Vote Me a Story: Kayla’s Journey, chapter 13

    “What do you mean, another option?” Danny asked her.

    Kayla gave a heavy sigh. “He says there’s a treatment in Houston that’s showing promise, and that if he were me, he’d try it.”

    “He’s not you.”

    She nodded. “I know, but he knows pretty well what I’m willing to go through. I don’t think he’d say that unless he thought it offered a pretty good chance.”

    “What kind of side effects does it have? Is it one of those things that makes you wicked sick?”

    She hadn’t thought of that. “I don’t know. We didn’t get into details yet. He said to call him back later, and that I should start soon but it doesn’t have to be today.”

    “So you’re doing it?”

    She paused. “I made it sound that way, didn’t I?”


    She shrugged. “Definite maybe. I won’t say for sure until I find out more. But since I don’t have to drop everything and run, we have an aquarium to visit,” and she gestured down the highway.

    When they got to the Georgia Aquarium, she pulled him to the left, toward the Georgia Explorer area. “Always the left,” she said. “Fewer people go that way. I learned that trick from a Disney World guide.”

    She was thrilled right away. “A petting pool!”

    Danny rolled his eyes and she caught him. “Get over it now,” she warned. “I’m going to be like this all day.”

    The touch pools had horseshoe crabs, sea stars, shrimp and stingrays, and Kayla had to touch all of them. The next gallery over sported piranha and electric fish, and Danny teased that her tour wouldn’t be truly complete unless she touched them, too.

    In the next gallery she squealed again. “Leafy sea dragons! I saw them in Dallas!”

    She edged up closer. “When I saw them there, it was the only aquarium in North America that had them. But that was before this one was open.”

    She insisted on thoroughly checking out every single exhibit, staying especially long for the giant Pacific octopus and the Beluga whales. She only agreed to a lunch break when Danny announced that he had been watching the African black-footed penguins long enough he could tell them all apart.

    She munched on her roasted portobello panini and gestured at Danny’s sandwich, a chicken Cordon Bleu. “I made chicken Cordon Bleu once,” she said. “Never again. I think I used every pot I had.”

    “So you should have ordered it then.”

    She shook her head, dunking her fries in barbecue sauce. “Not in sandwich form. I do order it for dinner from time to time, though.”

    She nudged a red velvet cupcake across the table to him and checked her watch. “We need to finish up so we can get to the 4D theater.”

    “There’s no such thing as a 4D theater,” Danny said. “Unless they have tesseracts in there somehow.”

    Kayla rolled her eyes. “It’s a 3D film, plus special effects,” she said. “They have stuff built into the theater, so you can feel like fish are swimming by you.”

    When it was done he had to admit it had been pretty cool, although he could have done without the singing sea turtles.

    “Curmudgeon,” she replied, tugging him over to where the behind-the-scenes tours gathered. “Come on, I want to see every corner of this place.”

    “You have a lot of energy today,” he noted.

    “Bad thing?”

    “Of course not. I’m just glad you’re not one of those screaming children from the movie.”

    “Shush, curmudgeon,” she told him. “This tour is for 10 and older.”

    When they were done they went through the rest of the aquarium. Danny played tour guide, reading as they went. “Twenty-three feet high and 61 feet wide,” he said at the huge viewing window. “Six million gallons of saltwater.”

    She just nodded as he talked, admiring the whale sharks and hammerhead sharks, strolling through the underwater tunnel, jumping when a garden eel popped up out of the sand and startled her. The three exhibits of jellies were her favorites, and she alternated between them for a good 15 minutes.

    Finally she turned to Danny and announced, “OK.”

    “OK? Like, OK done?”

    She nodded. “Soaked everything up. We can go.”

    He pulled out the car keys. “You sure?”

    “Oh, wait, gift shop,” she said, hurrying over. “I think they have DVDs of the aquarium.”

    When they got outside she gestured for the keys, then handed them back. “Sorry, forgot. Phone call.”

    She called the doctor’s office as he drove. Again she was put on with him right away, and she took notes as he outlined the treatment. When he was done, she asked him straight out, “I’m at D minus 22 already. What’s your new estimate?”

    He paused, then cleared his throat. “It’s a new treatment, so it’s not like we have much to go on. But the other patients feel a lot better and their results are a lot better. So anything from six months to whatever you would have had anyway, another 30 years or so, barring any hazardous activities like jumping out of planes.”

    “Spoilsport,” she said. “That’s what I wanted to do next.”

    He laughed. “Well, the training and jump take a good chunk of a day, and I’d like to see you as soon as possible.”

    “So it’s really worth doing?”

    “I think so,” he replied.

    Kayla turned to Danny. “New destination. Ann Arbor.”

    He looked at her closely, then asked, “Should we be flying?”

    She turned back to the phone. “How soon can we start?”

    “First thing Saturday morning.”

    She turned back to Danny. “I can’t start until Saturday anyway. Keep driving.”

    Kayla told her doctor to set things up and took a few notes on checking in. “Done,” she said as she hung up. “Guess I’m up for another round of poking and prodding after all.”

    Danny glanced at her, then steered the Viper toward Tennessee. “Happy to hear it,” he said. “You going to call your mom?”

    She shook her head. “Not until I’m settled into the hospital and start treatment. She’ll want to come down right away and I’d rather wait until it’s really happening.”

    “OK then,” he said. “Ann Arbor it is. Let me know when you want a turn driving.”

The next chapter is guided by these votes:

Does she tell anyone else right now?

73 votes went like this:

Yes: 1.37 percent (1 vote)

No: 98.63 percent (72 votes)

Do they stop in Tennessee?

73 votes went like this:

Yes: 61.64 percent (45 votes)

No: 38.36 percent (28 votes)

Do they go off course to go through Chicago?

73 votes went like this:

Yes: 52.05 percent (38 votes)

No: 47.95 percent (35 votes)

Does Danny stay at the hospital with her?

73 votes went like this:

Yes, the whole time: 63.01 percent (46 votes)

Yes, except when her mom is there: 30.14 percent (22 votes)

No: 6.85 percent (5 votes)

    This post originally appeared on, the online home of the Midland (MI) Daily News. Republished with permission.

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