If I Could See You Now

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My eyes fly open, I sit stick straight up, focusing on the muted wallpaper pattern before me. Two sounds register in my ears, a low beeping and a gasping noise coming from nearby.

Frightened that I'm not alone, but also fearful that I might be alone, I flick my head side to side, trying to pinpoint the gasps, as they only grow louder. My eyes stretch and then half-shut as I realize I am the one gasping. The beeping is the heart monitor.

Oh yes, I'm still here. But where is she? If I am here so should she. We did everything together, everything. I'm about to ask, but the words die on my lips, something tells me the wallpaper won't answer.

I shake it off, shaking my head a little and then I almost begin to ridicule myself—that hadn't really happened, I tell myself this now. I went to sleep, had a dream, and then I woke up. But I can't get away from the idea that was real, and it had all actually happened. I had been there, seen all of that, almost gone there. I had been to the Other-Side. The name springs effortlessly into my head, and I wonder where it came from.

I decide to get up, I no longer have use for a hospital. I get up and feel a nasty tug at my arm—an IV. I rip it out, then toss it on the bed. It is quiet after I disabled the heart monitor. Is it day, night? What is day is it? How long ago had I...fallen asleep? Where is everyone? Is this real? Questions plague my thoughts, stressing me. I don't know how to answer anything. Not right now. I feel a small swell of panic in my chest.

I am shaky, I need to breathe, my gasps haven't slowed down much since I figured out they were mine. I grab the hospital bed railing, and then swallow hard as I realize I am wearing only a thin hospital gown and just how cold it is in here.

I suck it up, having ripped an IV from my arm, I'm not about to back down because I am cold. I have to get out of here.

Creeping out into the deserted hall I feel distinctly watched, I know there is a nurses station at the end of the hall, fortunately no one is there. Then I realize that I have less time than I might think, for the lady's room door is closed, the light on. The nurse must be in there.

I run, soft shoe and silent, since I have no shoes on, merely thin white ankle socks which only further my silence. I'm at the stairway, pushing the door open, and, just as I slip through, I hear another door open.

Ah, the nurse is done.

Aware that I only have seconds before she sees the opened door, I run, pelting, down the stairs like my life depends on it, and it might. I can't go back to that room, to those tubes and needles and machines that made me go to the Other-Side.

This one's for you, I know you'd want me to be free.

~~~

It was early morning, just before eight, and Lucielle set down her coffee mug and turned to her mother, Sandy. They were both in the kitchen, just about to go their separate ways for the day.

"Mom, I think something's wrong."

"What?"

"I just feel like something bad happened at the—at the hospital." Lucielle choked a bit on her words, it had been doubly tough on her.

"Oh honey, I'm sure it's just because you miss her." Sandy picked up the mornings paper and flipped through it as she spoke.

She was always careful to blow off any concerns Lucielle had about her twin. It made Sandy nervous, it was too hard to deal with a sick daughter, much less talking about her. Sandy was good at avoiding names too, she felt that if names weren't mentioned, Emmalein would get better. What Sandy didn't know is that it only pissed Lucielle off and made her healthy daughter less cooperative.

Lucielle stood, irritated that her mother hadn't listened, grabbed her bag and keys, and drove to school.

Thirty minutes after Lucielle had left, Sandy grabbed her own bag to go to work, but the phone rang. Picking up, Sandy felt a squeeze of doubt--what if Lucielle had been right?

"Hello, Mrs. Wyatts? This is St. Amelia's Hospital, we have some serious news for you and your family."

Heart pounding, Sandy wasn't sure she could bear to hear the rest. She looked down at her feet, neatly matching and lined up in her black pumps.

"Emmalein disappeared sometime last night or early this morning. We don't know exactly what happened, but she either left or was taken away. We don't want to scare you, and we're sure that Emmalein is fine. We just wanted to alert you to the situation. It's highly possible that she could come home if she left by herself." The woman prattled on, but Sandy wasn't listening.

If she left by herself.

Sandy couldn't breathe. Emmalein, gone? As if someone would kidnap her.

The woman on the phone continued, "Mrs. Wyatts? Are you there?"

"What? Oh, yes, I'm here, I'm just a little overwhelmed to be honest."

"We understand, it's a unique and concerning situation."

"Thank you so much, now, if you'll excuse me, I must inform the rest of the family."

~~~

My heart is pounding hard, I'd just been rattled awake by a passing train overhead for the third time since I laid down here. But it is grey, early morning now, so I get up, take a few calming breathes, and try my best to smooth my hair into a semi-presentable state. I miss her so much, she should be with me.

The train above me chugs on its way, and I know that I too, have to move on. I am cold, hungry, and thirsty, and strange looking in my hospital gown and socks. My first order of business is to get some cash--but how? I don't know how to steal, and I am sure that I have no credit card or wallet on me.

This leaves an option that humiliates me, just to think of it. I haven't run all night and slept under a bridge for nothing though, but begging is so lowly, so homeless—but I have few options. I can't go home.

I decide that the area near a big shopping mall would be best, and since I have no idea where I am, I just start walking the direction that I hadn't come the night before. I'll figure something out.

It's hard going but I make myself walk for an hour in the cold. All the time I am busy piecing things together. My name is Emmalein Lenore Wyatts. I have a family, a twin, and a best friend. Life had been normal until I got sick. I remember being checked into the hospital after one episode that made my family realize I needed more than just them. I remember coughing a lot, and my chest constantly hurting. Doctors, nurses, people with charts and bright lights. Things muttered around me, about me, but never to me.

Nobody wants to tell someone they're dying. I think bitterly to myself as I trudge on past used-car dealerships and sketchy restaurants.

Then everything from right before I woke to this reality comes back to me. The lights, the constant sussurration of the voices, and the sense that this was the end of the line. But I'd said no and backed into something cold and hard, like marble. Then I remember mirrors everywhere, reflecting back my emotions. It was frightening—everything talking, overlapping, telling, explaining, begging, reaching. But I'd backed further into my cold marble place and held firm. I didn't like all the dark mirrors and complicated almost people I saw there. I screamed no, and they let me go back. Why?

I stop walking. If that was the Other-Side, then shouldn't I make some sort of announcement? I ponder this, and what all the hyper-Christians would say if I told them that it was really just kind of scary, and God didn't seem to be there at all. I sigh as I look around me, for the first time really look at everything.

A series of brick apartment buildings are to my left, across the street. The street is pretty much empty, a few rusty cars and a bent streetlight. Right next to me is a ghostly house, apparently I'd stumbled into the wrong kind of neighborhood. It is so hollow, so empty, I might've cried, but I have no strength for it.

There is an intersection right up ahead another block or so, and there lies a main road with cars whizzing past. I begin to trot towards it, my body aching from cold, hunger, and lack of sleep.

~~~

Lucielle leaned against the edge of the sink in the girls' room, breathing hard, her tears dripping down the drain. She'd just gotten out of the office, off the phone with her mother. Emmalein, gone. The thought replayed again and again. No clues, no ideas. Lucielle was to stay in school and sit by, while her sister, her best friend, her twin, was missing and in desperate need of help. Emmalein was still too sick to manage without her medications for very long, and Lucielle couldn't think of what would happen when time ran out.

Straightening herself, Lucielle looked at herself in the mirror. What if they never found Emmalein? She took a deep breath, ran a hand through her dark brown hair, and splashed a little cold water on her face to minimize traces of tears. She looked at herself again. Would she ever see her sister again?

There was something Lucielle needed to do, and it did not involve being a good schoolgirl. She went back to her class, even though she had only ten more minutes of it, explained to the teacher that she was needed home for a family emergency, grabbed her bag and left. She had needed the bag for her car keys.

In her car, Lucielle didn't quite know where to start, so she headed home, grabbed some snacks and maps, and rustled around in Emmalein's room until she found it--Emmalein's journal, which she'd never, ever read. But it might say something that would help Emmalein come home.

Lucielle took a deep breath at the front door, she knew she had to find Emmalein, because something was wrong and she was the twin, the one who got Emmalein like no other. Lucielle went out to her car and started the engine.

~~~

I feel queasy, empty but full at same time. I am standing at the intersection wavering, trying to keep myself strong. I feel watched again, and I try to tell myself it's just the people in the cars passing me, who can't help it, I'm sure. Hospital gown, socked feet, crazy hair, and I am swaying. I would stare too.

I'd been trying to thumb a ride, I'm not sure where I want to go though, and no one had stopped to pick me up so far. It's probably for the best. I haven't said a word since I ran from the hospital, from the things, from the Other-Side. Maybe I am getting a little demented, but I need some proof that nothing is going to change its mind and make me go back there.

I stick my thumb out again, remembering something from months ago, suddenly knowing where I have to go, she'd want me to, I just know it.

~~~

Lucielle stopped at Brighter Mornings, Emmalein's favorite place to get coffee, so she could read some of the journal and see if there was anywhere Emmalein would go. Lucielle knew that Emmalein hadn't been kidnapped, but her mom hadn't sounded so sure, not about that, not about anything.

Her phone beeped, it was a text from her mom, saying the school said that Lucielle hadn't been in her last few classes. Would Mom understand? Lucielle wasn't sure, so she played it safe, texting back that she hadn't been feeling well since she learned her twin had disappeared off the face of the earth, so she left to go calm down with coffee. Lucielle switched her phone off.

Lucielle opened the journal, hands shaking. It said nothing, Emmalein had written just a few random vents about people, guys she liked, people she secretly hated—the normal kind of thing. Until the last page, which was written in blue pen, unlike the rest, which was black pen. It read:

"I know I'm getting worse. There isn't anything in the world that will make this go back in time so I can be strong again, I've seen it take someone. I'm scared. I don't want to die. I don't believe in god, but what if I'm wrong? I'm scared of being wrong. I'm scared of saying the wrong thing to Lucielle and then never being able to take it back. I need her to come back and hold my hand through this, but I know she can't. She's gone already."

Lucielle paused from reading, What on earth did that last bit mean? Was it about her?

"I had a dream last night, I was in St. Antony's Cemetery, the place they buried her, and there was something else with me, telling me that this isn't as bad as it seems. But its voice was more than one voice and I was so scared, I bit the insides of my cheeks in my sleep. I woke up with blood in my mouth.

"So what happens now? I know today is the last day I'll spend at home, I just feel it. After today, something will have changed, and I don't think for the better. I'm so scared, how can I tell them I love them enough?"

The final question mark hung at the edge of the page, seeming somehow symbolic to Lucielle. She knew that there was some other key player here, but she wasn't sure who it could be. But she knew where to go, where Emmalein was sure to go.

~~~

A black car pulls to the side of the road, I open the door and get in.

"Thanks," I whisper.

"Sure kid, you look like you could use a ride, where you headed?" The man is older, a kindly air hangs around him.

"394 Orchard boulevard," again, my voice is in a whisper.

"I'm just running some errands right now, and that's not too far out of my way. Long way to walk though, I'm glad I can give you a lift." He seems chatty but not invasive—perfect.

~~~

I knock on the door, hoping that Gran would be home, hoping that she would help. She is home, flipping open the door with a sarcastic comment on her lips, she stops short when she sees me. But then she bars the entrance with her walker. After a moment of shock, she speaks, eyes glinting almost mischievously.

"Emmalein Lenore, what are you doing," it isn't a question, it is a statement. Gran is like that, a statement where others are a question.

"I left the hospital, it's a long story. I need clothes, and your car. Just for a little while, please."

"Give me one good reason not to call up your parents. Do they have any idea that you left?" But she lets me into her house.

An hour later I am fed, clean, warm, and feeling nearly healthy again. This house is golden, I think, but Gran hasn't let up, always asking questions. Why did I want the car? Her words echo in my head. I think perhaps I might know the answer.

"Can I go now?" I am being polite aren't I? It hurts to be here, with another person. I have to go.

"I want the car returned to me tomorrow, not a scratch on it, and I'm calling your parents in exactly one hour, so if you don't want them to come get you, I suggest you skedaddle." Oh Gran, how I've missed you. I grab the keys in her outstretched palm and do as she suggests.

~~~

The car had been both Lucielle's and Emmalein's, but since Emmalein had moved into the hospital a few months ago, it had become just Lucielle's. She was thankful she had it as she drove to St. Antony's Cemetery now, her hands gripping so tight on the wheel they were white. But Lucielle didn't notice, she was too scared that Emmalein might not be there. She couldn't bear it if the journal clue didn't work. There was nothing else, no other clues.

~~~

I drive to St. Antony's carefully, stopping at every red light and every stop sign. I know what i have to do, who I have to say goodbye to. She'll always be with me, a part of me that doesn't get to go away. I know you'd want this from me, you wanted it months ago, but I wasn't ready. Now I know I am.

It has been just a year. If I knew the date I could give the exact days and months since everything changed. But I am still completely, totally, unsure of when this is, if this is. My hands play fidgety games on the wheel, my eyes sweep the roads, but I'm not sure what I am looking for until I have a minor gasp-attack. But that passes as the car that looks strikingly like my mother's passes me and turns onto a turnpike.

I drive silently, except for the constant tap of my fingers that betrays how scared I am. I am not even sure why I'm going here, or why any of this matters. Why did I leave the hospital again? Ripping out that IV seemed harmless, but now I see it as the first step in a series of decisions that I haven't really made, someone else who was pretending to be me has made them. Is it possible that I am just watching myself go? With someone else controlling it all? I am both scared of that possibility, and I want it as a scapegoat.

The turn off to the cemetery comes all too soon for my ponderings, and during the time it takes for me to drive down the quiet street the cemetery's entrance is on, I become all too aware of the white noise from my car. My fingers have stopped fidgeting.

I am alone.

~~~

Lucielle parked her car and got out in St. Antony's parking lot, standing under gathered grey clouds obscuring the sun, the air was nearly cool. The sadness in the air was almost palpable.

It's just because it's a cemetery, she thought softly.

With fear she realized there was no one else here. She had been wrong. Emmalein was going stay lost and it would be all her fault because she'd been a bad friend, a horrible sister, and the worst kind of twin. Where are you? How could you do this? She slumped against her car in anger and sadness. Defeat sinking into her shoulders.

Lucielle's face crumpled into her hands and she sobbed, dry motions that she hated so much. She had to believe Emmalein would--a crackle, a crunch of gravel under a tire. Lucielle straightened up at once, her eyes widening.

~~~

I can't believe it, how did she know? I am very nearly offended, but I see through the front window of her--our--car my journal, the last page flicks through my head, making everything click into place.

I roll up beside her car, where she is leaning, and get out. I do everything methodical as I can. She speaks first.

"Where have you been? How could you put us through this? The hospital wasn't sure you hadn't been kidnapped. Mom has been a mess all day and so have I. I skipped school to freaking find you! You're sick, you can't be without your meds..."

Lucielle runs out of steam, her voice choking as if her voice is tight. She seems to have nothing more to say. I'm embarrassed, but I do not show it. Nerves of steel would push me through this so I could know, really know, that I'm not crazy. I brush it off—she'll forgive me later.

"I have reasons for everything I do, Luce, and I don't expect you to understand that. I'll come home when I'm ready, when I can." I shoulder past her, irritated. I have to do this, she doesn't understand. I have been to the Other-Side, I am near sure of it now. I need to make amends.

Lucielle grabs the edge of Gran's shirt that I am wearing and pulls. She speaks through clenched teeth, her voice no longer tight. Does she hate me?

"No, you need to come home. Today. do your s*** here and then you won't just get to leave. You don't know, you can't understand what this has been doing to me and Mom and Dad."

~~~

I kneel at the grave, still fresher than the others because it has only been a year. I'd never told anyone that she died, because no one would understand who she was, what she meant to me.

I'd met her at a clinic that I was getting tests done at when my illness first started. She'd had the same thing as me, her name was Amelia and we became clinic buddies. We didn't really see each other outside of the hospital setting, so neither her nor my family would have understood.

No one told me that she died.

She just stopped showing up for tests and treatments at our clinic. I was forced to figure it out myself. I asked doctors, nurses, everyone, they just gave my pained looks until a nurse--Nurse Kikki, I remember, she told me that Amelia wouldn't ever need to be treated again, and she was sleeping forever now. She treated me as a kid who didn't understand death.

Suddenly, as I kneel, I just know I'd have to find that Nurse Kikki, and thank her for telling me where Amelia had been buried. My eyes clear and I focus on the grave before me.

Amelia Benderhart. I barely knew her, yet we were closer than any people could be, because we both knew exactly, every step, of what the other person was going through. And now you're gone.

Did you go to the Other-Side? Was there another thing waiting for you? Why didn't you say no like me?

The thought that she could have come back and lived on hurts me now more than it ever did. I knew she was going to die. I know I am going to die. But I came back, and she didn't. Amelia didn't have the strength to come back. That is what hurts more than anything. She didn't even get to say goodbye, she choose not to come back to say goodbye.

I begin to cry, aware that Lucielle is only a few yards behind me, watching, confused most likely.

"Why couldn't you fight? Why couldn't you say no? Why didn't you come back to tell me? Why'd you make me go through this alone? You got it and nobody else has managed" I take a huge, wracking gasp of air, so clear, "To really understand what every day is like, knowing you're going to die, but oh God...Amelia I miss you so much."

A pause, complete silence, envelopes the trees, the air, and the graves, me, my twin, and my dead friend.

"Goodbye Amelia, I never said it and now I have. I loved you as the closest of friends, goodbye."

~~~

"I think I'm trying to understand and that's why I left." said Emmalein.

Lucielle and Emmalein were walking back to the cars now, and Lucielle was tearing at her pointer finger nails with her right hand. She didn't know what to say, what was the right thing to say? She couldn't come up with anything, so she just listened.

"The hospital terrified me. All those lights and whispers. No one ever told me I was going to die. I had to figure it out myself because of Amelia. She just disappeared one day. My best friend. The constant beeping of the monitor reminded me that I was alive, but I didn't feel alive. I felt like a vegetable, just lying there waiting to die." Emmalein stared straight ahead, her face stoney as she walked back to the parking lot.

"You wouldn't have died, Mom and Dad wouldn't have let you. I wouldn't have let you." Lucielle couldn't let Emmalein talk like this forever. They were at the cars now, standing awkwardly with graves behind them and a long car ride home before them.

Emmalein turned to look at her, and slowly searched her twin's eyes.

"Yes, I would have."

Lucielle began to cry for the third time that day. Silent, small tears that ran down her face, making her cold.

"And I think the hospital contributed to it." Emmalein then told Lucielle of her near death experience, the journey to and from the Other-Side.

It was growing dark out, and Emmalein just hopped into Gran's car without waiting for a response, so typical of her, thought Lucielle, but she couldn't stay angry. How could you with your twin you'd just learned had nearly died?

"Wait, Em, don't go just yet." A soft pause followed.

"Alright, you get two minutes, go." Emmalein was already sitting in the drivers seat of Gran's pickup truck, door open, so Lucielle had to tilt up to look at her twin. Emmalein had a slight smile playing at the corners of her mouth, and that made Lucielle smile too.

"I'm glad you said no."

"Yeah, me too."





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jasont727 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Oct. 1, 2011 at 2:38 am
This is really fantastic. I love the blending of reality and illusion, where at some points the reader is not aware if it is actually happening or if it mystical (for instance, the scene at "The Other Side.") There are some phrases and lines that really speak to me in this. Thank you so much!
 
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