FAINT BEATINGS--SHORT STORY bY GAARAS AND MILK
“Like I said over the phone, I’m not sure how much information I can give you. I was in….well…I was in a coma some of the time and only remember a few short details; that and what my parents have told me.”
“But, you loved him.”
The woman looked up from fiddling with her hands. She was tragically beautiful. Her long brown shoulders pooled past her shoulders, down to her waist with dark eyes to match. They seemed empty in a way. She hesitated for a moment. “Yes…I did.”
A memoir…for the funeral he told her. A way to remember all the good things he had done. She wondered how that was possible. Jared had done so much, not only for her, but for his friends and family as well.
“Would you like a drink?” She asked politely.
The man shook his head. “No thank you.” He had a strong build, she noticed. The man wore a black slick suit, accompanied by a straight black tie. His blonde hair was slicked back, making him look more like a business man, rather than a friend. Robert Carver was his name. The woman just smiled as he took out a notepad and a pen, flipping to a blank section.
“He talked fondly of you.” Robert assured her.
“I’m surprised…I was lying in bed most of the time.”
“You mentioned a coma?”
“Falling off a horse when I was eight.” She replied.
“That explains the wheel chair.” He stared at it for a moment.
There was a short silence as Robert scribbled down something.
“And he came to interview you?”
“Mr. Carver, I don’t understand why you’re asking me all these questions. You already know this, don’t you? You were Jared’s friend.”
Robert sat back in his seat. “Then tell me Miss Brown.”
“Tell me everything. I shouldn’t be trying to pry information out of you anyway. This is about Jared. Not you.” He scuffed.
Miss Brown paused for a short moment, thinking of where to begin. “I was in the hospital from eight years old on life support.”
“Your parent’s orders?”
She nodded. “Yes.”
“Come on Rob! It’s a great story!”
Robert rolled his eyes, impatiently. “Yah, a girl who lies in bed on life support for twelve years and is about to be taken off of it. Sure, that’s a real winner, and don’t call me Rob.”
“Why not Rob?” Jared laughed, nudging his best friend with his elbow.
“Stop!” Robert scowled. “I’m twenty now for heaven’s sake!”
“So, I am too.” He retorted, taking a sip of his coffee.
“SO….Rob was my kid name. I say, it’s time to grow up. You know…lock in a job…get a better apartment…maybe marry a girl—“
“Who Carol?” Jared interrupted.
A wide grin spread across Robert’s face. “Yah.” He fumbled around for something in his coat pocket. HE found what he was looking for. He showed Jared a black velvet box, then opened it revealing a beautiful diamond ring with a gold band.
“Well well! Mr. Grown up!” Jared grinned as Robert put the box away.
“Maybe you should look for a better job.” He suggested.
“What? You think some boring desk job is better than journalism?”
“It is when you’re writing stupid sap stories that people will never read. Come on Jared, you don’t even have a girlfriend.”
“Never have…Never will.” He replied smugly.
Jared and Robert sat at their normal table at the local Denny’s as they did every second Tuesday of the month. The waitress brought their plates of food, smiling, and walked away to serve the other customers.
“All I’m saying is that maybe you should start thinking about the future.” Robert said, taking a bite of his toast.”
“The future is the future, Robert. Why worry about it when there’s so much now?”
Robert gave Jared a disapproving look, but Jared just chuckled and began to eat his breakfast.
Mr. and Mrs. Brown was a good looking couple. Mr. Brown had a nice face, but was accompanied by a rigid jaw line. His dark brown hair was growing gray, but pleasing to the eye. Mrs. Brown sat with perfect posture and poise. Her hair was a beautiful waterfall of copper that flowed just past her shoulders.
They sat with Jared Petterson just outside their daughter’s room. They seemed to be frowning, frustrated by this young man who seemed to be interested in the decision they had made for their daughter.
“You have no say in this.” Scowled Mr. Brown’s deep voice. “She has been on life support for twelve years. Twelve! And nothing more then maybe a blink. You think you can come in here and tell us to keep us from pulling the plug?”
“I didn’t mean any—“
“Sure you didn’t mean anything buy it.” Mr. Brown snapped back. Mrs. Brown whimpered slightly. Her husband sighed and brought Jared aside. “You have no idea…how hard it is knowing your child will die before you. This isn’t living Mr. Petterson. She can’t learn, she can’t walk, she can’t talk, she can’t even move.” He said sternly. “Publish what you want in your paper…but it won’t change anything.” He let go of Jared’s arm, and walked over to his wife, resting a gentle hand on her back, and began to walk away.
Jared watched them go. His attention turned to the room that what the nurse’s called ‘The Sleeping Beauty’ stayed in. He had been given permission to go in, but hesitated. He hadn’t had thought that the article may give the Browns second thoughts. He doubted himself now. Maybe there was no use to writing this story. Jared sighed and finally decided to enter.
He nearly gasped when he saw the girl lying in bed, seeming to be staring up at the ceiling. Her eyes were a deep brown and her hair was dark like her father’s. An obvious pink rested itself on her porcelain cheeks. He gulped and walked over to the bed, inspecting every inch of her as she was unmoving. Jared looked at her hair, brushing some from her face.
“Allie?” He whispered into her ear.
“Allie, are you there?” Nothing. Jared glanced at the IVs coming out of her arms. He shook his head.
“Allie, Allie Brown. I’m Jared Petterson. If you can hear me, show any movement at all.” Still nothing. Jared sighed and sat in one of the chairs. This was a waste of time, but he couldn’t help but to stare at her. Why would her parents want to take their beautiful daughter out of the world? He supposed it was the pain that they were feeling. “You know…if you don’t start to move, your parents are going to kill you.”
Startled, Jared jumped. “You can hear me?”
Allie blinked again.
A nurse came rushing in. “What what what?! What’s all the fuss?!”
“She blinked! She’s moving! ALLIE!”
“Allie! Come on! Move!”
Again, nothing. The nurse frowned.
“I…must be seeing things.”
He laughed nervously and the nurse left. Jared began to pace the room frustrated with himself. How stupid can he be? Moving after twelve years so easily…he glanced at her.
“Are you moving or aren’t you?”
Allie blinked. Jared grinned. He wasn’t seeing things!
“Do you not like the nurse? Blink once for yes, two for no.”
Allie blinked twice.
“Do you not like your parents?”
Allie blinked once.
“Is that why you won’t move for them?”
Allie blinked once.
“Don’t you want to go home?”
Allie blinked twice.
“Can you move anything else?”
Allie blinked once.
“Could you show me?”
Allie moved her fingers a little, attempting to lift her hands.
Allie blinked twice.
“You don’t need life support. Do you?”
Allie blinked twice.
They went on for two hours, back and forth. Jared found out a lot from Allie, but it took him a good amount of time. He had been limited to only Yes and No questions. The entire time he scribbled down her answers on his note pad. She had only ‘spoken’ with Jared because she had heard the conversation between him and her parents. His job had stricken her interest. Also, he seemed trustworthy. Jared had laughed at this, knowing the lies that the newspaper printed, and especially how the journalists lied on every news report out there. One thing was for sure. Allie was alive, breathing, thinking, living.
“I’ll come back tomorrow.” He assured her as he left the hospital. Jared went home and looked over his notes while eating dinner. Why did Allie need life support? Wasn’t that only if they needed help breathing? Allie was fine with that. It made him wonder.
Jared jump hearing his phone buzz. He picked it up. “Hello?”
“Rob—Robert, how’d it go?”
“No longer a bachelor, let’s put it that way!”
“HAHA! That’s great man! Hey, I got some stuff on that Allie girl—“
“Not right now, I’m still at dinner, I’ll talk to you later.”
Jared was later invited to join Robert at a bar on the south side of town. Jared lifted his glass into the air. “To the ex-bachelor, you’re gonna miss being single.” He smiled, and Robert laughed and they both took a few swigs of their drinks. They slammed their glasses onto the counter.
“So what about this Brown girl? You found something?”
“She moves, a little, but she can answer yes and no questions.”
“So why the hell do they not try and help her?”
Jared shrugged. “Donno, but I’m gonna find out.” He smiled and drank more.
Jared walked into the hospital the next day with a fresh note pad and a new pen. He approached the room that Allie stayed in and walked in, shutting the door behind him. “Allie?”
She blinked once, and Jared smiled. He took a seat within room.
Weeks passed, weeks turned into months, and months turned into years. Allie came out of her coma eventually, and the Browns had a journalist to thank. She eventually gained enough strength to be taken off life support. Allie secretly hated her parents for being rude and nasty people, as a child she had been afraid to turn into them and took the coma as an opportunity not to learn from them. Possibly loosing the will to live a long with it. Unfortunately, Allie was paralyzed from the waist down. But, Jared came every day to visit, and eventually found himself calling her room every night, or staying at the hospital as long as he possibly could.
Jared ate at the Denny’s with Robert like they had forever. “How long have we been doing this now?”
“Few years…” Jared replied, pushing around eggs on his plate.
“Did you ever publish that story on Allie?”
Jared shook his head. “Never got around to it.”
“What’s eating you Jared?’
Robert inspected him. “Nah, something’s wrong.” He frowned. “She’s killing you Jared, I can see it.”
Jared weakly looked up from his plate. He had gotten thinner and paler then Robert remembered.
“When’s Carol due?”
“Stop trying to change the subject Jer.” He paused. “You love her, that’s why you can’t leave.”
“I think she loves you too Jer.” Robert smiled. “And don’t give me any crap about this either. That you don’t date and junk. You have been for about four years now, calling her, visiting her every day. Can’t deny the facts.” He chuckled. “You need to get her out of that place.”
Jared rushed into the hospital, ignoring the doctors and nurses that said hi to him as he passed. He made it to Allie’s room. She was sitting in her wheel chair, looking out the window with the sun on her face. Jared snuck up behind her, bending over and wrapping his arms around her waist.
“Hi.” He whispered.
Allie giggled a little and smiled shyly.
“What are you doing?” He asked.
“Things.” Allie smiled and looked up at the sky through the window. “I can’t remember the last time I was off the hospital grounds.” She touched the window gently.
Jared smiled broadly and let go of her, to stand by her side. “You really want to get out of here…don’t you?”
Allie looked at him with a hint of curiosity and nodded. “Yes.”
“Have you ever thought about leaving with me?”
Allie seemed shocked. “Leaving—with you?”
Jared nodded, seeming excited himself. “I don’t know…buying a nice house, maybe get a better job, marrying a girl—“
“Marrying?” Allie interrupted.
“Mhmm.” Jared’s smile grew wider. “Marrying you maybe…”
Jared smiled and wheeled her away from the window. “Jared! What are you--?!”
He went down on one knee in front of her.
Jared went through his pockets quickly, pulling out a little velvet box.
“Allie Brown? Will you marry me?”
Allie was speechless. She stared at the ring in the box that Jared had given to her. Who—who in the world would want someone like her?
“My parents would never allow it.” She muttered.
“They will to me.” Jared promised. “They think I saved you, remember?”
Allie laughed little. “But you did save me.”
“I love you Allie.”
“I love you too Jared.” She said as she slipped the ring on her finger. “Forever.”
“Forever.” That sounded perfect.
“A tragic commodity happened today in the suburb of Green Oaks today in Milburg County. On Country glen road, a man was killed in a car crash. He was later identified as Jared Petterson, a journalist for the Weekly Times, on his way to his own wedding….News reports like that spread throughout the state like that. You saw we had reporters lined up outside the door for weeks.”
Allie blew her nose in a tissue.
Robert sighed and handed her another. “It’s funny, in a way. Everyone thought you were the one who was going to die, but the guy who saved you did instead.”
“I suppose.” She said taking the tissue. “Thanks.” Allie’s eyes were red from tears as she pulled her hair behind her ears.
Jared’s article ‘The Sleeping Beauty,’ was in newspapers around the country all that week.
‘Jared Petterson, 1985-2009. “The future is the future...why worry about it when there’s so much now?”’
*Inspired by ‘Paperthin hymn’ By: Anberlin*
‘I thought you said forever, over and over,
A sleepless night becomes bitter oblivion.
These thoughts run through my head, over and over,
Complaints of violins become my only friends.’
gaaras and milk