The first time I saw her, it had been November. I often reflect upon the events leading up to our interaction.
The room had been glaringly, unnaturally bright. The marble floors were clinking and echoing underneath the shoes of passing doctors and nurses, rushing to get to whatever urgent event they were needed at. For fun, I would often imagine the scenario they were rushing off to. Beeping monitors and hysterical family members. It didn't seem like a very fun job, this entire 'saving people's lives' lark.
It was freezing by anyone's standards. Year old magazines and stained Ikea pillows littered the waiting room. Obviously a poor attempt at making it more comfortable, but the alluring smell of death was still wafted through the hospitals corridors, penetrating one's senses.
"Would you like to read something Haide?" Nurse Eric had his trademark gentle tone. He singled me me out among the small group of other patients, scattered across the four corners of the room. He was a young nurse, still enthusiastic about his job, though his green striking eyes were fading a bit with every day. Sometimes I wondered why. Perhaps he had been under the impression that by getting into this profession he would be saving people. Not watching people like me on their slow descent to death. I felt guilty.
"No, thank you," I had gritted my teeth unintentionally and there was a certain hostility in my voice that was at this stage second nature to me. He knew not to take it personally. My pre-appointment nerves seemed to squeeze a horrid personality out from me, in the same way a child sloppily pushes toothpaste from the bottle.
He handed me a 4 month old magazine anyway, which I attempted to flick through , and feign an interest in the latest celebrity drama. Jeanine walked into the room a few moments later, a large hyena grin forced on her small face, she was one of those people who seemed to think that a smile would greatly improve any forlorn situation. Jeanine was also a 5"3 blonde ball of energy with one dimple, a sloping forehead and an uncanny ability to make everyone in her imitate vicinity feel underdressed.
"Oh good I'm not late! Or else I am late and others are just even later, or I am so late that I've missed your appointment. Or I am just extremely early for your next appointment." She bent down to wrap her arms around my briefly, various feathers and sequins from her gown jabbing into me.
"The doctors are running late." I informed her shortly. Along with Jeanine's ornate abstract fashion sense and overexcited demeanour, she was never in possession of a watch. She snorted something that sounded like a muffled 'typical' but I decided not to call my sister out on her hypocritical nature, god forbid anyone else is anything but punctual.
"Mom is in work," she said uneasily, looking at me like she expected me to burst into tears at any given moment. Like I was the flame of a candle slowly being dipped towards a large mass of flammable gas, and in some respects, she was correct.
I clicked my tongue off the roof of my mouth.
It wasn't a very important appointment. I was just going to see her. It. Me.
Eric then called for us again, a reassuring smile sparkled across his lips and for a moment I thought of how well Jeanine and Eric would get along, had their interactions not been limited to the times when Jeanine took over nurse duty from mom. They refused to allow me go to appointments alone, despite the fact I'm 17. It was as though they didn't want me to adjust to the hospital norms. I wasn't sure whether this gesture was supposed to be a comfort for me or them.
They lead me through the long slim nauseating corridors. Eric and Jeanine struck up a polite conversation and I mentally thanked them for leaving me alone with my thoughts.
I looked at the pair in front of me. I imagined Jeanine in a wedding dress, an even more ornate than usual outfit with her blonde hair in neat curled ringlets. Eric would be in a dark suit. Maybe with a bit of colour or pattern here or there if Jeanine had any input on the matter.
I even imagined myself in some sort of spectacular bridesmaids dress. Imagining the fantastic patterns and beads Jeanine might put on it, but knowing that anything she would design would be beyond my imagination. My scraggly dark hair would hopefully be hidden by a fancy hat that would look completely and utterly ridiculous on me.
It was then hit me. It hit me so hard that it felt like my lungs were dry and heaving and crackling like tinfoil. My muscles tensed up and wound up close together like a ball of string, my heart pushing against a stale heavy force called gravity,and my stomach squirming like a bag of worms.
If this worked, I'd live to attend Jeanine's wedding. I'd live. I'd live through it all. I had never been doing anything but pushing back my timer further. More time.
I focused back into life at the last moment, barely stopping myself from colliding with Jeanine's hazardous bright orange dress. The pair were looking at me, blinking, clearly having said something I hadn't paid any mind to. "Sorry, what?" My words were only tinged with the tiniest bit of annoyance.
"Eric was just saying how he thought you should go in first. It's generally a rather unusual experience for patients to meet their um..."
"Creation Living Organism Nintom-based Experiment. Clone." Eric cut in helpfully.
"Right...that." Jeanine flicked her wrist, gesturing towards the bright red door, her bangles jingled melodically with the movement.
I nodded vaguely. Fatigue suddenly set in and my eyelids drooped along with my heart, small puffs of air escaped unevenly from my mouth. The door was heavy and rickety, the lock was rusted and it took me three attempts at turning the silver key before I could make my way in.
My eyes immediately traced the walls. Pumping and beeping and humming of various machines filled the room and I was uncertain of whether I wanted to continue further in. There was something eery about the dimly lit room (C.L.O.N.Es were light sensitive). Long clumps of wires lead from the machines to a long tube emanating small amounts of fog. I peered over at her.
She was smiling. An old smile. The one that looks like a dying flame on a weak match. The one that goes unnoticed on most people , but on her, looked like a long span of chains covering her jaw, over her mouth, the links creeping up along her cheeks and pulling at the corners of her eyes. Long thin ribbons of metal knitted together. It seemed like a smile to be dissected. Untangled.
It unsettled me and I slowly placed both my hands on the glass that separated her world from the real one. I knew she could feel, she might even be able to think, but not right now, she was in the early stages of development. She was too tired and too weak and she would live in these tubes till it was time for her organs to be harvested to replace my failing ones.
I leaned in close to the glass, looking down at her. It felt like she was staring back. Eileen. I decided to call her Eileen. I wasn't sure why.
"Thank you..." I murmured. I pulled back and turned to leave, but out of the corner of my eye, I swore I saw a nod.