Red Love Cells

CHARACTERS

NADIA 14. Girl struggling to fight a second bout of leukemia.

LEUKE 15. He is cancer. He dates Nadia. He doesn’t want her to stop being sick.

MOM 53. Mother to Nadia, Cameron, and Jason. She wants Nadia to get better.

JASON 14. Nadia’s twin brother.

CAMERON 10. Nadia’s younger brother.

FATHER 55. Nadia’s dead father. He died of lung cancer three years ago.

DR. NOELLE 39. Nadia’s new doctor.

ASHLEY 14. Nadia’s old best friend. She feels really bad for Nadia once she gets cancer.

KENYON 16. Ashley’s really handsome boyfriend.

ANNOUNCER 43. Announcer at Hero Bay Riding Academy

Act I

Scene 1

An uninteresting school hallway with lockers. It is noon. Students pass.

NADIA, a fourteen-year-old girl, is trying to open her locker. She can’t remember the combination. She struggles with the locker, jiggles the door, makes an angry face, punches the door, and finally gets it open. Lots of junk falls out. She turns around and gets bumped by another girl racing down the hall and falls to the ground.

NADIA

Why? Why can’t I have a good day for once?

NADIA stuffs everything back into her locker and slams the door shut. At that moment, ASHLEY, a blonde haired girl, walks up to her.

ASHLEY

You look terrible.

NADIA

Oh, now you have time to talk to me. I finally can get attention from you.

ASHLEY

Look Nadia, I’m sorry I haven’t talked to you in two years.

NADIA

You ignored me through all of middle school and now you talk to me.

ASHLEY

I heard you’re sick.

NADIA

Yeah. I have cancer.

ASHLEY

I’m really sorry. Is there anything I can do? We used to be really good friends and now I feel bad that I ignored you once we started middle school.

NADIA

So now that I’m sick… Before I got sick you didn’t even know I was alive. You and Mia ignored me.

ASHLEY

I’m not ignoring you now. I know you’re angry at me. I don’t want you to be sick. Want to go to the horse show with me this weekend? I’m riding Wildfire. Remember how we used to ride her together at my Grandma’s?

NADIA

No. Once you dumped me I stopped thinking about those days.

ASHLEY

I’ll let you ride Wildfire.

NADIA

I can’t ride anymore. I have Leukemia and bruise too easily. My doctors won’t let me.

Enter KENYON. A very handsome black boy.

KENYON

Hi Nadia. You look great!

NADIA

So does everyone know I have cancer?

ASHLEY

I’m so embarrassed. I only told a few people. And I had to tell Kenyon. He’s my boyfriend.

KENYON

I’m sorry. Was I not supposed to know?

NADIA

Yeah. It’s my little secret. Just leave me alone.

ASHLEY and KENYON exit. A boy appears. He is small and dressed in a red shirt and red pants. There is something strange and mysterious about the boy. His name is LEUKE.

LEUKE

Why so unhappy?

NADIA

Ashley spread to the whole school that I have LEUKEemia.

LEUKE

Great. Now it’s no longer our secret.

NADIA

I don’t want everyone to know I’m sick. They’ll pity me.

LEUKE

They should. You’re going to die from it.

NADIA

I don’t know if I want to die. I’m only fourteen. My Mom says there’s a cure out there somewhere.

LEUKE

No, you’re probably going to die. But don’t worry. I’ll be at your side. I’m sticking with you forever.

NADIA

I don’t know what I’d do without you, Leuke.

She kisses him gently on the mouth. He smiles and takes her hand.

SCENE 2

NADIA’s Room. There are pictures of horses and pictures of Nadia with long hair. There are dolls on her bed. The room is bright pink. Nadia is wearing a pink sweater with a big horse on it. She is quietly sobbing as she sits on the corner of her bed. She is holding an American Girl Doll. LEUKEe crawls out from under the bed. He is still wearing all red.

LEUKE

Still crying?

NADIA

Mom found a new treatment with a new doctor. She promised that it’s going to remove all the cancer from my body. We can’t be friends anymore. She said I have to get healthy.

LEUKE

Your mom has been wrong before and she’s wrong again. Another doctor? Another year of sticking pins in your arms and needles like you’re piece of cloth? She’s coddled you like a baby. Tell her no. Stand up to her. It’s your body. It’s your cancer. Tell her no.

NADIA

I don’t know if you’re right. Maybe I do want to get better.

LEUKE

If you get better than you can’t be with me.

NADIA

No. Don’t say that.

LEUKE

I mean it. I’ve been there with you since the beginning. I’ve helped you get through all the pain, the dizziness, the nausea, the headaches, the chemo, the radiation, the hair loss, the crying…. Tell your mom NO!

NADIA

Leuke, I don’t know what to do.

LEUKE

I will go away and you’ll have no one. You know Ashley is going to go away again once you’re cured. I’m your only friend. I’m the only one that really knows you.

NADIA

My mom is coming. Hide.

LEUKE hides behind the door and watches the scene. LEUKE holds his finger to his lips to keep Nadia calm.

MOM

Nadia, sweetie. How are you feeling? I made your favorite tonight – noodle soup. Gotta get you all warm and toasty.

NADIA

I’m not a baby, Mom. I’m not hungry.

MOM

You have to eat. Doctor Noelle said we gotta keep you strong. Please, honey.

NADIA

NO! Leave me alone. You only pay attention to me because I have cancer.

MOM

Watch your tone, Nadia. I’m only trying to help. Dr. Noelle said…

NADIA

Doctor Noelle…Doctor Noelle…that’s all you talk about.

MOM

We have a meeting tomorrow. A full checkup and then we start planning for the procedure.

NADIA

More chemo?

MOM

Yes. You have a low ALL – we’re talking more than a year and a half of chemo and radiation.

NADIA

No. My hair finally grew back. People have even complimented me.

MOM

I know. I’m so sorry. We need to do this. We need to go tomorrow.

NADIA

No.

MOM

Talk to me. I’m your mother. What’s wrong?

NADIA

I wish Dad were here.

MOM

Well he’s not, Nadia. I miss him too. But I’m not crying every day, am I? But you have me and your brothers. I think you’re afraid. You’re afraid of telling me your fear. You’re also afraid of this cancer – this terrible disease. And you’re trying to hide it from yourself so you can feel better about yourself. But Nadia, you have to let it out. Because now is your time to get rid of it for good. Let it all go. Remember what cancer can do to you. All this time, I’ve treated you like a child but now you have to act like an adult. Stop your sniveling and feeling bad for yourself and brave up.

NADIA

Mom, leave me alone.

MOM

You are impossible.

MOM exits the room. LEUKE is staring at her.

LEUKE

Why didn’t you tell her “no?”

NADIA

I’m still conflicted. I don’t want to lose my Mom.

LEUKE

Do you want to lose her or me? Who are you without me?

NADIA

I’m nothing without you.

LEUKE

That’s right. And as the cancer cells replicate and keep growing in your blood – you’ll finally be with me always.

NADIA

I’m scared.

LEUKE

Come here.

She stands up and walks to him slowly. He wraps his arms around her.

There, there. Now do you feel safe?

NADIA

Yes.

Scene 3

In a car. MOM, CAMERON (10), JASON (14), NADIA (14), and LEUKE are all sitting in a car. Leuke is in the back. Nadia and Jason are side by side in the backseat. Mom is driving. Cameron is in the front.

MOM

(To Nadia) You should get some sleep before your chemo treatment.

NADIA

I’ve had enough rest at home today to last a lifetime, Mom.

CAMERON

Yeah, she’s in love with her bed! Who’s your secret boyfriend that you’re always talking to in your room when the door is closed?

NADIA

Nobody. I don’t have a boyfriend.

LEUKE

Yeah you do. You have me.

NADIA

(whisper) Don’t get me into trouble.

LEUKE

Don’t worry. They can’t hear or see me. Just you.

JASON

Can’t you see she’s afraid to sleep? She’s afraid she’ll never wake up.

CAMERON

Jason, don’t be a jerk. She’s sick.

JASON

Mom, you’re going the wrong way.

MOM

No it’s a short cut.

JASON

There is no short cut.

MOM

Yes, there is, Jason. I know the way to Dr. Noelle’s office. Stop trying to argue with me. You’re just nervous.

LEUKE

Jason and Cameron are nervous for their Mother. She doesn’t look good, Nadia. She didn’t sleep last night. Even she knows you’re getting ready for tons of pain.

JASON

I’m worried.

NADIA

About what?

JASON

You.

LEUKE

No, he’s not worried. He just wants to be like your little angel. He never paid attention to you until you got sick. None of these people did. You were just some stupid kid sister who obsessed about horses.

NADIA

No. I have good brothers. Jason, you’re a good brother. When I couldn’t reach for the Tylenol or my medicine, you moved the whole medicine cabinet next to my bed. And Cameron, when Daddy died – you let me sleep in your bed for a whole month.

MOM

Why are you suddenly so sweet, Nadia?

NADIA

I don’t want to die.

LEUKE

Yes you do. And you fight with your brothers all the time. Cameron is mean to you. He punches you. Jason looks at your homework and cheats. If you didn’t have cancer, they’d treat you the way they always treat you.

NADIA
No, they love me.

LEUKE

How do you know they would really love you?

NADIA

They’re with me now.

LEUKE

So am I. Maybe you don’t need me. Maybe I should go away for a while.

LEUKE disappears.

NADIA

No! Please don’t leave alone.

JASON

Nadia, who are you talking to?

NADIA

Nobody. Sorry – my nerves.

MOM

This is a big day. You have every right to be nervous.

JASON puts his arm around NADIA.

Scene 4

NADIA IS in a hospital room. The hospital is big, white, and there are beeping machines all around. And it’s really cold.

NADIA

Hey Leuke, can you come out? I’m all alone. Again. Just like before. No one’s here. It’s just me and these really scary machines. And it’s cold. I don’t know what to say to Dr. Noelle. Hey Leuke, please come out.

LEUKE appears.

LEUKE

I can’t get away from you. You see now why you can’t live your life without me?

NADIA

I know. You make me strong. I’m not scared when you’re here. What should I say to Dr. Noelle?

LEUKE

Nothing. Don’t tell her about me. She’ll put you in a mental hospital.

NADIA

Are you a ghost, Leuke?

LEUKE

You mean like a spirit?

NADIA

You’re real though, right?

LEUKE

I’m real as the cancer running through your body.

NADIA

Like an imaginary friend?

LEUKE

Kinda. A friend you can touch. (He kisses her.)

NADIA

She’s coming. Hide.

LEUKE hides behind a curtain and watches. DR. NOELLE enters.

DOCTOR

You ready for the chemo, Nadia? I know you’ve been through this before but this a super high dose. It’s going to cure you eventually. But it’s really going to knock you out for a few days.

LEUKE

Say no.

NADIA

No.

DOCTOR

Why not?

NADIA

I’m scared.

DOCTOR

Of what?

LEUKE

Don’t tell her about me. Don’t trust her.

NADIA

Of everything. I’m scared of everything.

DOCTOR

Be more specific, Nadia. I work with a lot of kids with cancer.

NADIA

I’m scared of the radiation machines, the needles sending poison into my body, the pills that make me just sicker sliding down my throat. I can’t do this again. It’s breaking me. I hate vomiting. I don’t want to lose my hair.

DOCTOR

The machines are not scary. They are just trying to help you kill the leukemia cells. They’re going to save your life.

LEUKE

No. You’re right. Stand up for yourself. Do you want to spend the rest of your life without any attention? Cancer is the thing that makes you special. Without cancer, you’re a boring, horse-loving, friendless loser. This Doctor doesn’t know you like I do.

NADIA

I’m afraid – that’s what’s holding me back. And the machines killed my Dad.

DOCTOR

That was a long time ago. The machines are different and we found the cancer in your father way too late to save him. Your type of Leukemia is treatable. Your Dad had Stage IV lung cancer.

NADIA

My only memories of him are on those stupid machines. And when I am put into the machines I feel like my Dad. And I think we had the same thoughts. I’m not doing this again, Doctor. Will you go get my mother? I’m going home.

Scene 5

In a café, Nadia is drinking a cup of hot cocoa. Ashley is drinking coffee.

ASHLEY

I can’t wait to the horse show. I’m so happy you accepted my invitation. Even if you can’t ride, it’s still so much fun to be around the horses and stables and the people are so friendly. I wish you could ride.

NADIA

I still might.

ASHLEY

No. The doctors said “no” because you’re still sick. And if you were to ride a horse like Wild Fire – you could fall down and get seriously hurt.

NADIA

I don’t care.

ASHLEY

You could get hurt. The horse could buck. You could fall. The horse could kick you.

NADIA

You know what, Ashley. I don’t care anymore. I love to ride. When I ride, I feel free – open – like I don’t have cancer. It’s like going on a zip line or standing on top of a mountain. Riding is the best thing in the whole world. You’re going to help me ride this weekend.

ASHLEY

All right if it makes you happy. Hey, I know this guy named Ron. He’s friend with Kenyon at the stables. Maybe I could hook you guys up.

NADIA

I already have a boyfriend.

ASHLEY

Who?

NADIA

You want to know a secret?

ASHLEY

I won’t tell anyone.

NADIA

He comes to me when I’m scared or alone or afraid.

ASHLEY

What’s his name?

NADIA

Leuke. And he loves me and he’s afraid if I do take the chemo that he’ll go away.

ASHLEY

Why would you even listen to him? Without chemo, you’re going to die.

NADIA

Ashley, I love him. He loves me. I don’t want to be sick anymore.

ASHLEY

If you die, we can’t be friends anymore. We can’t make it right. I’m so sorry I dumped you to hang out with Mia. I’m sorry that I didn’t include you in the school play. I’m sorry I ignored you. I promise I’ll pay attention to you more, I’ll invite you to my stables every Saturday, and we can go to the movies whenever you want. We can be besties like we were in elementary school.

NADIA

He’s here.

LEUKE enters.

LEUKE

So you’re talking about me. I thought I was your secret.

NADIA

I want you to appear to her. She’s my friend. I’ve forgiven her.

LEUKE

No. I only appear to you.

NADIA

I want you to talk to her. I trust her.

LEUKE

She’ll freak out in the middle of a café! People will think you are crazy.

ASHLEY

Who are you talking to, Nadia?

NADIA

Leuke. Can you see him?

ASHLEY

What’s he look like?

NADIA

He’s wearing all red. He has brown hair and brown eyes. And he loves me.

ASHLEY

I don’t see anyone.

NADIA

Please, Leuke. Let me share you.

ASHLEY

You’re talking crazy.

NADIA

I am crazy. Maybe I am. I’ll talk to him. He’ll appear to you. Maybe tomorrow.

ASHLEY

Nadia, I have to go. I don’t like seeing you like this. You’re scaring me.

ASHLEY exits.

LEUKE

Why would you tell someone about me? Especially her? You know all of what she says is a lie. She’s dumped you once; she’ll do it again.

Scene 6

At Hero Bay Riding Academy. There are pictures of people jumping. Horseshoes are on the wall and medals. MOM, JASON, CAMERON, NADIA, and LEUKE all walk in and sit on the bleachers.

NADIA

(smiling at LEUKE) I’m going to wish Ashley luck.

MOM

I’m so happy that you two are friends again. You’ll need friends when you start your treatment.

NADIA

We’ve talked about the treatment enough. I’m not doing it. Let’s focus on the horse show.

MOM

Oh we’re not done talking about it. And that scene you created at Doctor Noelle’s two days ago will not be tolerated again.

NADIA

I’ll be right back.

LEUKE takes NADIA’s seat. No one notices.

JASON

Hey, look Mom. That horseshoe on the wall is tipping. Isn’t that bad luck?

MOM

Well, it hasn’t tipped totally over yet so the good luck hasn’t fall out yet.

JASON

That’s what Dad taught me.

CAMERON

Oh, here come the riders.

JASON

Oh my God! That’s —-

CAMERON

Nadia!!!!

MOM

What is she doing? She knows she can’t ride. She might get hurt.

LEUKE

Yes, Nadia. I knew you would take my side.

MOM

Jason, get her out of the ring.

ANNOUNCER

The riders are now mounting their horses!

JASON

Oh no! She’s getting on Wildfire. He’s unpredictable. Last month, I saw Mia get thrown by him. She broke her arm. He’s not a good horse. She’s going first. There… She made her first jump.

MOM

Thank God.

JASON

And she made her second jump.

MOM

Oh my God! I heard something. What was that?

JASON

It’s the water jump. She’s got mud in her eye.

MOM

Oh no.

JASON

She’s fine.

LEUKE

C’mon Nadia. Fall. Just as we planned. We’ll be together forever.

MOM

You’re scaring me, Jason. Don’t tell me until it’s over.

Mom covers her eyes.

JASON

She’s pulling her reigns. Her stirrups are coming lose. The horse is getting freaked out. She’s ending it. She’s letting go of everything. And the horse bucked. She fell. Mom! Open your eyes.

Ashley enters with Nadia leaning heavily on her shoulder. The family runs to them.

MOM

You were almost killed.

JASON

Give her some space.

LEUKE

Why would you give up? You almost had it. You could have been with me forever.

NADIA

I stopped for a reason. I realized I couldn’t deal with you anymore. (LEUKE extends his arm out to NADIA). I can’t deal with cancer anymore. (LEUKE takes a step back.) I just want to get rid of it. I want to ride horses, put nail polish on, have sleepovers with Ashley, watch chick flicks. (LEUKE takes another step back.) I want to live for my family, to play tag with Cameron, to go to college with Jason. (LEUKE takes another step back.) I want to have family movie nights with Mom and Jason and Cameron. I don’t want to argue with them anymore. I want to eat chocolate, drink water, and sleep every night. But not forever. I want to live. Not die. (LEUKE exits forever.)

Scene 7

In the Doctor’s room with all the scary machines. It is four months later. NADIA sits alone on a table. Her hair is gone. She is very thin.

NADIA

I’m not going to call for you, Leuke. I’m getting better. I’m fighting. It’s going away. I can feel it.

LEUKE enters.

LEUKE

I’m here, Nadia. Whenever you want me.

NADIA

No. Go away. I hate you. I never want to see you again.

LEUKE

You’re weak. You need me.

NADIA

I am weak. What am I going to do?

Enter FATHER. He is pale, bald, and is wearing a hospital gown. Ghostly music is heard.

FATHER

Wait.

NADIA

Daddy? You don’t know how much I miss you. I’m fighting the same fight as you. What should I do?

FATHER

Fight. Don’t let go. Don’t be tempted by him.

LEUKE

Hello sir. I remember you. What’s it been? Almost three years?

FATHER

Nadia, you are strong. You have to fight him to make him go away. We tried really hard with me – but in the end I didn’t fight hard enough. When you’re tempted to talk to him – think of me.

NADIA

I will fight. I will fight.

Enter ASHLEY

ASHLEY

Who are you talking to now? Don’t tell me that Leuke is back?

NADIA

No its my Dad. He’s telling me not to let go. And I won’t.

END OF PLAY

Leah Shifrel, Age 12, Grade 7, MS 51 William Alexander, Silver Key

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