Titanium

Kerrigan Brady just wanted to meet her favourite band. Not like this. Never like this.

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13. -Twelve-

-12-

Have you ever been so bored that you could literally feel your brain start to melt? So bored that nothing interested you- the books on your shelf held no appeal, the TV felt lifeless, and even browsing the internet made you feel like you were wasting away where you stood? It was starting to get to me, not being able to do things on my own; I could understand why Mum was being so protective, so hovering, but it was stifling me. Max and Layla had almost taken shifts in coming to see me and take me out, insisting that I had to take the wheelchair wherever I went. I hated that stupid thing and the stares and whispers; people who recognised me would hiss my name between themselves and it seemed that the chair was all they saw.

Hell, I’d take my walker over the chair, even if it made me feel eighty years old and helpless.

Whenever I wasn’t being taken on my walks- like a family pet- I was sat in front of the television in the front room while Mum popped her head in every five minutes to check I was still okay. It was like the early days in the hospital again, when she refused to leave even for her own needs, except this time I was home and I was better and I was not a child, no matter how much they tried to treat me like one.

“Kez, I’ve got to pop to the shops,” Mum called as she breezed in, ignoring the sour look on my face as I looked up from the diary on my lap. I’d started using it if only for a joke, never believing it would actually help… but over the last week, it had become like my best friend. Every little thought was written in that leather-bound and closely guarded thing. Mum knew I wrote down everything I couldn’t tell her but she’d never asked to read it. I didn’t think I’d let anyone read it, ever.

“Can I come?” I asked, a sharp contrast to my usual request to stay. Mum beamed at me and went for the chair, but I stood up before she could reach it. “Mum, no. I wanna-“

She frowned, concern all over her face. “But your leg-“

“Damn my leg!” I shouted, louder and sharper than I’d ever intended. Mum jumped and stared at me as I stood proudly, fists clenched and shaking by my side. I didn’t usually have much of a temper, but when I did boil over, I had to wrestle to keep from spitting out things I didn’t really mean. “Mum,” I bit out, closing my eyes. “I don’t want the chair.”

“Alright, Kerrigan,” she replied coolly, and I knew I’d upset her just from hearing my full name. I couldn’t think of the words to say as I followed her meekly to the car, ignoring the discomfort of my stupid leg and the ache of self-disappointment in my chest. I hated to hurt her, the woman who had stood by me unwaveringly… but the car ride was silent, tense. Mum sat with the engine off, not moving, and I twisted my hands in my lap. “I’ve been smothering you,” she said finally, her voice thick with withheld tears.

“A bit,” I admitted in a whisper. Mum choked on a laugh and I turned to face her fully. “I love you, Mum, you must know that. But this… sitting around the TV? Only going out with company? I’m not getting better…”

She placed her hand atop mine, squeezing gently. “I know,” she mumbled, as if it was the hardest thing she could possibly say. “I just want to protect you, my love. You’re the world to me, Kerrigan.” I bowed my head, hiding tears, and Mum leaned across the seat to kiss the top of my head. “I’m going to Sainsbury’s. I’ll meet you back here in an hour.”

I nodded. “Thanks, Mum.”

She smiled and closed the door behind her. I watched her go, clenching and unclenching my hands. Now that she’d given me this freedom, all I wanted to do was follow her and make sure she was really okay. Gritting my teeth, I stepped out of the car and made sure I had my phone in my pocket, just in case. Suddenly a whole new realm of possibilities was open to me and I stared at the mall, trying to decide where I’d go first… before an idea struck me and I turned my back on it, determinedly walking in the opposite direction.

A few streets away was my old stomping ground, the field on which I used to play football. I figured that even walking as slow as I was, I’d make it there and back in an hour. I don’t know what struck me to go, because I knew seeing it would just make the reality of never playing again hurt all the more, but the fresh air was going straight to my head and I’d never felt better.

To my surprise, the field wasn’t empty. Four girls were running drills, instructing each other. I recognised their uniform and smiled to myself as I leaned against the rails on the sidelines, watching. My heart yearned to join them and show them how it was done… I wiped my eyes, feeling them start to sting, and took a deep breath to calm myself down. “Yep,” I muttered to myself, kicking my feet in the grass. “I’m gonna miss it.”

Walking away was hard. Harder than I thought it would be. Not physically- I ached, but I was quite used to that by now- but emotionally, every step was a fresh reminder that walking was a skill I’d only just relearned. I was back at the car with ten minutes to spare; Mum joined me shortly and didn’t mention that I’d been crying- my face was puffy, I knew it was- as she drove us home.

I hugged her briefly before heading upstairs, needing a bit of alone time, and collapsed on my bed. I must have fallen asleep, because the next thing I recall is sitting bolt upright in bed, breathing hard, and my chest so tight I was struggling to draw the oxygen I desperately needed. Flashes of a memory appeared in my mind, each one making me squeeze my eyes shut and grip fistfuls of my sheets to keep from crying out.

A gun.

A voice.

A shot.

Screams.

I couldn’t help letting out a low groan, sliding off the bed and pacing around my room. I was shivering, and grabbed a jacket, but it didn’t help. I felt like death, like darkness was creeping up on me, I was choking on my own emotions. My head pounded, my heart raced… I don’t know how long it lasted, but I came out the other end absolutely exhausted. My leg was on fire and, because I was standing by my door, the distance between me and the bed seemed impossible to navigate.

Sobbing with each step, I limped back over and caught myself on the bed, having to drag myself the rest of the way. My shaking hands went to the bedside table to turn on the light as the darkness and shadows pressed in, threatening to strangle me.

Staring at the ceiling, I felt the panic and terror slowly slip away and leave me tired down to my bones. I knew that even if I did manage to get back to sleep, it wouldn’t be good sleep and I’d wake up more tired than ever. Breathing out evenly, I rolled onto my uninjured side and pulled the pillow close to muffle my crying. I could work through this on my own, I truly believed I was strong enough. I could do this. I could.

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