Together Forever (circa April 1991)

The telephone rang.

“Jenn, what are you doing,” asked the voice on the other end.

“Probably the same thing you are,” she answered, smiling.

“Packing, huh?” Only two more days, can you believe it?”

“Carol,” Jenn began, tossing a sweater into the bag on the bed.  “We’ve been waiting for this for twelve years.  At this point, nothing could make me not believe it!”

“Have we really been friends that long,” Carol asked.  “It seems like yesterday when they paired us off in first grade.”

Jenn took a picture of her and Carol when they were younger from the nightstand. “Yeah, I know what ya mean,” she said as she sat down on the bed.  “I guess those teachers didn’t realize how well the buddy system really worked.” She laid the picture on top of the clothes in the bag and shut it. “Let’s just hope it works for the next four years.”

“Forever, you mean,” Carol said reassuringly.  “And don’t worry, it will.  Hey, did you find out what time we register?”

“Oh yeah.  It’s Monday from noon to six.” She propped the phone on her shoulder and started stacking books in a box on the floor.  “I figure if we leave here around ten a.m. as planned, we’ll be on the college campus by three or so.”

“College campus!” Carol screamed as Jenn held the phone away from her ear.  “I even love the way it sounds!” And speaking of leaving, Katie is giving us a going away party at her house tonight.  I know I should’ve told ya sooner, but I’ll pick ya up at seven. Okay?”

Carol said it all so fast that Jenn had to go back over in her mind exactly what was said.  Then, finally, she answered, “Sure, why not? I’ll finishing packing tomorrow.”

“Yeah, and I’ll start,” Carol said quickly.

“Carol,” Jenn laughed, “I thought … You mean you haven’t started …”

“See ya at seven,” Carol interrupted.

Jenn gave in and answered, “Yeah, see ya at seven.” She hung up the phone and pulled her hair out of a ponytail.  Looking in the mirror, she said to herself, “Oh well, I’d better get ready.”

*****

Carol pulled up and honked the horn as Jenn walked out of her bedroom.  Jenn went to the door and yell to Carol, “Perfect timing!”

“Mom,” Jenn said on her way out the door, “I’m gone. Carol’s here.”

“Okay,” replied a faint voice from the kitchen.

They arrived at the party after everyone else.  It was just a small group of friends sitting around, watching movies, and drinking coke.

“Have ya’ll packed yet?” Katie asked.

“Well, not completely.  I still have a little bit to go,” Carol said and then glanced over at Jenn.

“Yeah, that little bit includes starting,” Jenn said with a laugh.  “Don’t worry.  I’ll come over tomorrow to help you, okay?”

“What would I do without you,” Carol smirked jokingly.

“You wouldn’t,” answered Jenn sarcastically.  Then they both laughed.

About ten o’clock, they decided to leave.  They had a lot to do the next day and needed some sleep.  After saying goodbye and thanking everyone, they headed toward Jenn’s house.

As they rounded a curve in the road, blinding lights came toward them.  Jenn screamed. Carol panicked. Tires squealed.  There was a loud crash, but the car was still moving.  It was hit, full force, by the large truck that had crossed over the yellow lines, and pushed into the embankment on the side of the road.  Then, because of the strong impact, it skidded across the road and flipped twice, landing right-side-up.

Everyone involved was rushed to the local hospital.  The man that hit them was in his late twenties, and he was drunk.  A little treatment for a cut on his forehead and a sprained wrist, and he was fine except for the extreme nervousness created by being questioned by the police.

The emergency waiting room was full of family and friends.  The sounds of sobs and whispers echoed throughout the room.

Behind two brown closed doors, in two separate rooms, lay two best friends.  No one on this side of those doors knew whether they would live or die.  Their parents sat thinking of all the pranks they pulled when they  were children, all the stages they went through, all the problems they shared.  They did everything together.  They had been friends forever.

When the doctors came out of the rooms, they stopped in the hallway behind the closed doors to discuss the situation.  Meanwhile, out in the waiting room, the crying seemed to get louder and the waiting even harder.

Then the doors opened, and the crowd hushed.  The room was silent except for the sounds of racing hearts.  The doctors asked both of the girls’ parents to step into the hallway with them, and the doors closed behind all of them.

“Mr. and Mrs. Benson,” one doctor began in a calm voice. “I know this is difficult, so I’m going to try to put this in understandable terms.”

Mrs. Benson began to sob even more.

The doctor continued, “Your daughter Carol is, at the moment, hooked up to a machine.  She had injuries to the leg and a concussion, but the machine is for her heart.”

Jenn’s parents stood in shock, listening and waiting.

Once again, he continued, “She suffered heart failure, probably from the shock.  The problem’s too serious.  She won’t survive without the machine, and she may not make it through the night even with it.  The only solution is a heart transplant.”

Mrs. Benson broke down.  Her husband guided her to a seat near where the doctors were standing.  Everyone was silent for a few moments.  Then, Jenn’s father began to speak.

“What about Jennifer? Where’s my daughter?”  He shivered.

The doctors glanced at each other and then motioned for the two to take a seat.

Jenn’s mother blurted out, “I don’t want to sit down! I want to know where my daughter is!”

“Ma’am, I know this is painful, but I feel it’s best that you have a seat.”

“Oh, God please … Oh no …,” she became hysterical as she sat.  Her husband place his arm around her and looked at the doctor, who continued.

“Jennifer was thrown about in the car. She suffered severe lacerations to all parts of the body and is bleeding internally also.  Her skull is cracked, and there was hemorrhaging.  She …” He was searching for the rights words to say.  Unable to come up with anything, he said, “She is clinically dead.”

At this statement, Jenn’s father’s eyes filled with tears, and he almost choked.

The second doctor began to speak.  “This is the reason why we wanted to speak to the four of you together. Jennifer’s heart still beats rather strongly.  She is on a machine to keep it strong.” He paused for a second.  “Carol needs her heart to survive.”

All four of the parents looked up in astonishment.

He went on.  “I know your are all grieving, but, as we said before, Carol may not make it through the night.  Jennifer would be a vegetable even if the bleeding did stop, though the odds are slim to none that it will. Please think about it and discuss it among yourselves.  I know it’s an awful lot to deal with.  We’ll be here monitoring both of them while you all decide.”

Barely able to walk, all four of them made their way into the waiting room.  May crowded around them, anxious to find out what had happened.  Katie ran over with tears streaming down her face.  Carol’s parent tried to explain the situation calmly to her while Jenn’s parent sat crying and talking.

Katie said, “They’re gonna do it, aren’t they? She sniffed.  “They have to.  What good would it do to let them both die?”

Jenn’s parents just stared at her.

“They would have wanted it anyway,” she said.  “They were like sisters.  They would have done or given anything for each other.  Listen to me.  They had been friends forever, and they wanted to stay that way.  They …” She began crying so hard that she couldn’t speak any longer.

Jenn’s mother stood up, wiped her eyes, walked over to Katie, and, hugging her, said, “I know, honey.  I know they would have wanted it.”

*****

Hours passed.  People were getting restless, tired.  The parents began sending people home, telling them they would let them know.  Katie stayed.

Finally, the doors opened, and the doctors came out.  One of them said, “You may see Carol now.  She’s going to be a little groggy for awhile.  The operation was a complete success.”

They all walked into the bare, white room.  Lying in the bed, half awake, Carol had an IV in one arm and the other hand resting on her chest.  Her parents walked over to the far side of the bed, crying tears of joy.  Jenn’s parents hesitantly walked to the near side of the bed and looked down at Carol.

Jenn’s mother leaned over and pushed some hair off of Carol’s forehead.  While fighting back the tears, she said, “You’re going to be alright now dear.”

Carol faintly began to speak with her eyes closed, “So will Jenn.”

Letting the tears flow gently, Jenn’s mother whispered, “Jenn’s gone dear, but you’re going to be fine, okay?”

“No, she’s not gone.  She’s not, I tell you,” Carol declared.  Then she took the woman’s hand and placed it under hers on her chest and said, “She’s not gone.  She’s right here. Forever.”

A single tear ran down her cheek.  She started to wipe it away, but it soon disappeared.  She just held onto her heart that much tighter.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: