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“Yeah,” Austen responded as good-naturedly as he could through his concern.

“Well, this can’t be good. If I’m seeing a dead guy, then something’s definitely wrong with me.” Cooper tried to laugh, but he started to worry.

“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you.” Katherine took Cooper’s hand and walked him toward Austen. “It’s about time you two met.”

They shook hands and for some unexplained reason, Austen felt familiar to Cooper. “So what’s going on? Why are we in comas?” Cooper directed his question toward Austen.

“You both had after-effects from being submerged in the freezing water. Katherine’s brain was affected from the lack of oxygen.” He looked at her and then turned back to Cooper. “Your condition is...different. The damage is in your chest, which wouldn’t normally put you into a coma, but it affected your heart and your ability to breathe properly. And voila, here you are.”

“So, who found us? I mean, how did we end up here in the hospital?” Cooper struggled to put the pieces of the puzzle together.

“Taylor found you on the couch when she came down to get water from the kitchen. She wouldn’t have thought anything of it, but she could hear the way you were breathing and it was like each breath took all of your effort. And you were both so pale. She tried to wake you, but neither of you would come to. She panicked. But rightly so.”

Cooper and Katherine both remembered the sound of the doors slamming and the car driving away.

“So, how do we wake up? I’m ready to get my body back.” Cooper wondered.

“It doesn’t work like that. Trust me.” Austen remembered back to the day of his accident. “I wanted to hop back into my body so bad and wake up, but I couldn’t. I kept trying, but nothing worked. I guess sometimes life has other plans.”

“So, we just sit here forever?” Cooper looked at Katherine, whose hand he still held. “Not that I’d mind spending forever with you, Kat, it’s just that I’d rather do it alive.” He shot a glance toward Austen. “No offense.”

Austen smiled, “None taken. I’d rather be alive too. Especially if it meant one more day with her.” He looked at Katherine with softened eyes.

Katherine started to feel weak. “Guys, I don’t feel well.” She started to lose her balance and Cooper realized that he was literally holding her up.

“Something’s wrong with her.” Cooper panicked and looked at Austen. Katherine passed out in his arms and disappeared.

“Come on!” They ran toward Kat’s hospital room. Taylor still held her hand, but Katherine’s spirit was nowhere to be found.

“Where’d she go? Where is she?” Cooper was like a wild animal.

Austen shook his head, “I don’t…I don’t know.”

The machines hooked to Katherine’s body suddenly started beeping and making noise. Taylor looked up at them and nurses filled the room. “You’ll need to step out please,” the nurse told Taylor.

“What’s going on? What’s wrong with her?” Danny heard Taylor’s voice from down the hall and ran to find her. “Oh, Danny, something’s wrong.” Taylor could barely stand being in a hospital since the death of her brother.

Danny comforted her and kissed her head. “She’s going to be okay. She’ll pull through this.”

“I hate hospitals.”

Katherine suddenly appeared. “Where’d you go?” Cooper asked her.

“I don’t know. One minute I was with you and then suddenly I was gone. But I can’t remember where I went.”

“That happens sometimes,” Austen reassured her. “How do you feel now?”

She took a moment to search for the answer and find the words. “Strong, like I want to fight.”

Austen smiled, “That’s good.”

Cooper was confused. “Sorry, but can someone explain to me what this all means?”

“Her body wants to fight and her spirit can feel that. The strength is a good thing. It means she hasn’t given up on living.” Austen looked at her with loving approval.

“I don’t feel that way,” Cooper admitted quietly.

“What do you mean you don’t feel that way? How do you feel?” Katherine was anxious.

“Weak. And confused.”

Katherine’s eyes widened and her gaze darted between the boys. She clutched at Austen and pleaded, “Austen, what does that mean?”

“We need to find your body, Cooper. You’re losing the battle. Come on.” The three of them ran down a long white corridor and into the room where Danny sat vigil at Cooper’s bedside. Cooper looked down at his lifeless body in the hospital bed and felt nauseous.

“I don’t want to die, so why do I feel like this?”

“It’s your body, Cooper. It’s fighting with your mind. But you can win. You just can’t give up.”

Color came back in Katherine’s face and she appeared to glow. Both boys stared at her, each one deeply in love.

“I feel weird, you guys. Like I’m being pulled away from here…”

“It’s your body, Katherine. It’s calling for you.”

“To die?” she asked, horrified.

Austen laughed, “No, my love. To live. It’s time for you to wake up.”

“But I don’t want to leave you!” She looked at both of them.

“You know I’ll always be here,” Austen reminded her.

Cooper grabbed her hands. He looked in her eyes and said, “You have to go. Go wake up, Katherine. I’ll be right behind you.”

“But you said you feel weak. That’s a bad sign,” she pleaded emotionally. “I won’t leave you. I’m not waking up if you’re not waking up, Cooper.”

Austen became agitated.

“I feel better now. Much stronger,” Cooper lied with a smile on his face. “Now you go and open your eyes first. One of us has to wake up first.”

She refused to move or let go of Cooper’s hands.

“Katherine.” She turned to look at Austen. “I’ll take care of him. I won’t leave his side.”

“You promise?”

“I promise.”

She walked to Austen and hugged him. “Thank you.”

“Now go.” He tried to reassure her with his eyes.

“I love you both so much,” was the last thing she remembered before her eyes opened. She found herself looking right at Taylor’s sobbing face.

“Katherine! Oh, God!” Taylor hugged her and yelled for the nurse.

“Cooper?” was the first word she muttered.

Taylor couldn’t hide the look on her face. “Katherine, Cooper’s…”

“He’s in a coma, I know.”

Taylor was shocked. “How did you know that?”

“It’s a long story, but listen,” Katherine moved to get up. “We have to go get him now. He should be waking up and I have to be there when he opens his eyes.”

Taylor held Katherine down in her bed. “What are you talking about? You can’t move, Katherine. You need to rest.”

“He told me to wake up first, and I did. Now it’s his turn to wake up. Let me go!”

Taylor fought to keep Katherine still when Danny walked into the room. “Danny! He’s awake right? I woke up first so he woke up too, right?”

Danny looked at both girls before shaking his head. “He hasn’t woken up yet, Kat. I’m sorry.”

“That can’t be right. They both said he’d wake up after me.” Katherine said things that didn’t make sense to Taylor or Danny. They told Kat they’d be right back and they stepped outside her room.

“What’s the matter?” Taylor could see the bad news written all over Danny’s face.

“The doctor said he just fell even deeper into his coma.”

Taylor’s eyes welled up with tears. “What? Why?”

“They aren’t sure.”

“We can’t tell Katherine that; it will break her.” Taylor tried to plan. “You should go back with Cooper and I’ll stay here with her.”

“Okay. I love you.” He kissed her cheek and walked away.

Chapter Eighteen

Austen exhaled when Katherine opened her eyes, “She actually listened.”

Cooper looked at him and smiled. “Thanks for your help. There’s no way I could have gotten her to do that without you.”

“Of course,” he said with understanding.

Cooper looked at Austen before asking, “Do we know each other? I know that sounds crazy, it’s just that you seem familiar to me.”

“It’s not crazy. We may have met once or twice before.” Austen thought back to a time and place long before the one they were currently in when Cooper Donovan was his best friend.

“Yeah? Seems that way,” Cooper was too distracted to ask any more questions and he took Austen’s answer without reservation.

“Now, tell me how you’re really feeling.”

Cooper looked at him, “Pretty weak, honestly. I don’t understand, though.”

“What do you mean?”

“It’s just that I’m a pretty strong guy, so for my body to give out on me so quickly…it doesn’t add up.”

Austen agreed that it made little sense. “I don’t have all the answers, Cooper. Sorry.”

“So what do we do now?”

Neither wanted to leave Katherine’s bedside, but Cooper’s weakness grew. They knew they couldn’t avoid that reality for long.

“We sit here with her. For now,” Austen replied.

They watched Katherine cry for Cooper and talk out loud about Austen. Taylor listened, but had given up trying to figure out what Katherine meant while was still in this state. From time to time, Katherine would scream Cooper’s name and start crying. It caused Austen and Cooper so much pain. They would run to her side to calm her, but she couldn’t hear them.

“Does she know we’re here? How does it work when you do it? How does she hear you?” Cooper wanted to know.

“For us, it only worked while she was sleeping.”

Cooper cut him off, “But that’s not true. She saw you once before when we were together. Or maybe more than once, I can’t remember.”

“No, you’re right. That’s because her guard was down. When she’s not trying so hard to see or feel me, that’s when I can get in. Otherwise, she’s amazing at blocking me out.”

They both smiled. “So she can’t see us right now?” Cooper wondered.


“And you’re certain she can’t hear us?”

“I’d bet money on it,” Austen added.

Katherine drifted in and out of sleep. Taylor worried she’d fall back into a coma, but the doctors assured her that this was normal sleep behavior after a trauma. Every so often Kat was certain she could hear Cooper and Austen talk to each other. But when she tried to listen, the voices would disappear.