Ashley sat straight up from a dead sleep and screamed out Mark’s name. She glanced around the dark room, before looking at her clock. It was one in morning, she wiped the sweat off her face, realizing it was only a nightmare, turned over and went back to sleep.
Ashley thought she heard a telephone ringing somewhere in the distance and wanted to shout for someone to answer it. Before she knew it, her mother was in her bedroom, shaking her awake.
“Ashley! Ashley!” She said, and her voice sounded urgent. “Ashley get up! We have to go to Port City Hospital, right now!” These last words alarmed Ashley and she opened her eyes immediately. She glanced at the clock, it was one fifty-five.
“What?” Ashley asked, “What do you mean we have to go to Port City Hospital right now, it’s the middle of the night.” Her mother sighed.
“Ashley, there’s been a very bad accident.” She said, and Ashley narrowed her eyes, remembering her dream she had not even a half an hour before.
“What do you mean by that? What accident, please mom who... who had the accident?” She asked, and her mother looked at her with tear-filled eyes.
“Dear, Mark was out on his bike in this storm tonight. He couldn’t see and he hit a car.” Ashley’s eyes grew wide, and tears begin to fill them.
“He’s okay isn’t he?” She asked, “He’s not...”
“Honey, we don’t know yet, it’s too soon to tell, he’s been airlifted to Port City Hospital. It’s not good, Ashley, they don’t expect him to make it through the night.” Ashley sprang from her bed, got dressed quickly and in less than five minutes, they were in the car, driving to the hospital.
It wasn’t that far from their house, and they were the first ones there. As everyone else, including his parents, had to drive from Brook Falls. Without his family there they waited in the waiting room with no news at all, Ashley’s eyes were red and puffy when the main doors opened. Matt, Randy, Lori, and Larry walked inside and up to where Ashley was sitting. Mr. and Mrs. Coates came in next, helping Mr. Thomas get Mrs. Thomas inside.
Mr. Thomas looked at Ashley’s mother.
“Have you heard anything yet?” He asked, and her mom shook her head.
“They wouldn’t give us any information at all because we aren’t immediate family.” She answered as Mrs. Coates helped Mrs. Thomas sit down in an empty chair. Just then a police officer walked over to the group.
“Are you folks here about the accident victim that’s been airlifted in from Brook Falls?” He asked, and they all nodded.
“I was wondering if I could have a private word with the parents.” He said, and Mr. Thomas glared at him.
“We’re right here, and whatever you have to say, you can say in front of them too.” He said, and the officer nodded.
“Your son was driving toward home in the storm at extremely high speeds. He wasn’t wearing a helmet or face shield and because of that, he was having difficulty seeing because of the blizzard. His bike struck the front grill of the half-ton truck, coming in the opposite direction. Your son flew forward, smashing into the grill of the truck, then the bike was thrown back on its hind wheels, your son struck the back of his head onto the pavement, and the bike landed on top of him.” He said and sighed, “From what the doctors have told me so far, your son has several broken bones, including a few fractures in the front and back of the skull. He has swelling in his brain, has several broken ribs, and a broken wrist. He’s also bleeding somewhere internally, and has been rushed into emergency surgery.”
“Oh my god,” Matt muttered, Lori gasped and covered her mouth. Randy and Larry shook their heads. Ashley couldn’t stop sobbing. Lori and Matt sat on either side of her and cuddled in. It was as if she was trapped in a nightmare from which she could not wake, if Mark didn’t make it through this, she would never be the same.
Matt couldn’t even think straight, he was terrified, but he knew that Ashley needed someone there for her. He composed himself quite well around her.
About an hour later, the doctor came out and announced that Mark was out of surgery and that he was stable and partly conscious. His parents and brother may go in to see him. Randy took Matt’s place at Ashley’s side and Matt followed his parents into the back, and to the room Mark was.
If Matt didn’t know that was his brother laying there, he would have never recognized him. There were various tubes running in and out of him. He was hooked up to a vitals machine and he had a breathing tube stuck in his mouth. His face was a mangled mess of stitches and dried blood. There was also blood in his hair and he had a cast on his left wrist.
The doctor asked their parents to step out of the room to talk to him. Matt took a few steps closer to his brother and looked into his eyes.
“Shit man,” He muttered, “How? What happened?” Mark pointed to a notepad and pen next to his hand, that had other several scribbles on it in Mark’s handwriting. Matt handed it to him. Mark wrote a few things on the paper and showed it to Matt.
Went to Becky’s to break up, Becky’s pregnant, it’s mine, I don’t know what to do.
It took Matt a few times to comprehend what he was actually reading. His eye’s got wide.
“Holy shit man,” Matt said, “No wonder you were distracted.” Mark nodded, then wrote for a shorter time on the paper, before showing it to his brother.
Matt nodded solemnly.
“She’s out in the waiting room, they won’t let her in.” He replied, and Mark nodded. He wrote something else and then showed it to Matt.
How is she?
Matt shook his head.
“Not good,” He admitted, “She’s upset and worried about you.” Mark nodded and wrote again.
I Want to see her!
“You want to see her?” Matt asked, and Mark nodded. Then wrote again.
Matt nodded, I’ll see if it can happen. Mark nodded, then wrote again.
Get rid of the paper.
Matt nodded, ripped the sheet off the pad crumpled it up and stuffed it in his pocket.
Their parents re-entered and visited for a few minutes and Matt told them that Mark’s been asking for Ashley. They talked to the doctor, who said that Mark could see Ashley as soon as he was moved up to his room.
Matt said goodbye to his brother, and they headed out to the waiting room again.
When Matt returned, he was acting a bit strange, he kept looking at Ashley, and that worried her. Was he watching her closely for a sign that his brother’s condition was getting worse? If that was the case, he shouldn’t waste his time. Ever since the accident, the connection had become faded, fuzzy. Like the white noise between radio stations.
Ashley was both surprised and terrified when she was told she could see him. She was brought to the room alone. He was in his room, his face was stitched up in several places, he was hooked to a vitals machine, and had a cast on his left wrist. There were a couple of IV’s hooked to him. He gazed at her the moment she walked into the room. He licked his lips nervously.
“I’m guessing I scared the hell out of you.” He said in barely a whisper. She nodded, with tears filling her eyes yet again.
“I’m still scared,” She said in a low and shaky voice. He smiled faintly.
“It’s not so bad, I’ll be alright.” He whispered.
“I’d never be the same if something happened to you.” She said.
“Come here.” He whispered and she took a few steps closer. He laughed shortly and shook his head. “No come here, lay right here beside me.” She climbed up next to him on the bed, careful not to hurt him, and he put his good arm around her, pulling her close. “I’ll always love you, no matter what happens.”
“I’ll always love you too.” She said. They laid there together, for some time. She was never clear on when it happened, but they both fell asleep like that. She was startled awake when Mr. and Mrs. Thomas came into the room. She gave them some time to be with their son and headed back to the waiting room.
The others were huddled together, whispering like mad. As she approached them the whispering stopped and they looked at her sympathetically.
She found this only mildly suspicious.
It was Larry who mentioned breakfast, and the gang went to the cafeteria together. Matt offered to pay for Ashley’s and when he reached into his pockets for the money, a piece of crumpled paper fluttered to the floor.
“I’ll get it,” Ashley said, and Matt freaked.
“No, no that’s okay. Don’t... I’ll get it!” He said, but it was too late, Ashley already had it in her hand.
“Hey... this is Mark’s handwriting.” She said while Matt and the others watched her closely, as she read the words written on the paper. She blinked twice and gazed at Matt.
“She’s pregnant with his baby?” She asked, “This... changes things...it changes things a lot.”
Becky Hicks was pregnant with Marks baby, he was torn about what to do, and that was understandable. Yet, Ashley fell in love with him because of the man she always knew he was, and she knew exactly what that man would do in a situation like this. It was a good job that she knew Mark better than he knew himself because she was about to give him what could easily be described as the best advice he’d ever receive.
A few days later, Mark was out of the danger zone, he was laying in his hospital bed staring at the ceiling when his brother walked in and handed him a letter. Mark sighed, opened it and read:
My Dearest Mark,
I know why you were distracted the night of your accident, that must have been one seriously heavy load to be sprung on you. I also happen to know that you are torn about how to handle it. I fell in love with you because you were selfless and caring. Always thinking of others needs above your own. That is why I know what decision that man I fell in love with will make. I want you to know that I’ll love you now, always and forever. That will never change, no matter what, I’ll understand and support that choice. Best wishes for you,
Mark sighed, and held the letter next to his heart, and closed his eyes for a few minutes.
“Matt,” He said, a short while later.
“Yeah?” Matt asked.
“You still have that old stereo that records, right?” He asked, and Matt nodded.
“Yeah, I do.” He replied.
“Good,” Mark said, “Because I need you to do something for me.”
“What’s that?” He asked.
“Borrow that 98 Degrees CD from Lori, and record The Hardest Thing, give it to Ashley. She’ll know what it means.”
“Just like that, huh?” Matt asked.
“Yeah,” Mark answered, sadly “Just like that. There’s no happily ever after with this story.”
“I think you’re wrong,” Matt said shaking his head, “You don’t know that this is how the story ends.”
“It’s certainly not the beginning,” Mark said, and Matt shook his head.
“No,” He said, “But, you’re forgetting the key point that every story needs to be complete.”
“What’s that?” He asked, and Matt sighed.
After everything he’s been through, Mark was sure of one thing. It was the most important lesson he would ever learn, even if this was only the middle of the story. There’s no such thing as fairy tales.
Did you enjoy my story? Please let me know what you think by leaving a review! Thanks, Clara CookWrite a Review