okay so this is a preview of one of my latest fanfics it is based off Jodi Picoult’s novel ‘My Sister’s Keeper’ with Tree Hill Twists. -- How far would you go to save a child’s life, even if that means infringing upon the rights of another? BL family. so tell me what you think... (oh yeah, i dont own anything, oth belongs to not me and yeah plot sorta belongs to jodi picoult)
At school today we learnt more about the reproductive system and how babies are created, but the how isn’t what really interest me. My sister, Sawyer, covered that lesson years ago. It’s the why behind the creation that I’m curious about.
Is the pregnancy a result of failed contraception, a lucky accident because the condom broke or the parents are in that minor percentage of failure? Like my sister, who was conceived not long after my dad and her mom got back together, a complete unplanned surprise they grinned over, but the ‘happy ending’ was not what dad focused on when he gave us that safe sex isn’t a guarantee speech and abstinence is the best fool proof contraception.
Or maybe it’s the result of a little too much to drink and the mommy and daddy getting carried away, not to unlike how my brother got to being here. Another happy accident, Mom is quick to tell the story of grabbing a bottle of champagne and dad by the collar before sneaking him out of their own wedding reception. A little over nine months later Keith was born.
Seems to me that most pregnancies are unplanned accidents whether it’s two teenagers or a married couple with one already, I on the other hand was the furthest thing from an accident that you can get and I know exactly why I am here.
My parents chose me - literally. But not like some parents choose a baby to adopt, no, my parents went to a doctor and together they created options, and I was the one with all the right boxes ticked, so here I am. If it wasn’t for my brother the idea of me would have never existed, there’s no probably about it, the possibility of me would have still been floating up there in heaven or whatever, waiting to be born into some family, and not the one which already had the perfect boy and girl they always wanted.
See, I was born for a specific purpose - to save my brother’s life.
Keith has acute promyelocytic leukemia, APL. Actually, that isn’t strictly true, at the moment Keith doesn’t have it and he’s in remission. Which basically means it’s still there hibernating under his skin like a bear, and it could roar awake at any time. We’ve been here before. He was diagnosed at two; he’s fifteen now.
Molecular relapse and granulocyte and portacath – these words are a part of my vocabulary, even though I will never find them on any SAT but in my family there are few words that are more important to know and understand.
Where do I fit into this medical lecture? I am the allogeneic donor, in other words the perfect sibling match. Which is the reason behind my conception, and when your parents have you for a reason then that reason better exist because once its gone so are you, isn’t that the way it goes. Count that out and you’re gone, no longer needed.
When Keith needs leukocytes or stem cells or bone marrow to fool his body into thinking it’s the average healthy kids, well I am the one who supplies them. Nearly every time Keith is hospitalised I end up there too, with how much time my family is there they should name a wing after us. The irony in the situation, I have never been sick in my life, not even a cold.
Desperation makes us do things we normally wouldn’t do and we end up in a situation or place and we look around and suddenly it’s like what am I doing but being so desperate we keep on going along with it, because there isn’t an option that’s any better.
I wonder how many desperate people have looked up to find they’re standing where I am, holding a prized possession they never imagined getting rid of in this lifetime. Pawnshops must get lots of desperate people, like whoever would hand in that teddy bear missing an eye. Everyone with their own story, but I doubt any of them were driven here for the same reason I am.
The guy at the counter doesn’t even look at me, “I have something to sell”
“Am I meant to guess what it is?” he shoots back, and I’m not lying when I say I almost stopped this right here and now, and I have to dig my nails into my palms to stop from running away, but instead of leaving I slip off the charm bracelet and place it on the counter, still holding onto it. Except for showers I haven’t taken it off since I was six when my dad gave it to me after the bone marrow harvest saying that someone giving their brother such a precious gift deserved one of their own. I feel naked without the heaviness around my wrist. Naked being the only other time I’ve ever not worn it.
“I’ll give you fifty” he says, and on the inside my body screams in outrage “dollars?”
He nods and I pick the charm bracelet up, each delicate charm representing some moment in my life, the majority from the times they’ve used me to help Keith “but it’s practically new and barely been worn” total lies, but I guess I better practice my lying, but clearly I’ve failed. It has to be worth more than that, surely.
“Fifty, take it or leave it”
And like many desperate people before me I take it. He seems kind of disappointed in me but I just look down as he hands me the money and as I turn away I hear him say “just tell them you lost it” I wonder if after all this time he still wonders about the stories behind the objects handed over to him or if he even cares about why people do what they do anymore.
When I get home I dig my hands deep into my pockets and hurry upstairs, straight into my mom as she steps out of her room “ah, there you are, just the Scott I was looking for” and her smile shows off her dimples. My mother has a natural beauty that no amount of stress or lack of sleep can fade out, with a little effort she could hit stunning but she hasn’t put effort into how she looks for a long time, she doesn’t really have the time to worry about her looks, she is too busy worrying about how Keith looks. So I know that the gorgeous dress she is wearing right now can’t be for her, she twirls and spreads out her hands “what do you think?”
“You look...” and I stop, she looks tired.
Suddenly her head cocks to the side and her smile is gone, her dimples on show because her muscles are tensing in worry and thought, like they often do, “did you hear that?” she asks.
I didn’t but I don’t get a chance to answer because she’s already walking away from me to go to my brother’s room, and I follow.
Keith is lying on his bed with his head back into the pillow, tears running down his cheeks as he closes his eyes. Mom rushes to him, “Keith, sweetie, what hurts?”
I wait to be told what to do, for the instructions to call dad or 911, or both. But instead Keith opens his eyes and looks at us oddly as if he’s wondering why we are standing in his room. He lifts up his slacked hand from his side and for the first time I see the open book in his hand “he’s dead” Keith tells us.
“But what hurts?” Mom asks her voice quiet and confused. Keith’s big brown eyes bulge out “he’s dead, mom, after everything they’ve been through”
I let out the breath I’d been holding. The book I can recognise, last time I’d read it to Keith in hospital when he was too weak to do it himself, “made me cry too, but I’m a girl” and at my words Keith gives a small laugh. Mom manages to chuckle as well as the realisation that Keith is fine for the moment starts to allow relief to seep though her, and she leans forward over Keith and puts a hand to each of his cheeks before squeezing his thin face a bit and kissing his dark hair “that’s my sweet boy” she whispers.
Mom leaves and its just the two of us, I plop myself onto the bed, picking up one of Keith’s books, “don’t you get sick of it?” and instantly it comes to me that his love for books is probably a blessing because half of the time its all he can do, it’s not like Keith can just grab a basketball and join me at the court. I look at him, to see if I can read what he’s thinking, I wonder sometimes what Keith doesn’t tell us. He’s always been so quiet, so quiet and still. This time I catch the wince of pain as he shuts his eyes tight like before, “you okay?”
“Fine” he mumbles. Liar, it’s his kidney’s, but I don’t call him on it.
Hippocrates once wrote ‘a wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings, and learn how by his own thought to derive benefit from his illnesses.’ Sometimes I try to see the benefit, but when I look at our family I don’t see the benefit this illness has given any of us, or any it could. Our family didn’t need this lesson, every direction I look I just see another casualty from this disease, sometimes I think the rest of us are the biggest ones, not just Keith.
My father once told me that life is hard and chances are its only going to get harder not easier, we can either rise to meet the challenge or fall under the weight. If we fall, we might not ever pick ourselves up. I wonder now if what I’m doing is rising to it or running from it, or maybe I’ve already fallen and this is my attempt at trying to crawl my way back up. This is what I’m here for right, to help Keith? But what about everything else, what if helping my brother contradicts everything I want to do for myself. How do I decide what to do when the only thing I’ve ever known what to do is for him? I wish that life could be just black and white, like it has been so far, but somewhere along the way the shades between set in. As we get older we’re forced to think for ourselves, and it’s harder to just follow the rules.
So when Keith falls asleep from his meds I continue to lay there, next to my brother like I often do, he is so still and silent like always. It’s scary, and I rest my head against his chest so I can feel the steady up and down to reassure me that he is still here. I use to do this a lot when I was little, and it’s a habit I never grew out of.
But eventually all habits are broken.
I let him go and escape to my own room, going straight for the shoe box hidden in the back of my closet, pulling out the diary under all the old cards and photos. I hold it close to my chest, with a careful eye on my surroundings I make my way through the hallway to the bathroom where I can lock the door and shut out the world. I don’t let go of my breath until I turn on the shower (to make it look like I’m in here for a reason) and then slide down onto the cool tiles of the floor.
The diary has a cheap lock, something a five year old could break but it still makes me feel safe and I know I can trust my family enough that how good the lock is doesn’t matter because on just seeing it they won’t even try to pry into my secrets. Privacy and trust, things I can depend on from my family, for now.
Keith bought me this diary, for my ninth birthday, things like this keep popping up in my head, and I almost don’t open it up. But I do.
It’s hollow, the pages cut to create a secret chest, and with the fifty dollars from today I now have four hundred and sixty seven dollars and fifty cents. For most twelve year olds I guess that is a fortune, but for me it’s simply not enough. There has to be a way around it, Sawyer didn’t have enough money to buy her beat up jeep but the bank gave her some kind of loan. Of course, Dad signed the papers and I doubt him or Mom would do the same for me given the circumstances. I count the money again, just in case some miracle has occurred and the money has magically tripled, but the same amount looks back up at me, almost mockingly.
To reach my sisters room you actually have to leave the house, which is exactly why Sawyer loves it. After graduating Sawyer wanted to feel more independent but wasn’t really looking forward to the whole crappy dorm room she had to share with some freak stranger thing, and the parentals weren’t looking forward to the Sawyer leaving thing, so as a compromise the room above the garage was transformed into a sort of apartment. One thing about my parents I guess, they fight to keep their children close by at all cost, and I guess I owe my life to that.
I walk slowly up the stairs to Sawyer’s room, I can feel the vibrations from her music under my feet, it’s so loud it feels like forever before she answers my knock, carefully opening the door so her blue eyes and blonde head pop out but you can’t see inside “what?” she snaps, always her welcoming self.
“Can I come in?”
She seems to think twice about it before rolling her eyes and unlocking the door, all five locks. Sawyer has always liked to make it extra hard for the outside world to get her, but I feel privileged to be one of the few people she lets in, no matter how reluctant it is sometimes. Sawyer steps back and I enter, carefully tiptoeing around the room, it’s a maze of dirty clothes and old take out boxes, and too many empty bottles to count, the only clean part of the room is her bed, which I sit on, and the perfectly organized shelves that hold her music, most of which she inherited from her birth mother, Peyton.
If Peyton Scott never died then my parents would have never gotten back together and had Keith, and if he was never born I wouldn’t have been. I think about these sorts of things all the time, how one thing can change everything. I wonder how much Sawyer thinks about it.
“What do you want?” she cuts into my thoughts, knocking a pile of books off a chair so she can sit. I glance up at her, watching as she casually lifts the lighter to her mouth where what I’m pretty sure isn’t a cigarette is waiting to be lit. When I don’t answer she looks at me, she ignores my disapproving look and takes another puff, staring straight at me as if to say what are you going to do about it? But Sawyer already knows I’m not going to do anything, “how do you know I want something, maybe I just wanted to say hi”
She scoffs, “Nobody comes up here for a social call, and if was something about Keith you would have already said something” and she takes another puff. Its not that she doesn’t care, this is just how Sawyer is, how she copes, we all have our different ways.
“It is about Keith. Sort of” and I shove towards her the newspaper clippings I collected; they’ll do a better job of explaining than I could at the moment. Sawyer scans them briefly, and immediately gets rid of the joint, grabbing the clippings with one hand as she opens a can of beer with the other. She takes a swig and offers me a swallow as she continues going through them, I shake my head and she shrugs before having some more. The can and another one is empty by the time she stops reading and looks me directly in the eye, “don’t mess with the roles, Abby” she says bitterly “we’ve all got our scripts memorised. Keith plays the martyr. I’m the damaged goods. And you, you’re the peacemaker”
She thinks she knows me, but that goes both ways and when it comes to friction Sawyer is an addict, craving the imperfections. I look right at her, “says who?”
Sawyer agrees to wait for me in the parking lot, it’s one of the few times I can recall her doing what I tell her to do, Sawyer’s not one to listen and obey. Reverse psychology has been how my parents have mostly handled her in all these years, most of the time she does it I think just because she doesn’t want anyone to think that they can control her so even if she wants to do something she won’t do it if you think it’s what she should do. I guess its one of the few things she can control.
Coming to Charlotte seemed the best way to do this, that way hopefully no one who knows us will recognise me or Sawyer’s dark jeep. But that doesn’t stop me constantly looking around and feeling nervous, and when I walk onto that third floor and the secretary looks up at me with a frown my nerves skyrocket. Everything in this office is perfect; including the beauty behind the desk that I’m sure is wearing one of my mom’s designs. So am I, it’s a tight squeeze because I haven’t worn this dress in over a year but it’s the only presentable thing I own, I don’t usually wear dresses or get the occasion to. This one is yellow, bright and cheerful, and when I had put it on and allowed my thick long dirty blonde hair to flow in waves down my back I thought I could pass for older, more mature, instead of a little girl maybe I could look like someone who had an idea of what I’m doing, but now I just feel awkward. It probably makes me look about ten years old, and my hair constantly getting in my face is pissing me off, not to mention the only shoes I had to wear with the outfit are my favourite sneakers that are scuffed from well use. I look down at my feet.
“May I help you?” the woman asks as she mentally goes over my appearance from head to toe, rating me on a general scale of first impressions and clearly finding me lacking, so I lift my chin and try to act far cooler than I am actually feeling “I have an appointment with Mr Baker at four o’clock”
“Your voice, on the phone you didn’t sound quite so…” she stops and smiles uncomfortably but I hear it anyway, young, I didn’t sound quite so young “… we don’t try juvenile cases, as a rule. If you like I can offer you some names of practicing attorneys who-”
I take a deep breath, “actually-” I interrupt “-you’re wrong. Smith Vs Whately, Edmunds Vs Womens and Infants Hospital, and Jerome Vs the Diocese of Providence, all involved litigants under the age of eighteen and all three resulted in verdicts for Mr Baker’s clients. That was just the past year”
She blinks, I get this a lot, when I say something people don’t expect me too, as if the fact that I am a child means I naturally know nothing. A slow smile creeps across her face and I feel just the bit braver, “come to think of it why don’t you just wait in his office?” she suggests and stands up to show me the way.
The office is scarily neat and proper but the longer I wait and observe little things take my notice. Like how the cover of a ridiculous comedy is resting above the DVD player, a Sponge Bob Square Pants figurine is in the fish tank, and though the walls are covered with law books there are a stack of comics under a few books in one corner, and if I squint I’m pretty sure that is my fathers name on that blue book. But despite all these slightly personal touches there is not one single photo in the whole office. I’m about to do some snooping when the door burst open, forcing me to sit quickly back down.
Julian Baker walks in. He’s tall, with broad shoulders and good looks, like he ages well, in a away he reminds me of my father but I can’t quite put my finger on why. Mr Baker’s eyes are dark, and he’s wearing a ridiculous hat, one my dad would laugh at, and the short hair I can see under it is a dark grey, but he can’t be that old, maybe about my parent’s age – early forties.
He hangs up his suit jacket and makes his way over to his desk, never making eye contact with me but speaking nonetheless “I don’t want any girl scout cookies”
“Good because I don’t have any”
He glances at me curiously and narrowing his eyes keeps looking at me as he leans over to press down on the intercom “Kerri, what is this thing doing in my office?”
Thing? I am a thing. I guess he doesn’t have any children. Again I let out a breath before speaking “I’m here to retain you” and I stand up ready to go shake his hand “I’m Ab-”
“I don’t think so” he laughs, letting go of the intercom to look at me as he leans back in his chair, hands behind his head.
“You don’t even know if I have a case!”
He chuckles again, and then sits up properly, shuffling papers, he stops after a few seconds and looks at me again “you’re still here?”
I ignore his tone “is it true you sued god?” and bring out the file of newspaper clippings, leaving them on his desk.
He kinked his brow, his mouth lifting, he had a nice smile, charming, and for the first time he really looked at me, but he shakes his head “I sued the diocese of providence, on behalf of a kid in one of their orphanages who needed an experimental treatment which they felt violated Vatican II. However, it makes a better headline to say a nine year old is suing god for getting the short end of the stick.” I just stare at him, and he gives a slight nod as he admits “Dylan Jerome wanted to sue god for not caring enough about him”
It was like an opening I could just slip in and say what I needed to say, and he wasn’t currently trying to kick me out, so I dig my nails deep into my palm as I open my mouth “Mr Baker, my brother has leukaemia”
He doesn’t blink “I’m sorry to hear that, but even if I was willing to litigate against god again, which I’m not, you can’t bring a lawsuit on someone else’s behalf”
This is when I explain my life – my own blood seeping into my brothers veins, being held down as they take white cells for Keith, the doctor saying he didn’t get enough the first time so I have to do it all over again. The bruises and the deep bone ache after I gave up my marrow, the shots that promise more stem cells in me so there are extra for my brother. The fact I’ve never been sick but I might as well be. The fact the only reason I was ever born was to be used for Keith’s benefit. The fact that even now a major decision is being made, one that must include me to work, and no one has even thought to ask the one person who deserves to get out their opinion.
It is too much to explain so I cut down to the chase, “I don’t care about God. It’s my parents; I want to sue them for the rights to my own body”