Eldrie Scott speaks about her daughter, 15-year-old Arnise Scott, who died Tuesday as a result of a ruptured cerebral aneurysm. Arnise Scott was the starting goalkeeper for the Bethel High School girls soccer team.

Their is a set rule in the Scott household: Always, no matter how you feel at that particular moment, say "I love you" at bedtime.

Why? Because life offers no guarantees.

"You don't know if I'm going to wake up tomorrow or not," Eldrie Scott would tell her 15-year-old daughter, Arnise. "So every night, we have to say 'I love you.'"

And they did, even (especially) on those rare days when there had been friction. If, God forbid, something were to happen, that would be the last words said between them.

But the last words Arnise said to Eldrie last Sunday night — amid the panic, the 911 call, and the mad dash to the hospital — were "Mommy, I can't." That wasn't the way it was supposed to be, and Arnise certainly wasn't supposed to be the first to go.

"They were taking her to the stretcher, and I noticed her feet were dragging," Eldrie said. "I said, 'Arnise, walk.' And the last thing my baby said to me was, 'Mommy, I can't.' I'll never forget that."

Thirty-six hours later, after all attempts to save Arnise's life had failed, Eldrie and Anthony Scott let their daughter go. They asked the doctors to remove her from the life-support machines that had couldn't reverse the effects of a ruptured cerebral aneurysm.

"We were praying for her to live and walk out of that hospital," Eldrie said. "That was my plan — 'You're going to heal and walk out of that hospital and I'll still have my baby. I never once would think that a 15-year-old girl could be taken to the hospital and not come back out. I mean, she had her life ahead of her."

A clear path

Most kids fly by the seat of their pants or change directions with the breeze. Arnise Scott, still not 16 years old, had already mapped out her future.

Step one: Graduate early from Bethel High School, where she was a 3.51 student and a regular on the Honor Roll. Step two: Enroll at the Riverside School of Health Careers, where she would become a registered nurse. Step three: Enroll at the University of North Carolina, where she would study to become an anesthesiologist.

"I mean, she had her life planned," Eldrie said. "She knew the day she'd get her learner's (permit). She knew the day she'd get her license. When we went to Riverside and she met with the head of the school, he told her what her prerequisites were. She went back to her guidance counselor to plan it out."

School was always her thing. If she ever had to miss a day, be it the flu or whatever, she hated it. And fought it. From her first days in elementary school, she always read above her grade level.

"When she was in the seventh grade, she wanted a dog," Eldrie Scott said. "And my husband doesn't like dogs. So she said, 'Dad, if I get straight As, would you get me a dog?' And he was like, 'OK, if you get straight As, I'll get you a dog.'

"And she did it. I don't know where she got this from, but she named the dog David Jones Scott. Why, I don't know. We nicknamed it D.J."

Arnise played field hockey her freshman and sophomore years, and she came out for the Bruins' soccer team this spring. New to the sport, she impressed Bethel coach Steve Midlik with how eager she was to learn. She was named the starting goal keeper, a job she treasured.

"She was always great, even during conditioning," Midlik said. "At every practice, she worked hard. She earned that starting goal keeper position."

On April 17, Arnise was in the goal against Phoebus. During a flurry of activity outside the net, she jumped on the ball and assumed the fetal position. But, as she later told her mother, someone inadvertently kicked her in the head. That caused her head to hit the post.

Arnise didn't tell anyone and played the rest of the game. Afterward, some of her teammates mentioned it to the trainer, who immediately examined Arnise and called Eldrie. The next day, Arnise went to her family doctor, who Eldrie said diagnosed a mild concussion.

"He told her, 'I don't want you going to school,'" Eldrie said. "She was like, 'I have to go to school, I have an SOL I need to take.' So the doctor wrote her a note and told her, 'If you get a headache, a dizzy spell, anything, I want you out of that school.'"