“I’m so sorry. . . they didn’t make it.”
Those were the words that destroyed me, that changed my life in a way I would never have expected.
That night turned my world upside down.
“Miss Saunders, I’m so sorry. . . but your parents. . . they didn’t make it.
The surgeon’s words swirl around in my head, making me dizzy with the weight of their implied meaning as tears threaten to fall from my already swollen eyes.
This is a joke right? This can’t be real - what I saw - No, it wasn’t - it couldn’t be. . .
This isn’t happening.
My heart stops as my despair threatens to send me to my knees, making me light headed from the intensity of my emotions.
I choke back sobs as the head surgeon continues, a somber look on his well-worn face as he rings the fabric of his surgical cap in his slender hands. His eyes are red and wary with exhaustion, hooded with grief as he struggles to convey to me and the small boy asleep in my arms his failure to save our parents lives.
“We did everything we could, but their injuries were too severe. They were too far gone by the time we got to them. Even if we had been there when it happened, I’m not confident we could have done anything. ”
How can this happen?
I can feel the pity in his eyes, but I’m too weak to care. The only thing preventing me from collapsing right there at his feet is the dozing two year old I hold against my chest as if my life depended on it.
“I’m so sorry for your loss. Please, take as much time as you need. We have an officer standing by to take you to the station. They will be needing to take your statement. Let the nurse know if you need anything.”
I feel myself nod as silent tears run down my cheeks.
What do I do now? What about Kenny? How am I supposed to. . .
I look down at Kenny’s slumbering expression as I cradle him in the crook of my neck. He seems so serene as he snores softly, his breath tickling my chin as he dreams, unaware of the tragedy that has befallen us.
What’s going to happen when he wakes up and realizes they’re gone? What’s going to happen to us? I’m sixteen, and we don’t have any other relatives that I know of. How am I supposed to be able to take care of him? What if someone tries to take him away from me? What if we’re separated?
I shove the thought from my mind firmly, cringing at the mere idea of being forcibly torn from the only family member I have left in the world.
No - I won’t let that happen. I-I’ll figure something out. . . I have to. . .
A husky voice interrupts my inner turmoil, making me jump at the sudden sound so close to my ear.
“Excuse me, miss, but I need to take you back to the station.”
I abruptly turn to face the owner of the masculine voice, which belongs to the young officer who escorted Kenny and me to the hospital from the station.
A wave of relief washes over me at the reminder of his presence; it gave me a semblance of stability in this crazy mess. To be honest, I’m just thankful he’s still here, considering the early hour he had picked us up and the fact we have been sitting here in this outdated waiting room for about six hours.
Then again, after what happened, I guess it’s to be expected to have some sort of police presence with us.
We are witnesses after all.
Or at least, I am.
The young officer considers me carefully as he silently waits for some sort of response from my traumatized figure. The look in his eye is wary, as if he’s waiting for me to break down into a sobbing mess. To be honest, I almost do, but Kenny’s small figure slumbering peacefully in my arms helps me reject such tantalizing temptations and stay strong - at least on the outside. I can’t let myself be overwhelmed by this: I have someone else to think about now, someone I need to put above my own well being, and if I want to be able to take care of him, I can’t be weak. I can’t be fragile. I have to be strong - for both of us.
I can’t let him see me break.
Clearing my throat and wiping the damp remains of tears from my cheeks, I follow him as he leads us out the door of the Emergency Room to his squad car. Climbing in the back seat, I hold Kenny closer to my chest and carefully place a gentle kiss on his forehead as I hum to him softly, dreading the next morning when he would wake up to our new heartbreaking reality, where we are all we have left.
But in all of the uncertainty of our future, one thing is for sure: I will do whatever I have to to make sure Kenny and I stay together and that we stay safe. I won’t let anyone separate us or hurt us in any way.
We are all we have left.
This is our new reality.