"Don't do that. The 'what if's' are what bring fear. You just have to picture the results you want. Go ahead picture them."
"Okay." I close my eyes and picture what I want.
"Now picture it until it seems real. Until you can't even imagine any other results."
"Fuck!" The instant pain hits me.
"Language!" I open my eyes and my mom is holding the nail and smiling. "Now just wait until I bandage this up."
"You tricked me!"
"No, I didn't. You knew I was going to pull it out."
"But not right then. I thought you were gonna count to three or something."
"Then you would've been expecting the pain. Do you still feel the pain?"
"That's because you stopped thinking about it. You're focused on me. Everything in life changes when you change how you look at something.
Focus on the process of it and the thing itself doesn't seem so bad."
"Maybe. What's wrong with that?" She starts tickling me and we both laugh.
"Parker." I open my eyes and Sarah's standing in my doorway.
"You ready to head to the hospital?"
"Just a minute. I'll meet you at the car." Sarah walks off and I walk into the closet.
I reach to the back of the top shelf and bring down my old duffle bag from my little league days. I haven't been able to stop checking on this bag the past few days.
I just keep checking to make sure everything is in it. I count everything. I double-check that everything is there. It is. I count again. It's all there. I shove it back and walk outside.
"Parker!" Taylor nearly tramples me as I step out, giving me a massive hug.
I look around and everyone is there.
"Hey." I quickly start to fight tears.
Everyone has very forced smiles on their faces. If it wasn't so sweet I'd think it was creepy.
I hug everyone and they say things ranging from "we love you" to "good luck", but it all just makes this scarier. Knowing that people are rooting for me only makes this harder.
Part of me is ready to run inside and lock myself in my room. But it takes the very little strength left in me to fight against my basic instincts.
Eventually, Sarah, JJ, and I get in the car and drive off. I look back at the house and see Rafe standing in the backyard. We make eye contact for just a few seconds.
He just smiles and nods his head.
"I told you not to run barefoot on the deck." My mom looks at me as I hobble around the kitchen.
"There was a stray cat! I didn't have time to look for shoes!"
"Oh! I had no idea!"
"Told you it was important."
"My bad." She just smiles and laughs.
"Stop laughing at me!" I go up to her.
"I'm not laughing at you."
"Yes, you are!"
"Parker..." She squats down to go face to face with me. "I would never laugh at you."
"Everyone laughs at me."
"Kids at school."
"Sit down." She walks me over to the table. "You need to know something."
"It's a secret. So you can't tell anyone."
"Can you promise? Pinky swear?" She puts her pinky out to me.
The hospital feels colder than before. A dry cold. But nothing's as cold as the bed they put me in. The lack of clothes plus the freezing sheets makes my butt cheeks harden.
"They'll be coming to take you down in a few minutes." A nurse says before leaving the room.
"Can I be alone?" I look at JJ and Sarah who have been hovering around me.
"Sure." Sarah just touches my shoulder and forces a smile, pushing back obvious tears in her eyes, before walking out.
"You're gonna do fine." JJ looks so scared.
"It will be. It's not like I can leave, we have our monthiversary in a week."
"Don't remind me. I've got nothing planned."
"Well, then you better get started. I can be quite the picky boyfriend."
"You've been using that word a lot recently."
"It was weird at first, but I've come to like it. It feels powerful." We both laugh.
"Next we need pet names for each other."
"Oh god no! That's too far." He laughs.
"Can we at least get a ship name? How about..."
"No." I grab his hand. "I'll see you afterward."
"See you soon." We kiss before JJ leaves.
"Bye Baby Cakes." I hear JJ laugh as he walks away.
Nurses come in and start rolling me off. As I begin to move through the hospital halls, I close my eyes. I take in deep breathes. I forget everything around me. I relax my body.
Then I begin to imagine. I imagine after the surgery. My mom's words run through my head. I see myself sitting on a boat. JJ's sitting next to me. We're holding hands.
I pan out and see Sarah and John B cuddling under a blanket. Next to them are Kiara and Pope arguing about something stupid.
I see Taylor coming out with a tray of baked goods that she spent way too much time baking for a couple of people. Then I turn to see Rafe getting on the boat. He's happy.
He's being greeted by everyone.
"You ready?" I open my eyes and the surgeon is looking at me.
"Just look forward and listen to the music. We'll ask you to say and do things throughout surgery to make sure we don't hit any spots we don't want to."
"Okay. I'm ready."
"Sweetie. I want you to know a secret that very few people know." My mom gets close.
"The majority of the human race is filled with awful sucky people."
"No buts, it's just a fact." She grabs both of my hands. "But, you will meet a few people that don't suck. Eventually, there will be at least one person in your life that doesn't suck.
One that you can feel free to be completely yourself around. Someone that can be everything you need when you need it. To hold your hand when you aren't feeling well.
To make you laugh when you don't feel like you can laugh any longer."
"What if I don't. What if I never find someone like that?"
"You will. You're a good person." She places her hand on my chest. "You've got a good heart. Good hearts find others with good hearts. It may take time. It may be tomorrow.
It might not happen until you're in an old folk's home. But it will happen. You may even meet more than one. An entire group of them."
"How will I know?"
"Know when someone is not a sucky person."
"You may not know right away. People are complicated. They may seem sucky at first or even seem good. But as you spend time with them. When you start rubbing off on them, you'll know.
Your good heart will bring their good hearts out. And vice versa."
"Their good hearts will rub off on." She giggles. "They'll make you better as you make them better."
"Did you find your person?" She looks at me in a way I've never seen before, maybe sadness
"It just is."
"You're annoying sometimes."
"I don't care."