Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Promise (Christy Torres)

(Short Story)

Cancer…Cancer…the word resonates in Tracey’s mind. It bounces back and forth and cuts the breath from her lungs. Cancer, it feels like a death sentence. She stares at the doctor, numbly nodding as he explains everything. As the doctor leaves the room, she closes her eyes, steadies her breath, and drifts back in time.

It was 1987. Tracey was seven years old. She lay outside in the grass, and stared at the clear blue sky. The sun was shining. Its warmth caressed her skinny arms and legs, and it kissed her freckled face. The blades of grass swayed in the wind, and tickled her neck. She watched the cotton-ball clouds float by. Her eyes fluttered shut, and her body twitched toward imminent sleep. Suddenly a huge gush of frigid water poured over her. She sat up gasping to steal back the breath she had just lost. Goosebumps immediately popped up covering her arms and legs as the scream reached her lips.

As the sound of Tracey’s discomfort echoed throughout the yard, a new sound joined it. High-pitched laughter poured out of Ted’s mouth. He laughed so hard that tears ran down his face, and he clutched his stomach. Tracey jumped up with a yell, startling him. Wide-eyed, he watched his twin sister run full force at him. He had no time to move, duck, dash, or even think. She tackled him to the ground.

Tracey stares out the window of the hospital as the nurse enters the room. “Are you ready?” the nurse asks. Tracey stares at the vials lying neatly on the table, and swallows hard. She nods and lies down on her back on the hospital bed. The nurse wipes her arm with an alcohol pad. The smell stings Tracey’s nose and the prick of the needle fires hot pain up her arm. She clenches her teeth and looks out the window. “I am all done. I am going to take your blood to the lab so they can compare the DNA to see if you are a match. Try to rest; the surgeon will be in shortly to talk with you.” The nurse smiles and leaves the room. Tracey gets up and walks to the window and stares at the world outside. Her mind continues to drift.

It was 1988. Ted walked into the living room. He wore a Detroit Tigers baseball cap and a jersey. He had a huge smile on his face, and cradled something in his hand. “Whatcha got there?” Tracey asked from her seat on the worn-out couch.

“It ain’t anything for you. Daddy got it for me after the game. It’s a baseball card to add to my collection. Ya know it’s probably the best card I got. It’s an original and everything!” The excitement in Ted’s voice piqued her curiosity. She sat up from her reclined position and took her feet off the coffee table.

“Well, can I see it?”


“Please, I won’t hurt it.”

“No. It’s mine!” Ted yelled. Tracey got up from the couch and lunged for his hand. Ted jumped out of the way, causing her to lose her balance. She stumbled forward and tripped over the coffee table; she tumbled to the floor. She sat up stunned. She rubbed her head and tried to fight back the tears stinging her eyes.

“Ha, ha, that’s what you get,” Ted said. He continued to laugh as he walked down the hall to his bedroom. Rage filled her, and her body trembled. She got up and raced down the hall to Ted’s room. She burst through the door and grabbed his new baseball card from his hand. Before he could take it back, she took Ted’s baseball card, an original 1909 Ty Cobb, ripped it into small pieces and ate them.

Ted stood there in shock. His mouth was gaping open, his eyes were glossy with tears; he was clenching his fists so hard that his fingernails drew blood in the palms of his hands. In a split second he tackled her to the ground.

Tracey turns her head toward the door at the sound of a soft knock. A doctor walks in and flashes a toothy grin. He sits on the edge of her bed and extends his big hand to her. “Hi, I am Dr. Smith, your surgeon. You probably don’t remember me, but I helped take care of your family in 1989. Of course I was just an intern then. Anyway, back to business, we got the results and you are a perfect match to your brother. Twins usually are. So, do you have any questions for me?”

Tracey’s mind races, he helped my family? She thinks. She takes a deep breath and clears her throat. “Well, after surgery, will his cancer be gone? Will I be okay with one kidney? Will he be okay with only one?” The doctor pats her shaking hands and nods his head.

“We caught your brother’s cancer early before it had time to spread anywhere else. You are both young and healthy and will do very well with only one kidney. After surgery, I am optimistic that you will both make full recoveries. The best thing is that Ted will be cancer free. I want you to know that I think this is a very brave thing you are doing for you brother. Try to rest, surgery is in the morning. Tomorrow evening you’ll both be right as rain.” Dr. Smith smiles and leaves the room. Tracey sighs and turns on the television. Lost in thought, time fades away to the past.

It was 1989. Tracey and Ted were sitting in the backseat of their parent’s car, thumb wrestling. They were on their way to Disney World. It was the family’s first real vacation, and they were all really excited. Ted had been nagging their parents to go there for years. He was so excited that he could barely contain himself. Their father was driving and their mother hummed softly to the music playing in the background. “Are we there yet?” Ted asked.

Their mother turned and smiled, “We just left home, Teddy. It is going to take us a few days to get there. Be patient, and we will be there faster than you know it.” She turned in her seat and smiled at her husband. He reached over and patted her leg.

“Eww…they’re getting all lovey-dovey again.” Tracey giggled. She turned and looked out her window. They were entering an intersection, and Tracey saw a truck barreling toward them. “Daddy?”

Tracey woke up with a sharp pain in her side and her leg felt like it was on fire. She looked beside her at her brother. His head was down and he looked like he was sleeping. She craned her neck and looked at her father in front of her. He looked like he was sleeping too. Then she looked at her mother. “Mommy?” she asked.

Her mother looked back and smiled. “Don’t be scared honey. The truck hurt the car, but help is coming. We’re going to be okay. Mommy and Daddy love you so much. Be a big girl and always be there for your brother. Okay, honey?”

Tracey was confused, “I love you too Mommy, and I will watch Teddy if you want. I feel sleepy and my leg hurts.”

“It’s okay, baby. I love you.” Tracey closed her eyes and the world slipped away with the sound of sirens in the distance.

The nurse walks in snapping Tracey back to reality. She quickly wipes the tears from her checks. “I’m just here to take your temperature and blood pressure. We have to make sure there isn’t any sign of infection before surgery,” the nurse says. She finishes and charts the information, and then she leaves the room. Tracey turns off the television and then the lights. She closes her eyes and falls into a restless sleep full of haunting dreams.

It was 1989. It was a dreary day, full of dark clouds, fits of rain and rolling thunder. Tracey stared out the window of the car as it drove through the cemetery. Rain splashed off the car, rolled down the windows, and distorted the tombstones that danced by. The car pulled up behind the hearse and sputtered to a stop. She turned and looked at Ted sitting beside her. His eyes were red and bloodshot, his checks were stained with tears, and his lips were bright red from chewing on them. There was a bandage over his right eye covering the stitches he needed from the accident.

Tracey took his hand and opened the door. They slowly walked hand in hand to the two coffins resting side by side. Family and friends surrounded them to offer their condolences; but Tracey and Ted were oblivious to those around them. Ted sobbed and his whole body trembled. Tracey turned and hugged him tightly. “I want Mom and Dad back,” he said in her ear. Tears welled up in her eyes and she blinked them back rapidly.

“I do too, but they’re gone. It’s just you and me now. I’ll watch you, I promised I would. I’ll be there for you always, whenever you need me.” Ted continued to shake in her arms.

Tracey wakes up to the gentle touch of the nurse. She opens her eyes and knows it is time for surgery. She remembers her long-forgotten promise that she made to her mother and brother. The nurse wheels her down the hall to the surgical suite. She watches the lights flash by overhead and the butterflies in her stomach threaten to overcome her. She closes her eyes and sees her mother’s face smiling at her.

Once in the operating room, they prep her for surgery and the anesthesiologist begins to put her under. The drugs wash over her and her fears fade away. She knows that she is about to fulfill her promise to her mother. She is going to be there for her brother in his time of need, and she is comforted in that fact.

Tracey opens her eyes. She feels groggy and tired. She looks over and sees Ted beside her. His handsome face is pale from the surgery and chemotherapy. She tries to speak, but can’t yet talk. She clears her throat. “Hey there Teddy,” she says. His eyes open slowly and he smiles at her.


“Looks like we both made it.”

“Yeah, I guess we did.”

“How long do we have to recover?”

“A week, maybe, why?” he asks.

“Just wondering,” she closes her eyes and goes back to sleep, dreaming of the past.

It was 1990. Tracey was ten years old. She was sitting on a tire swing tied to a huge oak tree in her grandmother’s front yard. She looked down at her white shoes and slowly swung herself back and forth. The autumn sun glowed low in the sky, and leaves fell lazily to the ground. Ted walked up to her on the swing. “Can I have a turn?” he asked.

“No, I was swinging first.”

“Come on, please, let me.”

“No,” Tracey said and smiled while she swung higher. Ted started picking up pebbles and throwing them at her. She laughed as they missed her. Ted sat down and pulled his knees to his chest and put his head down. Tears rolled down his checks and he sniffled. Tracey stopped and got off the swing. She went over and sat down beside him. “What’s wrong?” she asked softly.

“Nothing, just leave me alone.”

“Well, why are you crying?”


“Because why?” she asked scooting closer to him.

“Because you are always mean to me. You never do anything nice for me. Remember when you hurt my baseball card that Dad got me? That was my favoritest thing ever. And now you won’t let me swing on the tire. I wish I would have died with Mom and Dad.” Tracey sat there stunned. She did not know what to say. Tears filled her eyes and she felt terrible.

“I’m sorry Teddy,” she said softly, “You can swing if you want. I promise I will do better. Someday I will get you a good baseball card. Heck, someday I will take you to Disney World. I promise. I’m glad you didn’t die with Mom and Dad.” She got up and walked slowly to her grandmother’s white farm house. She looked back at her brother crying softly in the yard and renewed her vow to him.

A month after leaving the hospital, Tracey drives to Ted’s apartment to pick him up. She honks the horn and he comes out with a suitcase in hand. He pulls open the blue car door; throws the bag in the back seat and gets in. “So where are we going?” he asks.

Tracey smiles and reaches over to open the glove box. She pulls out a small box wrapped in blue paper and hands it to Ted.

“Let’s just say I had a lot of time to think while I was in the hospital,” she says as she turns onto the highway. He pulls off the paper and opens the box, inside is a baseball card, an original 1909 Ty Cobb. He looks out the window speechless, tears in his eyes, and sees a sign that says Disney World 1100 miles.

WRT310 Creative Writing, Spring 2006
Published with author’s permission

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