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July 6, 2011
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I loathe who I am. I hate what happened and what might happen and I hate that I’m helpless. I hate it all, but I hate the kind looks hidden in the lingering glances the nurses give me the most. The only thing really there is pity, and I can’t stand pity. I never could. I don’t deserve it either. I’m not the victim, more like the culprit, the reason my parents are lying in hospital beds behind doors that I can’t muster the courage to walk through. All I wanted was to be taken more seriously, I was older after all, but maybe wanting it only proved that I wasn’t ready. Maybe if I had known that before, I wouldn’t be here now, trapped. Maybe then my eyes wouldn’t be itchy and red, my heart twisted in knots. But I can’t do anything about it. Not now anyways. Why was I so stupid?

“Make sure you stay safe, Annie, okay? Listen to whoever’s in charge, don’t go exploring on your own, and make sure you always wear sunscreen. Promise me.” Mom’s voice had broken through the half-silence in which we had been stacking clothes. I nodded, rolling my eyes. That’s when everything really started.

“Alright,” I answered. “I know what I’m doing. I’m thirteen for heaven’s sake. I don’t need you nagging me. There, look, we’re done unpacking. Can you go now please?” Mom’s answer was to grab me in a hug.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” she whispered in my ear, looking around the dimly lit cabin that was to be my home for the next week. I couldn’t wait for them to leave so camp could officially start. I nodded. Emphatically. Pushing Mom away, I got to my feet.

“Come on,” I said, looking at her and Dad. “You can go now.”

“Okay. Are you sure—”

“Yes! I’m not five anymore, and I don’t need you to stay any longer. Just go, would you? I want you to leave,” I insisted.

“Anna Marie!” Mom sounded shocked, but Dad just put a hand on her shoulder.

“Let’s go, Lizzie. We can’t keep her with us forever,” he said quietly, a funny tone tainting his words. At the time I couldn’t process what it was. They headed out the door, and I let them leave without even a goodbye. Should I have apologized? At the time, I didn’t think to, actually glad to be alone, thrilled even. How was I so shallow? All I had felt was freedom.

The door clanged shut, and even then I thought it sounded rather final. My own stupid pride wouldn’t let me say the two simple words ‘I’m sorry.’ Later I realized why Dad’s voice had sounded different. It was sorrow, mixed in with resignation. And it was my fault. Maybe I already did feel guilty, maybe my conscience was coming to light, but I all I did then was push it away, like I did with my parents. I am such an idiot.

Is this what growing up means, the endless fear and helplessness? Because then I don’t want it. What I want are my parents to make everything okay again, for time to turn back, for it to have let me do something different. Thirteen? I feel more like three, waiting for someone else to fix things because I can’t, because I’m too stupid.

“Sweetie, are you okay? Do you need anything?” I blink, brought back to reality. As my brain slowly processes the nurse’s words, I shake my head and turn away. I don’t need pity.

Am I okay? Stupid question. I haven’t been okay since it happened, since I found out.

It was the last day at camp, waiting for my parents to come pick me up. I had been full of stories to tell.

“Annalise, I’m afraid I have something to tell you.” Had Mrs. Lockwood been standing there a moment ago?

“Anna,” I automatically corrected, my eyes flicking to her face. For a moment she didn’t say anything, hesitating for whatever reason,

“Annalise,” she said again, “I’m going to drive you to the hospital. Your parents got into a car crash after dropping you off. They’ve been in the hospital since. I’m sorry.” Mrs. Lockwood brusquely picked up my suitcase and started heading out the door. A hot flame crept up my face as I sensed the other girls’ eyes upon me. Even so, it took a moment for me to follow. Had she just said—I couldn’t even go there. My mind refused to allow it and numbly I obeyed. The car door slammed; had my feet really carried me this far? My fingers fumbled with the seatbelt, nothing more than a grey-brown blur.

With the whir of turning gears, the car started and nothing was left to do but mull over the situation. Mrs. Lockwood didn’t break the quiet. She never did know what to do with kids, so why did she run a summer camp? Soon, scarier thoughts take over.

My parents—still in a hospital—a week—car crash—didn’t know. Why didn’t I know?
I shot a glance at Mrs. Lockwood, but she didn’t look up. What if I had known? Would I have lasted the week? Probably not. I was already losing any degree of control that I had had, unable to cope. I needed someone else to straighten out my life, my mistakes. I was already nothing.

Now I’m worse than nothing. What I am is a black hole, messing up everything that dares come close. My parents are strapped down in hospital beds, IV needles stuck in their arms, but I, who caused their pain, simply wait. What a coward. So much for wanting to grow up. It’s hard to imagine that only a week ago what I wanted most of all was to be alone. Now all I want is to have someone to lean upon, but there’s only me. Why can’t growing up happen in a nice, even line? Time plays tricks though, making it so things come in spurts, not the way we expected.
If my parents had stayed longer, if I hadn’t made them leave, would the drunk driver have passed already? Would it be someone else’s little girl out there crying her eyes out, someone else’s life in danger? Would my life have stayed the same?

It didn’t matter anymore. I whisper, “I’m sorry.” I’m not even sure who I’m apologizing to. My parents? God? I don’t stop to think about it. There must be someone out there. I wish I could disappear because I hate that I pushed them away when they were there. I hate that I have no idea what is going on and I hate that I’m glad to be protected, sheltered. I hate that now even I pity myself. I’m nothing but a stupid kid. I need my parents back, need to see their faces, need to hear them say ‘It’s okay’ one more time. “Please.” The last word passes my lips in a murmur; then I hear the news.
“Annalise,” the doctor’s voice is kind, too kind, “I’m so sorry. Your parents—” All I hear after that are phrases, horrible words like “were already in comas for a long time,” “never even felt it,” and again and again, “I’m sorry.” I crumble, choking on air that never reaches my lungs. My body shakes with sobs, but not a sound leaves my mouth, or a tear drop from my eyes. It can’t, for in this black hole, there’s nothing left to fill the void. They’re gone, everything’s gone, really and truly gone forever. Stupid, stupid me.
Sorry doesn’t even begin to cover it.

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AddieDay said...
Jul. 23, 2011 at 12:13 pm

Please leave comments on this! Even if you hate it, I want to know why.

~The Author

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