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“Dawson?” Joey said weakly “Why won’t anyone tell me what happened?”
“I told you before what happened, Joey.” Dawson reminded her “We were hit by a drunk driver coming home from that party two days ago.”
“That’s not what I mean.” Joey said “You never told what happened t the people in the other car, or how Andie is.”
Dawson sighed “The driver of the other car was killed. Andie’s doing better, she may be able to go home tomorrow.”
“And you’re ok?” Joey asked.
“Except for a broken arm and a minor concussion.” Dawson replied.
“Why hasn’t Tatum come to see me yet? Don’t tell me she’s still angry at me for telling Bessie not to let her go to that party.”
“I think we should tell her.” Bessie interrupted as she walked into the room. She was trying to be strong, but Dawson could tell she had been crying “Jo, Tatum was in the other car. She had massive head trauma and internal bleeding, three of her ribs broke and punctured her lung. The doctors were surprised she wasn’t killed instantly.”
“But-but that’s good, right?” Joey stammered “If she’s still alive then maybe that means she’s going to make it.”
Bessie shook her head sadly “No. The doctors said she’s got a five percent chance, and even if she does wake up....” Bessie trailed of as her eyes filled with tears. She reached out and took Joey’s hand.
“NO!” Joey screamed hoarsely. She pulled her hand away and turned toward the wall.
“Joey-” Dawson began.
“No!” Joey repeated, sobbing “No! No. Just leave me alone.”
Dawson sighed and walked out of the room. “Pacey!” he called when he saw his friend getting off the elevator.
“Hi, I was just on my way up to see Tatum.” Pacey said “How’s Joey?”
“A total mess.” Dawson replied “Bessie just told her about Tatum.”
Pacey nodded “Andie didn’t take it too well when Jack told her, either.”
“How was everyone at school?” Dawson asked.
“Wretched.” Pacey sighed “There’s been assemblies on drunk driving, counseling sessions, that sort of thing. Everyone’s all shocked and shaken about Steve, and when I went by Tate’s locker today it was covered in flowers and notes. She was-I mean, is very popular. All the kids kept on coming up to me and saying how sorry they were that I lost my girlfriend.”
“And what did you tell them?” Dawson said.
Pacey shrugged “What could I tell them? I just said thanks and left it at that. It didn’t bother me that they were referring to her as my girlfriend, either. It bothered me that they were talking about her like she’s already dead when she still might pull through.”
“Pacey-” Dawson said.
“And don’t you start with any of that ‘she only has a five percent chance of waking up’ bullcrap everyone’s been giving me. She could make it.”
“Pacey, Tatum isn’t going to make it.” Dawson told him “Look, I know how much you wish this hadn’t happened, I do too, but you’ve got to face reality.”
Pacey scoffed “Never thought I’d hear you say that.”
“I’m serious.” Dawson said.
“Oh, and you think I’m not?” Pacey snapped “I love that girl, Dawson, and I never got the chance to tell her because I was too chicken to get the words out! I can’t give up on her, I need her to make it, and if that means pretending we’re living in some fantasy land where everything turns out ok, so be it.”
“Ok, as long as we’re pretending, then, let’s pretend for a minute that Tatum were going to wake up today. Best case scenario, she has to spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair, being waited on hand and foot and communicating through sign language most of the time because she’s paralyzed and can hardly talk. Worst case scenario, she spends the rest of her life, which would probably be about five years at most, in bed, not moving, not talking, just lying there with her eyes open, a feeding tube hooked up to her arm and an oxygen mask strapped over her face. You say you love her. Is that really what you want for her life to be?”
Pacey didn’t answer. He just turned around and head for the intensive care unit. When he got there he saw Andie sitting beside Tatum’s bed in her wheelchair. She looked up as Pacey walked in.
“Hey.” she said softly “I’m glad you’re here. A few minutes ago her arm moved, and it happened again just now. Jack and I think she was trying to tell us something.”
Jack and Pacey exchanged glances over Andie’s head. Jack shook his head and mouthed the words “Humor her.” pointing to Andie. The doctors had told both of them that any movements Tatum made were more than likely just involuntary muscle spasms.
Pacey nodded and sat down next to Andie “You never know. Maybe she was.”
“What’s that?” Andie asked, pointing to the small gold cross necklace Pacey was wearing.
“This? It’s Tatum’s.” Pacey replied “Bessie asked me to hold onto it for Tatum.”
Andie nodded “Tatum would like that.” she looked down at her friend “Wouldn’t you, Tate?” she smiled weakly “The doctors said she can probably hear us when we talk to her. I wonder what she’s thinking right now. Probably wishes she could answer us.”
“I’ll bet.” Pacey said.
Andie looked at the dozens of tubes and machines hooked up to Tatum’s mangled body “I wonder if she can feel all these tubes they’ve got her hooked up to.” her face suddenly changed “What if she’s in pain? Or too cold? Jack, maybe you should go ask the doctors for some extra blankets. Maybe she’s scared?”
“Andie, just calm down.” Jack said, putting his hand on her shoulder.
“No! Jack, what if she’s afraid?”Andie cried, suddenly becoming hysterical and starting to cry “She can’t tell us. She didn’t deserve this! It wasn’t her fault! It’s all my fault, I let her get into that car with Steve!”
Jack quickly started to push the wheelchair out of the room “I’m taking her to rest.” he told Pacey.
As soon as they were gone, Pacey moved closer to Tatum and took her hand. “Don’t worry about her, Tate.” he said out loud “She’ll be fine. This is just really scary for her. For all of us. But it wasn’t anyone’s fault. It was Steve’s fault, really, but that doesn’t matter now.” suddenly, Pacey thought of something. Tatum was in that car with Steve because they were on a date. he said to himself What if I had told her how I feel about her or at least asked her out? Then she would’ve been with me that night, and not with him. This is my fault.
“How is she?” Pacey turned around and saw Dawson standing behind him “Listen, I came up here to apologize. I really shouldn’t have gone off on you like that.”
“No,” Pacey told him “you were right. It’s naive of me to think that she’s going to make it. I guess I just want her to be ok because this is all my fault.”
“Your fault?” Dawson asked “Pacey, how can you say that? You had nothing to do with this.”
“Didn’t I?” Pacey said “If I hadn’t been such a wimp, if I had just asked Tatum out, then she would have been at that party with me, and she wouldn’t have gotten into Steve’s car at the end. And who knows? Maybe none of this would have happened. Maybe Steve wouldn’t have even gone to that party at all.”
Dawson shook his head. “I can’t tell you what to think. As your friend, all I can say is don’t beat yourself up. This isn't your fault, Pacey.” he turned around and left the room.
“No, dad, I don’t know. Yes, I told them that your 16 year old daughter is dying. They didn’t even care. I just don’t think it’s right that...”
Dawson sat down in a chair and shut his eyes, trying to shut out the sounds around him.
“A few minutes ago.” Jen replied as she sat down “I stopped to talk to Jack for a few minutes. God, he’s so relieved that Andie’s going to be ok. He was really afraid he’d lose her, too. Said she got a little hysterical in here, though. Kept on insisting it was her fault for not stopping Tatum from getting into the car when it was obvious Steve was drunk.” She looked at Tatum “I hate this. I feel so helpless. She could die, Pacey, and there’s nothing we can do but sit here and wait.” She tried to choke back a sob.
“She can’t die.” Pacey said firmly “I can’t let that happen.”
Jen nodded and wiped her eyes “Maybe you just want her to be ok so badly because you need to tell her that you love her and you feel like it’s your fault this happened. Would it help if I told you that you aren’t responsible?”
“It might.” Pacey admitted.
“Well, I can’t.” Jen sighed “Maybe you’ll just have to learn to live with your mental problem.”
“Geez, Pacey, I’m kidding. You know it isn’t your fault. This is a very difficult situation for me, ok? I’m just trying to use humor to lighten it a little.”
“Well, try using some humor that’s actually funny.” Pacey told her “So what’s your reason for needing her to make it?”
“Oh, gee, I don’t know.” Jen said sarcastically “Maybe the fact that my grandfather died in this hospital less than six months ago and I can’t take having that happen to one of my friends?”
“Look, Jen, I didn’t mean-”
“No, it’s ok.” Jen interrupted “It’s just that this hurts almost as much as losing Gramps, but in a different way, you know? I mean, when your grandparents are really old and sick, you know that eventually they’re going to die. That doesn’t make it any easier, and it still hurts like hell when you lose them, but it’s not like you can just pretend they’ll be there for your entire life. But this is just plain scary. You don’t expect one of your friends to die when she’s barely 16 years old and totally healthy. You hear about stuff like this happening to teenagers, but you always think of these things as stuff that just happens to everyone else.”
Pacey nodded “But we’re all everyone else to other people.” he pointed out.
“Exactly.” Jen said “And I sit next to Tatum in most of my classes. But when I went to school yesterday I couldn’t even concentrate because I kept on staring at the empty seat next to me. Once in algebra I even turned around and asked Tatum if I could use her calculator before I remembered she wasn’t there. And she might never be there again. And that’s when it hit me that this isn’t just another depressing story on the news. It’s real, Pacey, it’s happening to us, and to our friends.”
“I know.” Pacey said, putting his arms around her.
Jen leaned against his shoulder and sobbed for a few minutes before she spoke again “Grams says that God has a reason for everything that happens. But I just can’t accept that Tatum did anything to deserve to die. She’s just a pretty, sweet 16 year old girl. Everyone loves her.” She pulled away and picked up her purse “I’m going down to the chapel. You want to come with?”
Pacey shook his head “I’m going to stay here.”
“Suit yourself.” Jen said “But if you change your mind, you know where to find me.”
After Jen left, Pacey took one of Tatum’s hands and held it firmly with both of his “I love you, Tatum. And I need you. You have to pull through for me.” he leaned down and gently kissed her on the lips. He lay his head down next to her on the pillow and shut his eyes, willing to do just about anything for one more chance to be with her.
Pacey lifted his head and looked around “Andie?” he yawned “What time is it?”
“8:30 AM.” Andie replied “You fell asleep, we decided to let you get some rest.”
Pacey rubbed his eyes and stretched. He noticed that Andie was dressed in regular street clothes “You’re going home?”
Andie shook her head “No, I was released this morning, but I want to stay here for a little while.”
“You feeling any better?” Pacey asked.
“Much better.” Andie replied “I can’t believe I freaked out like that last night.”
“It’s ok.” Pacey told her “This hasn’t been easy for any of us. But you do know that this wasn’t your fault?”
“I know.” Andie replied “Believe me, I know. And it wasn’t your fault, either.”
Pacey nodded “Yeah. But I really blew it. I mean, she could’ve been the love of my life and now I’ll never know. I really did blow it this time. Last night, I just sat here with her. I kissed her, and I told her I love her, and I don’t know, I guess part of me thought that she would wake up. But I have to accept that this is real, it’s not a fairy tale, she doesn’t have an evil witch’s curse on her, and I’m not Prince Charming.” then he did something he hadn’t done in front of another person in a long time. He started to cry.
Andie leaned over and put her arms around him tightly “It’s ok, Pacey, just let it out.” she whispered.
He leaned his head against her shoulder and let the tears come “I love her.” he sobbed softly.
“I know you do.” Andie said “She’s going to be ok, Pacey.”
Pacey pulled away and wiped his eyes “We don’t know that. And what if she does make it? I think I’d rather have her die than have her be a vegetable for the rest of her life. She wouldn’t want that and she doesn’t deserve it.”
“Trust me, I am painfully aware of that fact.” Andie told him “But she has a five percent chance of recovering. Let’s just hold on to that, ok?”
Pacey nodded “I’m going down to the chapel for a few minutes. Come get me if, you know, anything happens.”
“Ok.” Andie said “I will.”
Everyone else was already in Tatum’s room, crowded around her bed. Bessie looked up as the three teenagers rushed in, her face soaked with tears of joy “It’s a miracle.” she told them.
Dawson moved over and let Pacey get closer to Tatum’s bed. Tatum looked exhausted and pained, but she smiled weakly when she saw Pacey.
“She can’t talk much.” Joey explained, sitting in her wheelchair “But the doctor says that it’s temporary. She’s gonna be ok.”
“What turned it around?” Pacey asked as he leaned down and hugged Tatum gently.
“Who knows and who cares?” Dawson said “You were right, Pacey.”
Pacey smiled as he gently placed the cross necklace in Tatum’s hand.
Copyright 1999 by ChktaBnana fanfic productions
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