"There's nobody left?" the voice asks silently, almost whispering.
Then the other voice, a woman, answers, "No, I'm afraid not. His parents and his sister all died in the accident. He was the only survivor in that car, and there was no other family."
"Poor kid. Will he make it?"
"I don't really think so. If he can survive this day, he may have a chance. But it will be hard. I really don't think we can expect …"
He doesn't hear the rest of the sentence. The doctor and the nurse had left the room. They obviously didn't think that Ruben could hear them, but somehow he could. He heard it all, even in the semi-conscious state, he is in.
His body stops fighting. Hearing that his family is no more, has ended his motivation to regain his strength and live on. Ruben is starting to let go.
The door opens and another boy enters the room quietly. He walks over to Ruben's bed and takes his hand in his.
"Ruben?" he asks tentatively. "Are you still here?"
Ruben managed to open up his eyes and the boy leans over him. Ruben is looking into the smiling face of a boy around his own age, perhaps a bit younger.
"Hi," the boy says. "How are you feeling?" he asks.
"I… I don't… Who are you?" Ruben asks confused.
"You can call me Danny, do you want to be friends?" Danny asks.
Ruben can see the hope and a hint of fear in Danny's eyes as he asks the question.
"Sure," Ruben answers, "but I don't think I can do much."
"That's all right," Danny smiles, "we can just talk. Is that okay?"
"Yeah, I like that," Ruben smiles.
To make the smile takes an effort for the badly hurt young boy, but he's feeling a bit better now. It helps to have something else on his mind, and a new friend is always welcome. He has longed so much for a new friend, ever since they moved.
Danny carefully maneuvers himself up on Ruben's bed and sits down between all the wires and tubes connected to the boy. "Are you in pain?" he asks concerned.
"Some," Ruben confesses.
"I guess they gave you some medicine to keep the pain down." Danny is studying the intravenous tube going into Ruben's arm.
"Probably," Ruben nods. "But I've been asleep almost all the time."
"Yeah, I suppose they want to keep you sleeping so you don't hurt so much."
"Yeah," Ruben yawned. He is really struggling to keep awake now.
"You can sleep if you want," Danny says. "I'll be here when you wake up again if you want me to."
"Yes, please," Ruben mumbles, almost sleeping now, "please don't go."
"He is still hanging in there," the doctor sounds surprised. "I'm amazed. I would have thought we would have lost him by now."
"Do you think he will make it?" the nurse asks.
"I really don't know – I didn't think he'd make it this far, perhaps he has it in him to fight it out. But he's still in critical condition, and I'm afraid he may leave us anytime."
"Still no family?"
"No, child services haven't been able to locate anyone. It seems like there was only his parents and his sister."
Ruben wakes up, and smiles when he sees that Danny is still sitting on his bed, holding his hand.
"Hi," he says.
"Oh, you're awake." Danny smiles at him. "Did you sleep good?"
"I don't know," Ruben says. "I don't hurt so much when I'm sleeping, so it's better."
"Oh." Danny looks worriedly at his new friend. "Perhaps you should try to go back to sleep then."
"No," Ruben almost cries, "I want to be awake some more."
"Okay. Do you want to talk?" Danny asks.
Ruben nods. He can't do anything but talk, tied down to the bed as he is.
Oh, how he wishes that he could go out and play with Danny. He hasn't had a friend to play with for the last two years, not since they moved.
"Do you have many friends?" Danny asks.
"No, I don't" Ruben answers with a sad look on his face. "We moved to a new place a couple of years ago, and I haven't been able to make any friends at the new school."
"Oh. Why not?" Danny wonders. He really can't understand it. Ruben seems so nice, and he has really started to like the boy after just spending a few woken minutes with him.
"I don't know," Ruben says with tears starting to appear in his eyes. "The kids in the new class just don't seem to care about me. They all had their friends before I came, and no one had room for another kid in their group."
"That sucks," Danny smashes his fist into Ruben's mattress. "They don't know what they're missing, I think."
"Thank you," Ruben says with hints of a smile, "but I don't know. Maybe I'm just a stupid kid after all."
"Don't say that! Why do you think so?"
"My big sister always calls me a stupid kid. I guess I can be a bit annoying to her, but I just want to play with her. But she has so many friends at school, and she doesn't want me to hang with her when she's with them." Ruben is almost sobbing now.
"Hey – that's what big sisters do. They'll call you that, but usually, they love you anyway." Danny tries to console him.
"I know," Ruben smiles. "I know she loves me and cares about me. Sometimes, when we're alone, she'll do lots of stuff with me. And we play games that she's really too big to play, just because I want to do it."
"There you see," Danny smiles to his friend. "She knows you're not a stupid kid, it's just something she says to her friends to try to seem cool or something."
"Yeah, I guess so. I just wish she wouldn't say that I'm stupid." Ruben pouts.
Danny doesn't know how to answer that. He just gives Ruben's hand an extra squeeze, and looks at him.
"Did you have many friends where you used to live?" he asks.
"Not really, but I had some friends that I had known since kindergarten. My best friend was Stig. He and I used to play every day until we moved."
"Do you speak to him often now then?"
"No. We have exchanged some letters, but not much. He is not so good at writing and reading, and we haven't been allowed to call each other so often."
Danny can see that Ruben is about to fall asleep again, so he says "just rest some more, Ruben, I'll be here when you wake up again."
"Ok, I think I'll do that," Ruben mumbles with his eyes closed.
The doctor enters the room again. She goes over to the ten-year-old kid and looks him over. "You have really surprised us by staying with us so long," She whispers to him. "I just hope we can do what you need, and that someone can give you a good life afterward."
She has to wipe her eyes with a napkin. The boy in bed reminds her so much of the kid she lost herself many years back. Sometimes it's hard to work with the children.
It's dark outside when Ruben wakes up again. "How long was I gone?" he wonders.
"Almost seven hours," Danny answers. He's still sitting on Ruben's bed.
"Thank you," Ruben smiles to him.
"For what?" Danny looks surprised at Ruben.
"For being here with me. I know what happened to my family." Ruben sobs.
"Do you want to talk about it?" Danny asks.
"I don't know. Maybe. Yes. I don't remember everything that happened. We were driving home from the mall, and all I remember is that suddenly a truck was coming towards our car, and mom was screaming. That's all. Then I remember waking up and hearing someone say that the others all died."
Tears are running down Ruben's cheeks. Danny looks sad at him, and he can feel his own tears running as well.
"I'm so sorry," is all he manages to say.
"Yeah." Ruben answers and looks down.
They don't say anything for a long time. Danny doesn't let go of Ruben's hand, and he dries the tears off of the hurt boy's face with a napkin. That makes Ruben smile at him, and he smiles back.
"I don't know," Ruben says after a long time. "Maybe it would be best if I had died instead of them."
"Why do you say that?" Danny asks shocked.
"Because I'm just a stupid little kid." Ruben cries.
"I thought we agreed that you weren't. Don't say that anymore. You are not, and have never been, a stupid little kid." Danny almost shouts to him.
Ruben is quiet again for a long time.
"Yeah, I know," he says finally. "I know that."
Then he falls asleep again.
The nurse is wiping the face of the boy. It's a shame. It's the worst part of his job, seeing all the hurt kids from accidents like this. He saw it on the news. Apparently, the truck driver had used a second plate in his time tracking device, and had cheated on the resting periods, before falling asleep behind the wheel and running over the innocent family. This kid was all that was left of that family now. And how he had made it so far, no one would ever know. He should have been dead a day ago. Perhaps he had it in him to make it and recover to go back to his life. Though, what kind of life would it be, with all his family gone?
Danny knows his time is up. He had hoped that Ruben would wake up once more, but he seems all out. Danny is standing next to Ruben's bed, and gives him a little kiss on his forehead. "Goodbye, Ruben, it has been really nice to be your friend today."
"Are you leaving?" Ruben asks.
"Oh, you're awake." Danny smiles at the hurt boy.
"Yeah. Do you have to go?" he pleads.
"Yes, I'm sorry. I don't have any more time." Danny says with regret in his voice.
"Don't leave me!" Ruben pleads. "Take me with you; take me to Mom and Dad and Sis."
"Are you sure?" Danny asks.
"Yes," Ruben says with finality in his voice and closes his eyes again.
She must wipe her eyes again to be able to see her watch and fill in the time of death on the death certificate. 'Huh', she noticed, 'we actually managed to go 24 hours without a single death on the hospital, that's a rare occurrence' she thinks as she puts her pen down with a deep sigh.
Comments appreciated at The Phone