It’s sunny outside the hospital glass. The trees are symbolically turning from green to shades of red and gold, and I can almost hear the wind whistling unrecognizable words through the air. It feels almost nice just sitting there on my newly cleaned bed sheets and staring out onto landscapes of nothing.
I hear a knock on a wooden frame behind me and turn around to see my mom standing in the door. “Honey? We’re leaving.”
I cling onto the sheets like it’s the last part of me I’m able to make sense of. “Can I stay just a little while longer, please?” I say.
Her dark-red lips strain a smile. “No, sweetie. No. It’s really time to go.”
I strongly dislike how she has changed into the kind of mother who soothes their kid up only because they feel a shit load of sympathy. All these cute nicknames are a façade she’s trying to build up way too high with way too much effort. I love my mother – but this part of almost dying is making me sick.
As soon as nurse Clarkson has checked in on me the last time, we exit the hospital. It leaves me strangely empty and with a sense of feeling like I’m going to miss the place and its’ extreme bustling. I might just also miss the victims in there that I have a fault in traumatizing.
I place my hands over my heart in one final prayer. Just before I open my eyes to the buzzing city street, I silently promise to come back. After all that’s happened it is so much I can do to make things better.
“There is no discussion. You’re going back.”
“But there’s only two weeks of the school year left! Mom, you can’t make me do this.”
My mother barely moves as she pushes the plate of mac and cheese towards me. “Of course I can make you go. And I will,” she says. “Now eat your food.”
I start gulping down the greasy pasta and fix my eyes on the tablecloth. Deep down I don’t feel any hunger, but I sneak another portion of the food from the stove anyway. Old habits stick, especially when I feel the self-loathing creeping up on me for the first time in forever.
Xavier High School is bigger than most and people sure know how to gossip. And I don’t want to return to its halls with whispers of my name echoing up against the lockers. I don’t want to be known as the girl who put her friends in a coma and almost died trying.
Two weeks of school – what does it matter? The hospital’s got my schedule full. My first session with the therapist is in a few days. My first support group meeting is supposed to be early next week. Because I like every other teenage girl read The Fault In Our Stars, I think I know what I’m in for in support group: a bunch of melancholy confessions followed by progressive group activities, like a bit of friendliness will put a Band-Aid on your internal wound. There is quite possibly going to be an August Waters sitting somewhere in the room, but unlike a certain Hazel Graze I won’t look twice in his direction.
My August Waters is in a hospital bed, seemingly still asleep after two weeks of pure torture.
They’re yelling in the backseat. It’s something about which ice cream they want as a 4 AM snack at home. The giggles are itching in the back of my mind like a stupid fly I can’t brush off my shoulder. Their slurred voices go one octave higher, and I resist my urge to cry out. Somehow I can’t truly express my frustration. Everything is a mess. And it’s their fault. All of it.
I’m not sure who says it, but a voice is then right behind my ear, warm and absentminded and just a tad full of mocking. “Penelope, why aren’t you smiling?”
For just one second, I zone out. Loose my focus. And then my hands slip.
When I wake up a scream is piercing my throat.