Mysteries By Candice: My Father's Voice

Chapter 1

It all started at camp. Covered in sweat and mud, I limped towards the cabin.  My feet ached just as they would if they had been run over by a truck. Red war paint covered my skin head to toe and I began to wonder if it would ever come off after the sun had baked it onto my skin. I walked beside my friend Anna, matching her pace. We grinned at each other, both of us were somewhat unrecognizable. I couldn't wait to hop in the shower. We wearily neared the entrance of our cabin as the camp counselor hustled towards us.
"Are you Courtlyn Renfrow?" She stared up inquiringly, then back to her clipboard. I didn't blame her for not recognizing me.
"Yes, why?" I replied somewhat confused. She pursed her lips together and sighed. "Will you come with me?"
Anna and I lingered a ways behind her as we followed to the office cabin.
She glanced back, apparently wondering why we were taking so long. "Just Courtlyn...please."
I glanced at Anna who smiled, and then shrugged my shoulders. Anna was happy to head back and shower.
The camp counselor, Ms. Silva, motioned for me to sit in the brown uneven bar chair beside her desk. What could she possibly want with me? Did I break one of the camp rules? I sat in anticipation, feeling uncomfortable at the awkward silence. The ticking clock in the background echoed throughout the cabin room..
"Yes, Ms. Silva?" I said after a lengthy period of time.
"Your mother...has called."
I waited for the climax.
"It's about your dad."
I stopped breathing and froze. If it was about dad, it was serious. My dad. I wouldn't be able to say those words much longer.
"The doctors have released him from the hospital."
"Released him?!" I sat up suddenly and made the chair legs hit the ground. "But-but he was doing fine when I left! He was supposed to finish therapy! He can't leave the hospital!" The clock seemed to stop for a split second and another silence fell heavily on the room.
She tilted her head to the side with sympathy and placed her cold hand on my shoulder. I was shaken at the thought that Dad was now cut from his only line of hope. No more medicine. No more therapy. He was going to die.
I shook at this thought. A large lump rose in my throat as I fought back tears. "Your mother said you need to come home as soon as possible. I am very sorry." Ms. Silva sympathized, rising from her chair. I sat motionless for a matter of seconds before rising. I was shaking.
"You might want to shower before getting in the car. I'm taking you home myself."
"Thank you." I managed to say with a scratchy throat. Camp was supposed to lift your spirit. I would never forget this one. Now, it seemed childish and folly to run and jump on a blob. Singing around the campfire became a distant recollection in a matter of moments. I moped back to the cabin with a burden heavier than a mountain.
As I opened the cabin door, a mix of sweat and humidity filled my senses. Steam rose from behind the off-white flimsy shower curtains as girls walked barefoot back and fourth with towels.
I coughed my way towards the bunks when I heard Anna.
"Court? You okay?" Now it looked like I was crying because the steam made my face moist.
"I have to go home. Now." I said with a squeaky voice. I tried to look serious. I was serious.  All of the noise made it hard to feel heard between water running, bunk climbing, chatting and shouting.
I gathered my clothes as Anna followed me to the shower.
"But why? It's only been two days!" 
"It's my dad." I said abruptly. Now tears poured down my face.
"Oh Courtlyn." Anna said hugging me as I cried.
By the time I showered and packed my belongings, Ms. Silva's blue SUV was parked outside the cabin. Anna was disappointed I left, but understood. I sat staring out the window for most of the trip. The sun was out, and it couldn't of been a more beautiful day. Why did God allow this to happen on such a day? Fears clouded my mind. Was this Dad's choice? What if he's not aware? What if it's too late? I clenched the handle on the door as my heart raced. Sweat filled my palm. Ms. Silva glanced back at me with her brown eyes and squinted.
"Are you alright back there?"
I hesitantly nodded.
Home was about to be turned upside down. My arms began to sweat and my heart felt like it could be heard a thousand miles away. Thoughts held my logical thinking captive as I began to imagine the worst scenarios.
We had arrived. Ms. Silva merely stopped and told me to get out.
I stared at the door with dread. My feet felt like they had weights strangling them down. My legs felt trapped as if I were standing in quick sand. Not yet were my dark, deep, dreams reality. But a soft rain had made way for the storm.
I forced myself to open the door.
The house felt empty. It was empty.
Hollow shadows fell heavily on the walls as I inched through the hallway.
It was as if the house was grieving.
"Mom?"
A moan echoed through the hallway.
"Courtlyn! Oh thank goodness you're home. Come see your father."
Mom grabbed my hand and pulled me into his room. Dad was in his usual spot on the bed- the corner in a tight ball with only the tip of his head showing. No machines. No medicine on the dresser. No wheelchair.
"Why did they take everything away from him?" I whispered bitterly.
"They didn't. Your father asked for it."
Mortified, I ran to his bedside and crouched down on my knees. Surely he wasn't thinking straight. The hospital was his only hope!
"Dad! Dad! Why are you here? You should be in the hospital with your lifeline!"
Dad's eyes were glued shut. Then they fluttered a little. He drew in a long deep breath. Slowly, his lips tore open.
"I don't ne-ed the hospital to l-live."
Desperately, I turned to mom.
"Dad you can't be serious! The hospital is the only place you have support! Medicine!"
He drew in a deep breath. Mom touched my shoulders.
"Your dad seems to have been passing the last hour. I want to get him help- but he keeps telling me 'no' and that he needed you to explain."
Sternly, dad's mouth tightened in a stern manor. The blinds made horizontal lines on the wall behind him as if this was his prison. My dad hadn't moved in an hour. Finally, he pulled his arm showily out from inside the covers. His finger pointed towards a note, wrinkled and yellow with age on his desk. It smelled old, and I guessed he sent mom to retrieve it out of his trunk in the basement. He let his hand steady for one second in mid air, then shakily drew it back to the white sheets. I met his closed eyes in silence then glanced at the note. What secrets were inscribed on its pages? I reached for it, but stopped halfway. Could this be some kind of a will? My heart began to race. The note was thick as if someone had dipped it in wax. The pages were different than any other paper I'd ever seen. I ran out of the room and down the stairs to the basement. I crouched down in the dark corner and wiped away tears. I finally tore open the sealing. The note was horrifying yet admirable; and worst of all, it would change my life forever.

     Dear Courtlyn,

          You're probably reading this     
          because I'm dying. It's funny,
          I wrote this when you were
          born. You must be married
          now with a child or two.

I stopped reading the note. Dad didn't know he would be in an accident and have severe health issues. He didn't know I'd only be 14 when I read his note addressed to me. The walls of the basement seemed to close in on me as my tears stained the letter.

         ...I made a promise to God
          when I married your mom.
          When I was close to going
          home, I wouldn't let the
          doctors keep me any longer.
          I decided God must want
          me home for a reason,
          and I wasn't going to hold
          back. I need you
          to be strong, I need you to
          be brave.

The last word was emphasized in dark ink. What did he mean brave?

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