Too Love and Forgive

by Felicia Niessen

April slid her long, slender fingers over the crooked scar that rested near her pink, prominent lips. The scar in the reflection in the mirror was a constant reminder of the painful memories from the past, a past that she could never change nor erase. She studied the rest of herself in the mirror. The face looking back at her had the most beautiful jet black hair, inherited from her mother, dark, forest green eyes also from her mother, and her long, slender nose inherited from her father. She resembled nothing of her one and only, twenty year old brother, Hayden. That was the one thing she was always most happy about. One less thing to remind her of her brother made her slightly happier.

A few moments later, April heard what sounded like footsteps sliding across the hallway floor. Before she could turn around to see what it was, two arms wrapped themselves around her body and squeezed gently.

"Morning," whispered a tired voice.

April giggled in reply.

"Good, morning."

Her boyfriend Brian had just awoken from less than a six hour sleep. He worked over time the previous night at a job that he never really enjoyed that much, at "Allen's All Welding." In one hour he would be back at work for another nine hours. Reaching for his toothbrush he asked," It's Friday today right?"

"Fortunately it is," she mumbled between mouthfuls of toothpaste." And unfortunately my Friday off will be spent grocery shopping and paying bills."

Brian rinsed his mouth out with the ice cold tap water and laughed," Yeah, don't we all wish we got a Friday off, no matter how it has to be spent."

April reached for the nearest pink towel and dried her face and hands off. "Well, I'm going downstairs to make some coffee. Would you like a cup before you head off?"

"I would most certainly love a cup of coffee," he answered.

Before she left the bathroom, Brian pulled her close and gave her a quick kiss.

"I love you," he whispered.

"And I love you," she smiled back.

She then broke away from his embrace and headed down the hardwood stairs.

"I'll meet you downstairs."

When she got downstairs, she sauntered over to the kitchen. There was no need to turn the lights on. The suns rays shone throughout the entire kitchen, giving it a warm and inviting feel. The glow made the dark red walls sparkle, as if they had tiny crystals in them.

April reached across the wooden counter for the coffee pot and began pouring water into it. While the coffee brewed, she began making scrambled eggs and bacon. Brian walked into the kitchen just as she finished making breakfast. "Just in time," she said.

She opened up the cupboard, grabbed a plate, and served him the eggs and bacon. After that, she poured him the coffee with one cream and two sugar.

"Wow, this looks great. To bad I don't have a lot of time to wolf it down."

"Well, eat as much as you can. I'm going to eat with," she replied.

She filled her own plate and sat down on the brown stool with Brian at the little island they had in the middle of their kitchen.

"Could you pass me the newspaper?" April asked.

Brian leaned across the counter for it and handed it to her. She quickly flipped to her favorite section in the paper, the Entertainment section. April was so deeply enthralled in the article she was reading, that when the phone rang, she nearly leaped out of her own skin. " Oh my god," she gasped, placing her hand on her chest, "that scared the crap out of me."

Brian chuckled.

She got off the stool and picked up the cordless phone and hit the Talk button." Hello?"

"April? Oh, April," a man's voice whispered.

She could barely recognize the voice, but she managed to figure out who it was just by the softness in his words." Dad?" she replied," are you alright?"

"Yes, yes, I'm fine. But I'm afraid your brother is not."

Brian was looking at April now, his face full of confusion. He mouthed the words," What's going on?"

April brought her finger to her lips, shushing him." What's happened to him?"

"He's been in a terrible car accident. He is in the hospital right now in critical condition. Doctor's say he may not make it through tomorrow night."

At that moment, April's stomach felt like it had been dropped on the ground. She was so shocked that she didn't respond right away.

"Are you still there April?" her dad asked in a shaky voice.

"Oh, yes, sorry dad. Um, well I have the day off today. So I'm going to drive down there right away."

Brian's eyes went wide.

"What about the next couple of days, if you need to stay longer?" her dad asked urgently.

"Then I'll just tell my boss that I have a family crisis. He'll understand."

"Alright. Get here as soon as you can."

"I love you dad," April said.

"I love you to honey."

When she heard the dial tone, she rested the phone back on it's hook.

"Well, what's going on?" Brian asked again.

"Hayden's been in a terrible car accident."

His eyes went wide again. "Wow, I'm sorry to hear that."

April shook her head. "Either it's just because I'm shocked or I just don't feel affected by this as much as I should be."

Brian rose from the table and placed his cup and plate in the sink. "Maybe when you actually go there and see him, it will really hit you. I know some friends of mine who have lost a friend or family member and it doesn't actually hit them that their loved one is really gone until they see them at the funeral or have seen them just before their passing."

April just stared at him, her eyes unblinking. Brian scrunched up his face." Sorry," he said, "I didn't mean to mention the funeral bit so suddenly."

April nodded and chuckled. "No, I see what your saying. That's probably the case with me. It's just that Hayden and I have a very rocky history. I've told you this plenty of times before."

"Yes you have and I understand. If you want, I could call in sick and book the next few days off," he said casually.

"No, no that's alright, I can make the trip down on my own."

Brian looked unsure but none the less gave in, "Are you positive you don't need me to come?"

"I'll be fine, don't worry. I'll keep my speed limit to a minimum of sixty kilometers."

"Very funny," he replied. He walked over to her and gave her a big hug. "I'll take care of the house and whatever else needs to be done." He paused for a moment then said. "Just please drive carefully. Don't pick up any hitchhikers and stay at least a few inches away from the dotted line at all times."

April chuckled, "Ha, ha. Now who is being funny?"

Brian smiled and gave her one more giant hug.

"I'll miss you," she said.

"Call me when you get there," he replied.

April walked him to the front door and watched him put his shoes one." What are you going to eat for lunch?"

"Subway is just across the street from my work so I'll just grab something there." He leaned forward and gave her a kiss. "I love you. Be safe," he said with a serious look on his face.

April nodded her head in reply. She reached for the door handle and opened the door for him.

"Goodbye," he said.

"See you in a few days," she replied.

Brian waved to her as he walked down the driveway and got into his 4*4 truck. She blew a kiss at him as he honked the horn and drove off.

When he was out of sight, she closed the door and climbed the stairs to her room. Once there, she took out her large black traveling suitcase and began folding clothes, placing them into the suitcase, and whatever else was necessary. When she finished, she drug her suitcase down the stairs and dropped it off at the front door. Then she walked around the house, checking to make sure all the lights were turned off and the windows shut. When she was certain that everything was alright, she out on her white and pink runners, grabbed the keys to her red Focus car, and headed out with her suitcase in hand. At the car, she took her keys, unlocked the trunk, and threw her suitcase in. She slammed the trunk shut and got in. April took one last looks at her beautiful light pink house with the nicely trimmed grass, and white fence, and drove off.

After a few hours of really peaceful driving, she came to a small town. It looked like a very quiet and reserved kind of community. The houses were all aligned neatly, flowers bloomed in most of the front yards, the wooden fences were the same for every house, and children were playing street hockey and bike riding.

As she drove further out of town, the houses became fewer and fewer, until she reached the last house before heading back onto the highway. Just before she reached it, she saw the car ahead of her driving smoothly along, when all of a sudden, two young boys came running out from behind their house about twenty feet away from the car and began throwing rocks. The two large rocks that were thrown missed the small blue car by inches. The driver didn't notice and so he or she kept on driving. The boys started laughing hysterically and picked up two more rocks and waited for the next car to come, which was April's car. She realized that she was a little to close to them to be able to stop. So she just hoped that either they wouldn't throw the rocks at her brand new car, or that it would miraculously miss it. Once the boys and her car were aligned side by side, the boys threw the rocks. April could see that the one rock was aimed straight for the passenger window. Instead of speeding up, she swerved violently to the left, nearly hitting a parked vehicle, and swerved back into her lane. Her heart raced a mile a minute as she looked into her rear view mirror and saw the boys laughing even harder at her having swerved like a maniac all over the road. When she had slowed down to regain her composure and drive on, she thought back to when she was seventeen.

One Friday night, Hayden, his friend Stuart, and herself were walking home from one of Hayden's friend's houses and their house was only a few blocks away. As a few cars passed them by, Hayden got the bright idea to throw rocks at them. So Stuart and Hayden began to throw rocks at the oncoming traffic. While they did this, April begged them to stop. They wouldn't listen. As the last car drove by, Hayden chucked a big gray rock and it hit the passenger door, leaving a big dent. Hayden shouted a curse word and both him and Stuart took off running. By the time the car stopped and the woman stepped out, they were out of sight. So the only person standing right near her car was April, with an innocent look on her face. The lady with the big black furry coat asked why she found it amusing to throw rocks at vehicles. April tried to explain what happened but the woman didn't believe her "far fetched" story, considering she was the only one standing there. So the woman grabbed her cell phone and dialed 911! April couldn't believe it. The woman told her that the police would be there any moment and that she was not to go anywhere. When the police arrived on the scene, they asked both parties what had happened and they both gave their stories. But seen as how there were no witnesses, the police handcuffed April and put her into the backseat of the cop car. She was going to have to either stay overnight behind bars or wait until her parents came to pick her up. Well, her parents came within one hour after her one and only phone call home. When her parents arrived, they were furious. They also said that her story had to be "far fetched" because Hayden and Stuart were in Hayden's room playing video games when they left the house. Well, looks like they ran straight home! They told her that she had to stop blaming incidents on her brother. When they left the station, they drove directly home where she was confound to her room for the rest of the weekend and grounded from everything for a month. April never forgave her brother for that, nor the rest of the things he ever did to her.

April could see the "Welcome To Calgary" sign coming into view as she neared the city at 7:45 pm. It was pouring rain out and each drop hit the car's wind shield with streaks. For a summers day in July, it sure didn't look very promising here. Her parent's still lived in the same house she grew up in, just outside the busy city.

Within twenty minutes, she pulled up into her parent's driveway. After a year of being gone, the house still looked the same. Yellow with white window shutters, overlooking a big front yard with freshly mowed green grass, and the living room window with the crack in it from her brother planting a hockey puck almost through it when he was real young, which nearly missed April's head.

It was raining very hard by now. April cut the engine, quickly hopped out of the car, and ran to the trunk. She flung it open and grabbed her suitcase. She ran as quickly as she could up the little path leading to the house. There, she knocked twice and let herself in.

"Mom, dad, I'm here, "she called as she set her suitcase down. Within seconds, her mother, a woman of only five feet with jet black hair and the same forest green eyes as April, came zipping around the corner.

"Oh, dear. April you look beautiful, "she cried, giving April a kiss on both cheeks and a big hug.

"How are you mom? "April asked.

Her mother's face suddenly went from daylight to darkness. "I'm afraid not so well, "she replied gravely. " Come into the kitchen and we'll talk."

"Oh, where do you want me to put my bags?"

Her mom quickly called for her father. "Hugh, April is here. Could you come and take her bags and say hi?"

April heard heavy footsteps coming down the stairs. When her dad came into view, she noticed how tired he looked.

"Sorry, I didn't hear you come in. I was having a shower."

"We've been up at the hospital all day. We got back an hour ago," her mother noted, as her and April walked into the kitchen. Hugh took April's bag and began making his way upstairs.

"Oh, honey. Just put her bag in her old room! We just turned your old room into a guest room. It hasn't changed much though, "her mom mumbled.

April could see how exhausted her mom looked from the long day she had.

"So, what exactly has been happening all day? She asked. She didn't want to ask to many questions all at once, so she decided to ask one simple question.

"Well, "her mother began. "Your father and I got a phone call from a police officer stating that Hayden had been in a serious car accident at 7:00 in the morning on his way to work. They say that it was a green light for him so he drove straight through the intersection while another truck went through his red light and smashed right into Hayden. His little blue Echo car rolled about four times and finally stopped. When the ambulance arrived at the scene, they pulled him out. He was unconscious, in which he still is now, he has some internal bleeding, and a cracked rib. The doctor's don't know if He'll make it through the night. It depends on how much worse the bleeding gets."

On the last two sentences, her mother began to choke on her words.

"It's okay mom, "April whispered, placing her hands on her mother's. Her mom wiped the few tears that had escaped from her eyes. "Yeah, well, this is the one thing that actually isn't his fault."

April looked up in surprise. "What do you mean?"

"I think you know perfectly well what I mean. I know that you have a grudge against him, I know you haven't forgiven him for the things he's done to you in the past, and I know that you may not care about this tragic event as much as your father and I do."

April stared at her mother with her mouth hung slightly open, then she quickly looked down.

"I know that he has brought you a great deal of pain over the years. But you have to remember that he is your brother and he most certainly needs you right now," her mother pressed on.

April nodded her head in agreement. "I know."

Her mother smiled. "Grandma Scarlett and Grandpa Dillon will be here tomorrow, so we'll all go up to the hospital together."

Her mother rose from the table and started for the stairs. "I'm going to bed dear. If you need anything just help yourself. I think your father is already asleep."

"Alright have a good sleep," April replied.

As her mother climbed up the stairs, she poured herself a glass of water and wandered up to her old room. The only difference was that all of the teen posters had been taken down and replaced with family photos. There were some of her grandparents, herself, and Hayden. The covers on the bed had been changed from pink to white. That was about it.

April took her blue cotton pajamas out of her suitcase and put them on. After that, she brushed her teeth in the bathroom across from her room and then climbed into bed. She checked the alarm clock that sat on the night stand. 9:00 pm. April leaned over the bed and pulled out the purple cell phone from her purse. She then dialed her home number.

"Hello?" whispered a tired voice.

"Oh no, did I wake you?"

"Yeah, but that's fine," Brian replied calmly. "I see that you arrived alive than huh?"

"That I did, "she giggled.

"Good. So, what's been happening?"

April described the drive there and everything that her mother told her.

"Gosh, I sure hope he will be all right," he said.

April sighed." Yeah, me to."

"Just remember, he is your brother and..."

"I know, I know," she replied with annoyance.

Brian laughed. "Yes, you've heard that before. Well I'm going back to sleep. I've got to be up early again tomorrow."

"Okay. Sweet dreams. I love you."

"I love you to. Goodnight," he whispered.

"Goodnight," she whispered back, and hung up.

The alarm went off at 8:00 am like April wanted. She quickly rubbed her eyes and rolled out of bed. Grabbing her purse, she opened the door and went into the bathroom. When she was finished washing up, she put on a pair of blue jeans and a pink shirt. The sun was shining in the room which was a good indication that it was going to be a gorgeous day.

April began to walk down the stairs. She could hear voices coming from the living room. When she entered, she noticed that it still looked the same. Dark green walls filled with family photos, hardwood floors, her dad's favorite brown rocking chair beside the window, and the two red couches in the corners of the living room.

"Oh, hello dear!" her grandmother screeched, running over to give her a hug. "How are you?"

"Better now that I'm here."

Her grandfather came over as well to give her a hug. Her grandpa is her father's dad and her grandmother is her mother's mom. Both her mom's dad and her father's mom died when she was a lot younger.

"How have you been holding up child?" her grandpa asked.

"Alright."

"Did you want something to eat before we leave April?" her mom asked.

"No that's fine, I'm actually not feeling very hungry at the moment."

"Okay, is everyone ready to go?"

"Yes," everybody replied at once.

One by one they all got their shoes on and climbed into her mother's green mini van. The hospital was only twenty minutes away. Her mother arrived there in fifteen minutes. Once she found a place to park, they all filed out and made their way inside. When they walked through the doors, her mother led them up to the third floor where they kept Hayden in a small private room.

As they were making their way up, April noticed all of the people with broken arms, legs, and necks. People who had been waiting hours for help, children screaming and running around, unaware that their mom's or dad's are on their death bed and may not make it through another day. Most of these people had their families there to watch over them, regardless of whether or not someone in their family has a grudge against them or just never got along. They were still there for that person. That was something April herself knew she had to realize.

When they reached the floor, they all took their seats on the blue chairs lined up outside Hayden's door. April looked over at her mom, dad, and grandparents. They all wore the same worried expressions. No one spoke a word for at least ten minutes until a doctor came out of Hayden's room.

"Hi everyone, I'm Doctor Hannigan," he introduced himself. "I'm just going to give you an update on how Hayden is doing. We're still unsure of whether or not he will make it through tonight. He still has some internal bleeding, not as bad as yesterday, but we don't know if that little bit will stop. Now, the cracked rib is not as severe as we thought and it will heal in no time."

"When do you think we will be able to see him?" April's mother asked.

"I was about to get to that." The Doctor looked at April. "Are you April?"

She looked up. "Yes I am."

"While Hayden is still slightly unconscious, I could hear him mumbling your name. I thought maybe it was a calling for you."

April stared at him in surprise. Of all people, he was calling out her name?

"If you'd like, you could see him right now."

She glanced over at her family. They all had a look of surprise, even smiles, on their faces.

"Go on honey, "her mother said, "We'll go in after you."

April nodded and stood up. Doctor Hannigan led April into the room. It was very dim with the gray curtains drawn closed. There was a small bathroom in the corner of the room near Hayden's bed. The walls were painted white.

"Just let me know if you need anything," the doctor said as he quietly left the room.

When he left, April pulled up a steel chair and sat beside Hayden. His face was full of cuts and a few bruises. His blonde hair was all messy and greasy looking. Seeing him lying here in this state reminded her of the time she was in the hospital.

When Hayden was thirteen and April was fifteen, they were playing Ice Hockey on a cold winters day outside. Neither of them realized that the ice was thin that day so they kept on playing for another hour or so. At one point, Hayden hit the puck which went soaring up in the air right towards April. He hit it so hard that it skimmed across her face and knocked her down. April hit the ice with such a force that it began to crack and she fell through. As her head went under, she could feel the frozen water piercing her skin and muscles like daggers. She began thrashing her arms around wildly and kicking her legs, trying to stay a float. She could Hayden standing fifteen feet away, unmoving, watching her. At that time, she didn't know why he wouldn't help her, even when she screamed, "Help."

About two minutes later, which seemed like endless hours to April, a few people who had heard her screams had come running from their homes to help her. Two men grabbed her arms and pulled her up. One of them held her in his arms. A woman placed her hands on Hayden's shoulders and asked him what had happened. He never answered. The little park they were at was just a few houses down from them. The man carried her to her house as fast as he could.

When they arrived there, her parents began freaking out and asking what happened. Hayden finally told them. Her father grabbed blankets and wrapped them around April They then drove her up to the hospital. The doctors said that she had to stay overnight. She suffered a slight case of hypothermia. They also had to stitch up the deep cut that rested near her mouth.

Hayden had said that he was just in such shock that he couldn't move. April always believed that, by the look on his face that day, he didn't care what was happening to her at all.

April now brought her hand up to her face and ran her fingers across her scar.

When the stitches came out two weeks later, she had a crooked scar. It would forever be a reminder of the tragic event that could have ended her life.

She shook her head slowly, trying to wipe the images from her mind. She felt her eyes begin to burn and tears began to travel down her face.

"I'm so sorry," she whispered. She looked at him now, tears still moving down her face. "I'm so sorry that I haven't spoken to you this past year. Sorry that I haven't forgiven you sooner than I should have. It's just so hard."

She looked behind her now at the closed door than back again at Hayden. "I know that things have changed. It shouldn't have taken me this long to realize that I can't go on holding a grudge against you for things that happened a long time ago. It shouldn't have to come down to you lying in a hospital bed, on the verge of death, for me to finally talk to you again."

She began to choke on that last sentence. She stared into his bruised, unmoving face. At that moment, she reached for his hand, kissed the top of it, and held it in her own. "I miss you so much, you have no idea. There's not a day that goes by that I don't think about picking up the phone and calling you, just to see if you want to go to dinner, to get a coffee even, and catch up on the time I've lost with you. But I was just so angry. Angry at you for me ending up in the hospital, for blaming everything that happened between us on me, for never including me in you activities, and for not saving me that day."

She began to sob uncontrollably now and she paused for a moment. "But you have a family waiting out there who loves you and are waiting for you to come back to them, including me...please," she whispered. "Please stay with me, don't leave us."

She rested her head on the bed beside him and held his hand.

April stayed in that position for what seemed like endless minutes, when she began to feel a stir. She felt warm fingers trace her scar.

"I'm sorry to," a voice whispered.

She slowly sat up and looked at her brother. He was staring up at the ceiling.

"I'm sorry for never saying how much I love you everyday." His blue eyes now found hers." And how lucky I am to have you as my sister."

Without thinking, April bent over, threw her arms around him, and hugged him tight. She cried softly as she spoke." Oh Hayden. I'm so sorry."

"I know, I know, "he whispered. "What matters now is that you're here and that I'm not going anywhere."

Moments later, the door of the room opened, and April stepped out. By now here eyes were red and puffy. Her dad and grandparents wore expressions of worry while her mother stood up quickly.

"Oh my god, "she gasped. "Is everything okay?"

Without a word, April walked up to her mother and hugged her tight. "Everything is going to be all right," she replied. When she backed away from her mother, she saw that Doctor Hannigan was by her side.

"You may go in in just a few minutes, "he said. "I would just like to check and make sure everything is okay." He saw April smile. "Judging by that smile, I think everything may just be."

When the rest of her family spent a few moments each with Hayden, the all filed into the van and headed back to her parent's house.

"I'm very tired. I think I'm jut going to go to bed, "April said.

"Are you going to be all right?" her father asked.

April smiled and nodded. "Yes, I will be now." She then climbed the stairs to her room. When she reached the very top, she went straight to the room an flopped down on the bed, not bothering to change. The alarm read 8:30 pm. April stared at the pictures on the wall. She saw ones of Hayden's first baby steps with a huge smile on his face, a picture of the whole family together, one of Hayden holding his favorite guitar, and the last one she saw was one of them hugging and staring into the camera, smiling. April fell asleep with the picture in her mind.

The next beautiful sunny morning, when the three of them woke up(her grandparents drove back home to Edmonton), they had breakfast and headed back up to the hospital. This time, April took her car.

When they arrived, they went straight up to Hayden's floor. Doctor Hannigan arrived about five minutes later.

"Good morning, "he said cheerfully.

"Good morning, "they replied together.

"Well, I believe your smile was right, April. Hayden is going to be just fine. He can go home today. We kept him overnight last night to make sure he was doing okay."

The three of them exchanged smiles. "Hayden is sleeping at the moment. We'll let you know when he wakes up."

"Maybe we'll just go visit the gift shop and afterwards head down to the cafeteria what do you say guys?" her dad asked.

"Okay, "her mother agreed.

"We'll have Hayden out of here within the hour. I'll do just one last check up."

"Thank you so much doctor," her mother said.

"My pleasure, "he replied.

April and her parents were eating lunch in the cafeteria, when they saw Hayden come limping through the door.

"Oh honey, "her mother gasped with delight. She ran up to him and hugged him.

"Oh mother, "he laughed. "Careful. I'm still a little sore."

"Right, sorry," she giggled.

"I'm just glad I can walk on my own two feet. My rib should be fully healed within a couple of weeks."

Her mother smiled and tousled is hair.

"Well, are you all ready to go?" her father asked.

Hayden glanced over at April who was now standing beside her dad.

"Well if it's ok with you April, and if she brought her own car here, I would like to go with her."

Her parents raised their eyebrows in surprise.

"That's fine with us, "her dad said.

"We'll meet you back at the house," her mom added.

Within a few minutes, April and Hayden walked out the doors of the hospital and out into the hot summers day.

"It's good to be back outside," Hayden sighed, turning to face her. "I never thought I'd see it again."

April nodded her head and replied. "I'm just glad your okay."

Hayden stuck his hands into the front pockets of his blue jeans. "I'm really happy you came to see me. It means a lot."

April nodded. "You're my brother. I wouldn't miss seeing you for the world."

Her brother laughed. "All right, all right. Enough of this sappy stuff. Now how about going for that coffee?"

April smiled and nodded in understanding. "I would love to."

April had learned a lot from this experience. She learned that no matter what happened in the past, no matter what happens today, no matter what happens tomorrow, family will always be family. No matter how many times a family member has done her wrong, or how much he or she has hurt her, there is always room to love and forgive.

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