Half-Way

When Anne was 14, her happy family life was all but shattered when she was diagnosed with a terminal disease.
Two years on, Anne is learning to live with it, and accept her fate, when a new opportunity for life is offered to her, known as the Drug.
In a bid to restore the joy that she had experienced in her earlier childhood and help her family earn a bit of extra money, Anne becomes a guinea pig in the testing of the Drug.
But with an untested drug comes surprises - Anne is thrust into a new adventure that she never asked for, facing the dead, and the struggles of being half-way between life and death.
Can the Drug really cure her illness? Who is the Antagonist? And can Anne and her friends find a way to come out better in the end?


(I apologise so much for this crappy summary. I'm no good at these.)

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2. Chapter 1

ANNE

The early morning sun rolled over me like a sweaty hand tugging me awake, insistent, hot, unpleasant.
For a moment, I contemplated turning over and letting myself sink back into sleep – sweaty hand or not. It wouldn’t be too hard, no one would complain about me skipping out on school.
I wasn’t without reason – I was sick. Sick kids can stay at home.
Except that I was a different kind of sick than the other kids usually are. Already, I couldn’t remember how many days I’d missed of school because of this unforgiving disorder over the past two years. 
For me, sick almost seemed like normal.
And kids that were feeling normal… they went to school.
With a shaking hand, I rubbed the sleepy twitches out of my face and tried to encourage my eyes to welcome in the morning.
Struggling to stay open, they caught sight of the picture I kept on my bedside like a symbol of hope, of motivation. In the frame, a frozen version of my parents beamed down at me from our lush green back garden. Each of them held one of my baby sisters in their arms –still swathed to the nines – and my brother and I grinned at the day.
I fumbled for my phone. When I finally placed my palm on it’s cool exterior, I couldn’t help but stop for a moment. Was my arm paler than normal? 
It already looked awful. 
Once, I’d been a chubby kid, and it had shown all the way to my fingers. Now, I could hardly be called slim – skinny might be a more accurate description, or fragile.
I sighed, forced my mind away from it, and finally checked the time on my mobile.
09:30. Crap.
School started an hour ago. 
Trying to get to maths would be a lost cause.
Trying to get to geography might be a waste if I couldn’t get my body to move fast enough.
Eventually, by 09:45, I managed to pull myself out of bed.

This was a common morning for me: Wake up late to an empty house, eat a bowl of cereal in my pyjamas, clean my face, brush my teeth, take 10 minutes just putting my uniform on, throw up my bowl of cereal, clean my teeth again.
Then shoes on, and out of the house at 10:45.
Right. Geography was a lost cause.
With break as a buffer, I could probably make it to English, but that also depended on the buses and how quickly I could walk.
Standing uselessly outside of my house, I gripped my phone and stared into it’s LED depths for some courage – take the other option, call my godmother, guaranteed get-there-on-time cure for the problem.
Except that I didn’t want to be a pain. My godmother was a housewife, content to look after her son and sort out the house.
But that meant that she had a full day, and taking me to school disturbed her from what she always said she should be doing in the house.
Not that she ever complained about taking me. In fact, she seemed happy to take me, she always insisted it was fine, and it was a way to get her boy out of the house.
Okay.
“Deep breaths.” I muttered to myself, taking one, “You can do it.”
The dial tone trilled, and trilled again, and again.
Clouds were rolling in overhead.
My whole body tensed.
And then-
“Howdy-do?” Came my godmother’s weary but happy voice. 
“Good. Good.” I wanted to reply with something jokey, like ‘No worse than usual’, and then casually ask her if she was okay, but it didn’t come easily, “Um… are… are you okay?”
“Yep.” She hummed, “What can I do you for?”
“Um… I’m… running late for school. I was wondering if-”
“No problemo! I’ll just pack Josh’s stuff up, and I’ll be right there.”
“Only if it’s no trouble.” I insisted.
“Of course it’s not, don’t be silly.” She huffed. I said this every time, and she always replied exactly the same. “I’ll be right there.”
“Thank you. Again.”
When the conversation was over, I breathed out a sigh of relief and let my tense legs release, dropping me onto the step at my front door.
I leant back against red-paint finish of the door, and belittled my stupid anxiety.
I hadn’t always been anxious like this – shy, but not anxious. My anxiety had revved into motion a few months after my sickness did. I couldn’t stand the constant look of worry that people commonly wore as they looked down at me. That pity was insufferable.
Growing terrified of upsetting people with that worry, I became hesitant to ask for help, then to ask for anything. Completely by accident, and before I knew it, I had started to act like everything was fine to make sure that the people around me could be happy, growing panicky if I even thought that they weren’t because of me.
Except that they would have good cause to be unhappy. Except that everything wasn’t fine. I was terminally ill, and the treatment wasn’t working. So the worry carried on, and so did the panic.
I threw myself head first into a vicious cycle – I grow stressed because of the disorder, stress is a cause of the disorder, stress makes it worse, I stress more, disorder gets worse, stress gets worse, disorder gets worse… and so on.
It was a big pile of crap, to be honest.

“So, how have you been feeling?” My godmother prompted, the wobble in her voice a clear indication of trying to remind herself to not remind herself that I was dying.
“Alright.” I replied, simply, and lowered myself further into the musty grey seat of her car.
“Yeah?” She mumbled, then picked up her tone again, “How’s chemo working?”
I couldn’t help but grimace. Absentmindedly, I adjusted my chestnut wig, and fiddled with a strand that hung around my shoulders.
“Alright. It’s working alright.”
In the front seat, Josh wriggled in his bright green car seat and burbled a response.
I imagined he was saying ‘Be honest! It’s going crap, isn’t it?’
I smiled. Imagined a baby’s first word being ‘crap’.
“Oh! There’s a smile!” My godmother trilled, “So it’s going well?”
I contemplated taking the baby’s advice.
“Yeah.” I said instead, my voice catching and coming out as a hoarse whisper.
My godmother looked at me with eyes that didn’t believe me as I cleared the gunk from my throat.
“Well,” My godmother hummed, trying to lighten the mood, “Here we are, my love.”
The sand-blasted orange brick of the school loomed before me; even that seemed dull under the sky-smothering clouds above, and under the altered view of my dying eyes.


The library was hot. Too hot. My face was producing enough liquid to dehydrate an elephant – liquid I did not have to spare.
Supressing a great sigh, I slid my half-read book back into my bag and began the process of dragging myself to my feet from where I sat on the floor. 
When, finally, I managed to stand and stood panting from the effort, a bitter thought crept across my mind. Why could these people not see I needed a seat? I couldn’t just sit on the floor, I was sick!
I filed the thought away as arrogant and unnecessary, reminding myself that I don’t know the circumstances of others.
But doubted they had circumstances that required a sitting place that was easier to stand from.
My arm felt strained under the weight of the library door as I tried to exit. The librarian’s assistance filled me both with gratitude and shame.
Once, I thought, I could do everything for myself. Now I can’t even push open a door. As though I am some small child who can’t do anything.
Feeling my eyes growing wet I bit my lip and moved on down the corridor. I know where to go when the library was full – somewhere air conditioned.
There was a room by the food tech kitchens that the teachers didn’t use anymore, not since I was in year 8. The door was always unlocked, there were enough windows to ensure heat was not too hot and cold was not too cool. Most importantly, the air was filled repulsively with the smelt of hundreds of types of food, burnt and ruined by hundreds of students over tens of years. Only I, in my desperation for privacy, saw it as an appealing place to sit.
Sinking into a chair, I felt the tension in my legs disappear and felt almost relaxed. For a moment, the pokey plastic school chair seemed like the most comfortable thing in the world… until I breathed in again and felt my ribs individually move along the cold, hard plastic and twitched instinctively away from the feeling.
Instead of getting my book back out I yawned and folded up my blazer to use as a pillow.
Outside the windows, the day was getting brighter, and warmer. Some of the other kids were wasting their water splashing each other from their bottles, or running around the steaming tarmac.
Looking at it made me feel like I was sweating again. I closed my eyes and felt the rubbery dryness of my mouth. My tongue felt numb, and lack of food had allowed a metallic taste to linger strongly on my taste-buds.
I remembered, many summers ago, lunchtimes were happy times. My friends and I would play. Would enjoy the weather. Would eat.
Now they still did those things. Elsewhere. Without me.
It was understandable – why stay with a dying girl when you’re in the middle of puberty with your own problems? There was no normal around a dying girl, except for the normal of the habits the dying girl created.
Not that I was alone – though afraid to share my worry with my family they weren’t without intuition. I knew once I was ready to talk, they’d be there. I was lucky, I supposed, to have no doubt in my mind that that was true.
Nor was I friendless, per se. Legally, but not per se.
“Everything alright?” Came the voice of my friend over my drowsy thoughts.
“Not really.” I replied, yawning again and opening my eyes to look at them.
“Not really?”
“Not at all.” I smiled wryly.
Captain Dathers was a science teacher that didn’t like gendering. It wasn’t clear to me whether they were a man or a woman, biologically, but I’d learnt years ago that it didn’t matter. Because what Captain Dathers was, essentially was a human being who cared and whom I could call a friend. 
Today, their short-cropped black hair caught the beaming light and shimmered iridescently from what they referred to as ‘secret dye’. The school had strict rules for kids and teachers both – no eating in class, no mobile phones, and gosh darn it, people better not be able to see your personality through your appearance. Translation: No jewellery, no make-up, no funny hair dos and absolutely no unnatural colours.
Captain Dathers was a rebel, but you could only see it when the light caught their hair just right.
“You know you’re not allowed in this room.” Captain Dathers said with a smirk, and pulled up a chair on the other side of the neighbouring table, so as to not invade my boundaries.
“Tell someone with a door key.” I retorted.
“You’re a cheeky one.”
“So tell on me.”
We both grinned then. 
Yeah, Captain Dathers was a rebel, and that’s why I liked them. There was no fear of getting in trouble here. Only understanding. I often wondered what happened in Captain Dathers’ life that made them so accepting of these complicated things, like personal space and mental disorders and illness and disobedience.
I supposed it came with fighting your way into the position of head of the science department only accepting gender-neutral pronouns when people talked about you. I didn’t know for certain, though.
“Done your science homework?” They asked, voice smooth, not too loud.
“Who for?”
“For me.”
For a moment my heart was in my throat, then I grimaced and settled.
“That was cruel.” I rasped. “You don’t set real homework. I’ve thought about the difference between sex and gender a hundred times for your ‘homework’.”
“Good girl.” They laughed heartily, “I’m sorry. Everyone needs a little prompting sometimes. A little distraction.”
At that, I smiled slightly. They were taking my mind off… that.
The rest of lunch break passed by in silence and cosy warmth. Captain Dathers checked books – only because they were obliged to – and I closed my eyes again, dozing and day-dreaming.
When I woke to the final strike of the bell, Captain Dathers was gone and the noise of kids yelling outside was dying down to nothing, slowly.
My form teacher would be wanting me in my form room, would be fretting that the sick kid wasn’t there for the register again – how could they know whether to check me in or not with no friends to let them know I was present and not dead?
Another sigh, and I was able to get to my feet and out of the room.

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