“Gavin, you’re going to have to talk about it eventually. Have you told any of your friends, like we discussed?” Ms. Sauvé kept staring at him as If he was going to break down at any moment. Spinner was getting really tired of people telling him what to do, there was no way he was going to start going around pouring his heart out like he was living in some chick flick. His dad was going to die, so what, he was handling it just fine on his own.
“I don’t have to do anything, but if it makes you so happy, yes, I told them he was sick. I didn’t share that my dad's knocking on death's doorstep, but It’s really none of their business now is it? Can I go now?” He grabbed his bag, Spinner had never wanted to be in Mrs. Kwan's classroom before but he guessed there was a first time for everything.
“your friends care about you, I really think you should talk to them about this especially now that—“ he knew that he was being unreasonable but he was just so sick of talking about it. His father had decided to stop treatment and just let himself die. He had decided that life wasn’t worth enough to keep fighting.
“now that what? Now that they’re talking about pulling the plug? Now that there’s no chance of him pulling through? Now that he’s just giving up? Forget it. I’m done here.” Kids rushed to get out of his way as he slammed the door behind him, almost running into Paige and their friends in the process.
“Hey hon, you’ve been a total space cadet lately. Care to share your issue with the class?” Spinner's only response was to shrug; he knew that he should’ve told them all ages ago. He had been best friends with Jimmy for years and he loved Paige and his relationship with her more than anything but how was he supposed to look them in the eyes and tell them his dad was going to die? Talk about a buzzkill. “Okay weirdo, don’t tell us. But promise me you’ll come to my place tonight? We’re all getting together to study.”
“Sorry Paige, I promised my mom I’d go with her and Kendra to do something.” He knew that his excuse sounded lame but he couldn’t bring himself to care
“Okay then, let us know when you have time for us again.” Paige stormed off with Terri and Hazel close behind, leaving Jimmy to look at Spinner with concern written across his face.
“Man you know you can talk to me about anything right? You haven’t been yourself lately”
“Yeah I know man, I’ve just got a lot on my plate but don’t worry about me! I’ll make it up to Paige and we can all hang out some other time.” He pasted on a smile that didn’t feel real and he was sure Jimmy wasn’t going to fall for it but his friend just patted him on the shoulder and told him good luck before walking away.
“Hey Spin, mom said we need to eat quick so that we can head to the hospital.” The silence in the room seemed to stretch on forever, getting louder and louder until Kendra cleared her throat and tried again. “Spinner did you hear me?”
“I’m not hungry” it had been like this for weeks, ever since they had gotten the news that their dad wasn’t going to make it. Spinner had completely shut down and wouldn’t talk about it to anyone, choosing to pretend like nothing was happening instead, but sometimes Kendra would look at him and it was like he was just a ghost. A shell of the brother she admired so much.
She took a deep breath, every time she’d tried to talk to him about it he’d either lashed out or ignored her but that didn’t mean she would just give up. “He wouldn’t want you to starve yourself you know” Spinner finally turned to look her in the eyes, his own rimmed with red that broke her heart. She had never seen her brother look so lost.
“Leave it alone Kendra, you just wouldn’t get it.” And that was where she drew the line.
“You’ve gotta be kidding me, I may not be a part of this family by blood but he’s my dad too Spinner.” He at least had the decency to look guilty at that but Kendra refused to let him off the hook “You need to get up and come eat with us, you’re worrying mom even more than she already is and she doesn’t need that kind of stress right now.”
“I know that he’s your dad too, that’s not what I meant. Just please leave, I’ll come down in a minute.”
“Okay.” Kendra knew that it wasn’t really her place to say anything but every time mom brought it up had ended in a screaming match so she had to at least try. “Spin… one more thing. I really think you should talk to someone, you haven’t been yourself in months and I just can’t handle losing you too.” She rushed it all out in one breath staring down at the floor.
They weren’t a touchy-feely family, emotions weren’t really a common conversation in the Mason household, but Kendra couldn’t keep watching silently as her family fell apart. She wouldn’t let it. Not when they had done so much for her.
The shock on his face was evident as he finally stood up from his bed, walking over to wrap her into a tight hug. “I’m not going anywhere squirt. I promise.”
Spinner had never felt more uncomfortable and angry in his life. Sitting outside the hospital with his mom and Kendra made it all seem so much more real. His mom turned to look at both of them with a concerned look, “Are you sure you want to do this right now? I wouldn’t blame you guys if you wanted to wait a couple more days.”
“He doesn’t have a couple more days, can we just get this over with?”
“Spinner!” Kendra looked like she was about to give him another lecture that he really didn’t want to hear.
“We don’t know that for sure Gavin, the doctors said there’s no telling how much longer he has.” His mom was trying and Spinner knew that he was being unfair but so was life, so he couldn’t really bring himself to care.
“Can we please just go in and get this over with” he knew he would get an earful for slamming the car door if he waited around so he just kept walking until he was standing outside his dad's door. Room 204. Seemed too normal for the place where his father would probably die.
His sister and mother caught up to him, both giving him looks that were hard to understand before opening the door and walking into the room.
“Well if it isn’t my beautiful family, how are you all doing?” Spinner couldn’t look at his dad. He couldn’t look at the man in the bed, hooked up to all of these machines. It didn’t make sense to him.
Kendra didn’t seem to have that problem, settling herself into the bed just like she had when they all still had hope that he would be coming home. “we’re fine dad, how are you feeling?” That used to be something he admired about his sister, her constant ability to put others first, but right now it just seemed forced. Like it was what she was supposed to say, not what she wanted to say.
“As good as can be expected kiddo. How was school today Spin?”
He felt his entire body get hot. How was school? The anger that had been simmering underneath his skin since he’d found out about the end of treatment made him feel like he was about to rip in half and there was nothing he could do to stop it. “Are we all supposed to just pretend like everything’s fine? Like you’re not about to croak at any second?” He was tired of pretending.
“Gavin Reginald Mason I have had enough of your attitude. You act like you’re the only person in the world that is being affected by this as if your sister isn’t struggling. As if I’m not watching the love of my life waste away.” Spinner hated seeing his mom cry, absolutely hated knowing he was the reason behind it, but he couldn’t think of anything to say to her. He had meant every word of what he said.
His dad looked down at Kendra, placing a light kiss on her forehead “hey honey, why don’t you take your mom down to the cafeteria and get us all something to snack on.” Kendra nodded and threw one last glare at Spinner before leading their mom out of the room. “Spin can you look at me, please?”
Spinner tried to lift his eyes, but something kept stopping him. “No. I can’t. Because if I look at you now, in that bed, I won't be able to unsee it and when you’re gone I won’t have another picture of you in my head to change it.”
“So the first 16 years of your life are all just gonna disappear? Spinner I’m not going to stop being your dad just because I’m not here anymore.” The soothing tone of his voice just pissed Spinner off even more, how could he act as if nothing was wrong!
“You talk about it as if you’re just leaving the country or something dad, you’re dying! Who the hell is gonna finish teaching me how to drive or tie a tie or any of the other stuff a dad is supposed to teach his son?” He could feel the anger rolling off him in waves, he wanted to scream or to punch something but he settled for pacing back and forth, still not making eye contact.
“Buddy I know it’s scary but you’re going to be okay and you’ll learn all of those things. Maybe not from me but there are people around you that love and care for you just as much as I do.”
“I don’t get it. Why do you have to die? They told us there was a good chance that you would still make it. We were supposed to go on a road trip this summer.” He hated himself for the tears stinging behind his eyes, they made him feel weak and stupid, but he couldn’t stop them even if he tried.
“I don’t know. I wish I did but I just don’t have the answers.” The room went quiet for a moment in a silence that was anything but comfortable. “Can I let you in on a secret? I’m terrified, Gav. I don’t want to leave you and your mother and sister behind but I also don't want to die. I have so many things I wanted to accomplish, and there is so much I’m going to miss from your lives but I don’t regret the life I’ve lived. And I don’t want you to think of me like this either, that’s why I decided to stop treatment. This isn’t living anymore, this is just dying. I don’t want you to think of me like this I just want you to remember how much I loved all of you.” Spinner took a deep breath. His skin still felt too tight and itchy but what his dad said made sense, even if it hurt. He walked across the room in a couple of strides and wrapped his arm around the man who he had always admired.
“I love you too dad.”