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Authors: Lurlene McDaniel

If I Should Die Before I Wake

BOOK: If I Should Die Before I Wake
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Deanne sat tensely in the moving car. She
watched the darkness speed by. She could
hear Matt’s shallow breathing from the backseat.
She was scared.

When they got to All-Children’s, the orderlies
whisked Matt upstairs to his room for
tests. Deanne and the Gleasons nervously
paced the hallway. It seemed like a nightmare
to Deanne.

Hours before, she had been holding onto
Matt in a sun-dappled forest clearing. Now,
they were back at the hospital. And Matt
was very sick. She swallowed the lump in
her throat.

This book is dedicated to the memory
of my beloved mother-in-law, Helen.

I would like to thank the following people for their
help and advice in making this book possible. Thanks
to Steve Kasser, Eugenia Kelly, Pat Jacobs, and
Deanah Soto.

Text copyright © 1983 by Lurlene McDaniel

Cover photo by Lonnie Duka (Index Stock)

Cover design by Keith Van Norman

All rights reserved. International copyright secured. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means— electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without the prior written permission of Lerner Publishing Group, Inc., except for the inclusion of brief quotations in an acknowledged review.

Darby Creek

A division of Lerner Publishing Group, Inc.

241 First Avenue North

Minneapolis, MN 55401 U.S.A.

Website address:
www.lernerbooks.com

Cataloging-in-Publication

McDaniel, Lurlene.

Lurlene McDaniel’s If I should die before I wake.

ISBN 978–1–58196–009–9

p. ; cm.

Summary: Fourteen-year-old Deanne is not cut out to be the socialite her mother wants her to be. Instead she becomes a VolunTeen at the children’s hospital where her father works, eventually working on the oncology floor, helping kids with cancer deal with their illness. But, when one of her patients dies, can she continue?

1. Teenagers—Juvenile fiction. 2. Volunteers—Juvenile fiction. 3. Friendship— Juvenile fiction. 4. Cancer—Patients—Juvenile fiction. 5. Teenagers and death— Juvenile fiction. [1. Teenagers—Fiction. 2. Volunteers—Fiction. 3. Friendship— Fiction. 4. Cancer—Patients—Fiction. 5. Teenagers and death—Fiction.] I. Title. II. Title: If I should die before I wake.

PZ7.M4784172 If 2004

[Fic] dc22

OCLC: 52907520

Manufactured in the United States of America

1/1/11

eISBN: 978-0-7613-7389-6 (pdf)

eISBN: 978-1-4677-2777-8 (ePub)

eISBN: 978-1-4677-2778-5 (mobi)

One

D
eanne paused by the doorway. She heard her mother say her name.
No
, Deanne thought curiously.
She didn’t call me. But she did say my name.

Cautiously, Deanne peeked into the big sunny kitchen. She could see her mother, Sylvia, standing near her writing desk. She was talking on the phone.

“Oh, Joan,” her mother said with a laugh in her voice. “I think that’s so kind of you. Of course, Deanne will be thrilled to go with Judson. I can’t wait to tell her!”

Deanne felt her stomach lurch and her mouth go dry.
Oh no! What was her mother promising now?
she wondered to herself.
And with Judson Cortland III?
Deanne knew that the person on the other end of the phone must be Joan Cortland, Judson’s mother.

Deanne felt waves of resentment wash over her. Her mother was at it again. Sylvia Vandervoort was trying to arrange Deanne’s life for her once more.
Why can’t she just leave me alone?
Deanne thought bitterly.
Why can’t she see I’ll never be the Star of the Social Register like she is?

Deanne wanted to run away and hide before her mother saw her standing there. Quickly, Deanne turned back down the hallway, raced through the marbled foyer and up the winding spiral staircase toward her room. She shut her bedroom door with a bang and threw herself across the yellow canopied bed. Hot tears burned in her eyes.

Things always ended this way with Mrs. Vandervoort meddling in her life . . . fixing her up with all the right people . . . making sure she went to all the right places. Why can’t she see that I hate and despise all the things the Vandervoort name stands for? Deanne said to herself. That I hate the country club scene Mom loves so dearly? And I can’t stand all the meaningless cotillions and parties I’m forced to attend?

Summer was just two months away. Already, Deanne was dreading it. At fourteen, Deanne would be expected to lie around the pool at the country club all summer, while her mother idled away her days playing bridge and golf and discussing Deanne’s social future with all the other mothers.

In four more years Deanne would have to face her own coming out party and turn into a
debutante
. It was expected of a Vandervoort.
Why can’t my parents be poor?
she wondered.
Why does Dad have to come from such a long line of Pennsylvania aristocrats?

“Deanne!” Her mother’s voice cut through her thoughts like a knife. “Deanne, honey! Come down into the kitchen! I have the most wonderful news for you!”

Deanne wiped her eyes quickly. “C-coming,” she called. She didn’t want her mother to know she had overheard any of the phone conversation. Deanne looked in the mirror on her vanity.
How plain and pale and fat I look!
she thought.

She tugged her heavy, silver-plated hairbrush through her long, fine, blond hair. On her mother, the same color and texture of hair looked elegant. On Deanne, it looked limp and lifeless. Her pale eyelashes seemed to disappear in her heart-shaped face. And the wool skirt she wore strained at its button around her middle.

“Great!” she said aloud. “Instead of losing weight on this stupid diet, I’ve gained it.”

All in all, Deanne felt she must be a big disappointment to her mother. Here she was, Deanne Vandervoort, the only child of Dr. Hans and Sylvia Vandervoort, a direct descendant of some of the first Dutch settlers in America, a member of the prestigious Social Register, and she hated everything her heritage stood for.

She almost felt sorry for her mother. What bad luck to be stuck with an ugly daughter. Where her mother was tall and slim and pretty, she was short and overweight and not pretty at all. Where her mother was outgoing, witty, and well-liked, she was quiet, introspective, and not popular at all. Life just wasn’t fair!

“Are you coming?” Sylvia called again.

“Yes!” Deanne answered as she hurried downstairs.

* * * * *

Deanne slouched at the round oak table in the breakfast nook. Her mother beamed at her with excitement. “I just got off the phone with Joan Cortland,” she smiled. “Guess what?”

Deanne shrugged her shoulders, afraid to look at her mother’s face. She was afraid she would burst into tears.

“Deanne, dear,” her mother interrupted herself. “Please sit up straight. Don’t slump.”

Deanne squared her shoulders. “Guess who’s taking you to the Hospital Charity Ball next month?”

Deanne caught her breath.

“Judson Cortland!” Mrs. Vandervoort smiled triumphantly. Deanne felt her cheeks burn hotly.
How could mother do this to me?
she asked herself. How could she humiliate me by arranging a date with the most handsome boy in the entire city?
The
most popular boy in school!

“Well, you could at least show some enthusiasm,” her mother said.

“I don’t want to go . . . ,” Deanne began.

“Not go! You can’t be serious!” Mrs. Vandervoort cried. “But, Deanne, it’s not only
the
social event of the spring season, your own mother is chairperson of the entire event. And your father is chief of staff at All-Children’s. Why, you must know how important this ball is!”

Deanne hung her head feeling guilty. Of course, she knew how important the annual Charity Ball was to All-Children’s Hospital. Most of the funds to run the hospital came from the ball. With her father as chief of staff, as well as one of the top surgeons on the East Coast, she knew that the ball was important to his position, too.

But she hated the circus atmosphere of the entire thing. Why did something as important as raising money to save the lives of sick kids have to depend on a stupid social event like the Charity Ball? Why did her mother have to fix her up with a date for the ball?

Deanne thought she knew the answer to that question: No guy would ever think to ask her out on his own.
Who would want to go out with an overweight frump like me?
she thought.

“It’s out of the question,” Mrs. Vandervoort said forcefully. “You are going to the ball. We are going shopping for a beautiful new dress for you. And you
will
have a wonderful time with Judson. Is that clear?”

Deanne bit her lower lip hard and nodded.
Mother-1, Deanne-0
, she thought.
As usual
.

Suddenly, Mrs. Vandervoort glanced down at her watch. “Oh, my! Look at the time. I have to be at the hospital in thirty minutes for a Guild meeting about the ball. We have a million details to go over. Get your sweater, and I’ll bring the car around to the front driveway.”

Her mother left the large, sunny kitchen and Deanne got up heavily from the table. Normally, she loved going to the hospital. But now she felt so depressed. Once again, she was stuck doing exactly what her mother wanted her to do.
It doesn’t matter one bit what I want to do
, she thought.

Deanne looked longingly at the refrigerator. How she would love to sit down with a big bowl of ice cream! But of course, there was no time. And besides, her mother would kill her.

The car horn sounded. Deanne rushed for the hall closet to get a sweater. It would be cool in the late spring afternoon air. She felt lonely and angry. She had to find a way to stop her mother from running her life. She couldn’t face a whole summer of arranged dates and boring empty parties. She refused to spend all her time chasing around after her mother’s dreams.

Deanne locked the front door, slamming it behind her.

Judson Cortland III!
Deanne felt her cheeks flush.
How could Mother do this to me?
she wondered.

“Really, Deanne, stop overreacting. He’s a very nice boy. And very handsome, too, I might add.”

“Oh, yes,” Deanne agreed, her mind a jumble of thoughts. Yes, Judson was very handsome, all right. He was also the most popular boy at Baylor Prep. She could just imagine the look on his face when his mother broke the news to him about his date for the ball. Deanne swallowed hard and tried to pretend it didn’t matter. But it did. Imagine . . . Judson stuck with dull, boring, overweight Deanne Vandervoort.
How humiliating!
she said to herself.

“You shouldn’t have done it, Mother,” she mumbled beneath her breath.

“Why not?” her mother shrugged. “You’ll have a perfectly lovely time, dear. Who knows? Maybe you’ll hit it off and have a perfectly wonderful summer together. I know the Cortlands sail a lot. You’d like to spend some time this summer sailing, wouldn’t you?”

Deanne just stared out the car window.
Terrific!
she thought.
Now Mother has my entire summer laid out for me. Well, I’m not going to do it!
Deanne thought angrily.
I don’t know how yet. But, I’m not going to spend the summer chasing around after Mother’s dreams. I’ll run away from home first!

Two

“D
r. Carter . . . please call the nurses’
station, fifth floor,” the soft voice of the paging system sounded through the hospital lobby. Deanne paused inside the front door and looked around the spacious, colorful lobby area.

Since it was a children’s hospital, the walls were very bright and cheerful. Large cartoon characters adorned two walls off to the right where a sitting area was located. Next to the sitting area was the information desk and then long corridors leading to administrative offices, out-patient care, X-ray and the pharmacy.

To the right of the entrance was the gift shop and a small snack bar, complete with vending machines, and small tables and chairs. Deanne noted that since her last visit to the hospital they installed two video games in the snack bar area, too.

“Now, Deanne, I’m almost late for my Guild meeting,” her mother told her hurriedly in the lobby. “I’ve got to get down to the conference room. So be a dear, and try to locate your father. Let’s see . . . ,” she added, glancing at her watch. “It’s fourthirty. He may be up on surgical rounds. Anyway, let him know we’re here and that I’ll be finished in about an hour and a half. Maybe you can persuade him to take us out to supper.”

Deanne nodded, anxious for her to be on her way. She wanted to be alone and out from under her mother’s eyes. Deanne loved the busy atmosphere of the hospital. Everyone was so active and friendly. The nurses seemed so attentive. They always had a smile for her.

Deanne had been too young to have free run of the hospital before, but now that she was fourteen, she could go just about anywhere she pleased. She had spent hours exploring the place . . . from the basement cafeteria to the out-patient clinic to each of the five floors. She knew that the hospital was considered to be one of the best in the country for treating children. It had 250 beds and was filled to capacity much of the year.

It specialized in the treatment of sick kids: kids with heart problems, kidney problems, infectious diseases, diabetes, and even cancer. The Oncology Department was located on the fourth floor, and she had never done more than glance down the halls. It always made her sad to think about all the kids with cancer.

Deanne stepped off the elevator onto the surgical floor. She knew this floor best of all. This was the area where her father spent most of his time. She approached the central nurses’ station and peered over the top of the octagon-shaped desk top.

“Hi,” she smiled at an R.N. who was bent over a flip chart.

“Well, hello, Deanne,” the nurse said with a smile as she looked up from her chart work. “Looking for your dad?”

“Yes, I am,” Deanne said. “Is he still on rounds?”

“I’m not sure,” the nurse said. “But, I think his secretary is still in his office if you want to ask her.”

“Thanks,” Deanne called as she headed down the corridor toward her father’s office. The halls were busy. Deanne knew that the dinner cart would soon be up and that the staff was preparing for the visiting hours. Things would probably be hectic from now until about nine o’clock when everything settled down for the night.

Semi-private rooms lined the corridor. Most of the televisions in the rooms were on. Deanne could see kids in their rooms as she walked down the hallway. The young patients were either recovering from surgery or waiting for surgery. The rooms were bright and cheerful, and the equipment was new and sparkling clean.

Deanne turned into the little cubbyhole that was her father’s office. His secretary, Carol McGinnis, glanced up from her typewriter. “Well, hey there, Deanne!” the browneyed woman called.

Deanne smiled back. “Hi. Is Dad around?”

“Not right now. But I expect him back any minute. Why don’t you wait? He shouldn’t be long,” Carol said.

Deanne slid onto a chair and looked at the wall clock. It was five o’clock and already her stomach was starting to growl. “So, how’s the ball coming along?” Carol asked.

For a minute, Deanne had forgotten all about her mother, the ball, and her “date” with Judson. It came back in a painful rush. “Fine,” she shrugged. “Are you going?”

“Me?” Carol laughed. “You must be kidding! I don’t rub elbows with the country club set.”

Neither do I
, Deanne thought glumly. But she said, “You should come.”

“Hey, I’m a working girl, remember? I can’t afford a one-hundred-dollar-a-plate dinner no matter how worthy the cause.”

“Carol, . . . any messages?” The deep voice belonged to Dr. Hans Vandervoort. “Deanne!” he smiled. “Let me guess . . . your mother’s at a Guild meeting and she sent you up to try and lure me into taking you both out to supper?”

Deanne blushed and laughed out loud. He certainly knew his wife and her habits! “You’re right,” Deanne said.

“Well, I’ve got to dictate some notes for Carol to type up tomorrow. So it’s going to be about an hour before I’m free.”

“Same for Mom,” Deanne told him.

“Can you find something to do for an hour?” he said.

Deanne’s heart leaped. She’d love to have a whole hour to roam around the hospital by herself. “You bet!” she said.

“Good. Run along then and I’ll meet you and Mom at the front entrance at six-fifteen. That should give us both plenty of time to wrap up our business.”

Deanne waved good-bye, but Carol was already handing Dr. Vandervoort a stack of phone messages. They didn’t notice as she left the office.

Deep in thought, she headed down the corridor toward the elevators. For as long as she could remember, she had adored her father. He was so tall and handsome. His hair was prematurely gray, and his eyes were an electric-blue color.
Why can’t Mom be more like him?
she thought. Her dad was busy, too, and he was probably one of the most respected men in the city. But he never seemed to be interested in the social life his wife loved so much.

Hans Vandervoort was a true physician. His great-grandfather had been a doctor. So had his grandfather and his father before him. Yet, he never seemed to mind the demanding hours and the hard work. Deanne had often wondered if he had ever wanted to be anything else. Or, was it just assumed he would be a doctor like every other man in his family?

She wished her father had had more time for her when she was younger. But he was always so busy. Since she was an only child, she was often lonely. But she always understood that a man like her father belonged to his patients and the world of medicine. Now that she was older, she hoped she could spend more time around him here at the hospital.

The elevator doors slid open on the ground floor. Deanne stepped out and decided to buy herself a soft drink in the snack bar. Maybe a soda would quiet her growling stomach until it was time for supper. Her mother would be very angry if she knew that Deanne bought a bag of chips but she
was
hungry.

“Deanne! Deanne Vandervoort, is that you?” Deanne turned at the sound of her name and saw a girl coming toward her from across the lobby. It was a girl from her science class.

“Susan Pyle?” Deanne asked.

“Hi,” the blue-eyed, blond-haired girl beamed. “I thought that was you.”

For the first time, Deanne noticed Susan’s clothes. She was dressed in a cherry-red smock over a white blouse and white slacks. She looked crisp and clean and very professional. “What are you doing here?” Deanne asked, her curiosity spilling over into her voice.

“Oh, I’m a VolunTeen,” Susan answered.

“You work here?” Deanne asked, surprised.

“Volunteer work,” Susan said. “It’s only two days a week after school and one Saturday a month. I can’t wait until summer. Then, I’m going to be here a lot more.”

“You’re kidding?” Deanne couldn’t believe it. She remembered Susan as a quiet girl who kept mostly to herself at school.

“Oh, it’s really fun!” Susan told her. “Besides, I never could get into all those dumb clubs and things at school.”

Deanne knew what she meant. “Well, what do you do?” she asked.

“Anything they need me to do. Sometimes I help in the gift shop. Sometimes I play with some of the little kids in the rec room. Or, I help the nurses feed the babies their lunch on Saturday. Right now, I’m waiting to take someone up from admissions who’s just checking into the hospital. Gee,” Susan paused, “with your father a doctor and all, I thought you’d know all about the VolunTeen program.”

Deanne blushed. She was ashamed to admit she didn’t know much about it. She knew that the hospital depended heavily on its volunteer staff. But she never dreamed that fourteen-year-old kids could be a part of the program.

“It’s a great place to work,” Susan continued. “And the nurses are super— except for Mrs. Sanders. Wow! What a dragon,” Susan confided, her eyes wide.

Deanne sorted through her memory for Mrs. Sanders. Then she remembered her. She was head nurse in charge of the All-Children’s nursing staff. Deanne didn’t know her personally.

“Oops,” Susan said as an older woman wearing a cherry-colored smock like Susan’s signaled to her from the Admission’s Office doorway. “Gotta run now. Nice to see you.”

Deanne watched as Susan hurried inside the office. Susan emerged a few minutes later pushing a wheelchair. In the chair sat a boy of about sixteen. He looked thin, but he was also really good-looking. He had thick, brown hair and a square-cut jaw. A small, black suitcase and a duffle bag were balanced across his lap.

“I can walk, you know,” he grumbled at Susan.

“I’m sure you can,” Susan said. “But it’s hospital policy. Everyone who checks in gets a ride in a wheelchair. Besides, you don’t want me out of a job, do you?”

Before he could answer, a cluster of people came out of admissions after him. Deanne could hardly believe her eyes. The man and the woman had to be the boy’s parents. And there were four girls and one little boy who had to be his sisters and brother. The family resemblance was unmistakable. Six kids in one family! Deanne just stood and stared.

“Now, honey, you know Dad and I’ll be back just as soon as the kids get fed and settled down,” the small, dark-haired woman told the boy in the chair. Her face was lined with worry.

“Hey, Mom,” the boy said softly. “It’s all right. I’ll be fine.” He reached out and held her hand.

“Son . . . ,” the boy’s father said. His voice cracked slightly. He couldn’t go on talking.

“Look,” the boy said. “Go on. This beautiful lady is going to give me a ride to my room and by the time I get it all together, you’ll both be back.”

Susan smiled self-consciously. Then, one by one, the kids lined up and kissed their brother. They all seemed so sad!

Suddenly, Deanne blushed. She realized she had been standing there, staring at the entire scene like a dope. She felt like an eavesdropper. Slowly, she backed away from the scene. She wished she could drop through the floor.

Susan pushed the wheelchair into the open elevator and the family group watched the doors close. Then they all turned and started for the outside doors. They had to pass Deanne. Their steps seemed heavy and slow. Their faces were sad and worried.

Deanne felt very small and foolish.
Here were people with REAL problems
, she thought sadly. Somehow Deanne’s problems didn’t seem so big after all. She wondered what was wrong with the boy. And her heart went out to these perfect strangers.

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