“Twelve-year-old Andrea opened her eyes groggily and looked at her bedside clock. 8:15! Andrea screamed in her head. She was supposed to be at school, Harker Middle, fifteen minutes ago. She quickly got changed into her blue and tan uniform, then swept her light brown hair back into a ponytail.”
Dedicated to Izzy, Sophia, Sammie, and Rachel Barclay who helped me along my wonderful and winding journey of writing
Twelve-year-old Andrea opened her eyes groggily and looked at her bedside clock. 8:15! Andrea screamed in her head. She was supposed to be at school, Harker Middle, fifteen minutes ago. She quickly got changed into her blue and tan uniform, then swept her light brown hair back into a ponytail. Andrea grabbed her backpack and shoved her binder inside, then looked around her blue painted room at her bed, dresser, cabinets, and desk to see if there was anything else she needed. Andrea quickly grabbed her pencil case, then sprinted downstairs.
“Mom! Dad!” Andrea yelled. “I’m late! You guys didn’t wake me up.” No one answered. “Hello?” Andrea said again as she approached the table. A note was there.
I’m sorry we had to leave without telling you. Your mother hit the floor, and the doctors do not yet know what happened. This was at 5:00. I hope you are fine. I’m letting you skip school today. I just left the hospital to write this note. Now, I must hurry back. Don’t you worry, Andrea. Your mother will be fine. She’s as strong as you. I will be back at 9:00 to tell you the news.
Andrea sucked in a breath and dropped her backpack. She read over the note again, not believing her eyes. She picked up the note and squeezed it so hard that it crumpled under her hands. Then, Andrea threw the note back onto the table and imagined her mom having a heart attack or a stroke — or worse.
Andrea felt lightheaded and gripped a wooden chair. She looked around the room, at the wooden table in the middle of the room, the stove and fridge in the front, and some cabinets in the corner. They started to blur. She shook her head and walked into the next room to take a seat on the comfy, tan couches. Andrea put her feet on a dark oak coffee table in front of her and turned on the TV. Just forty more minutes until Dad comes home, Andrea told herself. Only forty minutes until I hear about Mom.
Time slipped away as Andrea half-heartedly watched her favorite movie, Wonder. Finally, she heard the door rattle.
“Dad!” Andrea shouted. Her dad burst into the room panting and brushing New York snow off of his coat.
“Dad! Dad! What happened?” Andrea asked, tugging on his sleeve.
“The doctors said that they haven’t seen anything like it. They said it couldn’t have been of natural causes, which is scary. I don’t know what it would be of. Anyways, I was not awake to see what happened. All I know is that no one entered this house all night.”
“Really?” Andrea said, worried. “Is she okay?”
“I don’t know, Andrea. I don’t know,” her dad said, pinching the bridge of his nose. Andrea hugged him.
“We have to head back to the hospital now. Put your coat, boots, and gloves on.”
Andrea nodded, a tear slipping down her face.
In the car, Andrea twiddled her thumbs and bit her lip. Mom… I wish I knew if you were okay. Please be okay. Please let her be okay.
Her dad, Mr. Wilson, gripped the steering wheel hard, turning his knuckles white. He drove into the driveway of the hospital and parked.
Soon, Andrea and her dad were in the waiting room.
“Mr. Wilson?” a voice called. Andrea’s dad stood up and walked into a room where a blonde lady was calling. Andrea followed. The lady shut the door behind them and motioned for them to sit down into comfy, blue chairs.
Sitting in one herself behind a wood desk, the lady spoke.
“Hello, Mr. Wilson. I’m Victoria. As the doctors have informed you, this was not from a natural cause. We looked over your wife and saw that something happened around her head. There was some type of dispositioning of her brain cells, and right now, it’s going to be very hard to fix this. I am very sorry. As you can probably figure out, her brain has stopped working. Therefore, the doctors put her in hospice. She will make it a few hours.” Andrea couldn’t imagine living without her mom. She burst into tears and buried her face in her father’s shoulder. Mr. Wilson let tears fall freely down his face. Victoria left the room, and Andrea wailed and squeezed her father.
Andrea and her father knelt down before Andrea’s mother and said their hearts out. Andrea told her mom about all the good times they’d had together — about how much she loved her. Her mother couldn’t hear them or anything, but Andrea spoke anyway, with tears soaking her neck. Mr. Wilson whispered in Mrs. Wilson’s ear for a long time.
Andrea was there holding Mrs. Wilson’s hand as her mother moved on to a better place. The next few months were rough. Mr. Wilson was not the same. He was never as happy as before. He didn’t laugh or smile like he used to.
Andrea and her dad lived differently. Andrea started to cook, do the laundry, and help out around the house. Her father was helpful also, but not as joyful as usual.
Finally, on Andrea’s thirteenth birthday, the doctors had a present for her. Andrea and her father drove to the hospital. They were taken into a room with many images on the projector and spewing across a table.
“I’m Victoria. You might remember me,” the familiar lady stated. “After your mother’s death, the doctors found something surprising. And it wasn’t in her brain. A long time ago, your mother tore her arm. When a doctor gave her surgery, a very bad virus was inserted in her. Well, it wasn’t very bad at the time. That morning when she lost consciousness, a virus trigger was released into the house that never should have been. That means,” Victoria paused, “I think it was someone who was either with the doctor at the time, or it was the doctor himself. I do not know why they would pick that time though to set off such a deadly trigger. And, how could they release it into your house?”
Andrea and Mr. Wilson shook their heads in disgust.
“What’s a virus trigger?” Andrea asked.
“Well, we’re not sure, but it might be an invisible gas or something that makes the virus become harmful. But the question still remains — why? And how?”
“We don’t know. We really don’t know.”
Mr. Wilson got up to leave, but Andrea stayed sitting in the chair. “Who was it? Who was it?” she asked.
“We don’t know yet, which is embarrassing on our part because we have no record of your mom’s surgery. Maybe it was lost, or worse, destroyed by the doctor because he didn’t want anyone to see.”
“Don’t you know about the surgery though? Like… when was it? Can’t you ask the doctors?”
“Andrea! It’s time to go,” Mr. Wilson leapt in. He grabbed Andrea’s arm and pulled her out of the room.
“Dad!” Andrea said in the hallway. “I want to know what happened! I bet she knows some information — what if we can even figure out what happened ourselves?”
Andrea’s dad shook his head, and they walked out of the waiting room.
“Now, Andrea, these doctors are very experienced. They know much better than we.”
Andrea mumbled under her breath as her dad led her out of the building, into the car, and all the way back home.
Andrea went back to school in the next month. The doctors were still figuring out what had happened, and Andrea was asking as many questions as she could. So much that her dad at one point left her in the waiting room. (He soon noted that that wasn’t such a great idea.)
Andrea walked into the school building crowded with kids. She was looking for one person — Harper. Harper was her only friend that wouldn’t tease her about her horrible grades.
Finally, Andrea found her in an upstairs hallway and told her about her mom. Harper gasped as they walked into their homeroom.
“Andrea! That’s horrible! I don’t know what I’d do if that happened to me,” Harper exclaimed.
“It’s okay. It’s really not a big deal,” Andrea lied straight to her friend’s face. Harper raised her eyebrow knowing that it was a huge deal but didn’t say anything.
Andrea and Harper sat down at their desks next to each other.
“Oh no,” Andrea whispered as her teacher, Ms. Addison, walked over.
“Andrea, I’m very, very sorry. I heard from your father. I’ll excuse you from all your missing work, okay? But I need you to work hard,” Ms. Addison bent down and whispered to Andrea, “Because of your grades, all right?” Ms. Addison gave Andrea a knowing look, then walked back to the front of the class to teach. Andrea shook her head looking down, knowing that she had F’s in every class except for art. Painting was the only thing she ever cared about. Harper understood, because she liked art just the same. However, Harper was also very smart and got A’s all the time. Andrea’s only ‘A’ was in art.
“‘A’ for Art!” Andrea used to say to her parents when they received her report card. Of course, they were never very happy.
Andrea shoved the subject of her parents away and finally heard her teacher dismiss them for first period.
“Finally,” Andrea muttered under her breath, making Harper elbow her. “What? I hate school. I just can’t wait for art!”
“Andrea, you need to get better grades! Your par — ” Harper caught herself and took a sharp breath. Andrea sighed and shrugged.
“I guess,” she said, walking quicker to math.
The rest of the day flew by in a breeze, Andrea not paying attention to math, science, or history. Finally, it was time for art. Andrea burst into the art room with Harper and filled her lungs with the familiar smell of paint and wood.
“Oh! Andrea! I totally forgot to tell you. We have a new art teacher. Meet Mrs. Grace. Mrs. Grace, this is Andrea,” Harper explained. Andrea stood horror-struck. A new teacher?! But she loved Miss Alia! She plastered a fake smile on her face and shook hands with Mrs. Grace.
“Nice to meet you, Mrs. Grace! Very nice. What happened to Miss Alia?”
“Oh. Well. She moved on to a better job that was more important than her students.” Mrs. Grace rolled her eyes. Andrea stood with a disgusted look on her face. She went to her seat and quietly sat down.
That day at art was awkward and quiet. No one talked or laughed like they used to.
Finally, it was the end of class, and Andrea was walking out the door.
“Andrea! Can I come hang out tonight?” Harper asked.
“Harper, remember? My mom? My dad can’t handle us right now,” Andrea said. Suddenly, she heard Mrs. Grace swivel around in her chair to face her.
“Mrs. Grace?” Andrea asked, turning around to face her teacher.
“Andrea — are you? Andrea Wilson?” Mrs. Grace declared. Andrea nodded. Just then, the classroom walkie-talkie on the teacher’s desk called Andrea’s name to go home.
“Sorry Mrs. Grace, but I gotta go,” Andrea said, eager to get away from her new art teacher.
“Andrea, wait!” Mrs. Grace said, getting up from her seat. But Andrea had already strolled out of the doorway and down the hall.
Andrea left school with a straight face. A new teacher, bad grades, more homework — could it get any worse? She walked down the road, seeing her small house in the distance.
That night at home, she was greeted with a surprise.
“Andrea, dear! Want to come watch TV with me?” her father asked. Andrea walked over to the couch, surprised that her father was in such a good mood because personally, she wasn’t. She sat down on the couch and started looking at the big football players thundering across the field. They were almost to the end zone. The player finally made it and threw the football on the ground with celebration.
“TOUCHDOWN!!!” Andrea’s father screamed. He scrambled to his feet and gave Andrea a high-five. She half-heartedly high-fived him back.
“Andrea, dear? Why the long face?” He asked, knowingly.
“How — how are you so happy right now?!” Andrea asked, losing it. “Nothing is going right today! Nothing ever goes right! How come all of a sudden you are happy?”
“Do you want to know? It’s because I realized that there is no point in getting sad anymore. What happened will not change. Like, don’t cry over spilt milk. It already happened. So you fix it. And since we cannot fix her death, the best way to mend our hurt is to smile and say, what has happened has happened, and I might as well be happy.”
Andrea stood dumbfounded at her father’s words.
Impressive coming from him, she thought. Then she smiled, and slowly, it made sense. He was right. No matter what happened, it was no use getting mad over.
As her father smiled back, Andrea forgot about her mother. About school. About all her worries. Andrea let her father wrap her in a big bear hug.
However, the next morning Andrea woke up from a nightmare about her mom. She sighed and got dressed for school. As Andrea walked down the stairs to make her breakfast, she already smelled the scent of waffles wafting from the kitchen. She looked over the railing and saw her father flipping waffles on the waffle iron. Andrea laughed to herself, knowing that she usually had to wake her dad up in the morning because he always slept in.
Mr. Wilson motioned for Andrea to hurry and come down the stairs. Andrea did and saw a big plate of strawberry and syrup covered waffles waiting for her. She grinned and gave her dad a big hug.
After eating her scrumptious breakfast, she kissed her dad goodbye and walked to school. Andrea entered the building to find Harper waiting for her there.
“Hi, Harper.” Andrea smiled.
“Andrea! Mrs. Grace wants to talk to you,” Harper replied. Andrea frowned and crossed her arms.
She walked up the stairs to the art room. She no longer enjoyed the wood and paint smell.
“Ah! Andrea. Harper told you right?” Mrs. Grace said, pacing around the room.
“Yeah,” Andrea said, standing by the door.
“Come sit, come sit,” Mrs. Grace commanded, pulling out a chair from one of the art tables. She moved it in front of her, and Andrea sat down, uncomfortable. Mrs. Grace hesitated, then kept pacing the room.
“Why did you want me?” Andrea asked, getting impatient. Mrs. Grace finally pulled up a chair and sat down in front of Andrea.
“Andrea, don’t get too worked up, but, I know something about your mother.”
Andrea’s eyes widened, and she gripped the sides of her chair.
“What?” she whispered.
“I was the doctor’s assistant,” Mrs. Grace said. Andrea’s face started to twist into anger.
“Now, before you get all mad, let me explain. That doctor, Doctor Richard, gave me the
file on your mom’s surgery along with a note.” Mrs. Grace took an unsealed envelope out of her pocket and handed it to Andrea. Andrea’s hands trembled as she took it. Suddenly, they trembled in anger.
“Why didn’t you report him?! How could you keep quiet?!” Andrea yelled. Mrs. Grace shook her head. Andrea glared at Mrs. Grace, then looked up at the clock.
“It’s first period. See you,” Andrea turned to walk out of the room. Mrs. Grace pushed her seat back and got up.
“Read the note!” Mrs. Grace yelled after Andrea.
Andrea sat down at study hall, fingering the note. This class, third period, was the only one she did not have with Harper. Finally, Andrea gathered up the courage to open the envelope. She raised the flap and reached inside — she felt a small piece of paper in the envelope and pulled it out. She unfolded it and read:
I am terribly sorry. I have lost the surgery file. If you are mad, I don’t blame you. But here, I have the note from Doctor Richard. Please understand.
There was a second note in the envelope too — the note that Doctor Richard wrote. Andrea hesitated to look at it. This note would change reality. She looked around the room at everyone studying quietly. Then, she unfolded the other note:
This is for your eyes only. When Zaria Wilson tore her arm, I did surgery on her. You are my most trusted friend. This is a secret between you me, and if you ever see the Wilsons, them too. I am quitting my job as a doctor. It is no use anymore. But anyway, I was operating on Zaria when I found a virus in her arm through her bloodwork. It was deadly. I knew she would die soon, so I did the only thing I could. I tried to remove it, but I couldn’t. Instead, I damaged the virus so that it would only grow back on a certain day and kill her. By now, I’m sure that it has grown back, but I am long gone in a different part of the country. I pray for her family.
Andrea read the note twice and stood up in her chair. The teacher looked at her.
“Are you okay?! You look awfully pale,” the teacher commented.
“I — I’m not feeling so well,” Andrea replied.
“Why don’t you go lie down in the office, hon,” the teacher said, worried. Andrea nodded, packed up her stuff, and headed out of the classroom and down to the office.
The office called her dad, and he came and picked her up.
In the car, Andrea burst into tears from all this pressure about her mom. Her dad comforted her and said they would talk at home. Finally, they arrived at the house and sat at the dinner table.
“So, dear Andrea, what is bothering you?” Mr. Wilson asked. Andrea didn’t need to talk. She just handed the note to her father. Mr. Wilson read the note over, his face getting more and more ghost-like at every word. Finally, he finished reading and looked up at Andrea, his mouth in a tight, white line. He just looked at the paper, then at Andrea, then back at the paper again. Finally, after a lot of looking back and forth, Mr. Wilson pushed his chair back and stood up. He motioned for Andrea to follow him. They both got into the car and drove to the hospital in silence. Finally, they arrived and walked to the waiting room.
“Mr. Wilson? Andrea?” the familiar voice of Victoria called. Andrea and her father walked into Victoria’s office.
“So, what is this emergency meeting about?” Victoria asked.
“It’s about this,” Andrea said, handing the envelope to Victoria. “Mrs. Grace is my art teacher at school now.”
Victoria opened the envelope, took out the letter, and read silently. Her eyes grew wide, and she looked up at Mr. Wilson and Andrea. Andrea nodded. Victoria was lost for words, but she waved at them to leave. She had all the information she needed, and Andrea was finally feeling accomplished.
The next day, Victoria scheduled another appointment with Andrea and Mr. Wilson. The group of three sat together in Victoria’s office.
“Mr. Wilson, we’ve found the location of Dakota Richard. He’s in Rhode Island. We’ve been trying to contact him to pay you guys for not telling us anything. He’s paying a lot of money — some for this hospital and some for you.” Victoria looked really annoyed at Dr. Richard.
“No, no, no, no, no, no. He did a good deed for Zaria. Without him, Zaria would have died way before this. Please. We don’t want his money,” Mr. Wilson stated. Victoria looked like she wanted to say something, but she kept quiet.
“All right then,” Victoria said. “I guess now we don’t have any more to do with this. Thank you so much for all your help.” She got up and tucked her chair in behind her desk. She dismissed Andrea and her father.
Andrea skipped out of the hospital, content.
The next week at school, Andrea came home and jumped into her father’s arms.
“Father! Father! I aced my math test!” And Mr. Wilson smiled so big that his mouth hurt.
So, that’s how it was for the the Wilsons. Happy. Andrea went on to high school, having been on the Honor Roll twice.
Andrea and her father lived in that same house for the rest of their lives, no longer grieving over Mrs. Wilson, but thinking that she would be more happy if they were happy. Those were the words the Wilsons lived by.
Happy plus a Sad does not equal another Happy. But Andrea, dear, if we are happy, then your mother will be, too.
Andrea relaxed in the backseat of her dad’s white van, wanting to know how long it would be until they got to the beach. The sun shined brightly up above — it was almost noon. She looked over to her father, bouncing around to the music while driving. She smiled, knowing that everything was all right now. Then, she looked to the passenger’s seat where her grandma sat with perfect posture. Andrea’s grandma was an uptight woman, always yapping about something. Her grey-streaked hair was neatly pulled back into a bun. Andrea never saw a time where her grandma was not wearing a sweater, like a turtleneck, bell sleeve, or even a choker sweater. She was always wearing something like that!
“How much longer, Daddy?” Andrea asked for the fifth time.
“Not too much longer, dear,” Mr. Wilson answered back.
“You said that last time,” Andrea groaned, slouching down, but with a small smile on her face.
“Now, Andrea! You sit up like a lady! That’s how your Grampa Joe hurt his back,” Grandma stated. Andrea rolled her eyes with a smirk and sat up straight.
“Now, what do you say?” Grandma asked.
“Yes, Grandma,” Andrea strained.
“Good. And look! What a way to kill the time! We’ve arrived.”
Mr. Wilson pulled over into a busy parking lot.
“We’re here, we’re here,” he sang to himself, turning off the music. The family got out of the car and stepped onto the sandy road.
“What a lovely day!” Andrea’s dad stated, making Grandma glare at him.
“Now, now, you know the sun’s UV rays could hurt you. Put on some sunscreen!”
“We’ve already put on two layers like you told us to,” Andrea laughed. Grandma grumbled under her breath, adding another layer of sunscreen herself, even though her skin was already ghostly white.
“Andrea! Be careful getting that basket out of the trunk! You’ve probably already strained your back enough for a week! Don’t let me see you slouching one more time today, young lady or I’ll — ” Grandma stopped herself and looked around. She had announced this loudly, like she wanted everyone in the parking lot to stare at her. She again went back to grumbling, and the onlookers went back to their own business.
Finally, after a lot of Grandma’s comments, Andrea, Mr. Wilson, and Grandma made it down onto the sandy beach. Andrea immediately raced for the water, collecting seashells that the waves brought in. Mr. Wilson and Grandma set up a beach towel and the umbrella. Grandma stayed under the umbrella reading a book called Safety in the Cruel World. Mr. Wilson sat watching Andrea running around chasing seagulls. He had tried to get Grandma out of the Safety Zone before, but it didn’t work.
Finally, he called Andrea to come eat lunch with them. They all sat together on the red and white checkered mat, under the blue umbrella. The blue umbrella was under the scorching sun, and the scorching sun was under the white angels. Among the white angels was Andrea’s mother, looking down and smiling at the small family eating, Grandma not even reading her book.