Day 23

Skye has been falling for a long time, but she's fed up of it. She knows it's going to be hard, but she's determined to pull her life back from the brink.
But when Chris gets involved, well, things start going differently to how she planned.
"Why aren't you fighting back goddammit?"
"Because you, Skye Monroe, know nothing about me, about why."


13. Day Twelve

Day twelve:

Mornings at Chris's house were unexpectedly calm after the rows I was used to at my house. We woke up when his alarm went off, blaring throughout the whole house, even reaching to the spare room, where I was, at the other end of the house. He let me have a shower first, to my great relief, since I hadn't brought a dressing gown, then we had breakfast with his aunt, who didn't like mornings and was fairly silent the whole time. It really was nice to make it through a morning without having a ridiculous fight to ruin the day before it had even properly started. 

We ambled to school, taking our time, as we were early enough, chatting about our lessons and stuff we liked. A normal conversation, which was something I didn't have very often. Just thinking about the normality of it kinda made me sad. It made me realise how freakish I really was, that I was cherishing a totally normal, everyday conversation, just because I never had one. Weird, huh?

We parted ways when we got to school to go to our own registrations, and not even Jade's digs could ruin my surprisingly cheery mood. English was first period, and the teacher never usually called on me, seeing as she knew I was most likely not paying attention, which is why I didn't hear her when she called my name. I was jerked it of my reverie by a balled up bit of paper hitting me on the head. I turned around indignantly to see who threw it, and a sniggering guy nodded towards the teacher. I rolled my eyes and turned back to the front, ignoring him, as the teacher called my name once more. 

"Skye? We have a message for you," she said, and the lady from the office, who was standing next to her, gestured towards the door. "Collect your things."

"Ooh! Who's in trouble? Are you getting expelled, bully?" paper throwing boy teased. 

I swore at him under my breath as I gathered up me belongings, before following the office lady (she had some really complicated, German sounding name) out into the corridor. I expected her to stop and talk to me, maybe tell me I was in trouble, but she continued walking at a swift pace towards the school office. 

"You mother called. She's had to take your brother, Rhys, to hospital, because he's very ill, and she's called a taxi to take you there."

I sighed heavily. Mad had ignored the fact that he was ill for days because it interfered with her plans, and had left it so late he was really ill. Somehow, that didn't scream of good parenting to me. I just hoped there was nothing seriously wrong with Rhys. 

I followed after her to the official school entrance, and signed out of the book, before getting in the waiting taxi. I had no idea where the nearest hospital was, so it was a surprise when the journey took barely any time at all. We joined the queue to get into the car park (it was alarming how many people had ill relatives to visit) and the cab driver sighed. 

"It's okay," I said, "I can get out here and walk the rest."

"Okay, that'll be £26."

I hesitated, wondering how much money I had in my purse and if I needed to call Mum and  get her to come and rescue me. Sighing, I reached into my bag and fished out my purse before handing him a rather crumpled handful of notes. 

He riffled through. "I need another £3.75."

I fished into the coins section of the purse and pulled out the money, then got out and hastily slammed the door. I paused on the pavement for a moment, torn between wanting to run to Rhys and check how he was, and the dread of seeing Mum again. Steeling myself for the inevitable scene, I walked briskly towards the entrance to the hospital. Before I went in, I checked my phone, ready to turn it off, and found a text from Mum from half an hour earlier, probably telling me what I already knew. 


I hissed my breath out from between my teeth and angrily shut off my phone. How could she put her work before her son when he was so ill he'd had to be taken to hospital? It was barbaric. What mother cared more about her career than the health of her own children? I knew I wasn't exactly the model child, and I could understand her being less enamoured with me, but Rhys was six years old! He was still an adorable child with no real idea about what was going on in the world, and she'd abandoned him for a meeting. I didn't get on with him all that well sometimes, but I loved him with all my heart, and I would never have left him all alone in a scary hospital. 

My anger carried me through the doors and to the reception. "Hello. I'm here to see Rhys Monroe, could you tell me where he is?" I snapped. 

The lady shot me a dirty look before prodding at her keyboard. "Follow the signs for the Starfish Children's Ward."

I nodded at her before taking hastily off, searching for directions to the Starfish Ward. I followed the signs to a cheery looking place with bright colours everywhere, contrasting with the pale, sick looking faces of children as young as four. I poked my head into all the rooms I passed, looking for Rhys, who was in the fifth room I looked in. 

I barely recognised him when I first saw him, he looked so different to the boy I saw yesterday. He was sallow looking, a sheen of sweat over his face, and his eyes were closed, the lids fluttering. His breathing was shallow and raspy, and there were tubes and monitors all over him. My breath caught in my throat, and it felt like I had swallowed a huge ball of barbed wire that was stuck there. Sucking in large breaths, I glanced away, trying to take it all in, and my eyes prickled uncomfortably. 

"Are you alright?" a passing nurse asked kindly. 

I forced possibly the most fake looking smile ever seen to man, or nurse, and nodded my head before turning towards Rhys again. Taking hesitant steps towards him, my eyes never left his face, waiting for some sign of movement, of life. As I cradled his tiny hand in mine, his eyelids fluttered, and my stomach began dancing the jive. I looked around to see if anyone else had seen it. That was a mistake. As soon as I took my eyes off Rhys, I could see the other inhabitants of this ward. There were five other beds in the room, each filled with ill children, all under seven. Some were sitting, others were lying, and one other was unconscious, all guarded by heartbroken parents and assorted family members. By one bed, a mother sat breastfeeding her newborn baby. She looked like she hadn't slept in days, and had passed the point of caring who saw her. Even when she feeding the baby, her gaze kept snapping back to her son in the bed beside her, whose eyes kept slowly opening and roaming between his mother and father. 

Every single child in that room had at least one parent hovering worriedly over them. Every single one. It was only Rhys who'd been abandoned by both his parents. I turned back towards him, biting hard on my lip to stop the tears falling. 

Sucking in a breath, I stroked his hand. "Don't worry Rhys, I'm here, and you're gonna be out of here before you know it," I whispered, using the fake happy voice everyone uses in hospitals. I took a deep breath and tried to compose myself, remembering that I was in public. 

"Are you a relative?" a female voice asked from behind me. 

I swivelled in my seat. "Yeah..." I said, reservedly. I obviously didn't want her thinking he was my son, but I didn't want her asking where his mother was either. 

She frowned a little, trying to work out if I was his mother or sister, but she continued anyway. "We're running tests at the moment to see if we can pinpoint the cause of his illness, but at the moment it's looking like a severe stomach infection."

I blinked, getting my head around it. "So… what does that mean?"

"If it is, we'll have to keep him overnight, attached to a drip so he gets the nutrients he needs. It's nothing we can't handle, or anything life threatening at this stage, but we need to make sure he's going to be okay, and to do that we'll need to observe him overnight."

I knew she didn't mean it like this, but as soon as she said 'observe him' I couldn't help but imagine a group of scary looking doctors standing around his bed, staring him down all night. I rolled my eyes at my stupidity. "Okay... um, how long until we know for sure?" I asked, trying to think like an adult. 

"About an hour," the doctor said briskly. "When we know, we'll be back to talk to his parent or guardian." 

Panic flared up in my stomach, but I nodded like it didn't faze me, like Mum had only nipped out for a cup of coffee. If she wasn't back in an hour... I didn't know what I'd have to do. I couldn't sign any legal forms, or give parental permission for anything. I turned back to Rhys, hiding the panic on my face as the doctor bustled away. 

"Don't worry kid, Mum will be back soon, and everything will be as right as rain." I smiled, even though I knew he couldn't see it. It made me feel better anyway; fake it 'til you make it and all that. 

I waited there, watching the clock and stroking Rhys's hand, for an hour or more. Time passes differently in hospitals, some moments going in a flash, others dragging on for what feels like hours. Every now and then I looked around the room, sharing encouraging smiles with other waiting family members. We were all just sitting there in that room, suspended in a sort of limbo, with nothing mattering except the kids. It felt impossible to imagine life going on outside those four walls, things carrying on as normal. Yet things were happening. Somewhere else in that hospital, babies were being born, lives were being saved. But for us, our whole world consisted of that room, and the people in it. My eyes grew heavy, and my body was cramping from being in the same position for so long, but I wasn't letting go of Rhys. This dilemma was playing out amongst everyone in the room. Stay with them, in pain, or leave them to stretch your legs, taking the chance that that might be when something happened, good or not. I stayed, and kept stroking his hand. There was no one for me to alternate with, like the family groups. 

Eventually, Rhys's doctor came back into the room. "Any change?" she asked. I shook my head. "Well, the tests show that it is a stomach infection, and the good news is it's less severe than we thought. Is..." she hesitated. "Is your mum anywhere, we need to talk to her."

My stomach tightened, and I contemplated coming up with a lie, but I wasn't in the mood, and besides which, she deserved for the doctors to know what she'd done. 

"No," I said. "She had to go to a business meeting but she'll be back soon."

The doctor's expression didn't change. "Could you call her?"

"No, she has her phone off during meetings." 

"Well we'll just have to wait, won't we," she said, before turning on her heel and walking out. 

The waiting continued, but now I felt optimistic enough (which is something I never thought I'd say) to walk around a bit, get my blood flowing again. I'd only done three laps of the room before Mum sailed back in, looking serene. 

I shot her an evil look as she took Rhys's hand and lowered herself into the seat I had been occupying. "How is my little baby?" she crooned, playing to the crowds, otherwise known as the other parents. "Why weren't you with him Skye? He needs love and attention."

I rolled my eyes. "I was with him. I'd been sitting with him for hours before you turned up, and only just got up to stretch my legs. The doctor wants to talk to you."

"No need to be so snappy Skye, not while Rhys is so ill." She sounded like butter wouldn't melt. 

I bit back a snort, trying to avoid a fight right here in the ward, and reached over to press the buzzer by Rhys's bed. The doctor came powering around the corner, like she'd been waiting for me to call.

"Mrs Monroe?" she asked Mum.

Mum nodded, a look of concern plastered on her face. 

"Rhys has got a stomach infection, and we need to keep him in overnight for observation, and attached to a drip to get the nutrients he needs. Is that alright?" She asked. 

"Of course," Mum said. "Anything to get him better." She was playing 'concerned mum' very well.

"Where were you, Mrs Monroe?" The doctor enquired. 

A flash of terror whipped across her face so quick you'd barely notice it. "I was at a meeting. A very important meeting." She had no idea how cold she sounded. 

"Well, you need to take more interest in your children, madam, especially when they're ill. Skye has been fabulous, but if we'd discharged Rhys then and there, I doubt she'd have been able to get him home. Your children should be top on your priory list, not work, and if we suspect you're neglecting your children, we can call social services, and ask them to investigate." Mum looked terrified. "We won't, but you need to know how serious this is." 

"I understand. My husband is out of the country, and I'm trying to keep up my job and care for these two, while keeping an eye on my eldest daughter at university, and its a tough juggling act, but I understand." Mum nodded meekly, trying to convince the doctor it wouldn't happen again. I chewed on my thumb to keep from saying something and ruining everything. 

The doctor nodded and bustled out again. 

"Skye, come with me," Mum snapped under her breath, taking off towards the corridor. I followed her past the worried parents, some of whom managed a smile for me. When we got into the corridor, Mum whipped around and let rip, not caring who was there. 

"How DARE you tell that doctor those horrific lies about me! You've been making things up, haven't you, about what a terrible parent I am, and how I never look after you! Telling everyone who'll listen you're being neglected! Poor little Skye whose mum doesn't care! It's all lies, and I'm fed up of you making me into the bad guy! Just get over yourself and your egotism! It's not all about you, you know! Your own brother is lying there in that bed severely ill and you had to make everything about how bad your life is, and how miserable you always are! You're always moping around, always wanting attention, and I can't deal with it any more! I need to focus on Rhys. Remember him? The one who's lying there almost comatose! Just... get out of my sight. I can't bare to see you right now." She turned away and began to go back into the room. 

"I did not tell anyone anything," I said, my voice shaking, "and if I had, it would've all been true. All I did was sit there, worried to death about Rhys, when you didn't even rate him high enough on your list of priorities to cancel your meeting. I hate you."

She pursed her lips. "Pot calling kettle. You're hardly easy to love, now just go home. Get out of my sight."

"How can I get home when you don't care enough to take me?"

"Walk, call a taxi, I don't care, just don't be there when I get back." Her voice was acid as she opened the doors and breezed into the room. 

I leaned back against a wall, and sank to the floor, exhausted with all the drama. Hugging my knees into my chest, I tried to choke back the tears. I reached into my pocket and turned on my phone, before remembering I couldn't use it in a hospital. I hauled myself to my feet and stumbled down the corridor, following the exit signs, ignoring those walking past me. Clutching my phone so hard the edges dug into my hand, I was just trying to hold the bits of myself together. I really hated my mother sometimes, and it was obvious she hated me, it was just difficult to hear it. She'd chucked me out of my own house, for who knew how long. I didn't know what to do. 

Taking deep breaths of the polluted outside air, I tried to think about things rationally. First, I needed to call the taxi company. When that was done, I called Chris. 

"Hello?" he said, his cheery voice echoing down the phone lines. 

"Hi..." My voice cracked. 

"Skye? What's the matter?" He was so concerned, so nice, I couldn't help it; I cracked. Tears began falling in earnest, like a full blown monsoon, and I sobbed and sobbed, embarrassing crying noises escaping.

"Skye? Calm down, take deep breaths. It's all going to be okay. Just calm down and tell me what's happened." I could hear the fear in his voice. 

I took shuddering breaths. "I had a fight... with my mum... and Rhys... and... I can't go home... and... can I stay at yours tonight? Again... Sorry."

"Of course you can. Just calm down and we'll talk about it when you're here." I knew that wasn't going to happen. I was going to have to dodge that conversation. "How are you getting here?" 

"I called a taxi," I said. 

"Okay, well, I'll see you soon okay? Everything is going to be fine."

As soon as I put the phone down I realised what a mistake that was. I'd opened a whole new can of worms. He was going to want to know what was going on, and I couldn't tell him. It was my life, not his, and it was going to stay that way. I thought about lies I could tell, or ways to dodge the conversation the whole way home, and while I was slowly packing some things. I'd never needed my secret little bag more. 

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