Nowhere

She is hanging below me, clinging to a loose rope. I reach out. She’s too far away. She is too afraid to let go, and I am too afraid to lean out any further.
She’s helpless.
The rope creaked ominously. I look up instinctively, and in that second I see the rope snap high above us. My head snaps down in an instant. Just quick enough to see her fall.
I hear my own screams mixed in with hers.
“Megan…!”
***

Lauren's friend, Megan, died five years ago and Lauren has never really gottten over it. Finally she decides that it's time for her to face her fears. She goes back to the place Megan died, hoping to find it in herslef to move on. What she doesn't bargin on is what she discovers about her death. What really happened? And what has it got to do with Lauren? All the while she finds herself falling for boy she'd have ben better off running far away from...

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6. Hospital

  I look at my face in the bathroom mirror; no make up, swollen red eyes, hair sticking out in all directions, but no tears; I ran out hours ago. I rub the back of my head, feeling a migraine coming on. I feel terrible; it’s the middle of the night and I didn’t sleep last night either. I haven’t eaten either. The guilt eats away at my stomach, making it impossible to keep anything down. I tried to eat a couple of hours after Finn coaxed me into it. I was sick a few minutes later and he didn’t say anything after that.

  I’ve never hated hospitals. I have enough reason to hate them, but my Dad’s a surgeon, so I practically grew up in them. But all I want to do now is run. I can’t stand sitting around in a tiny waiting room any longer. The walls seem to be closing in on me, and all I can do, all day long, is sit and wait. It’s driving me crazy; I want to run, but I can’t bring myself to run away. It’s my fault so I can’t just run away. I have to suffer for what I did.

  I clutch the edge of the sink, trying to even out my breathing. It’s hard, but eventually it slows down. I straighten up, and push the hair out of my eyes, scraping it up into a harsh ponytail. I tug open the toilet door, and walk down one of the endless white corridors making up the maze of Portlie Hospital.

  I make it back to the waiting room, but everything is just as I left it: Chloe’s parents are sitting in the corner, her mum crying quietly into her husband’s shoulder; Finn staring absently at a spot on the opposite wall; Tyler tapping the wooden floor with his foot, unable to keep still, but Yasmin is no where in sight. She’s been in and out all day, rushing around from room to room, trying to keep up everyone’s sprits, but not succeeding. She’s had to sign a lot of paperwork too, especially for the police. We haven’t been integrated yet, but it will come.

  I sit back in my seat, dropping my head into my hands.

  The door opens, but I don’t look up until I hear Finn jump to his feet. “Any news Doctor?”

  My head snaps up to see the grey haired doctor who had told us that Chloe was alive – just. But they still had to send her to x-ray, and later he told us that they’d had to operate. We hadn’t seen him since. The old man looks at Finn sadly. “You can see Chloe now.” Everyone jumps to their feet and Chloe’s mum rushes forwards. But the he puts a hand out to slow her down. “She’s awake, but be careful around her; she’s been damaged quite badly. The damage is relatively severe but I don’t think there will be any lasting damage.”

  The doctor turns to show us to her room, but he stops Finn, Tyler and I. “Family only please.”

  “But-”

  “You can see her later, but we don’t want too many visitors all at once.”

  I want to argue, but the look on the doctor’s face tells me that it would be no use. Slowly I sit myself back down. Tyler and Finn do the same opposite me. Finn swears under his breath. I look up, opening my mouth to say something comforting like, ‘At least there’s no lasting damage, right?’. But shut my mouth. There wouldn’t have been any damage if it hadn’t been for me.

  After what feels like another hour, the doctor re-enters the room. “Chloe is asking for you.” He has a frown on his face. I have a feeling if it had been up to him, we wouldn’t have been able to see her. Good fro Chloe. I find myself smiling slightly for the first time in hours, but it disappears as soon as I realise.

  We’re lead down another endless white corridor, the doctor moving frustratingly slowly. I can see Finn getting impatient next to me. Finally he pushes through a door and lets us in.

  The room is a sterile white, a machine beeping a stead rhythm and in the middle of the room is a hospital bed and lying down on it is Chloe. She is almost completely covered in plaster casts; one arm is heavily bandaged, a leg is in a cast, being kept up by a swing hanging from the ceiling and a bandage wrapped around her head, other than that, she looked fine, smiling widely up at us, wincing slightly as she did so.

  Her mum sits on one side of her, holding her free arm and her dad brushes past me in the doorway, muttering about getting a coffee from a machine down the hall. He looked like he could use it.

  The three of us stand frozen in the doorway, until Finn moves slowly to sit on her other side. He leans over and kisses her cheek, and I see her blush profusely, barely containing her grin.

  “How are you doing?” He asks gently.

  “Fine,” Chloe sounds too chirpy for someone who’s had to be operated on for three hours. She laughs at our sceptical expressions, but winces as she does so. I see her mum squeeze her hand gently. “Don’t worry guys, seriously, I’m okay. I broke an arm, a leg, a couple of ribs, and bumped my head, but I’m doing fine, so they tell me. Nothing serious.”

  I open my mouth to apologise, but suddenly I’m pushed out of the way by someone barging through the door. “Oh my god Chloe, are you okay?” Tori screeches. She runs over to the side of the bed, shoving Finn out of the chair, and sitting next to Chloe. Finn picks himself off the floor, grumbling and swearing at Tori’s back. Luckily she doesn’t notice; she’s too busy fussing over Chloe.

 “What happened? I thought I’d lost my best friend!”

  Tori had been here earlier; she’d been distraught. She was just sitting there, not crying, just in shock. She’d gone home complaining that she couldn’t sleep here. The rest of us couldn’t either, but you didn’t see us leaving.

  Chloe opens her mouth to explain, but before she can say anything, Tori finally takes some notice of her surroundings. As her eyes rest on me her expression turns to one of fury.

  She stands up abruptly, pointing straight at me. “YOU!”

  I press my lips together; I know what’s coming and, however true it might be, I don’t want to hear it.

  “THIS IS YOUR FAULT!” She screams at me, “You were there when it happened – it you did this!” I flinch, and lean back as she shouts in my face, but I don’t argue. “You take my best friend away from me and then you try to kill her! You can’t just come in here looking all sad and expect people to feel sorry for you! Well I don’t - I can see right through you Lauren Fanon. You can’t fool me – I know this was your fault!” I lower my head as she glares at me and raises her fist as if to punch me. I close me eyes, waiting for the impact, but it doesn’t come. Instead I hear a growl, “Finn get off me.”

  I open one eye, and find Tyler standing right in front of me, so my nose is almost touching his back. I peer around him to see Flynn holding back Tori. She struggles so a second, but then stops as she sees me behind Tyler. “You won't get away with this.” She sneers. “I’ll tell the police exactly what I think of you.”

  Tyler steps to the side to block me from the force of her glare. I can’t see her anymore, but I can hear the hurt in her voice. “You choose her over me?” Tyler doesn’t answer, but I feel his back stiffen. I want do much to lean into his back, and ease away the tension, but I resist the urge to close the distance between us. “Fine. If that’s what you want. But you’ll regret it Tyler. You should have chosen me while you still could.”

  Tori breaks out of Finn’s grip, and pushes past us and out of the hospital room. We are all stunned into silence for a moment, before Tyler moves toward the door. “I better stop Tori; convince her not to go the police. I feel disappointed when he walks out of the room; he picked Tori over me. I don’t even notice that I’ve started crying until I hear my own sob in my throat.

  “Lauren? Oh my god Lauren, are you okay?” Chloe calls out. Tyler steps out of the way so I can see Chloe. Flynn does the same, and I move slowly to sit down next to her. I catch sight of Chloe’s mum sitting on the other side, looking confused. I look down, my vision blurry because of the tears.

  “She’s right.” I mumble.

  “Lauren, don’t you dare say that!” I look up at Chloe.

  “But she’s right isn’t she? I mean, if it hadn’t been for me, you wouldn’t have...” I trail off, unable to finish.

  Chloe just looks at me with her mouth open, disbelieving. I hear Finn speak up behind me. “Lauren, nobody blames you; there was nothing you could have done. It was a faulty rope, these things happen.”

  Chloe finds her voice. “Lauren, if it’s anyone’s fault, it’s my own.” I start to protest, but she carries on. “I should have checked the rope and I shouldn’t have fallen off the log in the first place, it was stupid.”

    I shake my head, “But you wouldn’t have stepped off if I hadn’t been-”

  “For heaven’s sake Lauren, it’s not your fault. There’s nothing you could have done. End of conversation.”

  I sigh, no knowing she’s right, but it doesn’t make me feel any less guilty.

  “Any way, it’s only a few broken bones. Give me a couple of weeks and I’ll be fine.”

  “We’re not going to press charges.” At first I can’t work out where the voice came from until I look around and see Chloe’s mum looking at me. “We’re not going to press charges since there was no permanent damage. There isn’t going to be an investigation, so even if Tori does go to the police, there’s nothing much they can do.”

  I smile gratefully at her and say in a small voice, “Thank you.”

  She looks at me with hazel eyes just like Chloe’s, except hers are filled with tears. “It’s okay dear.”

  I smile at her again. I don’t deserve her sympathy. Chloe and I chat for a few minutes and I even find myself laughing. But Chloe frowns, “Lauren, why are you crying?”

  I hadn’t realised I was, but I wipe them away and smile happily at her. “I’m just so glad you’re okay.”

  “Aw, come here.” I lean over the bed and give her an awkward hug, trying not to squeeze too hard.

  It’s the truth; I’m so happy that she’s still alive. That it hadn’t turned out like last time. That this wasn’t a repeat of five years ago, and Chloe can walk out of here good as new. But a question still bugs me; why did Megan die and not Chloe? Where’s the logic in that? It was the exact same place, on the exact same course, in the exact same place – so what’s the difference? Is it just fate deciding that one girl should live and the other should die? If it is, fate is stupid.

  But isn’t it too much of a co-incidence that it was almost exactly the same as last time? That thought bugs me more than any other - Too much of a co-incidence.

 

*

 

  I walk out of door of the hospital room. I told Chloe I needed to get a drink, but I want to give Flynn and Chloe some time alone. Chloe’s parent have left as well, taking the hint.

  I walk absently to the coffee machine, thinking about how much nicer the hospital is now Chloe is okay. It doesn’t feel so much like a prison any more, but it’s gone back to being just a regular hospital, like the ones I’m used to.

  Suddenly I feel a hand on my arm, and I spin around to find Tyler next to me. I hadn’t even heard him come up behind me. God, I must really be in a world of my own. I tense up at his touch, and tug my arm out of his grip. He lets his hand fall to his side. I study him for a minute. He looks worn out; tired and stressed. Tyler runs a hand through his hair and opens his mouth to say something, but he doesn’t say anything.

  I’m sick of his games. “What is it Tyler?” I ask, surprising myself at the coolness to my voice. He looks up at me, but I can’t read his expression. His eyes flicker between different emotions, fighting for control over his head.

  “Chloe... Well – this – this is why you should have left.” He finally blurts out.

  I stare at him open mouthed. Is he saying... does he think... he thinks it’s my fault? “Are you blaming me?”

  “No.” He winces, “I just mean that it happened last time, and now it’s happened again. It’s not a co-incidence Lauren.”

  I freeze. It happened last time. He knows about Megan, it’s the only explanation.

  The image of twelve year old Tyler flashes into my head. Realisation hits me; that’s why he looks so familiar, because he was there. He was there the day Megan died.

  Oh my god. I finally find my voice. “You think it was my fault.” He thinks it’s my fault that Megan died, and Chloe nearly died.

  He doesn’t reply, but I can see the guilt in his eyes as he glances up at me.

  Anger sears through me. I’ve seen enough. “Just go back to Tori!” I raise my voice, hating how jealous I sound. I don’t care about the nurses that are appearing in doorways to listen, but I carry on with my rant. “If you two hate me so much, then you can say what you like about me, see if I care!”

  “No, that’s not what-”

  “That is what you meant.” I snap. “You blame me, and don’t even try to deny it, because I can see it in your eyes. You’ve been nothing but a jerk since I first met you. I don’t know why I’m even bothering.” I pause, glaring at him. “I hate how you’re always so hot and cold; how you hate me one minute, and laughing with me the next. I hate how you’re just such a freaking jerk!”

   He looks at the ground and mumbles, “Hate’s a strong word.”

  “I know.” I growl. “And I hate you.”

  Tyler looks like I’ve just slapped him. He stares at me wide-eyed, but I storm off down the corridor, feeling dozens of pairs of eyes on me. I pass Finn, who stares at me, shocked and obviously having heard the whole thing. I ignore him and make it to the exit. I push through the doors and step into the fresh air, pulling it into my lungs, trying to calm myself down.

 Now what am I going to do?

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