I blinked, shifted and cringed. My body was sore, my mind was cloudy and everything throbbed, especially my feet. I blinked a few more times. Goodness, my eyelids were heavy and my wrists itched—how scratchy the blanket upon my chest was! I took in a deep breath and tried to get past the blurriness.
"It looks like we have a survivor. How are you feeling?"
Turning my head, I saw a white coat, and as my eyes drifted up, there was a stethoscope, assorted pens stuffed inside a pocket, a clean-shaven chin and grey eyes. I opened my mouth, but closed it again, because my tongue was dry and I really didn't feel like talking to anyone. Honestly, I was awful at dying. Everything was trying to do me in, even myself, but I just wouldn't.
And then shame filled me when what I had done truly sunk in:
I could have died.
I wiggled my fingers—I was alive.
"How am I feeling?" I rasped as my old temper was aroused by the absurdity of the doctor's question. "I feel fine. Absolutely goddamn dandy. Never better, asshole."
He chuckled, and the morphine put me to sleep again.
When I awoke once more, I immediately recognized the scent of Aunt Jo's perfume. She was sitting on a bedside chair, her body swathed in the most beautiful black dress I had ever seen.
"Don't bother telling me to go away, because I'm not," she told me then.
I nodded slightly, and there we remained for quite awhile. I could see the sun setting through a nearby window and the room fell to darkness, and still my mother's sister sat by my side, filling my room with her presence. It took me quite awhile, but I was finally able to gather the energy to speak.
"Why?" I asked her.
"Why what, darling?"
"Why do people die? Why do they go so young?"
"It depends upon who those people are," she said quietly.
I couldn't bring myself to mention my best friend, so I chose the other gaping hole within me. "Good people. People like Benjamin."
My aunt was silent for a moment—she had looked away again, her gaze focused intently upon the window. "We're put on this earth to learn," she said at last. "We learn to be kind, to understand, to see things as more than they seem. We learn how to love courageously, and when we learn how to do all these things, we have fulfilled our purpose—we have done all that life asks of us. I think that some people learn how to be good earlier than everyone else, and they don't have to hang around as long as the rest of us." She at last turned to me, and there were tears in her eyes. "Those are the good people, Sara. Sometimes they just can't stay."