When Your Days are Numbered | Teen Ink

When Your Days are Numbered

December 13, 2011
By emattox SILVER, Onancock, Virginia
emattox SILVER, Onancock, Virginia
9 articles 1 photo 28 comments

Favorite Quote:
You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty. -Ghandi


Julia Inman: The only child, a sixteen year old girl who is pretty, tall, and thin. She is outgoing, never seen without a smile on her face, and dresses in preppy, conservative skirts and dresses.

Katherine Inman: The forty year old mother of Julia, pretty like her daughter but shows the effects of aging. While not obese, she is plump and wears baggy clothes, obviously insecure about herself.

Steven Inman: Julia’s father, a forty five year old lawyer who dresses in suits and is never seen without a briefcase. He is loud and opinionated, and the obvious father of Julia- they look almost exactly alike.

Dr. Arnold: A 50 year old, very experienced doctor. He takes his job very seriously, and is never seen without his lab coat in the office. His bony, sunken in face and grayed hair show how stressing his job is, but he remains optimistic and comforting with all of his patients.

Nurse: A small, mousy lady in her early twenties who, while very knowledgeable about all things medical, is slightly intimidated by her job. She wears loose fitting scrubs and a ponytail every day, and talks with a very soft voice.

Celia: One of Julia’s best friends, a sixteen year old girl who dresses very much like Julia but is short, curvy, and dark-skinned. She is also very outgoing and the charmer of the group, everyone wants to spend time with her.

Kathleen: Julia’s other best friend, sixteen years old and never seen without a concert t-shirt and skinny jeans. She is reserved, but not shy, and is a certified genius.


A sharp intake of breath sounds as the curtain pulls up and the lights illuminate the stage area. A living room of an upper middle class home is displayed, decorated modernly but also comfortably. Julia Inman is splayed across an armchair and Katherine Inman is standing near the chair. Julia’s eyes are crinkled with confusion, but she still maintains a mostly relaxed expression. Katherine’s face appears distressed and she is shaking slightly, fear sprawled across her face. The tension is apparent, while it does not appear critical; Julia has obviously said something to distress her mother.

JULIA INMAN: Mom, why do you look so scared? I just told you that I’ve been having migraines lately, it’s probably just stress.

KATHERINE INMAN: [pacing the floor] Nothing. Just nothing. I’m going to take you to the doctor, but I’m sure it’s nothing. [sits on the chair farthest away from Julia’s chair]

JULIA: Mom, you look like death
just came and tried to shake your hand. What’s wr-

KATHERINE: I told you already, NOTHING. [stands in doorway of living room] Now finish your homework and we’re going to drop this for now. [exits living room]

JULIA: [sighs]

KATHERINE: [from offstage] Stop sighing, Julia. Do your homework while I call your doctor. NOW.

JULIA: [writing in her notebook] Okay, Mom. I don’t know why you’re making such a big deal about this, though. I shouldn’t have even told you.
KATHERINE: [from offstage] Hi, Dr. Arnold, remember what we talked about last visit? Well, it’s happening. I need to take her to see you as soon as possible. [pauses and murmurs agreement] Okay, okay, thank you. So much.

STEVEN: [enters living room and sits beside Julia] Hey, sweetie, I didn’t know you were home yet. How was your day of school?

JULIA: [whispering so Katherine won’t overhear] Fine, but when I got home I told Mom that I have been having migraines and she freaked out and called Dr. Arnold and I have no idea what’s going on. She yelled at me when I tried to ask her.

STEVEN: [rises abruptly and knocks Julia’s paper all over the floor] Do your homework, Julia. [jogs offstage to Katherine and speaks in hushed tones] It can’t be, the doctor said we had at least until she graduated college.

JULIA: [face growing ever puzzled as she slowly gathers her papers and eavesdrops on her parent’s conversation]

KATHERINE: [urgently whispering, offstage] Dr. Arnold is going to see her tomorrow. Steven, I’m so scared. What would we do withou-

STEVEN: [attempting to sound confident, offstage] Katherine. Get a hold of yourself. You have to stay strong.

JULIA: [still in the living room, her face growing evermore distressed as she calls to her parents] Mom, Dad, I’m going to bed now. Good night.

KATHERINE: [enters living room] I will wake you up for your doctor’s appointment tomorrow; Dr. Arnold said you can come in at 8. Good night baby, I love you.
[Julia exits and the lights fade out on Katherine, standing alone, watching Julia leave]


The curtain rolls up, the lights come on, and Julia and Katherine sit in a doctor’s office, a tension evident between the two. The doctor’s office is painted in a bright blue, and various lamps spread stylishly about the room give off more than enough light, almost making happiness and brightness forced upon the patients. Julia looks slightly annoyed and worried, but still very pretty in a blue, mid knee length dress and perfectly curled hair. Her body faces away from Katherine, and she looks at a magazine on her lap. Katherine is slightly rocking back and forth, her face pale and her hair unruly. Her face gives off fear, but she faces away from Julia and distractedly watches the television.

NURSE: [enters] Julia Inman, Dr. Arnold will see you now. [subconsciously fidgets] And Dr. Arnold has specified that he only wants to see Julia.

KATHERINE: [tensing and sitting up straight] What? I am her mother! I demand to go back with her.

NURSE: [her red face shows her obvious discomfort] I-

JULIA: [standing and putting her magazine back]Mom, it’s okay, I can handle myself. Seriously, just let me go and, [whispering] don’t cause a huge scene.

Katherine leans back in her chair in defeat, but maintains her distressed composure. Julia, with one final look at her mother, exits and the lights fade out.


Julia sits on the exam table in the small room, and runs her fingers through her hair absently. The room is in the middle of the stage, with other doctors and nurses scurrying around outside her walls, going about their normal routines. Among them is Dr. Arnold, who knocks and then enters the room, closing the door gently behind him.

DR. ARNOLD: [sitting on a stool] Julia, Julia, Julia. Today is probably going to be one of the hardest of your life. But-

JULIA: [an angry look on her face] Wait, what? Oh my god, everyone is freaking out about this SO MUCH. It’s not even a big deal, it’s just a couple of stupid migraines, and I’m missing my AP classes, which are very hard to make up by the way, for, for you to tell me that today is going to be a ‘hard day’? Bull crap. Just give me the Aspirin or whatever and get on with it. I’m just wasting my time.

DR. ARNOLD: [putting his hand on Julia’s arm in comfort] Just hear me out, okay? This is very important.

Julia nods and rolls her eyes.

DR. ARNOLD: Normally, I ask the parent tell the child in a situation like this. But, your father asked me to talk to you instead because of your mother’s anxieties and my…ahem… experience in situations like these.[sighs deeply and composes his face into a sympathetic expression] There was once a girl named Sophia. She was such a beautiful, caring, and loving person, my favorite patient and also my daughter. When she was sixteen, she [fidgets in his seat] started getting migraines. At first, they were few and manageable. We put her on a few drugs, gave her cortisone treatments, and she was okay for about a month, her migraines subsided. Then, the treatments quit working, without any notice, on December 16. About a week before Christmas. I gave her head an X-ray, and it turned out [his voice becomes shaky, and he chokes back tears] she had a tumor. A tumor that she couldn’t recover from. One that killed her two weeks after we found it. And there is no easy way for me to tell you this, but you have that tumor also.

Julia’s face is expressionless, but her uncovered legs begin shaking and the hair on her arms stands on end.

DR. ARNOLD: [talking very fast and assertively] I started looking for a cure to the cancer the second Sophia died. [tone of voice becomes weaker] Right now, there is no cure. But, in the process, I found that it is possible to detect it in infants, so, I began testing every child I saw. I knew that there would be no cure, but that maybe if the parents knew it would be more manageable. Julia…. I’m so, so sorry. But there is absolutely nothing I can possibly do. You have about a month to live.

Tears begin silently rolling down Julia’s face, her body becoming completely still. She shows no reaction when Dr. Arnold tries to comfort her, but abruptly rises and shrugs off his arm.

JULIA: [looking at him accusingly] So you’re saying that I’m going to die in a month? What the hell? Why did no one tell me about this before, why would you tell me a month before I die? Oh my god. [begins heaving and sobbing uncontrollably]

DR. ARNOLD: [looking unperturbed by her emotions] We’re going to put you on drugs and cortisone treatments to make you as comfortable as possible, but there is really nothing we can do. Just enjoy your last month.

Julia opens the door, and slams it shut, leaving Dr. Arnold looking blank of any emotion except sheer exhaustion. She stomps through the office, the other nurses and doctors outside of the exam room glance up at her but do not take any action. She gives off a loud, hurt scream of angst and exits, and the lights fade out on the office.


The curtains roll up, displaying Julia’s living room, appearing the same as it had the night before. Julia walks in, almost as if in a trance, and falls onto the couch, tears running down her face. She curls herself up into the fetal position and buries her face in her knees. Katherine walks into the living room a few moments later, looking down at Julia, pausing as if not sure if she should stay or leave, and then finally deciding to sit down beside her.

JULIA: [talking in a whispered voice] How could you not tell me? How can I just sit here and know that I am going to die in a month- a month! - and be expected to just ‘enjoy the rest of my life’? Mom, it’s not fair, it’s just not fair, it’s…. [voice fades out and Julia buries her head in her Mom’s shoulder]

KATHERINE: [rubbing Julia’s arm] Well, baby, what else can you do? This is the worst day of my, and yours, entire life so far, but we can’t just sit around this house and wait for the day to come. I want to enjoy this last month with you. Let’s pretend that you’re just going to go to boarding school next month, and that you’re very sad to leave, but realize you must. This is inevitable, Julia, and we have to be strong. I’m so, so, so, so, so sorry baby. I love you more than you will ever know.

JULIA: [pokes her head up, her tear stained face still managing to be pretty beyond her frightened expression] Can we not tell anyone? My month won’t be the same, but I don’t want everyone to treat me really differently. [buries her face in her Katherine’s shoulder] Mom, why me? Out of everyone, why me? I had so many plans for my life, I was going to go into the Peace Corps, get married, have kids, grow old and THEN die. I won’t even ever get to go to prom, to be able to fall in love with somebody. It’s just so unfair. [breaks down crying again]

Lights fade out on this sad scene, just as Katherine starts crying and they embrace into a heart wrenching mass of pain.


The curtain rolls up to reveal Julia sitting on the couch in the living room. The lights are turned on, and she has changed into different clothes. She picks up a calendar and absently looks at it. The audience sees that about half of the individual grid spaces symbolizing the days have large, red X’es. She picks up a red pen and marks another X, then rubs her fingers across the day. Katherine enters, and Julia shuffles her papers around to hide the calendar. She looks up at Katherine and smiles, then stands.

JULIA: Hey Mom. When are they coming, again?

KATHERINE: They should be arriving any second now. What are you all going to do?

JULIA: I figured we would just talk… I really miss just talking to all of them. I need to have a good laugh, and to gossip about people we don’t like, and to rate all of the cute guys at our school. I just need a normal day and- [doorbell rings and Julia flounces over to the door, opening it to reveal Celia and Kathleen] Oh my gosh! I’ve missed you guys soooo much! [brings them together into a warm embrace]

CELIA: Awwwh! We’re going to party it up today.


KATHERINE: Be good girls, I’m just going to go and run a few errands. [exits, smiling]

JULIA: [ushers the girls to sit down, a huge smile plastered across her face] You guys are my best friends. And no one is ever going to change it.

The girls start gossiping and giggling, and although the audience cannot hear the exact words they say, it is evident that they are having a great time and enjoying each other’s company. The light fades out, and the curtain closes on the girls laughing and having a good time.


The curtain comes up on a seemingly empty, dim living room, which upon further inspection reveals a small mass on the floor, rolled up tightly in a blanket on the ground. A large bottle of pills sit on the coffee table, as do teen magazines and a bowl of popcorn. The audience should have to strain their eyes to make out what it is, a human figure. It is unmoving, no rise and fall of the chest as it breathes, no slight twitch people make when they sleep. Katherine enters, her face nonchalant and a bag of groceries grasped tightly in her hand.

KATHERINE: [setting down the bags on the coffee table and calling to Julia, not noticing the figure on the floor] I’m sorry I was gone so long, I ran into Betty and I just had to talk to her, I haven’t seen her in so long and well you know how we get. Did Kathleen and Celia leave yet? Did you have a good time? I know you’ve missed them. [pauses and looks offstage expectedly] Julia? [walks forward and notices the figure on the floor, her face paling] Oh my god.

Katherine unwraps the blanket and Julia’s lifeless body appears, her hair in a knotted mess and her eyes open eerily. Katherine screams and drops to her knees, hugging Julia’s corpse tightly to her chest. Right before the curtain begins closing, the Sun flashes out from behind the clouds and Katherine looks up at it, an expression of comfort washing over her face for a second. The curtain closes, and the lights fade out on Katherine kneeling over her daughter.


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