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Chapter Twenty

"What are you doing back so soon, Becky?" Nurse Toadstool snapped as the four of us stepped off the elevator.

"She's with us," Kristin said. For such a little thing, she gave one helluva death stare. "That's not a problem is it?"

Nurse Ribbity looked like she was practically swallowing her tongue. "No," she finally said.

We filed past her. She stuck her middle finger up as soon as the other three walked by.

"She gives a new meaning to the word e-vil," I said. Kev glanced over at Becky.

"That woman has no bedside manner," he said. Becky nodded.

"I know. She's in it for the money."

I started to scowl, but stopped when we got to my room. It seemed like every available space was covered in flowers. Becky looked like she was walking through a garden as she made her way up to my bed.

"Hey," she whispered. She sat on the bed, her amazingly perfect derriere smashed up against my arm. I looked at my ghostly appendage sadly, wishing I could actually feel it. Her head lowerered.

"You're gorgeous," she whispered; her lips were barely an inch from my own.

Becky was a half a second away from kissing me when the door opened. Becky jumped.

Dad was standing in the doorway. His eyes were rimmed with dark circles. He was flanked by Aaron, Angel, Leslie, and BJ.

"What's this?" Kev asked.

"Everyone wanted to come say their goodbyes," dad said weakly. "We've decided not to prolong it another night. We're pulling the plug in an hour."

Becky, Kris, Kevin, and I all collectively gasped. Kev's face grew wild with panic.

"Bob, I need to talk to you. I--"

"Nothing you will do or say can change my mind."

"He's dead!" Leslie wailed. I rolled my eyes. "You are such a damn drama queen!" I shouted back.

"Please. Just ten minutes. That's all I ask."

Dad sighed. He looked at Aaron and put an arm affectionately around him. "You and your sisters stay here. I'll be back."

Aaron nodded and puffed out his chest. The little prick was already trying out the 'oldest brother' power. "Sure, dad. No problem."

Kris, Becky, and I filed out of the room with dad and Kevin. I didn't want to stick around and here my sisters wail and carry on. Besides, Aaron would probably use the opportunity to post a dramatic Twitter picture.

"What's this about?" dad asked as Kev closed the door of the family room. Becky's eyes darted around the room. Finally, her fingers stretched out in invitation. I hovered my hand against hers; she shivered, but she remained resolute.

"This is going to sound crazy," Kev said breathlessly. "But Nick and I went swimming with sharks earlier today."

Dad snorted. "What? Son, you've been drinking. I--"


Kev thrust the picture at dad. Dad held it, his expression stoic.

"I see you, sharks, and a film over the camera lens," he said. "So?"

"That's not a film. That's Nick. His ghost has been stuck with me since the accident. He doesn't want to die. He's not ready."

"I know that Nick meant a lot to you," dad said softly. "But, the media's going crazy. The family's at its breaking point. We need closure. We need peace."

Becky covered her mouth, but not before a loud sob escaped. Kris hugged her.

"You've got to at least give us until morning," Kevin begged. Dad shook his head.

"Jane will be here in twenty minutes. It's been decided. I'm sorry. If you need to call Brian, Howie, and AJ, please do. But...the decision is final."

"Kev," I said quietly as dad walked out of the room. Kev clung to the picture, his face about ready to fall. "We've got to get everyone out so Becky can kiss me. Please, it's...it's my last request. Just one kiss."

Kev threw his shoulders back. His lips shook slightly as he lifted his head once more to the sky.

"It's a promise," he said.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I pushed my own emotion aside. My heart was slamming so loud I'm sure they could all hear it and every muscle in my body was tense. I had to stay strong. Sixty minutes. In sixty minutes, THEN I could break down, but here... now... I had to stay strong. For Nick.

Nick was collapsing.

"I don't wanna die, I don't want to die," he was begging his father as we followed Bob into the room where Nick was laying. "Please, for the love of blonde, believe Kevin, please!" He touched his father's back, but being a cold-blooded son of a bitch, Bob didn't even feel it.

"You're such a fucking bastard you can't even notice your son when he's on his god damn death bed," I hissed under my breath.

Bob pretended not to notice.

Becky reached around me and plucked Aaron's cell phone out of his hand. "Sorry, no electronic devices in the ICU," she said in a haughty tone, shutting it off expertly and tossing it onto a chair across the room.

"Nick wanted to say goodbye to his Twitter followers," Aaron complained.

"I DO NOT want myself all over your fucking Twitter account looking like - like -" Nick looked at himself. "THAT." He hung his head.

Leslie and BJ were supporting each other and Angel was standing at Nick's feet, her hands on his toes, her face sullen.

"I can't take it anymore," BJ sobbed. "Goodbye Nick," she said. She turned and rushed out of the hospital room. Leslie glanced at her brother, but couldn't seem to get up the guts to say anything before she rushed after the eldest Carter sister.

"Go you hypocritical bitch," muttered Angel under her breath.

"This is not the time to be cutting down your sisters," Aaron said in a haughty-sounds-just-like-Bob tone. Bob smiled proudly.

Angel glared at her twin. "Like you should talk," she snapped. "Mr. Agreeing to kill your brother just to suck up to dad." Her lip curled. "You're pathetic. I can't believe I shared a womb with you." She looked at Nick. "HAUNT THE FUCK OUT OF HIM," she yelled. "Torture him until the day he dies for this." She looked at Aaron. "It should be you not Nick. We're losing the only person in this family with a soul." She turned and stormed out of the room.

"Woah," Kris muttered.

Aaron glowered.

Bob sighed, "Come on son," he said to Aaron, "I don't want to be here when your mother arrives."

Aaron glared at Nick. "Bye," he muttered, and he started to turn to leave.

"BYE?!?" Nick screamed, "THATS IT? BYE?" He reached for Aaron and his hand swiped the back of Aaron's head in what would've been a smack had he been - you know, tangible - but instead it went through Aaron.

Aaron stopped.

"Yeah that's right you little shit," Nick yelled, "Get back here and give me the good-bye I deserve!"

Aaron turned and looked at Nick's body. Tears filled his eyes. "I--"

"AARON," Bob called from the hall, "Let's go."

Aaron stared at Nick for a long, long second, then turned and speed-walked out the door.

Nick watched the door closed.

Becky whispered, "You poor thing."

We all turned to see her, stroking Nick's hand. He moved over to the other side of the bed and leaned down to watch her face. He even hovered onto the bed so he was just above his own body... a ghostly shadow around the actual thing.

Kris grabbed my hand as Becky leaned forward... her mouth puckered...

And the door flew open, cracking me in the back and sending me forward. I stumbled into the IV pole and only just caught myself before knocking it over across Nick's body. Kris helped he stand upright.


Jane had arrived.