Death is Becoming
Jamie Leigh Hansen
September 13, 2013
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Download this free New Adult Paranormal Romance by Jamie Leigh Hansen and see how you can benefit Childhood Cancer Awareness!
This Halloween, college girl, Erin Kowalkski, battles cancer once again. But this time, she has questions and she’s dying to know the answers. What will her dreams and aspirations, all she’s learned, felt and experienced, amount to when she’s gone? What will she become?
Guided by a hot new patient and chased by a menacing wraith, Erin learns more about life and death than she’d ever imagined.
“I once cross-stitched a quote for my mother that said, ‘Hope lights a candle in the darkest of despairing hearts.’ This story is yours to enjoy. You can easily gift it to others simply by telling them where to download. The more downloads, the more readers, all mean more opportunities for hope to children fighting a life-threatening illness.”
Read an Excerpt
Death. It was a specter she’d dared not contemplate over the years, and yet in the last year death had become her companion. Death stared back at her from pale, bruised eyes every time she looked in the mirror. Death was in the fetid chemical odor she smelled whenever her nose was too close to her own skin. A few weeks ago, death became audible, spoken by her doctor as she was told there was nothing more they could do. Death was coming for her any moment now.
“It’s okay, honey. You can sleep. I know you need some rest.”
Erin looked at her mom, blinking. Her eyes were so heavy. “Not yet. I want…”
In her head, her statement continued. She wanted so many things. Simple things, complicated things. She used to want everything, but now she’d be happy with far less. When she looked at her mom again, she knew time had passed, but not how much.
“I know, honey. I will call them. Rest and they’ll be here when you wake up.”
Erin blinked and her lashes fluttered as she fought the weight of them. Then she could fight no more and her eyes closed.
Crash. Erin startled awake amid the reverberating sound of plates and bowls falling from a tray onto the hard linoleum floors. Erin lay still, staring at the ceiling above her bed. A collage from last Christmas covered two wide ceiling tiles. Friends and family smiled at her from within the pictures, their joy so infectious, Erin grinned with them.
As the seconds passed, she realized the sun through the large hospital room window had darkened to dusk. She had slept longer than she’d thought. Erin pulled herself upright in her bed. There was still an IV in her arm, but all the tubes had been disconnected so she could move freely. Placing her orange and fuzzy sock-covered feet on the floor, she stood and headed for the doorway, thankful the nap had strengthened her and removed her dizziness. Her mom wasn’t in the hallway. No one who would stop her was. If a patient could move, then the entire area was their playground, but her parents were keeping her close. Her mom might be getting a drink or talking to another parent right now, but she wouldn’t be gone long. This might be her last chance for a solitary moment while alive and she couldn’t help but want to take it.
Erin headed out, past helpers delivering dinner trays to several rooms. One open doorway showed her a family watching closely as a bag of blood was hooked to their child’s IV. She looked away, wandering past paper ghosts and spooky decorations. That’s right. She’d forgotten. It was Halloween and they were celebrating cancer-kid style.
Meaning, celebrate as if it were the last. Erin looked down at her themed pajamas and smiled.
Nineteen was a bit old to be in pediatric oncology, but she’d been in college before her cancer recurred. Still on her parent’s insurance and still hooked into the same system that had saved her life when she was twelve, Erin was familiar with Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital. That fact had been a comfort in the last year.
A girl dressed like a baby doll strolled into the “teen” room and Erin followed her. The cushy leather couch had a perfect view of the large flat-screen TV and held a vampire, a zombie, and the masked wraith from Scream. VHS tapes and DVDs filled the media shelf on one side and a small desk with a computer and a boy dressed like a transformer filled space on the other. Though it was comfortable, the room was a bit too full for solitude.
“Hey!” Mark looked up briefly between bouts of re-spawning on Call of Duty, his green eyes enormous and joyful. She hadn’t seen him so lively in weeks. “You should watch, I’m gonna kick Kevin’s ass.”
Erin laughed at his cockiness, but the crowded room was stifling. “It’s a bit much for me, right now, but you go, dude.”
“Hey, no fair! Stick to your own flag!” Kevin scowled and several of the other kids started heckling him. Erin slid silently past baby doll, who was leaning against the open door, laughing.
Walking actually felt good. For the first time in a long time, fatigue and weakness didn’t weigh her down and no one was fussing over her and telling her to take it easy. Wherever the boon came from, she wasn’t going to question it. Erin continued to wander, her eyes drifting over decorations on the walls.
“Mommy! Look it!”A little bald girl ran by in a pink fairy gown, the tulle skirt fluffing around her. The bulge of her port-a-cath was almost hidden beneath her pink satin shirt. Halloween was a blast at the hospital, though Erin had been much older than the little girl the first time she’d celebrated here. Bowls of candy, small gifts, and a party upstairs—what wasn’t to like about that? Would it be movies, a dinner party, or games tonight? Erin hadn’t been paying attention when the nurses had told them.
She reached the front desks, where long cushioned benches curved against the wall on her left and a busy, loud playroom filled a small nook on the right. Ahead of the playroom was a ramp up to a windowed wall and door leading out onto the observation deck. It was small, but had a table, a few chairs, and a great view of the 4th of July fireworks. Instead of fireworks lighting the tonight’s sky and inviting them to gaze out, there were chains of tiny ghosts fluttering in the wind and inviting a focus in, on the deck area itself. Erin went to the door, but stepped aside as a guy from outside opened it.
“Oh, sorry. I didn’t mean to block you coming through.” With a charming smile, he stepped back and held the door open for her. “I thought it was too cold for everyone tonight.”
Erin nodded and walked past him. “It usually is, but I just feel like breathing in some fresh air.”
To her surprise, he closed the door and joined her by the railing. Spokane was laid out below them, bright lights and signs glowing across the landscape. The new guy leaned forward, resting his arms on the railing before he turned a sparkly gaze to her. She’d always loved hazel eyes. And his voice, when he spoke again, emphasized the goose bumps already blossoming all over from the cold air. “Pretty infectious tonight, huh?”
She shook her head at his dry humor. He wasn’t a kid, neither did he seem old enough to be a parent, but he had the jokes right. “At a hospital, imagine that.”
He widened his eyes, attempting to appear innocent of making a bad pun. “I meant the party atmosphere. The laughter and joy of sick little kids throwing on a costume and parading up and down the hallways. You know laughter is the best medicine.”
Erin agreed with a slight smile. “So much better than throwing up on a costume.”
He chuckled. “Sounds like you speak from experience.”
She nodded. “And if you’re here as long I’ve been, you’ll learn the same.”
“Wow.” Humor filled his tone. “I thought you looked older.”
Erin nodded. “Oh, I am. Positively ancient.”
He arched a skeptical brow. “Now that I find hard to believe.”
His gaze traveled down her black and yellow Spooky Doo pajamas to her orange fuzzy socks with tiny black cats on them. One foot was turned, showing the paw-shaped grippies on the bottom. “Is that what ancient people wear for Halloween?”
Erin nodded with a serious mien and rubbed her bare arms. “This is my sinister disguise.”
He winked and stood up straight, a little taller than she was. “Well, sinister lady, don’t let it go to waste out here alone. Let’s get you inside before your goose bumps sprout scary faces.”