Silence, complete darkness, Howie opened his eyes, but could see nothing. He heard faint voices, but couldn't make them out very clearly. After a few moments, he heard them more distinctly.
"His vitals aren't looking very good, his BP is bottoming out, doctor." A female voice called out.
Howie soon realized he was in a white tiled room. There were doctors and nurses working frantically over a man's body laying on a stretcher. Howie started to realize he was hovering over the stretcher from the top of the room. As his eyes focused their atention to the man on the stretcher, Howie realized it was his body they were working on. He didn't recognize himself at first, his face was cut and bleeding.
"How did this happen to me?" Howie wondered. He started to think about the events before he woke up to this. The day seemed pretty innocent to him........
"Yeah, sure Kara, I'll meet you there. I promise I won't be late this time, I know you need to talk. See you in a few then, bye." Howie was smiling as he hung up the phone. His girlfriend of six months had called and said it was important that she speak to him. The group was preparing to leave on their Europen tour in a few days and Howie thought there were a few more things they had to wrap up between them before he left.
As Howie hung the phone up, he jumped off the couch and grabbed his wallet and car keys and darted out of the condo. He was making sure he would be there before Kara was.
The warm Florida air swept across Howie's face as he guided his vehicle down the road. He was shocked to see that Kara was already sitting on the bench beneath the tree at the place she had specified.
Howie strode up to the bench with a smile on his face. His smile suddenly disappeared when he saw that Kara's face was wet with tears and her eyes were red from crying. Howie sat down on the bench next to her.
"Howie, this is hard for me to say, but it's something that has to be done." Kara said, looking into Howie's dark eyes.
Howie searched for Kara's face for a clue as to what was on her mind.
"Howie, I have to stop seeing you, this isn't working out." Kara sighed. "There I said it." She sounded almost too relieved.
"Why?" Howie looked at her with a pained expression. "What did I do?"
"God, Howie, it's nothing you did, I have just happened to have fallen out of love, I like you as a friend, but I just can't go on like this anymore."
Howie watched Kara's feet play with the white sand while she spoke.
"That's it? Just like that we're done?" Howie asked Kara with a hurt tone in his voice. "Tell me why, you at least owe me that much."
Kara continued to look down at the ground. She was afraid to look Howie in the eyes. She knew if she looked at him, she would change her mind and she just couldn't deal with having to share him with so many people. She wanted Howie all to herself.
"Um, god, Howie, I-----" As Kara searched for the right words, Howie put his hand on her shoulder.
"Whatever it is, Kara, I want to try to make it better, I don't want to lose you, I love you." Howie pleaded with her.
"Howie, you're making this harder to do, god!" Kara stood up, pulling away from Howie. She finally turned and faced him, tears streaming down her face. "Howie, I had a hard time sharing you. I want you all to myself. I can't stand to see you with other girls, girls throwing themselves at you. If I can't have you to myself, I can't have you at all."
"That's crazy Kara! You know that I only have love in my heart for you!" Howie stated, his voice thick with emotion as he spoke.
"No, my mind is made up, I can't keep going on like this, it hurts too damn much." Kara said as she avoided Howie's touch on her shoulder. She turned and placed the silver locket that Howie had given her into his hand.
"We have him stable for now, go ahead and call transportation to place this patient in ICU." The doctor that was standing by Howie's body with a chart quietly stated to the nurse that was standing nearby.
Howie was still unsure what happened that he was laying on a gurney in a hospital trauma room, all cut and bleeding.
"Have they reached family members at all on him yet?" The doctor asked.
"His parents are out of the state, but there are other close contacts they were able to reach. None of them are here yet, doctor." The young nurse advised.
"My god," Howie thought, "They're calling in my family and friends? What is going on? I wish I could remember........"
Kara ran towards her car after she put the locket into Howie's hand. She couldn't bring herself to look at his face, she knew it would have a hurt expression on it. She ignored Howie's calls out to her to stop. She started the car up and threw it inot gear nearly running over Howie's foot.
Howie ran to his car to follow Kara. He accelerated to catch up to the red sports car that was weaving in and out of traffic on the two lane beach side road. Howie layed on the horn, hoping that it would get her attention and she would pull over so he could talk to her.
Hearing the horn, Kara looked in her rearview mirror and saw that Howie was following her. She punched the accelerator down and felt relieved when her car got several lengths between her and Howie's vehicle. She cruised through the green light as it was starting to turn yellow.
"There," Kara thougth to herself, "Howie will get stopped at the red light and I will lose him."
Kara's moment of relief was filled with shock when she heard the sound of tires squealing on the pavement and the unmistakable sound of crunching metal and glass breaking. She looked into the rearview mirror to see Howie's sports car bounce off the side of a semi tractor-trailer. Her attention was diverted long enough that her vehicle went into the oncoming lane of traffic and she hit a car head on.
Howie watched as they pushed the cart with his body on it, down the hall towards the elevators. The orderly and the nurse were making small conversation.
"Hey, isn't this patient a high profile one?" The orderly asked the nurse.
The blonde nurse sighed. "Yeah, he's one of those Backstreet Boys."
"So what do they think about his condition?"
"Um, seriously? It doesn't look very good. He broadsided a semi and it looks like massive head injuries." The nurse said as she looked at Howie's chart.
"Was anyone else with him?"
The nurse flipped through the chart. "Nope, he was alone, no passengers."
"After I take care of him, I have to send that one body down to the morgue. I thought maybe that was a passenger in this guy's car, she was pretty messed up from what I heard." The orderly stated as he punched the button to the third floor.
Howie couldn't believe what the orderly said. "It has got to be someone else, it can't be Kara." Howie thought. As they got off the elevator, a police officer stopped the nurse and asked her where he could locate a body for identification.
"It's Kara Austin, she was D.O.A." The officer told the nurse. He read the name as if it were an object instead of a person.
"God, no," Howie thought, "she can't be dead, this has to be wrong."
"That was an odd accident. She must have been looking at the accident behind her and drove into the oncoming lane of traffic and hit them head on." The police officer said as he looked at the charts. "She probably never knew what hit her."
Upon hearing that, Howie decided to give up. "If Kara's gone, I don't want to live, I can't live without her."
As Howie sat back in a chair in the Intensive Care room, looking at himself laying there, he wondered how long it would take before his body would give up and he would finally die. He stood up and walked over to look at his body.
His head was bandaged and he had tubes in his mouth, pumping oxygen into his lungs. The monitors made eerie pinging noises with every beat of his heart.
Howie never wished for something more in his life than to die. His heart ached for Kara and he felt as if he would never feel whole again. Just as he was reaching his lowest point in feelngs of self pity, he heard talking coming from the outside of the room. He looked towards the doorway to see Brian talking with a doctor. Nick was standing beside Brian. They both appeared upset to Howie.
Howie watched as Brian was nodding as he listened to the doctor. Brian's face was pale, drained of color. Nick and Brian finally entered the ICU room where Howie lay. When Nick approached the bed, his legs gave out and Brian managed to grab Nick to prevent him from falling. As they looked at Howie, Nick wept openly. Brian squeezed his eyes shut tightly and rubbed them with his fingers.
The painful sobs coming from Nick made Howie realize how much his friend loved him. "Hey, Nick, I'm here, it's okay." Howie spoke out to comfort Nick. Nick continued to cry.
"Brian, I just can't believe that Howie won't be around. This is so stupid. This should have never happened. It's all gone." Nick broke down and buried his face into Howie's bed.
Brian stood next to Nick, appearing to be numb and in shock. Before he spoke, AJ and Kevin came into the room. Kevin looked scared and confused. His eyes were watery and he blinked repeatidly to prevent the tears in his eyes from falling. AJ took one look at Howie laying on the bed and immediately slammed his fist over and over on the nightstand.
It started to upset Howie listening to Nick's cries. "God, I am being selfish, this is really hurting Nick." Howie thought to himself. As much as he wanted to die, he knew he couldn't give up. Nick needed him too much.
Looking once again at his body laying on the bed, Howie noticed what appeared to be an angel standing beside him.
"Did you come to take me away?" Howie asked quietly.
The angel didn't answer, but smiled sweetly.
"Please, please, I need to stay, I can't leave, look at Nick, I can't leave." Howie begged the angel.
The angel looked at Nick bent over Howie and crying on his bed with Brian rubbing his back trying to comfort him. She could feel Nick's anguish and Howie's sense of responsibility.
"I know that it is supposed to be your time, but I think you are still needed here on earth. Your family in heaven will have to wait a while longer, I suppose." The angel spoke.
"When I return to my body, will I be alright?" Howie asked hesitantly. He remembered the nurse saying massive head injuries.
The only response from the angel was a smile.
Before Howie could ask the question again, he suddenly felt the searing pain in his body from the injuries of the car accident. He knew he was back into his body and he was alive.
Nick pulled himself away from Howie's bed when alarms started to ring out from the equipment Howie was attached to. A nurse came running into the room followed by more medical personnel.
As the boys were shoved back out of the room, they strained to hear what was happening in the room. They would have to wait to find out what was going on with Howie.
In what seemed to take hours, a doctor walked out of the room and into the hallway.
He sighed and shook his head. "I don't know how to explain this to you. I am completely baffled."
The boys felt their hopes sink.
"There is absolutely no medical explaination other than to say that Howie is out of the coma and is awake and speaking. You can go into the room to see him, but only two at a time." The doctor left them, walking down the hall.
Without hesitation, Brian and Nick entered the room. They found Howie, laying down, his eyes were closed, but he no longer had tubes in his mouth.
Feeling someone standing next to his bed, Howie opened his eyes.
"Hey, Howie D., how are ya?" Nick asked quietly.
Howie managed a slight, weak smile. "Hi," he responded softly.
Brian reached out and touched Howie's shoulder.
"I know Kara is gone." Howie said. "I was supposed to be gone too."
Brian put his finger to his lips and told Howie to be quiet and save his energy.
"No, Brian, it's true, I saw you when you came into the room the first time and I was in a coma with massive head injuries. I wasn't supposed to live. But an angel came and told me that I was still needed here for you guys instead of going to Heaven."
Nick and Brian were at a loss for words. "Okay, Howie, you need to save your strength to get well." Brian said.
"You guys think I'm making this up, I swear, the angel is still here, she's behind Nick and Kara is standing with the angel, I can see her." Howie said excitedly.
Nick and Brian left the room, but Howie still saw the angel and Kara. Kara approached the bed. She softly kissed Howie on the cheek.
"Don't ever blame yourself for me dying, Howie, do you understand me?" Kara said softly.
"I love you and I always will. You will always carry a part of me in your heart forever. I love you Howie."