_____ sighed as she pulled into the student parking lot. It wasn't because she would suffer from a boring day at school. No, she would be suffering from the lovely hell that is band camp. She played the clarinet in her high school marching band, which meant that band camp was mandatory.
'At least this is my last year of it,' she thought, climbing out her car. This was her senior year, which, in marching band, came with two perks (excluding the obvious seniority): being section leader and only having one more year of band camp.
When _____ turned around, another car parked right next to hers, being very careful not to hit her. The car parked, and out climbed Alfred, Feliciano, Gilbert, and Ludwig.
_____ smiled as they came toward her. "Hey, guys," she said.
Feliciano smiled brightly and waved at her. "Ciao, sorella!"
"Mein GOTT!" exclaimed Gilbert, waving his hand in front of his face. "It's so HOT!"
"Well, welcome to band camp, honey!" said _____, patting the albino on the head. "You'll just have to suck it up like the rest of us."
"Ja, but we aren't in band, so we can leave anytime we want, unlike you," he said, causing her to stick her tongue out at him.
Alfred walked over and gently pulled _____'s head close to his lips. "You ready?" he whispered into her ear.
Despite the heat, _____ shivered at Alfred's action. She smiled and nodded. "Yep."
Alfred smiled back and planted a kiss on her cheek. "Great. Now let's get going."
After gathering their things, they made their way to the band room. The week before, _____ had begged the four to come to band camp with her to, if anything, just help out (refill water coolers, pass out wet rags, etc.). They had agreed and were excited at first, but now that they were here and under the blazing sun, they were beginning to regret it (except Ludwig, who could handle that kind of crap like a pro).
_____ sighed as she stomped off the sidewalk to the practice field, the boys following her. "Halfway done." It was now the second half of day three at band camp, Wednesday, around 2:30 in the afternoon.
Alfred wiped his forehead with the back of his arm. "I dunno how you deal with this every year."
_____ shrugged, fixing her Frogg Togg around her neck. "you get used to it."
Feliciano looked at her in shock. "How do you get used to it?! It's really, really hot!"
She smiled. "You just do."
When everyone had assembled on the practice field, the band director instructed the band to split up into sectionals. Since _____ was a senior, she was section leader, which meant she was I charge of the other clarinet players.
"Alright guys, get into two rows for me," _____ commanded to the lowerclassmen. After giving the command, she dressed the lines using two yard lines and the home sideline.
"Okay," she said after dressing the lines, "let's just go forward eight and backwards eight for right now."
She counted the group off and inspected their marching. Surprisingly, the sophomores and freshmen were doing great. Most of the juniors were fineexcept one.
_____ scowled at the junior. "Tori," she called when they finished. "You were just walking."
Victoria (a.k.a. Tori) raised an eyebrow. "And?"
_____ raised both of hers. "And we're in marching band. We don't walk. We march."
Victoria rolled her eyes. "This is so retarded."
_____ was about to go off on her when the band director called for a water break and added, "Section leaders, come here for a minute."
Before going to the director, she glared at Victoria. "Get serious." She turned and walked away, feeling a slight pain in her head.
Victoria was left by herself, mulling over what just happened. She was very displeased, to say the least, and began thinking of a way to get back at _____. She looked over at the men that had followed _____ there, paying special attention to the dishwater-blond with glasses covering his big, blue eyes. She knew Alfred was _____'s boyfriend, and decided to do something that would really piss _____ off.
She walked over to him and said, "So, how have you and _____ been together?"
Alfred looked at her, placing a soaking wet rag around the back of his neck. "Oh, we've been dating for about eight months now." He squeezed the ends of the rag, causing water to drip down his chest and under his sleeveless shirt. "You're Tori, right?"
Victoria nodded, subtly pulling down the front of her low-cut tank top. "Yeah. listen. I need to tell you something."
He nodded. "Okay. What?"
Victoria glanced over to where _____ was with the band director and the other section leaders. If she was going to do this, she would have to do it at the right moment.
And she did. She grabbed Alfred's shirt and pulled his face closer to hers, causing their lips to meet awkwardly. Alfred was shocked and froze for a moment. But that moment was all it took, because _____ turned around the second they kissed.
_____'s face flushed from anger. "Get the hell away from him!"
Victoria calmly pulled away as _____ rushed toward the two. Unlike what Victoria had expected, _____ passed right by Alfred and went straight for her, grabbing her tank top and pulling her to close proximity. "What the hell are you doing with him?! Who do you think you are, trying to do something like that?! What the hell's the matter with you?!"
"_____!" yelled Alfred. "Stop!"
_____ shoved Victoria away and looked at him, hurt filling eyes. He noticed and reached out his hand. "_____, it wasn't like that"
"No," she said, her voice dropping an entire octave. "I don't wanna hear it."
Before either one could get another word out, the director called for the band to get into opening set. Hesitantly, _____ walked back onto the field, picking up her clarinet on the way. Alfred filled a cup with water and sat down on the ground. He took a swig as he put together what had just happened, then realizing that he needed to explain everything to _____ as soon as he could.
He stared at _____ as she marched across the field. Her form and posture were perfect, and she stayed in step even when everyone around her wasn't. He smiled at her resilience. That was one of the many reasons why he loved her. God, he loved her. He loved her more than anything. That was why he needed to apologize. He didn't want to lose her, especially over something like this.
Moving her feet to the beat, _____ smoothly marched from set to set. She kept her eyes on Alfred, only glancing around occasionally to check her location and intervals. Her mouth felt dry as she played. She hadn't had anything to drink for about two hours now, which, in this heat, was not good. She rotated her shoulders and tilted her head back for a second, attempting to make her Frogg Togg release some water and cool her off a little. It didn't do very much, and she stopped playing to breathe through her mouth. Sweat poured down her face, neck, and back. She was severely overheated. She needed water now. The pain in her head returned and intensified, impairing her vision and coordination. The pain grew tenfold for a split-second before her tired body fell to the ground.
Although they were paused at their sets, it took everyone a moment to realize that _____ was unconscious. Excluding Alfred, who had been staring _____ the whole time, Anna, the flute section leader and one of _____'s friends, was the first to notice.
Anna bent down and gently shook her. "_____? Are you"
"_____!" Alfred came running onto the field toward his girlfriend. He knelt down beside her and held head in his big hand. "_____?" Alfred's heart sank when he saw that she wasn't breathing. He looked back at Ludwig. "Ludwig!" he called in a panicked tone. "Call an ambulance!"
Ludwig quickly carried out the order while Alfred began performing CPR on _____. "Come on," he mumbled. "Come on. Come on." As he repeatedly pressed his hands down on her chest, he looked at _____'s unconscious face. She was so pale, so lifeless. He couldn't stand to see his sweetheart like that. Just the very sight made his heart break.
At this time, everybody, including Ludwig, Gilbert, and Feliciano, had gathered around the scene. Gilbert had grabbed several wet rags on the way over and started to slowly place them on _____'s forehead, neck, and continuously running one across her cheeks. He tossed her Frogg Togg to Feliciano and told him to soak it in the ice water where they got the wet rags from. Feliciano obeyed, running to and from the cooler as fast as he could, and all the while sobbing and begging for God to let his "sorella" be alright.
"Yes. Danke," said Ludwig as he ended the emergency call on his cell phone. "An ambulance is in its way."
They nodded emphatically, Alfred still trying to get _____ to breathe. Feliciano knelt down next to _____'s head and gently placed the now soaking wet Frogg Togg on her neck, pressing the ends to her cheeks for a moment. "Sorella. . ." he whispered, tears running down his face.
"Come one, _____," mumbled Alfred. "Stay with me."
"My god, you guys," said a voice behind the group. "Stop getting all worried. She's obviously faking it to see if Alfred still has the hots for her."
"That's a lie!" exclaimed Feliciano. "Sorella would never joke about something like that!"
Alfred turned to Victoria, glaring at her the same way _____ did. He stood up, Gilbert taking control of the CPR. "Does this look fake to you?! Look at her! You think she's playing around?! Get it through your head! She's not joking! And neither are we!"
Victoria's eyes were wide and her already red cheeks were even redder. She looked away from Alfred and slowly walked off.
Soon after, the ambulance came, and _____ was carried on. Alfred started to climb in when he was stopped by one of the paramedics. "Sorry, son. You can't come in."
Alfred was in a state of panic right now, eyes widened and hair sloppily hanging in his face. "No! I have to be in there!"
The paramedic looked quickly at _____, then back at Alfred. "Are you her boyfriend, or something?" he asked in a monotonous, but still sympathetic voice.
Alfred nodded. "Yeah. I am."
"Alright. Come in. Just don't get in the way."
Hearing this, Alfred quickly climbed into ambulance, mumbling to the paramedic, "Thank you."
As they drove away from the school campus, Alfred sat transfixed beside _____, watching every movement the paramedics made like a guard dog. When the paramedics finished reaching across the back of the ambulance for things and finally relaxed, Alfred took _____'s hand in his. It felt so tiny in his, so fragile. She seemed so fragile. He lifted it up and kissed it lightly.
"_____?" he said quietly. "Can you hear me? It's Alfred. You're gonna be fine, baby. I promise. We're on our way to the hospital now." He watched as one of the paramedics stuck an IV into _____'s right arm, flinching when it pierced her skin. He knew how much _____ hated needles, and also knew she wouldn't be too happy when she woke up and saw an IV in her arm.
That is, if she woke up.
Alfred shook his head furiously, wanting desperately to rid himself of that thought. He tightened his grip on her hand. "_____, if you can hear me, squeeze my hand." He waited a moment, but her hand remained motionless. "_____? Please, squeeze my hand. Move your fingers. Do something! I need to know you're still there! Please, _____! I love you!"
Despite all his efforts, _____ didn't move. Aside from the occasional shake that was sent through the ambulance, she stayed completely still. Alfred panicked, but before he could do anything, the ambulance came to a stop and the paramedics carried _____ out and into the emergency entrance of a hospital. He followed them all the way to Trauma Room 1, where he was left outside while the doctors helped _____. He looked through the slender window, seeing a small group of doctors and nurses crowded around _____. His heart lodged in his throat when he saw a doctor pull out a defibrillator.
Alfred backed away from the door to the other side of the hallway. He couldn't take any more of this. He sank down to the floor against the wall with his legs close to his chest and arms covering his head. And at that instant, he began to cry.
"Please, _____," he whispered, voice his failing him as tears rolled down his cheeks. "Please, don't go."
Alfred remained in that state until the doors to Trauma Room 1 opened an hour later. He quickly and furiously wiped away his tears and stood up as _____ was being rolled out.
"_____--" He started to follow when a doctor grabbed his arm.
"Are you a friend of hers?" he asked.
Alfred looked at the doctor and nodded. "Yeah. I'm . . . her boyfriend." He glanced down the hallway in the direction _____ was being rolled. "What's wrong with her?"
The doctor sighed slightly. "She suffered what looks like a stroke. Fortunately, only a minor one. Was she doing anything strenuous prior?"
"Yeah. She was outside for several hours."
The doctor nodded. "Can you give me some information about her?"
Alfred blinked. "Like what?"
The doctor chuckled. "Well, her name is a good start." He held out his hand. "I'm Doctor Evans."
Alfred shook his hand. "Alfred Jones."
Evans smiled. "Nice to meet you. Now, shall we discuss your girlfriend?''
". . . Yeah."
After two more hours, the hospital had enough information on _____ to go with, Alfred had called the other boys to tell them at what hospital they were, and had told _____'s parents about the situation. Now came the difficult part: the visit.
Alfred stood in front of the doorway of _____'s room in the ICU. His stomach was in knots as he thought of what to say, what to expect. He hesitantly opened the door and what he saw made the knots in his stomach grow tighter. _____ lay in the deep hospital bed with multiple IV's sticking into her arm and a tube wrapped around her head sending oxygen into her nostrils. She was asleep but still very pale and lifeless.
Alfred walked over to her bedside. "_____?"
Very slowly, _____'s eyes fluttered open, automatically connecting with Alfred's blue ones. Alfred picked up her hand. "Hi, baby."
She smiled. "Hi," she said, her voice only a whisper.
He kissed her hand. "You feeling okay?"
_____ nodded slightly. "Yeah." She could see a bit of fear and worry in Alfred's eyes. "Are you?"
He sighed. "Y-Yeah. I was just . . . scared . . . when I saw you lying there. . . And I'm sorry about earlier with Tori. . ."
"It's okay," she rasped, closing her eyes.
"I love you," he whispered softly.
"I love you, too."
"Man, the show looks great from here!" said _____ as she took a sip of her Coke.
Due to her heat stroke, _____ was not allowed to participate in any strenuous activity for a long time. Unfortunately, marching band was included in the list, so she was no longer able to be in marching band. Two months later, _____ came to her first football game of the season just to see her band's halftime show (and to see her football team kick some butt). After a bit of convincing, she managed to get Ludwig, Feliciano, Gilbert, and Alfred to come with her (although Alfred didn't need much convincing).
Gilbert sipped his drink, then realized it was empty. "Hey guys, I'm getting a refill. Anyone want anything?"
_____ handed him a few dollars out of her wallet. "Yeah, get me a pretzel."
Feliciano gave Gilbert money and his order before Gilbert left for the concession stand. _____ watched the band as they marched gracefully across the field. The show was so wonderful, and all the band members were so happy to be in band and loving every minute of it. It made her smile while she looked on. But it also made her sad when she thought about not being able to be there, not being able to share in those memories. She leaned her head on Alfred's shoulder. Hot tears threatened to leave her eyes, but she kept them back. She wouldn't allow them to see her like this.
She sniffled, causing Alfred to look at her. "You okay, baby?"
"Hm? Yeah, I'm fine."
The show ended, and _____ stood up and cheered loudly for her band. After a moment of joyous "Whoo!"-ing, she sat back down next to her boyfriend, still feeling a hint of disappointment.
Before she could object, Alfred wrapped his arm around her, pulling her close to him. He kissed her forehead. "I'm sorry. I know you wanted to be in it. I'm sorry that you couldn't."
_____ nuzzled his neck. "It's not your fault. You couldn't control what my body wanted to do." She sighed, letting out a small, humorless laugh. "You might be a band nerd if you cry when you find out you can't be in band."
Alfred smiled sadly. He knew _____ almost never cried, and would only cry if she was either extremely depressed or extremely frustrated. In this case, it was both. He kissed her cheek. "You know what?"
She looked up at him. "What?"
"I still love you," he whispered into her ear, sending chills down her spine.
She smiled sweetly at him. "I love you, too." She closed the space between them with a warm, gentle kiss. After a moment Alfred deepened the kiss and cupped _____'s cheek in his palm.
The two pulled away and looked at Gilbert, who had a pretzel in one hand and a hot dog and Coke in the other. He was standing on the bleachers in front of them with an arched eyebrow. "You two done?"
Alfred raised an eyebrow and pulled _____ closer to him. "What, you want us to keep going?"
Gilbert laughed. "Sure. Why not?"
_____ pulled away from Alfred and took the pretzel and thanked Gilbert. She watched the two football teams run around on the field, thinking about how graceless somebody looks on the field when they're not marching. She smiled sadly and sighed. "You know, I may be sad that I'm not in band anymore, but at least I've got you guys." She looked at Alfred. "At least I've got you."
Alfred smiled at her, kissing again fully on the lips.