Carter untangled himself from Aubrey’s arms, “You’re going to do great.” A smirk split his face, “But I’m going to do better.”
Aubrey’s fist sailed into his shoulder. “Yeah right.”
“Ouch!” Carter rubbed his shoulder, grimacing. “You pack a mean one, that’s for sure.”
Carter’s face dropped, suddenly growing serious. “But seriously Aubrey, you’re amazing. And I just wanted to say,” He stepped closer, “Aubrey?”
Her breath caught in her throat, “Yes?”
His lips were so close, causing her heart beat to pick up. Like a horse galloping in her chest. She could feel his breath and she wasn’t sure what to do. Suddenly, a sly smirk erupted across his face driving the moment away. He stepped back,
“I’m still going to have a better PR than you.” The air rushed back to her lungs and she groaned as her heartbeat began to slow. She was such an idiot.
“Ok. Whatever you say.” She forced Carter out of her mind as she sought out the registration both.
Aubrey stood next to the other bikers, anticipation coursing through her as she waited for the signal. Moments ached by as every rider nervously prepared themselves. Pent up energy tickled the air around them urging them to start.
Aubrey strained her ears for the starting signal, already seated she took of when the siren filled the energetic atmosphere. The crowds on either side of the track erupted in cheers, roaring as she slipped by. She forced as much energy as she could into each pedal stroke, allowing the wheel to propel her across the trail. Dirt flew around her as she slid through berms, weighting her outside leg as she turned, jumped, climbed and descended.
Aubrey’s surroundings seemed to blur by as she focused on the trail, sailing past the other racers. Sweat dripped down her temple and she panted as she struggled to finish. She could feel her body growing tired as the miles raced by and other bikers were passing her as her pedal strokes became heavy.
Aubrey gritted her teeth as she climbed. Reaching deep down she grasped at Carter’s words, at her own conviction to race. Forcing energy she didn’t have into her every movement, she she pushed her bike forward. Slowly, gradually, she picked up speed. The bikers that had passed her slowly fell behind her one by one.
She scanned the trail ahead. Dirt, rocks, trees. Aubrey’s gaze finally fell on a the people lining the trail at the end, cheering as she continuously pedaled. Excitement filled every part of her body when she spotted the finish line.
Victory was within her grasp. Victory over her Mom’s doubts, victory over her own weakness, and victory over her Doctor’s negativity. Aubrey had come this far and she was going to finish. She pressed with a vigor that was unmatchable.
It was so close. Five yards. Three. Two. One. Her wheels hit the line and she was overcome by her teammates as she exited the track.
Carter emerged from the mass of smiles and congratulations throwing his arms around Aubrey’s neck. His lips melted with hers before she could even say a word and she was enveloped in him.
Alarms blared in Aubrey’s head, but there was no escaping. Her legs ached, weak and ready to collapse. Though from the race or from the boy in her arms she wasn’t sure.
She smiled as Carter released her, “What was that?”
“My congratulations. I knew you could do it.” He answered simply,
“Hmm.” Was all Aubrey could say,
She’d raced. Aubrey Moore had raced and she made it to the end. She reached out a hand to finger Carter’s cheek, “Carter, do you want to know something?”
A smile played his lips, “And what is that?”
“I love you.” She whispered against his lips, she glanced into his eyed, enchanted as he said, “I love you too.”
She sighed, capturing his words and locking them close to her heart. Swearing never to let them go.
Days passed. Aubrey’s constant companion a vast expanse of white. Steril and uninviting. That same medical smell tickled her nose, saturating the air around her.
Tubes protruded from her forearms, her skin a ghostly white that matched her sheets, her hair left only in thin sections now.
A knock echoed in the empty room drawing her attention to her family who stood offering pained smiles in the doorway. One particular expression caught her gaze though, bright and illuminating Aubrey’s dull confines.
“Davie?” She whispered,
“Abby!” He squealed, running to throw his arms around Aubrey’s neck.
“Hey Davie.” Aubrey mumbled as he pressed a soft kiss on her cheek.
“How are you?” His speech was more fluent, though he still slurred his words.
She chuckled at his question, “I’m great.”
“Good. Mommy and Daddy say you aren’t doing so good.” His periwinkle eyes glimmered in the overhead lights, “But I knew you were ok.”
“So what have you been up to Davie?”
He grinned, “I’ve been learning how to ride a bike.”
A smile tugged at the corner of Aubrey’s mouth, “Is that so?”
“Yup.” Davie puffed out his chest, “And I’m almost as good as you.” He held a hand to his chest, his pride evident. “I can ride all the way down the driveway!.” Aubrey chuckled at this.
“Wow! That’s amazing! You’re going to be a great rider someday.”
“Just like you?” Davie asked hopefully,
Aubrey nodded, “Just like me.”
“Come on Davis, we have to go now.” Her mother held out her hand to the little boy, who squeezed Aubrey tight before hopping off the bed and grabbing it.
“Bye honey, we love you.” Her father hugged her and Aubrey swore she wouldn’t let go. Clinging to the smell of old spice and the kitchen that always lingered about his friendly frame. His caring smile seemed to brighten her vision, tugging at her own lips.
“Bye.” Aubrey whispered as her father’s presence exited the hospital room.
She could hear Davie’s thrilled voice down the hall,
“Did you hear that Mommy? I’m going to be just like Abby!”
“That’s right Davis.” Her Mom’s voice confirmed gently,
“Do you think she would like to ride with me?” He asked,
There was a pause before her Mom spoke and Aubrey had to force herself to ignore the remorse that lay in her words. “Yes. I think she’d like that.”
Their voices faded down the hall and the bleak company of Aubrey’s room soon returned. It almost seemed to suck away any comfort from it’s inhabitants, replacing it with an almost empty feeling. So instead she let her eyelids fall heavy, like curtains. A vast expanse of darkness that was somehow comforting.
Slowly Aubrey began replaying moments. Smiling as Davie was born, as she kissed his cheek and declared all the things they would do together. Her first time on a trail. Joining the team. Meeting Carter for the first time. Her mind latched onto these moments, feeding off of them.
Pouring milk onto Dad’s lap instead of his cup. Putting salt in the cookies instead of sugar. Racing Carter around the neighborhood.
The memories were outlined in a sort of pleasant feeling and she sank into them. The last one was of her Dad hugging her, his words echoing in her head.
“I love you.” A warmth filled her chest as her father’s voice overlapped Carter’s, “I love you.”
The words were soft and spoke more than could ever be said.
Aubrey smiled softly, such wonderful words. Sighing she whispered, “I love you too.”
Something heavy seemed to press down on Mrs. Moore as she hurried around the house, putting dishes away she lost herself in a rigorous race of thoughts. So it was that she did not notice when someone knocked on the door.
It was Davis that answered the door, pulling at the handle with all his might to reveal Carter. He peaked around a large bouquet of flowers, offering a grin when he spotted Davis.
“Is Aubrey here?”
“Aubrey?” Davis asked, clearly confused.
“Yes. Aubrey.” Carter confirmed,
Davis knitted his eyebrows, “But why do you want Abby?”
Carter gestured to the bouquet, pink tinting his freckled cheeks. “These are for her.”
“I don’t know if she can have those.” Uncertainty played at the edges of his words,
“What do you mean? Is she allergic?” Carter inquired,
Davis hesitated before saying, “No. She’s just gone.”
“When will she be back?”
“I don’t know.” A tear slipped down his chubby cheeks,
“What do you mean?” Carter asked fear clawing at his throat,
Davis was sobbing now, catching his Mom’s attention. “What happened?” She asked rushing towards the door, concern etched across her features.
“I don’t know. I asked where Aubrey was because I brought her flowers and then he started crying.”
Mrs. Moore’s concern quickly melted into an odd combination of remorse and sympathy,
“What’s wrong?” The icy fingers of dread were now wrapped around his chest, his breathing coming fast. “Where’s Aubrey?”
Davis looked up, hiccuping from his tears. “Aubrey’s gone. The angels took her.”