By Esther Avila
Chelsea lay in bed, unable to sleep. She could hear a clock ticking in the hallway. What time was it? She didn't know. Hours earlier her father had called from the hospital. His last words had frightened her.
"I'm sorry, honey. I know you wanted to be here but it all happened so fast. I would come for you but your mother is not doing well. I can't leave her. I'll call you soon," her father had said. "And, honey? Say a prayer, please."
She was 16 and yet, at that moment, Chelsea wanted to cry. For her father's sake, she didn't. Instead, she assured him that she would be fine.
Walking into the hallway, she turned on a small lamp and said a prayer for her mother before returning to her bedroom.
She was exhausted but she also knew she wouldn't sleep. Through the open doorway, she could see the lamp. The clock, striking every quarter hour, also kept her company.
Had it really been four hours since she had heard from her father?
Returning to the hallway, Chelsea paused at the lamp. Reaching across, she turned on a second lamp. It didn't matter to her that dawn was approaching.
"Please, God," she whispered, "Please do not take my mother or my baby sister away from us."