! He's stupid! He said he wouldn't be my friend anymore 'cuz I said I didn't wanna be his girlfriend!" she explained, clearly irritated at the little boy.
"Why don't you wanna be his girlfriend?" Cindy prodded
"'Cuz boys have cooties!" she replied, still with a frown on her face. Ruben and Cindy tried to hide their smiles and not laugh, especially since they could tell Adrian was being serious.
"I guess the only boy you need in your life is your daddy huh?" She looked at him quizzically and said, "You're not a boy, you're my daddy." Ruben smiled at his daughter's innocence.
"I love you pumpkin," he said as he leaned down to kiss her forehead, earning a smile from her. She got up to hug him and jumped a little so she could get her arms around his neck and place a kiss on his cheek.
"I love you too daddy."
Ruben placed his empty glass in the sink and then made his way to Adrian's bedroom. He quietly opened the door and watched her sleep for several minutes. She shifted in her sleep and some of her hair fell into her face. Ruben walked in with a sad little smile on his face, pushed her hair out of the way and kissed her forehead. A single tear ran down his cheek. He whispered into his sleeping daughter's ear "I wasn't there for you growing up but I'll never abandon you again pumpkin." He made his way back to bed but sleep eluded him. He laid awake thinking about how much of Adrian's life he had missed, how much he regretted hurting someone he loved so much, and how he would ever be able to make it up to her.