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The worst things hit you right when you think everything is perfect.
It comes and tears down all your happiness and contentment to the ground, changing everything and everyone around you. There’s no way you can be prepared for what this unexpected alteration, or the way it affects you.
You just have to ride the wave of misery until it washes over.
I’m woken up with a pair of twin faces grinning down at me. Their identical blue eyes shimmer mischievously, and I just stare up at them.
“Why are you in my room?” I say blearily and their grins grow wider.
“There are only three more days of middle school!” they scream at the same time, and then proceed to jump onto my bed and bounce.
“Get off my bed,” I moan, and then I pull a pillow on top of my face.
“Don’t be so grumpy, Marie!” Violet says, poking me in the side. I feel her sister crawl over me and begin to poke me in the other side, giggling all the while. I groan and shove my way off my bed and stumble into the bathroom, only to find my oafish older brother shaving and getting the hair all over the bathroom counter.
“Frank! God, at least clean up when you’re done,” I cry and then stalk to my mom and step dad’s bathroom. Luckily, no one’s in there, so I slam the door shut, strip, and jump into the shower. The warm water washes away the kinks in my muscles, but odd aches in my jaw stays even after I clamor out and change into my clothes.
Must’ve slept on it funny.
I walk into the kitchen only to find my step-dad, Vince, cooking without a shirt and my three-year-old half sister Gina dancing around his feet. From the way she’s currently dressed- curly brown hair pulled into two uneven pigtails, black turtle neck and bright pink shorts -I guess my mom went to work early. Violet and Rose are sitting at the island discussing something or other.
“Morning twins!” I say cheerily, feeling less moody now that I’m out of the shower and freshened up.
“Wow, it’s like a whole other person,” Violet responds sarcastically. I stick my tongue out just as Vince places one and a quarter pancakes in front of me. He places five in front of my brother as he stumbles into the kitchen, blinking.
“Good morning you guys!” Vince sings.
I like Vince, I really do, but he’s sometimes a little cheery for my taste. I live with my mom most of the time but every other weekend, Frank and I go to our dad’s house an hour away. He hasn’t remarried yet, but he’s had the same girlfriend for the past two years. I hope they do get married. I like her, she’s sweet.
“Morning, Vince,” the twins and I chime, while Frank mutters something incoherent. Gina just runs over and grabs my leg.
“Ma-wee!” she squeals, and because she’s so cute I pick her up and set her on my lap.
“Hi baby! Would you like a piece of the pancake?” She nods her head. I cut off a small portion and hold it to her lips. “Open up!” I say, and her rosebud mouth pops open, allowing me to place the piece on her tongue. “Isn’t it yummy?” The nodding of her head brings my attention back to her uneven pigtails, and so I fix them.
“Aww, Gina, you’re so cute,” Rose coos at her, and pinches one of her chubby cheeks. Gina giggles and bats her hands away, jumping off my lap at the same time.
“Hurry up you three, the middle school bus is coming in ten minutes!” Vince warns and I nearly choke on my pancake.
“Oh my god, I need to hurry!” I state and then jump off the stool and run to my room. Since I do this almost every morning, you would think I would’ve figured out the whole ‘time management’ thing by my last year of middle school.
I quickly pull on my shoes, yank my hair into a ponytail, and then run out the door, screaming at the twins to follow me. Their laughter reaches my ears as I jog towards the tree at our bus stop.
“Marie, really. You don’t have to run, we have five minutes!” one of the twins yells at my back. I ignore them, and sprint faster.
Excuse me for being paranoid.
When I turn the corner, I see my bus stop crowded with the usual patrons, half of whom I have no idea who they are. The only ones I care about are the twins, who somehow managed to beat me to the tree, Susan, who is sitting in a branch halfway up the tree, and Tai, my Vietnamese friend who is currently rooting for Susan to fall out of the tree.
“How did you beat me?” I scowl at the twins. They both smirk and do that stupid ‘zipping-up-my-lips’ motion that they know irritates me so much. They should know, considering we’ve been friends since birth. Literally, I was born minutes before them in the room next door.
“Morning, cutie,” Tai says, slipping one arm around my waist. I shove it off, rolling my eyes, and he pouts. “Aw, you don’t like me anymore?”
I roll my eyes again. “I never liked you in the first place.” One of his hands fly to his chest in mock hurt.
“Marie, why so cruel?” he whines playfully. I just ignore him and turn to Susan, who is slowly climbing back down.
Tai is like the playboy of our group. He flirts with all of us, but has never actually asked any of us out. It really gets annoying after a while, but he can be funny as heck, so we keep him around. Plus, one of our friends, Georgia, has a major crush on him. I can understand why, too. He’s tall for an eighth grader, almost five foot ten, with midnight black hair that constantly falls into his face.
You kind of have to be blind not to notice how cute he is.
“Hey Suze,” I call up to her back. Her blonde head whips around, and she smiles at me before jumping down. That girl is like a trapeze artist, I swear.
“Hey. How high did I get? Higher than yesterday?” She asks. I purse my lips.
“Maybe. I’m not sure.” I shrug my shoulders.
“Oh, you’re so much help,” she says sarcastically, and I grin at her just as the yellow Twinkie bus rattles up. Everyone groups together and shoves their way onto the already-overcrowded vehicle, my friends and I at the back.
“Ugh, we’re probably going to be stuck sitting on the floor again,” Rose complains as we slowly grow closer to the glass doors. And of course, she’s right. We end up sitting on the grime-covered floor with the poop and smelly feet.
Thank goodness we’re the last stop.
As soon as the bus pulls up to the school, we all sprint off it and into the school, sarcastically crying out about how fresh the air is and how beautiful the sky is. Everyone gives us funky looks, but they really should be used to our antics by now.
As we walk to our first class, I begin to feel slightly lightheaded. I close my eyes and shake my head a few times before stopping. Rose, who shares my first class, gives me an alarmed look when I stop moving.
“Hey, you okay?” she asks, concerned. I blink a few times and then smile.
“Yeah, fine,” I murmur. She looks relieved and then waves at me to follow her into the English classroom.
That’s when the chest pains start.
At first they’re barely noticeable, and I just ignore them. But as class wears on, they grow harsher and harsher until I can barely think, let alone see straight. I just close my eyes and place my forehead on the cool table, hoping the pain will go away soon.
My parents have enough to deal with because of Gina. I don’t want to give them anything else to worry about.
Suddenly I’m being prodded in the side, and I sit up quickly only to be greeted with Rose’s face in front of mine.
“C’mon, the bell screeched,” she says, and I painfully stand up, wincing. Her eyebrows knit together as she studies my face. “Are you okay? Really?” she asks again. I close my eyes and take one deep breath.
“Fine,” I manage to get out. Her face doesn’t change, but she helps me out the door.
“I think you should go home,” she says, her mouth twisted into a worried frown. I shake my head, which doesn’t help the lightheadedness in the least. In fact, all it does is make me want to barf.
“Oh god, trash can,” I moan, and teeter forward until my hands are gripping the edge of the black metal canister. Rose approaches behind me, and begins to gently rub my back as I heave all the pancakes I ate that morning into it.
“You’re going home,” she states, and I nod before throwing up one more time.
As she leads me towards the stairs, I get quite a few disgusted and mortified looks. No one seems to care that I was just puking my heart out; they only think about the fact that the entire hallway now stinks of throw-up. It’s like they have no feelings.
I make it down one flight when the pain in my chest exceeds anything I’ve ever felt before, including the time my brother accidently hit me with his car. I bend down to my knees at the foot of the second flight, pressing my head between my legs. Rose yells at some sixth grader to go get the nurse as my vision slowly tunnels out, and my balance gets worse and worse until I’m tumbling down the stairs. People scream and move out of the way as I fall, but I never feel myself hit the bottom because I black out before then.
I wake up for second time that day with the twins faces hovering over mine. The only difference is that this time, their faces are overly worried.
When they see my eyes open, their eyes light up.
“Marie! You’re awake!” Violet yells way too loudly, so I cover my ears.
“Too loud,” I mutter, and her look immediately becomes apologetic.
“Sorry, sorry,” she whispers. I smile up at her.
“Hi,” I whisper back. “What’s wrong with me?” Both their faces fall, and Rose bites her lip.
“Let the doctor-person tell you,” she murmurs. I sigh discontentedly, but nod. I’ve never been the most patient person.
We wait, talking about random things for ten minutes until my Mom, Vince, and Frank come rushing into the room.
“Oh my goodness, Marie! Thank god you’re okay,” my mom cries, and then hugs me tightly. I wrap my arms around her thin frame and bury my head into her shoulder.
“Hi mommy,” I whisper, breathing in deeply and allowing her smell to override my senses.
I’m not surprised when I feel tears pouring out of my eyes and soaking her white blouse. She sits down on the bed and holds me gently, letting me sob all my fears into her arms.
I just want to be okay. I’ve never liked hospitals, not even when I was a baby according to my mom. She says I cried every second I wasn’t under anesthesia.
I can understand baby me.
“I called your dad. He should be here in half an hour,” she murmurs for me only. I mutely nod into her shoulder as the doctor enters the room.
“Hi Marie and… a lot of family?” he says confusedly, looking up from his clipboard. Everyone just nods, including the twins who know they’ll be kicked out if they say otherwise. “Alrighty then.” He smiles at us and continues. “Well, basically what happened to Marie is that she had a heart attack,” he says matter-of-factly. Everyone just stares at him, uncomprehending. His eyes grow wary, but he continues anyway. “According to her charts, Marie had a heart transplant as a child. It seems like she’s worn this heart out because of a mixture of the heart attack and other things. I’ve placed her back on the transplant list, but you shouldn’t worry,” she says, noticing my mom’s alarmed expression, “her heart will be able to pump on for at least three more years before we need to become concerned.” Everyone looks slightly relieved when he says that except for my mother.
“Why did she have a heart attack in the first place? She’s only fourteen!” she demands standing up from my bed. I zone out as they get into doctor-speak, the poor guy looking extremely overwhelmed by my mom’s expertise. I’ve been yelled at enough times by her to know firsthand how intimidating she can be.
I glance over at where everyone else is sitting and standing, and I’m surprised to see the twins crying, my brother sitting with his head in his hands, and Vince staring at my mom in shock.
“Guys, I’m fine,” I tell them, not quite believing it. The twins just give me tearful smiles.
“Keep thinking that, Marie,” Violet tells me, and then bursts into tears again. Frank just sits there, not moving.
“You’re incompetent! How did you ever become a surgeon?” I hear my mom scream into the poor guys face. Vince’s eyes grow wide and then he stands up, wrapping his arms around her and pulling her brunette head into his chest. She weakly sobs into his chest. The doctor guy runs out as soon as he sees my mom is distracted, and I can’t help but laugh.
Everyone looks at me, even the unresponsive Frank.
“What? The guys face…” I trail off, realizing everyone thinks I’m going crazy. And maybe I am. Shouldn’t I be the one crying my heart out right now? Shouldn’t I be the one completely flipping out?
It’s probably the medicine, making me feel all bipolar.
Everyone sits in there, sobbing and staring at me until my dad comes barging into the room, his girlfriend Delilah right behind him.
“What happened?” he asks my step-dad, noticing my mom crying into his shirt.
“She… she had a heart attack,” he stutters and my dad’s hand flies to his receding hairline in shock.
“Oh, god… Marie, baby,” he cries. He stumbles over to me and hugs me tight.
“She’s a little crazy because of her meds,” Frank says, speaking for the first time since he got in here. My bottom lip sticks out as I pout.
“I deny that accusation!” I yell loudly, causing everyone to stare and then burst out in giggles, tears from both sorrow and laughter running down their faces.
“Yeah, certainly the meds,” my dad says from his perch on the end of my bed. I just stare at everyone for a few minutes before turning to the twins.
“Where’s everyone else?” I say. “From our group, I mean. I feel no love coming from them right now!” My arms come flying down back onto the bed after I throw them up in exasperation. Rose and Violet just shake their heads, smiling strangely.
“They’re at school still, silly. It’s only one o’clock,” Rose tells me, and so I moan exaggeratedly, flopping one hand over my eyes.
“Poopy!” I bellow. Everyone just laughs again at me though, their tear-filled eyes spilling over as the laughter hiccups through their bodies.
A week later, I’m out of the hospital, but still forced into bed by my paranoid mother and father and Vince. The twins are even in on it, while Frank just gives me scared little looks every time he walks past my open door. He’s still pretty freaked out about everything, more so than anyone else. I really just want things to go back to normal, but everyone believes my heart will literally break if I take one step outside.
Well, everyone except my so-called friends, excluding Violet and Rose. Tai and Susan and the rest of our group have visited me a grand total of once since I had the attack. At least I know who my real friends are now, I guess.
Look at me, looking at the bright side of things even after my life turns to poop. I’m so proud of myself.