Home > The Darkest Sunrise (The Darkest Sunrise #1)

The Darkest Sunrise (The Darkest Sunrise #1)
Author: Aly Martinez

Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never harm me.

Whoever coined that phrase is a bald-faced liar. Words are often the sharpest weapons of all, triggering some of the most powerful emotions a human can experience.

“You’re pregnant,” were not the words I wanted to hear when I was starting my first year of medical school.

Yes, I was well acquainted with how the whole reproductive system worked, but a drunken one-night stand with a man I’d met exactly one hour earlier wasn’t supposed to end with a broken condom and me carrying his baby.

“It’s a boy,” the doctor said as she placed that bloody, beautiful mess on my chest nine months later.

I wasn’t positive his gargled wail could be considered a word at all, but that sound changed my entire life. One glance in those gray, unfocused eyes and I wasn’t just a reluctant woman who’d had a baby. I was a mother on a primal level.

Heart. Soul. Eternally.

“Lucas,” I whispered as I held all seven pounds and two ounces of the little boy who was forever mine to protect. I knew down to the marrow of my bones that there was nothing I wouldn’t do for him. But, as I would learn so many times over the years that followed, not everything was in my control.

“Your son will eventually need a heart transplant,” the doctor said as we anxiously sat in a cardiologist’s office after a long night in the emergency room. In that moment, I could have given Lucas mine, because with those words, it felt as though my heart had been ripped straight from my chest. I was well aware that not every child was the picture of perfect health. But he was mine. I’d grown him inside my body from nothing more than a cluster of dividing cells and into an incredible, tiny human who would one day blaze his own path through this crazy world.

Ten fingers. Ten toes. My raven hair. His father’s dimpled chin. That baby had gone from something I never wanted to the only thing I needed. I refused to accept that he could be sick.

After the doctor walked away, Brady stared at me from across the room, our son tucked against his chest, and assaulted me with more words.

“They can fix him, right?”

But it was my reply that cut the deepest.

“No.”

I knew too much about Lucas’s diagnosis to believe that anyone could fix him. One day, likely before his eighteenth birthday, his frail heart would give out and I’d be forced to helplessly watch the sole reason for my existence struggle to survive. He’d be added to a mile-long donor registry and we’d start the agonizing—and morally exhausting—task of waiting for someone to die so our child could live.

Knowledge was not power in that situation. I’d have given anything to be ignorant to what the doctor’s words meant for us.

Hundreds of people on that donor registry would die before they were ever matched. And that’s not to mention the ones who’d die on the table or those who’d reject the organ and pass away within hours of receiving it. In medical school, we prided ourselves in the statistics of people we saved. But this was my son. He had only one life. I couldn’t risk that he’d lose it.

That I’d lose him.

Through my devastation, I attempted to remain positive. I faked smiles, pretending to accept words of encouragement from our friends and family, and I even managed to offer Brady a few inspirational words of my own. He didn’t bother offering any in return. We didn’t have that kind of relationship. Turned out, fully clothed, we had little in common. However, after Lucas was born, we’d become something that resembled friends. And, with the prospect of a future spent in and out of hospitals on our hands, that bond strengthened.

That is, until six months later, when one innocent word ruined us all.

Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never harm me.

Lies.

Syllables and letters may not be tangible, but they can still destroy your entire life faster than a bullet from a gun.

One word.

That was all it took to extinguish the sun from my sky.

“Shhh,” I cooed, reaching over the stroller handle to push the pacifier hanging from a blue-and-white-polka-dot ribbon, monogrammed with his name, back into his mouth.

He’d been in a mood all night. It seemed being six months old was an impossible job. I couldn’t imagine the pure torture of an all-you-can-eat milk buffet and a team of people responding to your every whim—including when said whims were nothing more than to puke or pee on aforementioned people.

It was the first morning of fall, but the sweltering Atlanta summer still lingered in the air. Between clinicals and Lucas’s nonexistent sleep schedule, I was barely clinging to consciousness.

My boy loved being outside, and I loved the way it made him drowsy regardless of how hard he fought. So, with hopes that we’d both be able to sneak in a morning nap, I’d strapped him into the obnoxiously expensive stroller Brady’s mother had bought me for my baby shower and taken him for a walk through the local park.

That quaint playground less than half a mile from our house was one of my favorite places in the world and exactly why I commuted the extra fifteen minutes to school every day. I enjoyed watching the children play while imagining what it would be like when Lucas was that age. Images of him racing across the monkey bars to escape a horde of giggling little girls paraded through my mind, making me smile. Would he be social like me? Quiet and reserved like Brady? Or sick, stuck in a hospital, waiting on a heart that might never come? I pushed those thoughts out of my head when a desperate shriek from a woman stopped me in my tracks.

“Help!”

One word.

I stepped on the brake of the stroller and whirled to face her, my throat constricting as she lifted a limp toddler off the ground.

A blast of adrenaline shot through my system, and on instinct, I sprinted the few yards over to her.

“He’s not breathing!” she cried, frantically transferring her lifeless child into my open arms.

“Call nine-one-one,” I ordered. My pulse quickened as I laid his small body on the top of a picnic table, years of training flooding my mind in a jumbled mess. “What happened?” I asked, tipping his head back to check his airway and finding it open, but no breath was flowing through it.

“I…I don’t know,” she stammered. “He just fell… Oh God! He’s not breathing!”

“Calm down,” I barked. Though I wasn’t completely sure which one of us I was talking to. It was my first emergency situation, and while I was a hell of a lot better than anyone else in that park, if I’d been in her situation, I would have wanted someone more qualified to be standing over Lucas.

But, as a group of moms congregated around us, not a single one stepping forward to offer help, I was all she had. So, with my heart in my throat, I went to work, praying that I was enough.

Within a matter of minutes, a weak cry streamed from the boy’s blue lips.

His mother’s sob of relief was a sound I would never forget. Deep, as though it had originated in her soul and merely exited through her mouth.

“Oh God!” she screamed, her hands shaking as she bent over his stirring body to tuck his face against her neck.

As his cries grew louder, I inched away to give him some space. I couldn’t tear my gaze away from the miracle of this child who had, minutes earlier, been nothing more than a vacant body. Now, he was clinging to the neck of his mother.

With a quivering chin and tears pricking the backs of my eyes, I smiled to myself. I’d been struggling. Balancing the rigors of med school and the self-doubt of being a single mother was hard enough, but combined with twelve-hour days only to come home and study for six more, I was fading fast. I’d gone so far as to contemplate taking a few years off until Lucas got a little older.

As the paramedics arrived, I basked in the knowledge that all of my hard work and sacrifice had bought a little boy a second chance at life. In that moment, all the reasons why I’d wanted to become a doctor in the first place came flooding back.

Pablo Picasso once said, “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”

I’d known from the tender age of seven when my next-door neighbor had skinned her knee and I’d splinted her leg before going to get her mom that medicine was my gift.

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