Today we are publishing a short story, written by KidMag publisher, AwesomeElla. Please note that this story can be found a little sad, and may reference some themes that your parents might not be ok with you reading. Nothing big, just a heads up.
KidMag recommends this story for the following audience aged 9+
My head slowly turned towards my alarm clock, trying to block out the irritating sound. My tired, outstretched hand clasped the sleep button, and suddenly the sound stopped. I rolled back to my side, trying to get back to sleep. Unfortunately, the birds outside decided that this would be the perfect opportunity to start with their morning chirping. Annoyed, I decided to just get up, so I headed downstairs for breakfast.
Downstairs, I started the coffee for me and Dad to share, and put a muffin in the microwave. Then, I settled down on the couch and called for Dot, our dog, to snuggle with me. To be honest, I loved the morning best of all in the day. I loved the feeling of being refreshed and cuddled up in bed or on the couch. I especially loved the smell of fresh-brewed coffee.
This, of course, was obviously weird for a nerdy, skinny, a fifteen-year-old girl like me. I had dark curly hair that fell to my waist, and bright green glasses perched against my button nose. I didn’t have much muscle or many friends. My nails were painted shiny pink and my earrings shone with cute, tiny golden stars.
Suddenly, I heard the floorboards creak, and sure enough, Dad came blundering down the stairs.
“ Morning dad”
I said, my voice still croaky from the morning.
said Dad, striding over to the coffee pot. “ Did you fill this Zoe?” he added, tilting his head into the pot.
“Um, it should be filled,”
I said, ignoring the grinding sound of the coffee pot as Dad tinkered with it. Finally, Dad had it working, so he joined me on the couch with homemade scones.
“Beautiful morning isn’t it, eh Zoe?”
“Yeah, I guess, Dad,”
I say glancing out the window at the sparkling sun.
“Oh, um dad, what am I getting for my sixteenth birthday?”
I mysteriously add, scooting closer to Dot.
“Ah, well you see I can’t decide. I could get you a computer -” Dad says.
“Dad, no! I do not want a computer. What use is it if I have a dictionary right in front of me?” I automatically shout. Dad looks taken aback.
“Well I don’t know, I haven’t decided yet what you’ll get yet, anyway,” says dad, getting up to pour a cup of coffee.
I laid down on the couch and think of all the marvellous things I could get for my birthday. Maybe a car or new glasses, or even an invitation to Oxford University when I was old enough. Maybe even a diamond ring, anything I thought, would be the very best!
That night, as dad was kissing me goodnight, I asked him what I was getting for my birthday again. I thought he might have had a chance to think about it, now that it was on his mind, so I let it slip out of my mouth.
“ are you sure you don’t know what to get me yet?”
I asked impatiently, rolling onto my side to see dad let out a sigh.
“ Zoe dear, I’ve already told you. I ‘m not sure yet, and if I did know what would the point of telling you be? Presents are supposed to be surprising and heartwarming. Now sleep well dear”
I sighed and snuggled into the cushions. Dad probably was getting something heartwarming and spectacular, and it was just for me.
I fell asleep with a smile etched across my face…
My head ached and my throat felt swollen. My throat felt like I had just swallowed a gigantic rubber ball, and my head felt like a church bell that kept ringing for hours. I had just woken up, and I felt like a deflated balloon, scrunched up and hot with sweat. My head was stiff and caused much pain to tilt it. However, I was able to catch a glimpse of the time, and it read 2:32am. I felt too weak to groan and too tired to climb out of bed. I tried to moan, hoping dad would hear me, but the only sound that came out was a high pitched squeak. I knew this was worse than a fever, but I couldn’t think with my aching headache. I tried to reach for the light at the side of my bed, waiting in the dim light, hoping something would happen. Every cough caused a violent shake in my body and left me trembling down to my feet. The pain from my head was so fierce, I thought I was walking through a pit of fire, and my legs ached with tiredness.
I reached for my glasses and finally, the blur of colour turned into my dresser and closet all alone in the dark. I sat like that for a very long time, hours maybe. Listening to the shrill sound of silence, and dads restless snores. I may have fallen asleep, or at least dozed for a minute or two because I remembered waking up when I thought I was awake. I t was that kind of feeling where you’re not quite awake, but not quite asleep. I t was like a state of unconsciousness fell over me, but I still knew the vague details, like where I was and who I was.
But shortly after that, I was able to doze off into what I thought was a gentle sleep…
“ it’s been a day and a half, and she still hasn’t woken up.” “I know mum, but I have faith in her. I hope”, “ yes, I’m quite sure you do”. “ but- but what if she never wakes up?”…
I woke to the sound of blurred voices and beeps of the outside world. Slowly I tried to shift positions and look towards my window. I peeled open my eyes carefully, expecting to see the beauty of the sunrise in the crisp morning air. Instead, I saw greyish blue curtains on the side of my bed, and tubes and robes attached to my body. Confused and alarmed, I turned the other way to see nothing but another curtain wrapped around my bed.
Suddenly, a blur of memories washed through my head, filling me with astonishment and understanding. I remembered the pound of my heart and the bark of my cough. I remembered dad shaking me till I felt dizzy, and I remembered the blaring sirens speeding to the hospital. It came together in bits and pieces, like a puzzle, but I had just made the first few connections. I tried to sit up but felt like I was being weighed down by a gigantic rock. Leaning to the side was no different, so I popped my pillow up and laid back in bed, taking all of it in.
Then, I heard the rustle of curtains and a puffy-eyed dad staggered through. He looked horrible, his face was the colour of a tomato, and his jeans were saggy and wrinkled. His hair was out of control and he smelt like a rotten banana peel.
“ What happened to you?”
I managed to croak in my disbelief. Unexpectedly he started shedding tears that started falling like an endless waterfall. Then, he rushed over to the bed and gave me the biggest, smelliest, hug of all time. I was really confused, but I did manage to wrap my arms around him.
“ oh Zoe, oh, oh Zoe”
he sobbed rubbing his hand on his forehead. I sat there perplexed unaware of what was happening. Finally, I mustered up the courage to ask what was going on.
“um… What the heck is going on”
I say, finicking with my hair. Dad looks at me carefully before sighing hard and opening his mouth. He begins to speak but it’s almost as if his words get chewed up through his lips and the only sound I could make out were the sounds of constant stuttering.
“ Dad, cmon. Just tell me”
I say trying to encourage him.
“ alright. This is going to sound terrible but… you had a heart attack. And you need a heart transplant with surgery”
My mind was crashing. My heart was racing. My life was dying.
Pure disbelief stopped me from responding to dad. Zillions of questions came spiralling into my head, making me dizzy and worried. What does a heart transplant mean? How long had I been asleep for? What would happen? Or yet,
Would I die??
I turned my attention back to dad. He was digging his nails into his cheeks and breathing hard. I knew this was just shock, so I kept asking questions.
“ um dad, will I die?”
I asked my heart climbing up my throat. Dad looked like his head was about to burst. His eyes filled with new fresh tears and he looked at me with great sadness. I knew at once what the answer was, he didn’t have to tell me. The signs from his body told me I would probably die. We stared at each other for a moment, then nodded.
I only had one more question, and it was bursting to come out.
“ What am I getting for my birthday, dad?”
I asked, trying to sound casual.
“ oh, um, I dunno”
he replied, looking at the ground.
“Good morning, I’m your nurse, Sandra, and today I’m going to help you through your life and death surgery”
I stared at the woman sitting on the edge of my bed, taking in the pressure of the surgery. How could she talk so freely like that? She had a weird Australian accent and her hair was in dreadlocks. Her nose was pierced and her earrings were in the shape of a skull. Slowly, I nodded my head.
“ Okie-Dokie. We’ll be ready in five, see you then”
her abrupt exit surprised me, but it also just made me even more scared. For the past week and a half, I had been counting down the days until this surgery. The day I might die, the day my life could end, or the day I became healthy again. But I couldn’t help but think negatively.
Just then, dad poked his head through the curtain.
“ Hey, sweetheart. Ready for the surgery?”
he said looking at directly at me. Dad had been able to get over the shock of everything and was also able to talk more clearly. Still, I couldn’t help but notice his voice was slightly shaky.
“ um… I think so. I ‘m not quite sure”
I said truthfully, noticing that my voice was shaky all of a sudden too. Dad looked at me like he had so many words to say, but didn’t know how to say them. He stared at the floor for a while, and then he began to speak.
“ Zoe, the years I have spent with you are my most favourite years. It amazes me how maturely you dealt with mom and how you were always such a good sport. I love the way you express yourself and how you always do the right thing. If you’d-die, I will always remember you and the things you do. I will remember what an amazing child you were.”
Dads eyes were red as silent tears trickled down his cheeks. I felt like I had always been waiting for this moment, but couldn’t remember wanting it. I was absolutely speechless, so all I could manage was get up and give him the biggest, warmest, most loving hug I could ever give.
Just then we heard a knock on the door and the same odd-looking woman appeared at the door. “ we’re ready for you,” she said in her mocked baby voice. I gave a final glance at dad, not knowing what to say. Dad looked at me, nodded, and mouthed I love you.
Those were the last words I would ever hear from him…
The woman, Sandra, rushed me out of the room and into another. The room, I figured, was her office. I t was covered with the newest rock posters and drops of nail polish covered the white floor. There was a spinny chair with a built-in desk, complete with cabinets and drawers. There were open files all over her desk and a Kleenex box to the right of the desk. She rummaged around in one of her cabinets, finally pulling out a tiny, plastic, bottle filled with little pebbles. “ Here. Would you take one of these for me, dearie” she said, gesturing her hand out with the tiny pebbles in her hand. Timidly, I reached my hand out to grab one. She handed me a glass of water to gulp down with it. When I swallowed, I felt my eyes go droopy. My body suddenly yearned to sleep, and my head began spinning. I tried to stay conscious with all my might, but the sleeping spell had hit me too hard. Before I knew it, I was sprawled against the floor, sound asleep.
I was loaded into a bed, and that was all I remembered.
Two days later
My eyes filled with blurry sights. I felt light and airy as rolled my head around in the cushions. I felt better than I had felt in days, which triggered my brain again. It all came back to me. The surgery, I had survived! I smiled a relieved smile. Then, I carefully lifted my head off the pillows and looked around. I was in an ordinary hospital room again. I wondered where dad was, surely he would want to see me and be overjoyed that I lived. I waited for the rustle of a curtain, but no sound came. I sat up in bed waiting for something to happen, suddenly a nurse came sprinting into my room, holding a piece of parchment. She looked shocked and scared and her eyes were red. I wondered what in the world could possibly be wrong as I watched draw nearer. I sat up started in bed preparing for whatever it was. Finally, she reached my bed and I saw her tear-soaked face. Puzzled, I stared at her until finally, her trembling hand reached towards my chest. I looked at her hand, and at once spotted the crumpled paper she was holding. “T-take it” she whispered her voice scarce and cold. Slowly I reached out to grab the paper she was talking about. It felt tear lapped and cold in my sweaty palms. Slowly I unfolded it and read the following text:
I gave you my life.
My head swarmed with emotions as I gripped the crumpled parchment. Tears formed in my sockets and before I knew it, I was on my knees shaking my head so violently I almost flung it off my head. My shoulders shook like deafening rocks falling to the ground. My life would never be the same, and my whole body felt glued to the floor. Dad was my only parent since mom had died from pneumonia, and I had no relatives other than my aunt Jessie, who was too old and fragile to raise me. So I was going to be alone for life. But what hurt the most was…
I never got my birthday present.
One month later…
I was surprised that living alone wasn’t that hard. Every morning I woke up, made breakfast, then went for a hike in the woods. I came home for lunch, sewed, then had dinner. Just like before, except no Dad. I t was hard to ease the pain away, and I knew it would leave a scar on my life. But the first few days were the worst of my entire life. I would wake up in the night with visions of dad and I laughing together, then somehow dad would fade away into the air. Every day I would feel restless without him and I spent my time with my head in a book, leafing through the pages like it was a delicate object.
By the third week, I wanted answers because I was smart enough to know that dad didn’t just randomly die all of a sudden. There had to be a trigger that caused his death, and I was finally ready to find out what it was. That day, I headed down to the police station and asked for the entire story…
I was nervous, and my hands were sweaty with fear. I told myself to relax but it did no good. Finally, I walked out the door, took a deep breath, and started walking to the police station. It was spring, with all the pretty flowers in bloom and the nice warm sun glaring down on my back. The station was only three blocks away, so I took my time, looking at all my surroundings. Part of me just wanted to hurry up and get it over with, and the other part wanted to take as long as I could stalling and stopping every minute. Eventually, I picked up my pace and was forced to keep going.
Then, I saw it. The big blue and white building with the word POLICE STATION etched across the front, on a shiny blue shield with black stallions on it. I shuddered, then walked forward. I walked right into the shiny blue building, holding my breath and clenching my fists.
It wasn’t that busy when I first walked in, only adults paying their overdue bills and police walking around holding Tim Hortons Timbits and coffees. They glanced at me, walking towards the front desk. I guess it wasn’t usual for a fifteen-year-old girl like me to wander around a police station. Finally, I made my way to the front and took a deep breath.
“ Hey kid.how can I help you?”
asked a policeman in a bright blue suit. He had bushy eyebrows and was gripping an orange coffee mug.
“ Um. Hi, um, I was wondering about the death of Peter Smith? What caused it?” my voice bounced out of my throat making it wobble all the way out.
The policemen scrunched up his face, and let out a breath like it was causing him great pain to think. Finally, he sighed and began to talk “ ahhh, well, you must be Ms. Zoe Smith then, eh?” I nodded, so he continued,
“ Well you see, when you were in the surgery, your dad was very worried about you. This triggered his brain to do unnatural things like, talk super fast or squeeze everything he sees. But eventually his brain got so driven and he couldn’t control himself, so he wrote you a note and did the only thing that would make the dizziness or anxiety go away… he found a knife from the staff room and stuck it to his chest. I t was so quick that he was instantly dead and his anxiety was gone. I can tell you that I’m sure he regretted his decision, but his state of mind was so off filter that it was the only way he could express his feelings.”
My heart must have skipped a beat in my instant shock. Once I heard the word “knife”, and “throat”, I knew the story was not going to end well. I never thought my dad would kill himself. I mean, I honestly thought it was a heart attack because I knew he would be worried and stressed, and he had heart problems in the past. But no, my dad entered a state of anxiety and thought he should die. I knew it wasn’t his fault, still, I couldn’t help thinking that he didn’t want to take care of me.
That thought stayed with me the whole night.
A Final Thought
I gazed out the stained window, looking at all the blossoming flowers sparkling in the mid-afternoon sun. My doubts about dad had left, and I had decided to put the past behind me. In my spare time, I now liked to write, doodle, or read. Speaking of reading, I purchased a book to learn more about the disease dad had caught in the waiting room. I was then planning to start a fundraiser for the cause and do whatever I could to help. That thought inspired me and I smiled as I gripped the windowsill. The past was gone- in the trash in fact, and I had big dreams for the future!
We hope you enjoyed KidMags story, The Gift, written by AwesomeElla. If any part of the story confused you, or you have any questions or concerns about The Gift, please let us know using our contacts page!