I sit on my hospital bed listening to music and reading. I flip back to the front of the book to study the map. I look over it, taking in all the detail when I hear a knock on my door. Because Mum and Dad are doctors, they always manage to get me the best rooms. I was lucky enough to catch myself a private room this trip.
“Yeah, you can come in,” I call out. I hear the door open and I see curly hair pop around the corner.
“Hey there, Lainley,” He smiles at me. “Just though I’d pop in to see how you’re doing. And to ask why you didn’t accept my friend request,” he winks at me.
“So how are you, love?” Harry asks. “And am I not worthy of being your Facebook friend?”
I laugh at his remark and sit up in my bed. I close my copy of Lord of The Rings and place it on the table beside me. Harry takes the opportunity to sit on the side of my bed. He places his large hand over mine and looks at me. I jerk my hand from under his and bring it up to my chest. I cover it with the other hand and then look at Harry. He seems genuinely hurt by the fact that I pulled my hand way. A wave of guilt washes over me. I feel my stomach drop.
“I-I-I didn’t mean it like that... I’m not used to human contact,” I stutter.
Harry looks at me and smiles. “It’s okay, Lainley, but can I at least get a hug? It’s a start to opening you up a little more.”
I stare at him, with my eyes wide, “Um... I- uh- I,” I shut up and look down at my hands. I’m not ready for this.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I’ll go then. Sorry for making you uncomfortable,” Harry says with a nod of his head. He spins and marches out of the room.
Well I fucked that up. I push the horrible hospital blanket off of me and step out of the bed. I stumble a little my feet hit the ground but then I’m fine. I look at myself in the mirror and laugh.
“Wow, I’m going to be an escapee. I’ll tell my future children in Switzerland, ‘when I was your age, I was breaking out of places that were keeping me captive, breaking the law, living off of the land,’ when really what I mean will be that I Broke out of hospital, went on a bus without paying and stole food and stuff. Totally a good story.” I grab my bag from in the hospital room cupboard and grab a change of clothes from in it. I hurry into the bathroom and change into them. It’s a pair of black jeans and a tight grey singlet. I hate when my mother picks my clothes. She just picks the worst things for me to wear. Singlets do not suit me. Instead of going out straight away, I grab the hospital gown and tear a strip and tie it around my shoulders like a scarf for my shoulders. I poke my head around the door to scope out my escape route. The halls of the hospital are too busy for me to go unnoticed with the bandage around my head and the slight limp. I turn back into the room and see if I can find a way out from in there.
My attention is drawn to the window. I check it out, looking at the size and the type. The lock on it is just a twisty one so I can easily open it. But the flaw in this way is how am I meant to reach the ground unharmed? I turn around to look at the bed. No, I can’t do that. If the people around the hospital saw a girl with a bandage around her head climbing down the side of the building on a rope out of bed sheets, they’d definitely alert security. That won’t work either. I push the window open and have a look at the wall. I could possibly scale the wall, if I walked along the ledge and climbed down at windows. Of course, this would acquire the cover of darkness. Not too hard, seeming as though it’s almost sun down.
I heard footsteps and rush back to my bed. I crawl under the covers and pretend to be asleep. My door opens quietly and I hear the footsteps approach my bed. Whoever it is, they don’t say a thing, and they just sit on the end of my bed for a few minutes. I try to make my fake sleeping look as natural as possible. I’m quite good a faking to be asleep now after years of practicing as a child. The person gets up off of my bed and places a kiss on my cheek. I still can’t tell who it is but the scent smells strongly of familiar cologne. I’m not sure who the cologne belongs to but I brush it aside. I can’t keep my mind clouded. I need to be thinking about how I’m going to sneak out of the hospital. I hear footsteps leave the room and the door close but the smell lingers. I wave my hand around, getting rid of the smell. Soon, darkness falls over the hospital and I open up the window.
The wind isn’t strong so I don’t fear too much. I was never afraid of heights so this is pretty easy for me. I climb out of the window and hug the wall as I go. I get down to my knees and hang my legs over the edge until I feel the top of the window beneath me. I lower myself until I feel my feet land firmly on the next ledge. I look in the window and the room is empty.
I see a light flash on and I peek inside. When I see inside, I see nothing but candles. It confuses me so I continue to climb down. I move over a window though so whoever is inside the room with the lights doesn’t see me.
I jump down to the ground and stumble a little but regain control off my legs. Sadly, even though I’ve gained control of my legs again, I fail to stop myself from running into someone. I feel their arms go around me, stopping me from falling to my face. I look up and see a large smile; one of yellow pointed teeth. I begin to scream, but feel a hand cover my mouth.
The beast lifts me up to standing position, even though I can barely stand by myself now.
It laughs but it doesn’t sound like thousands of voices. It sounds like a boy. He sounds about nineteen.
“Hey, hey. Don’t freak out,” he says.
I do the opposite of what he asked and freak out. I fall into the bushes by the wall. I hit my head and feel blood trickle down my neck. I probably opened up my stitches. Great, that’ll be another trip to the hospital I just broke out of.
He holds out his black, pointy hands. I just stare at him, not accepting his offer. He looks from me to his hand. Then back to me again. He pulls off the black, spiky hand. He was in a suit. It reveals a tanned hand, a flawless tanned hand actually. I still refuse his offer. I don’t trust him. And so I should. Why would I trust someone who caused so much harm, let alone someone I bumped into at night in the streets?
He pulls his hand away and grabs at his mask. Under the mask sits another flawless piece; a set of dark eyes, slightly covered by a mop of black hair, with a gold stripe. He has a perfect smile and slight stubble. I stare at him, slightly confused. He puts his hand back out and this time, I grab it. He pulls me up and then shakes it.
“Hi, I’m Zayn. I’m sorry I frightened you. May I ask why?” He says, formally.
“I’m Lainley. And uhm. No reason,” I say.
“Can I offer you any form of transportation? Would you like me to drive you, walk you, ride you-”
I laugh and he covers his mouth when he realises what he said.
“You know what I mean. I can take you home if you would like me too,” He rewords.
“No thank you, Zayn. I don’t have very far to go. Thank you anyway,” I say ass I pull away from him and walk into the darkness. Well, I escaped the hospital. Now the only question I have is where the hell am I going to stay?
My mind travels back to when I had a friend.
I chased her around, following her dark brown hair as she disappeared around corners. I almost lost her a few times but I never lost track of her completely. I had no idea where we were. I didn’t know whether she knew either. I chased her anyway. We were deep in the woods; thick undergrowth tripping me up every few steps. She glided over everything. I followed her laughter and we reached a clearing...
I jog home and grab my school bag. Mum and Dad are still at work so I can run free through the house. I need to hurry though because it won’t be long until someone notices my absence. I pack my school bag with some food, a book, and some clothes and things I need. After I’ve got it all, I lock leave through the back door and head towards her house.
I jump the fence as soon as I reach her house and head to the woods that live along her back fence. As kids, we were never allowed to go into those woods but that didn’t stop us. I close my eyes and remember the way we went as kids. I take small steps at first and then they slowly grow bigger and faster. Soon, I’m running between the trees. I possess a grace I never knew I could get too. I jump over large bushes and glide between the large trees that cloud the path to the clearing, birds and other wildlife chirp and call.
I feel the ground under me become a lot smoother as I reach the clearing. I open my eyes and there it is in front of me; the massive clearing where I spent many days as a child with her. I haven’t been here for years. Lining the clearing is a large tree with a tree house built in its branches. I helped her build this, along with her brother.
The tree beckons me and I run straight through the clearing too it. I did through the undergrowth beneath the tree until I find the fragile ladder we built. I don’t know if it’ll be strong enough to hold me now but that doesn’t stop me. I push it up against the tree and climb up it. It’s a bit rickety but I still manage to climb up. I pull the ladder up with me and lean it against the wall inside of the tree house. I look at the walls, its covered photos of me and her. I knew her for only a few months before she was hit by a drunk driver. After that, I cut myself off from her family. I don’t remember much from that little bit of time, but it still hurts me to think of what I lost.
I take a seat on the beanbags that are placed around the floors and think. What made my friendship with her worse is that no one knew her. I don’t know what school she went too and it will always stay that way. I guess that’s what made people start to think that I was a loony, that I had a friend that they didn’t know. But I guess that’s what I deserved.
When you’re unhappy, you tend to think back to your actions from the past to see what you did to deserve this life. I guess I tricked everyone into believing I was nice. And I manipulated them. Manipulation is never good. I remember blocking kids out, even as a toddler, telling them to go away. I wonder how many days I ruined when I wished for solitude, not friendship. I guess I deserve this life because I made my parents worry about my mental health when they had to get me tested for autism or when I made them pay hundreds upon thousands of dollars to pay for my therapy. I deserve this life because I’ve always been about myself. I don’t help others because others don’t help me. I’m not kind or generous or caring. I’m selfish and quiet and notorious in my kingdom of books. I guess I’ve made people push me away and I guess I’ve made people treat me this way.
And I wish she was still here, to prove that I’m not crazy or mental or weird or retarded or stupid. But she’s not. And I have no contact with her family. I can’t even remember their names. Only hers...
I wipe the tears that form in my eyes and grab a match from my bag. I light a candle that is covered in dust. I don’t think anyone has been here since then. I blow the dust off of the candle and light it. It lights up the large tree house and I see the large holes that have formed in the walls and leaves that now have a home inside the structure.
I ignore the dust for now and read my book. I keep reading it until I hear crunching. I blow out the candle and peak through one of the holes in the wall. I see the outline of a tall boy. He’s wearing a thick coat, or at least, I think he is. I can’t quite tell with going by only the moonlight.
He seems to be searching for something hidden under the undergrowth. He seems to find what he was looking for a leans a large ladder against the tree. I gasp as he climbs up the ladder.
It confuses me. We only built one ladder for this tree house and it doesn’t look like one you’d buy from any store. It was uneven and tied together with vines found in the woods. I push myself up to the back wall. And stare the door down. Soon, the stranger steps in. I don’t think they know that I’m here but get suspicious when the candle is smoking. I see a match light up. It’s helped by manly hands. The candle lights up and I hear a gasp.
“Who are you and how did you find this place?” The voice asks. I recognize it instantly.
“H-Harry?” I say. I’m confused and tired and upset and I just slide down. Harry walks over to me and sits down next to me.
“You remember...” He says, not looking at me. “After she died, I never heard from you again. You stopped coming around here. I never saw you in public. It was like you dropped off the face of the earth. Lainley, it killed me. I lost my sister and my best friend. Then when my parents couldn’t afford the school fees for the private school I was attending anymore, I saw you and I had to act like I had no idea who you where... because you had no clue who I was. Damn it, Lainley, why?”
I listen to him but I don’t answer. Instead, I stand up and move towards the beanbags. I sit down and bury myself under blankets and pillows placed around the place.
“Say something, Lainley,” he says. “Fucking hell. Fine. Just sit here in solitude. I don’t care. But I know Gemma would.” At that, he leaves.
He doesn’t seem to question why I’m not in hospital but I don’t care anymore. I stand up and I pull down all of the photos of Gemma and tear them to shreds. I feel tears running down my cheeks but I don’t care. I light all of the candles placed around the tree house and grab a bottle of water from my bag. I also grab a shirt from my bag and pour some water on it. I attack the walls with the shirt and clean it until not a speck of dirt or dust is seen. I mop up the wooden planked floors with my shirt too.
I step on my shirt while cleaning and a puddle of water forms under it. Soon, the tree house is spotless and I walk backwards in content. I step into the puddle, forgetting that it was there and slip. I fall back and smack my head into the uneven flooring. I feel my stitches coming out even more and I swear in frustration and pain.
I don’t know why I came here. Or why I’m still here. I don’t know why I was ever friends with Harry or Gemma. I don’t regret it but I feel like it was a mistake sometimes. Harry was going on about how I forgot about him and this pace and about Gemma and about the time we spent together. I was six and then I lost my best friend. Everyone at school was convinced that they weren’t real and I guess I just accepted it. That’s when the therapy started. They convinced me that I was crazy too.
On the floor, in a puddle of blood in deep thought, I don’t remember passing out. But I do.
A warm hand brushes against my cheek and I jerk awake. There I see Harry standing over me. He jumps back and I realise that my sudden movement must have startled him. I look around and realise that I have been placed on one of the beanbags in the tree house. Why did Harry come back and why hasn’t he taken me back to the hospital. The boy must have read my mind as he starts to speak.
“I didn’t take you back to the hospital because you’re fine. Your stitches are still in your head. I just thought that you would be more comfortable on one of these beanbags rather than on the wet floor that you must have cleaned. Good job by the way,” he winks at me as he says the last sentence. I sit there with my eyes wide open.
“Wh-why did you come back?” I ask quietly.
He shrugs his shoulders at me. “‘Cause I was worried.” He turns around and sits on the beanbag opposite me. “Look, I’m sorry for the things that I said. I was just hurt about how easily you forgot about me and my family and how you forgot about Gemma. You didn’t come to her funeral, you didn’t come see us on her birthdays and on my birthdays and I know we were only really young and you couldn’t have known about much that had happened, but why did you disappear? Why did you disappear when I needed a friend the most and why didn’t you come back when you got older?” Harry’s voice cracked and his eye were watery.
“Harry, I’m so sorry. It just hurt so much when I thought about her. I thought that if I forgot, it’d get easier. I never meant to hurt you. I was just being selfish.” I broke off. I turn my face to the side and cover it with my hand. Tears start rolling down my cheeks and I break into uncontrollable sobs.
An arm wraps itself around my body as I shake. I cry into Harry’s shirt and I feel like he is crying too but I don’t dare look up to check because he might stop holding me.
I’m not sure how much time passes while Harry holds me but I know that at some point I stopped crying. I unravel myself from his arms and find him lying next to me, sleeping soundly with puffy eyes.
I found the packet of matches that Harry had brought with him lying on the floor. I grab the box and light a small candle. The room fills up with a dull flashing flickering light so I grab the book I was reading earlier and start reading it again.
The sun starts to rise above the horizon. I look out the small window and the light hurts my eyes. Harry is still sleeping on the beanbag on the other side of the tree house. I shut the book silently and tiptoe over to him and crawl back in next to him.
I close my eyes and let the rise and fall of Harry’s chest lull me to sleep.