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Author's note: ICP is a disease in which the nervous system does not send the signal to the brain. They can't feel pain, heat or cold. But they can feel normal senses, like a poke, or a blanket.
I wish I could tell you I felt the pain I deserved for putting them through this.
My body was flung forward, the seatbelts restriction seeming to take an eternity to come into an effect clasping me back as I exhaled a panicked breath. I was frozen, my white knuckles still holding a death grip against the steering wheel but my eyes seemed to betray me. I could smell the metallic copper tang of blood, and my breathing picked up. Vibrant lights fading in and out; but the screams and cries didn’t stop pounding in my head. I saw the metal dig through my skin. My eyes the only proof.
The robotic strum of my heart, reminding me with a feverish beat that flooded my ears in the otherwise silent room, I was alive. The smell of bleach and old people hit me, and I felt my face crinkle to block out any more of the estranged scent I was far too used to. I narrowly opened my eyes letting a fluorescent stream of light interrupt my blank mind. The monitor’s robotic tune switched pace, playing the sudden worry inside of me, out loud for whoever could hear.
“Sage, sweetie.” Called out the raspy voice only a long time smoker could hold. My mom. I turned my head slowly, and saw her lean body extend towards me – an attempt to comfort me where her hands did not know where to go. They fluttered slightly in the air. The awkward feeling was mutual. She finally decided to pat down my hair that was a straight strawberry blonde. I sat up – a sudden head rush pried at my brain, but I was too determined to let it distract me. But Mother Dearest had her own plans. She pushed my shoulders back and I slumped.
“Sage, Annabelle isn’t any better. Kaylin is dead.” She said her tone completely monotone. But it wasn’t the first time I heard the news. It was the third or even fourth that she realized she couldn’t sugarcoat this for me. But I couldn’t accept it. Like it was another dimension or something, it just couldn’t be true. My best friend could not be dead. It just wasn’t possible, that just couldn’t happen. She had to keep reminding me. Which made my stomach coil every time that sentence even started.
I guess it was my mom’s reminder that I needed to stay put and get better. Because my friends were either dead or dying. But that was again a useless bargain to keep me in bed, because honestly I wanted to die with them. I didn’t want to leave this hospital by myself. Leaving Annabelle behind, I mean she still has hope. A coma isn’t death, yet.
The doctors and nurses came in on a steady basis, scribbling on the clipboard – examining all of my stitches and then leaving me alone in this room, with the TV on low. Whenever the traffic report came on I couldn’t bear to watch it. Just the sight of the road on the fuzzy screen made me feel like a nervous wreck. Then I would think of Kaylin and Annabelle, resulting in me flopping over onto my stomach, burying my head in the pillow and staring at the fabric of the pillowcase, studying each line of linen that covered the pillow. I couldn’t accept the reality. But the flashbacks, they were persistent.
“Sage – watch out!” Was Kaylin’s feeble attempt to make me somehow get my small Honda out of the way of this eight wheel truck sliding towards us. Annabelle didn’t even have time to open her mouth before I turned the car out of the road heading towards the guardrail. But my attempt, remained just that, an attempt. I remember watching the world spin as if it wasn’t me inside the car. Watching the lights dance and twirl before everything went black, my body giving out with the impact or maybe the car flipping over, it was impossible to remember the details of something that only took five seconds. Five deadly seconds.
The thing was, I could only emotionally suffer. I didn’t need painkillers, because I was born immune to what most people fear. Pain. But it wasn’t what it was cracked up to be. Just as I was drowning in my own self-pity, I heard light foot prints hit the tiles. I expected it to be mom, who insisted she’d be right back, which she repeated several times in a shrilled voice as if she was the duct tape holding me together. Maybe she was. I looked up, my eyes betraying me. There was my brother, the one who was supposed to be in Iraq.
“You look like crap.” He said, watching my every move as I shifted my position in the bed to look at him, feeling the scratchy sheets rub along my skin. I instinctively reached for my hair to pat it down, a habit of mine but he just smiled. It was a tired smile, crease lines formed around it that I didn’t remember being there before. Stretch marks where his eyes narrowed against the lights. He was tanner then before, his pale blue eyes faded from the sun. He sat at the end of the bed.
“I thought you were –“ The sound of my voice made me pause. It was too light, disfigured like I was just waking up.
“I had to come check on my little sister.” He said, not offering anymore on the topic. I nodded, glancing down at my arms, the only skin revealed from under the blanket. They were lined with scars, a pattern I added too frequently. A jig saw puzzle of my past. Micah followed my eyes, and glanced at the deepest permanent gash. It was faded, from when I was in elementary school.
“I remember that. You decided to show your friends your super power. You jumped off the roof with a cape on.” He said, shaking his head but a smile creased at his lips. I wouldn’t get used to the buzz-cut anytime soon, too used to his shaggy brown hair. The same color as Moms.
“I landed on right on my arm. Then I got straight up. It was you that realized my bone was sticking out.” I said, and remembered Anabelle fainted after seeing the bone jag out from my skin. Micah caught my eye as if he knew what I was thinking, but he knew better then saying anything. He was always the person I could look up too, and he always seemed to know what to say or when not to say anything. I felt that warm tingly feeling inside, like the one on Christmas morning when you see the presents. It was good to have him back. Especially now.
He hugged me, his short sleeve cotton shirt wrinkling against the hospital gown, and that’s when I broke down. I was never one for getting all emotional and touchy, but everything inside me, instead of loosening, just got tighter. Like my chest pulled together. The Christmas morning feeling gone. The tears soaked my face, and Micah just let me hug him. I could taste the salt against my tongue.
Why couldn’t I be immune to my whole brain exploding and my heart ripping to shreds?
The smell of maple syrup and grease welcomed my nose, as my eyes remained pressed shut. The worn in fuzz of my sheets begged me not to leave, but the thought of Micah stealing the last piece of bacon made my body sit up right. Apparently, it was a step behind my brain though because the room started spinning. I blinked quickly, and maneuvered myself so my feet hit the wood floor. The turquoise walls, covered in pictures looked the same as I left it weeks ago.
The largest frame held a collage of pictures of me from previous high school years. Kaylin and Annabelle in most of them, their smiles seemed so faint now. Something I was used to seeing every day when I went to school. I glanced at the latest picture. Taken a day before the accident. Kaylin’s brunette hair was pulled up in a bun, and her skin was a natural perfect tan. Her hazel eyes gleaming towards me, Annabelle beside her sticking out her tongue squinting her electric blue eyes with lighter brown hair in a braid. Then there was me, who was towards the edge of the picture holding out my arm as I took the picture. I was laughing at Annabelle’s face and the picture came out kind of crooked, only of my faint green eyes visible. I bit my lip, turning away from the picture – avoiding looking back at their eyes.
The smell of hickory smoked bacon grew stronger as I padded down the stairs. The kitchen was large, the cabinets mahogany with silver handles. The countertops, dark green granite speckled with a navy blue. The tiles were a lighter green, smooth against my bare feet. The island, with a stovetop facing the kitchen was where Micah was sitting in a tall bar stool, reminding me of mornings that seemed ages ago where we would fight over the last pancake. He took a bite of bacon, his eyes averted from the news only for a second to glance at me, and then back.
“Morning Sage.” He mumbled towards the TV. The sound of the newscasters voice voided the silence.
“Morning,” I replied, my voice sour. He glanced at me again, and I pretended I didn’t notice. I started mumbling to myself, trying to see if my voice was stuck at the vicious level, as if I was pinning away all possible company. I heard Micah chuckle in the back round.
I piled the leftover bacon on my plate to Micah’s protests.
“Don’t hog the hog! C’mon Sage I only had three pieces.” He growled, reaching for my plate. This was the Micah I grew up with. Still himself, immature at heart. I laughed, sticking out my tongue and pulled away. He chased me around the island.
Mother Dearest stumbled in from her office, her eyes narrowed behind her glasses. The door slamming behind her. She held her mug clenched in her hand. “Micah.” She hissed. He held out his hands in mock defense. Before she could ask if I was okay, I walked out the front door bare foot and in my pajamas with a plate full of bacon.
I sat on the grass, watching the blue sky. The sun mocking me, with a bright grin. It shouldn’t be smiling, I didn’t want it to be. Where was the dramatic movie rain? Where I can sit out here, staring off into space like I’m in a music video to a depressing song. Taking a bite of bacon, I sighed, tucking my legs underneath me as the grass tickled my ankle, where my baggy sweatpants rode up.
The world kept going after the accident. The world didn’t stop for Kaylin’s death. Didn’t pause for Annabelle’s coma. I mean, I didn’t expect it too, but the world still revolved, and I fought it. Trying to stand still, as everyone got back to their lives I was trapped trying to get back to the pictures in my room. I didn’t want to move on, I wanted everything to go back to my normal.
I glanced at my foot, stretched out in front of me. The scar lining upwards from my heel. I stepped on a piece of glass and didn’t notice till I tracked blood onto the kitchen floor. I remember Mom freaked. I smiled slightly to myself, holding a now empty plate. The faint sound of a lawn mower stretched along the street and I headed inside. Mom was washing dishes, and Micah was out of sight. She turned towards me, and smiled. Her teeth whitened – but faded slightly with her obsessive coffee drinking. She tucked a stray brown hair behind her ear.
“Kaylin’s mom called, her funeral is Tuesday.” She said, looking at me. Her eyes looking me over. I kept composure, throwing on a poker face.
“Oh.” I murmured, nodding. That meant facing the facts. I wouldn’t be taking any more pictures with Kaylin. I wouldn’t spend any more hour long conversations on the phone talking about the immature boys we hated and loved. No more Friday movie nights. My mom leaned to hug me, but I took off towards the stairs.
I heard Micah’s music come from his old room that mom quickly changed into a guest room. I guess she hated seeing his old stuff there, it made her all teary eyed when she thought of him in the army. I walked into my Mom’s room, looking at all the neat pictures she had lined on the cream colored wall. One of me when I was a toddler, lined with goggled and mittens so I didn’t claw my eyeball out of chew off a finger. Which actually was possible. There was another of Micah chasing me around the yard, my hair was longer and blowing in the wind, my feet barely touching the grass. Micah wasn’t far behind, his hand outstretched. I followed the line of pictures, pausing. There was a small picture on the white carpet. I bent down, the carpet pressing down under my weight. I grasped the picture, and pursed my lips. It was my dad. Someone who was never a big part of my life, especially because ever since I was born all he wanted to do was cut me open and experiment.
“Sage, you don’t understand how lucky you are. To live after that, sweetie. We almost lost you, and it’s a miracle you didn’t break anything.” Mother dearest reminded me, before kissing my forehead, and pushing my bangs away. I shook my head, so my bangs fell back in place.
She pushed her lips into a tight line. “We almost lost you, you lost more then half of your blood and –“
“Left the hospital with nothing more than a concussion and some meds. Bye mom.” I said turning towards the school, but she grabbed my arm hastily.
“So,” She continued. “Be careful, and if you get a headache or want to come home, I’ll pick you up.” She murmured, her voice raspy and soft. I nodded, pushing the door open and getting swallowed by the school’s mob of people on a Monday morning. I turned to see my mom’s black Lexus drive away, and I faced the school, alone.
I took my regular spot in homeroom, two empty desk beside me. Tiffany came over to me and frowned, her eyes mocking one of a puppy dog.
“Oh my gosh! It’s a miracle you survived!” She clasped her hands together. “I feel so bad for you, that’s just so sad!” Her voice shrilling after every sentence. I couldn’t help but wince as she smacked her glossed lips together and continued. “Sage, feel free to sit with us at lunch, we want to know all the deets!” I raised an eyebrow, and she took my silence as a yes, smiling, and turning away. She patted down her short denim skirt, and twirled her finger through her bleached blonde hair. I sunk in deeper to the seat. I was pity popular now. They wanted to know about the accident, and once they knew, and attempted to care I’d be alone again. I took a shaky breath, and it split through my body as once again I was forced to face the facts. Time kept moving whether I liked it or not. Homeroom bell rang, and I caught the look from a countless amount of people. Their eyes wide, and their lips slightly pouted. The I’m sorry look. I escaped the hall, stepping into English class, greeted by a row of eyes. I shot my attention to the ground, dust speckling the white tiles stained with dried on dirt. I found an empty spot in the back, as even Ms. Libton shot me her version of the look, her worn brown eyes, natuarally small widened, watching my face and scanning me over before turning back to the board, scribbling in her block letters against the dark green chalkboard, the smell of the chalk rising in the classroom. My eyes darted around the room, posters of inspirational sayings and famous authors decorated the white walls. Ms. Libton’s words went straight out my ears, my only thoughts of how I could just get out of here. My finger tapping against my thighs in a sort of frantic behavior, as I stared at the writing scribbled on the desk. Dark pencil marks showed doodles of hearts and stars, probably a product of a bored student like me.
* * * *
The bell rang, and for a split second I was excited for lunch. Then I remembered I had no Kaylin, no Annabelle to talk too. No one to talk about Maria’s fake boobs with, or complain about all the pity looks too, even if it was because of them. The hallways were quickly packed, and maneuvering through the hungry mob of people wasn’t fun, especially because I hated crowds. This made me terrible at parties. I managed to push through the mob, receiving an impact of a few elbows, but it did nothing to me, well possibly a bruise. I’d have to check later. I felt my breathing slow down, once I had some knee room, and I took a spot at an empty table, I slid my fingers in my pocket and pulled out three dollars my mom gave earlier, and I crinkled them between my thumb and index finger, staring ahead into the wall – as the smell of French fries and sounds of laughs filled the room, I didn’t move. Not until I was accompanied, the table shaking as someone’s elbows impacted against the plastic. I cringed, turning my attention to a girl I only saw a few times before, usually outside the school on the corner.
She narrowed her eyes, examining me. Repeating what I probably did to her, instead of introducing herself. I put my elbows on the table and raised an eyebrow.
“Yes?” I said, forcing a gentle tone something that just didn’t come naturally for me anymore. Her thick lips turned at the edges, lines creasing against her pale face.
“You’re the chick who can’t feel pain, right?” She asked, her tone impassive, I simply nodded in return. She looked at me, disbelieving but didn’t say anything more – she just leaned forward and punched my shoulder. I felt the initial pressure of her fist make the impact, but nothing more followed. I assume it must have been hard, because the skin between her black eyebrows crinkled, as she then repeated it again. She growled under her breath.
“That’s so unfair.” She hissed, leaning back in the chair, and her feet leveled up on the table.
“Who are you?” I asked, my voice breaking higher. She removed her hands from behind her head, stretching it out across the table, her hazel eyes waiting for me to shake her hand.
“Clines. Megan Clines.” She said, and I shook her hand.
“Sage.” I replied. She nodded.
“I know.” I blinked in response, and she laughed dryly.
“I heard about your friends. That sucks donkey balls.” I nodded, realizing she was the first not to give me the pity look. And I appreciated it.
“Yeah. Uh, thanks for not going all sappy on me.” I said, my voice coming out awkward, probably because I totally lost any of my conversation skills.
She patted my shoulder. “I won’t go sappy on you, Sage.” She said, and I rubbed the money between my hand that was on my lap. Deciding against eating, while my stomach did some sort of foreign dance inside of me, Megan broke the silence.
“Hey, what do you have next?” She asked.
“Science.” I answered, only to see her shaking her head.
“No you don’t.” I started to correct her when she just raised her index finger.
“I’ll meet you outside on the left corner. We can go to the park behind the school. The teacher’s never check the playground.” She said, before leaving the table and strolling out of the Cafeteria.
I was never very easy to label, especially now. I didn’t even know who I was anymore. I used to think I was outgoing, fun but maybe that was Kaylin and Annabelle. But I could make myself something now. Start fresh.