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With his hands on one side of the translucent glass, Joe wondered if he made the right choice. Giving AJ a new kidney was the smartest or the dumbest thing he had done in his seventeen years. He had either saved her, or prolonged her life until she got sicker and died. He would probably love her by then.
He still didn’t want to admit to himself that he already was in love with her. “Mr. Kaplowski?” He turned. The nurse who tapped him was looking quite nervous.
“Yes?” He asked, removing his hand from the glass.
“Aubrey’s surgery went fine, but unfortunately, they just need to close up some unexpected internal bleeding. You saved her life, Joe.”
Joe laughed bitterly. He had given up one of his kidneys for his girlfriend. He was f***d up. “Yeah, I guess I did. Does this mean she’ll be okay. Forever?”
“Well,” she looked uncomfortable. “Not forever. But this should continue without a hitch. And most likely, she’ll live to a ripe old age.”
Joe imagined him rubbing AJ’s feet wrinkled with prune-like waves on rocking chairs in ninety years.
He had no doubts that she would survive now. “Thanks.” He said, as the nurse walked into AJ’s room. He watched her chest inflate and deflate. Her black hair was pulled up in a messy ponytail, so it wouldn’t get in the way of surgery. Joe hadn’t watched. He’d seen all of her innards and his own than he’d ever wanted to. He rubbed his hands over his stomach and winced. He felt the stitches, the indentation.
He was missing. Part of him was working in AJ, helping her to live. He smiled. He liked the sound of that.
He eased himself into a chair and inhaled sharply. “Ooh, man.” He grabbed his abdomen. It ached.
“Is something wrong?” The doctor who’d preformed Joe’s kidney removal asked. He was on his way into AJ’s room.
“I think-OH!” He yelled.
“What?” The doctor kneeled at his side, grabbing his arm for a pulse. “Oh my god,” he waved over a brunette nurse.
“It seems Mr. Kaplowski has a complication.”
“A complication?” Joe managed, talking through his pain and tears. It felt like his middle was on fire. “With me?” He groaned again, his insides like they were on fire. He clutched his rib cage.
“Okay, let’s get him a stretcher, stat!” Joe didn’t like the sound of that. He’d seen medical movies on TV and whenever someone said stat, they were almost always done for. Unless there was a hot babe doctor. Then they survived. He looked around. The only doctors he saw were middle-aged men, none nearly as attractive as a woman doctor in a form-fitting white dress would have been. He felt them lift him up and place him on a stretcher. “NO!” He cried, grabbing his side. “Don’t move me!” Okay, he was above pretending nothing was wrong now. He couldn’t breathe. The brunette nurse grabbed his wrist and squeezed. “I think I want to sleep now.” He mumbled, feeling his stomach go numb and his mind along with it.
“No.” She squeezed harder, jerking his head up. She tilted his head as he was placed on another stretcher again. “You cannot go to sleep, okay?” She motioned to the stretcher pusher, who ran faster down the white hall, past AJ’s room.
“Why not? We passed Aubrey’s room, didn’t we?” He moaned, the sharp pain reaching his upper throat this time. “I want to go to sleep, can I?”
“No, you have to stay awake. We need to do some checks on you.” She said, helping slide him on a bed and undress him, peeling his shirt quickly off. “Oh my go-” She motioned for the doctor. Joe lifted his head and stared down. His stitches had burst open, and he saw parts of him that he never ever had wanted to see. There was blood everywhere, and pieces of stitches everywhere.
“Get me some anesthesia!” He called.
“It’s too late. We can’t drug him without risking an infection.” The brunette informed him, turning her huge eyes down at Joe.
“Am I going to be okay with it?” He asked.
“You’ll be fine.” He screamed as the doctor inserted something cold and metal inside his stomach area. “WHAT DAY IS IT?” The nurse screamed, to keep him talking.
“No, it’s Friday.” She said. Joe felt his stomach contract.
“Oh. I have football on Friday. Why aren’t I there?”
“You had to give your girlfriend a kidney.” She said, rubbing his hand, harder than necessary. Joe screamed again, and gripped the edge of the metal hospital bed for support.
“My girlfriend?” Joe asked, trying to avoid all of his own blood that had gathered at his feet.
“AJ. Aubrey. Aubrey Jay.” The nurse clarified.
“I love her. Tell her I love her.”
“She knows. She told me to tell you the same thing.”
“Why didn’t you?”
“Why- AH!” He screamed, as something sliced on the side of his ribs.
“Okay, get me something to seal the bleeding, and get me an oxygen mask.”
“Am I going to be okay?” Joe asked, watching the people run around. He recognized AJ’s mom outside his window. After peering closer, he saw AJ’s face, pale and worried against the glass.
Joe saw her mouthing words. “No! Get her out of here! Don’t let her-AH-don’t let her watch! I don’t want her to see me die! Tell her-OW! Tell her I love her. I really really do. And tell her yes.” Joe kicked the nurse in the stomach, and then lay twitching for a moment, before his body went rigid and the blood stopped flowing.
Two Years Earlier
“So, if I broke all my arms, would you shave my legs for me and not be grossed out?” AJ asked, peering up at the sky. Joe held her hand and examined it.
“You could never have anything wrong with you. You’re perfect.” AJ laughed and grinned.
“But would you?”
“I’ll tell you when it happens.”