Vote Me a Story: Kayla’s Journey, chapter 16

    They walked outside to eat in the Tennessee sunlight. Downtown Chattanooga was nice, Kayla decided. Worth coming back to.

    Danny’s voice startled her out of her daydreaming. “I guess we should hit it,” he said.

    She nodded, tossing her trash. Ann Arbor was a long way away.

    He started to toss her the keys, but she shook her head. “Do you mind? I’m kind of tired,” she said.

    He looked concerned, but didn’t say so. “OK. Let me know if you change your mind,” he said, and they headed up I-24. She made efforts to talk and keep him company, sticking to sports and current events, but she dozed off before Nashville.

    He nudged her awake and she saw a sign pointing the way to St. Elmo. “Where are we?” she asked.

    “Kentucky,” he replied. “Do you care?”

    She shook her head no. “Another day,” she said, pushing her jacket into a pillow and dropping back off.

    Next she knew they clearly were in a large city.

    “Ah, welcome, Aurora,” Danny said.

    She frowned, puzzled. “Aurora?”

    He rolled his eyes. “You don’t know your ‘Sleeping Beauty,’ do you?” he asked. “I don’t feel so bad about Nemo now.”

    He pulled the quarter out of his pocket and handed it to her. “Decide dinner.”

    “Where are we?”


    “Chicago?” she protested. “You let me sleep the day away!”

    He looked only slightly guilty. “You were out, like comatose. We’ve been going nearly full tilt the whole time, and you’ll be at the hospital tomorrow, and I know you won’t get any rest there.”

    She creased her brow. She didn’t want to think about that just yet.

    “Chicago, huh?” she said. “OK, tails, steak, heads, pizza.”

    She flipped and smacked the coin on her hand. “Pizza. But where?”

    After checking with some locals, they headed to the original Gino’s East, just off Michigan Avenue.

    “Thin crust pizza?” Kayla asked when she opened the menu. “Why would anyone come to Chicago and order thin crust pizza?”

    Danny shrugged. “So ignore that part. You want an appetizer? They have toasted ravioli.”

    “Which is?”

    He shrugged again. “I guess we have to order it to find out.”

    She shook her head. “I think we’ll be full enough with this pizza. Meaty legend?”

    “Of course,” he said, checking the description for confirmation. “Pepperoni, Italian sausage, Canadian bacon and bacon. How can you go wrong with two kinds of bacon?”

    Kayla made pig noises and they both laughed. This was the kind of easy night she needed, she thought, trying to hold off the knots her stomach would tie itself into when she couldn’t avoid thinking about morning anymore.

    After dinner, Danny headed for Navy Pier. When they got out, he pointed to the Ferris wheel, its spokes lit by thousands of sparkling lights. “Best view in the city,” he said.

    “Did I mention I’m afraid of Ferris wheels?” Kayla asked.

    He laughed. “Yeah, right. You, the roller coaster queen?”

    “Those have seat belts,” she said, not moving.

    He looked at her. “You’re serious.”

    She nodded, then looked up at the lights. “It is pretty, though. And I would like to see the view.”

    She took a deep breath. “OK. But if I hang on to the sides, don’t make fun of me.”

    The whole 150 feet up, she clung to the side with one hand, trying to let the other lie loosely, casually in her lap. But Danny noticed.

    “You don’t have to prove anything to me,” he said softly. “I already think you’re brave.”

    She was so startled she laughed. “Me, brave? Why?”

    He was sober. “Because you don’t complain, you don’t wring your hands, you just move ahead. I mean OK, the news is better than 10 days or so ago, but you still have a lot to go through, and here you are just hanging out.”

    She snorted. “I was trying not to think about it, but thanks,” she said.

    Danny looked distressed. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I wasn’t …” he trailed off, staring out at the skyline instead.

    Finally he said, “I just hope if I ever have to go through something like this, I handle it like you. That’s all I mean.”

    Kayla smiled. “Thanks. I’ll take that.”

    He looked a little happier. He started to say something, then shook his head and looked off in the distance again.

    She was getting curious. She stared at Lake Michigan, as if it held answers. When the gondola stopped, she unclenched one hand and waved freely with the other. “See? Only half terrified,” she joked.

    He smiled and took the brave hand, swinging it. She held her breath as they walked, trying not to think.

    “Can I drive?” she asked as they neared the parking lot. “It’s only fair.”

    What wasn’t fair was that she had to let go, she thought. They were in a fabulous city on a Friday night, and there was so much they could do. But she was anxious to get to Ann Arbor and get this treatment moving, even thought it meant getting to the hospital early and sitting around for a few hours. She didn’t want to be rushed for something this important.

    He handed her the keys and moved to the far side of the Viper, then stopped, looking over it at her. “Did you ever wonder why I asked, after all this time, to go on a road trip with you?”

The next chapter is guided by these votes:

Does Kayla want to know right now?

51 votes went like this:

Yes, very much so: 80.39 percent (41 votes)

No, talk about it later: 19.61 percent (10 votes)

Does she drive straight through?

51 votes went like this:

Yes: 29.41 percent (15 votes)

No, she trades off with Danny: 25.49 percent (13 votes)

No, they stop somewhere: 45.1 percent (23 votes)

Should he get her a present?

51 votes went like this:

Yes, from the hospital gift shop: 13.73 percent (7 votes)

Yes, from somewhere else: 68.63 percent (35 votes)

No: 17.65 percent (9 votes)

If she can leave the hospital for a while, where should they go?

51 votes went like this:

Out to eat: 0 percent (0 votes)

To a museum: 5.88 percent (3 votes)

To a concert: 5.88 percent (3 votes)

To a sporting event: 5.88 percent (3 votes)

Shopping: 1.96 percent (1 vote)

On a walk in a park: 80.39 percent (41 votes)

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

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