Shay was lying on the ground, rain falling lightly on her face. It felt good, the little pinpricks of sensation bringing her back to reality.
"Miss! Miss, are you alright?"
She forced her eyes open. Her vision was still blurry, but she managed to make out a face hovering over her. After blinking a few more times, the world slowly came back into focus. A man was kneeling next to her, looking anxious. Behind him she saw Marshall run up, looking happy, for once, to have been proven wrong.
Shay closed her eyes again, just for a moment. To treasure the memory of what she had just done, what she had just felt. To remember, for however long it mattered.
"It worked." That was Marshall's voice, sounding scared and worried and excited all at the same time. "Are you okay?"
Shay laughed and opened her eyes. They were clear and blue and free.
"I've never been better."
It was a long way down. Her toes poked over the edge, and Shay swallowed hard. Took a deep breath, readied herself. It was now or never. In more ways than one.
Marshall burst through the open trapdoor and onto the roof. The wind whipped his hat off, but he ignored it.
"Shay, you can't do this!" he yelled desperately. "It won't work!"
Shay turned her head, a small smile on her face. "Yeah it will," she said.
Marshall glanced around Shay's apartment. Where was Shay? They had agreed to meet here. He was planning to take her out to lunch and maybe the carnival if she was up for it. She would love the Ferris wheel. Shay had always loved to feel like she was flying. When she was younger her dream had been to build a pair of wings for herself. She would hold her arms out, point her face to the sky, and say, "Watch me. One day I'll fly." The way Shay said it, Marshall almost believed she would.
All Marshall wanted was to see her laugh again. Just to get a smile out of her. Wanted to help her, for just a little while, forget.
He sighed, and then his eye caught on a door in the back of the apartment. It was ajar. He knew that door. Shay used it all the time. It led to the roof.
All the blood drained from Marshall's face, and he sprinted up the stairs, praying he would be fast enough. Shay's words from earlier ran through his mind.
'What would you do, if you knew your expiration date?'
The sky was cloudy, with wind promising a storm. Shay didn't mind. It was refreshing and cooled her down. It had been hard work to put everything together, and she got tired more and more easily with each passing day.
But it was done. That was what counted.
Shay straightened up and looked proudly at what she had made. It was an impressive length, at least fifteen feet across, with straps in the middle to hold it to her back. But it was light. And hopefully strong. It had to be strong to hold her up.
It was going to work. It had to work. Or else…
She shook her head to clear her thoughts. It would work. One way or another, it would work.
She carefully strapped it on, taking care not to bump anything. When it was secured, she could feel the wind swirling around her, tugging at what she had on her back.
Come on, it seemed to whisper. Come and play now.
Shay stepped to the edge.
"I wonder if the town will finally fix the park up next year," Shay said as she sat on the bench, idly kicking her feet back and forth.
"Aw, come on. Don't say it like that." Marshall sat next to her. "The doctors will find some way to help."
Shay gave a small, sad smile, but didn't speak.
Marshall searched for something to say to break the silence, but couldn't think of anything. What could you say to something like that?
After a moment it was Shay who spoke, looking up at the sky as she talked. "Have you ever had anything you've always wanted to do, but always held back because you were too scared?"
"What do you mean?"
Shay hesitated for a second, then looked back down. "Never mind. It's stupid."
The anesthesia wore off bit by bit, so Shay surfaced slowly. The first thing she saw was the ceiling, stark and white. She could feel the small bite if the IV in her arm.
Shay turned her head to the side. There were her parents, trying to look hopeful. Her mother wasn't crying, but she had tear marks tracked down her face. Her father had an arm around her mother's shoulders, holding on as much for himself as for his wife.
Behind her parents stood the doctors. The face of the older one was stoic, but the young intern beside him didn't have as much practice at hiding his feelings.
Shay didn't have to ask how it went. She knew.
She dreamed of the sky. Clear and blue and free. She dreamed of flying. Of soaring and swooping and diving and laughing and… living.
She dreamed of air, of clouds and wind. She dreamed of exhilarating risk and the satisfaction of returning safely. Of coming home.
She dreamed of freedom. She dreamed of a body that was hers and hers alone. Without the unasked for, unwanted shadow in her. In her head. In her brain.
She dreamed, and for a while knew peace.
It had been two days. Two days since her parents realized the headaches might be more than stress. Two days since she had fainted, collapsing on her best friend in the middle of the sidewalk. Two days since it was discovered that she had a brain tumor.
Two days since Shay found out she had less then four months left to live.
There was a chance, the doctors had explained, that it could be removed. It was risky, and the odds low, but the chance was there. She would be able to live a full, normal life if the operation worked. If. Maybe.
So now Shay was lying on a table under the bright lights of the surgical ward as a masked doctor placed a plastic mask over her nose and mouth. Breath deep, he told her. She should try to count backwards in her head.
Her head. Her head.
Shay closed her eyes.
As always, reviews make my day! -K.A.R.