From the very first moment we come into this world,it's a struggle to survive. A rough and tumble journey of epic proportions awaits us, taunts us, even as we lie there wet and scared, mouths open to cry, eyes squinched shut with tears. It's a gasping breath of surprise that escapes us then, a strange, forgotten memory where we all wonder what we've gotten ourselves into.
It's no different the second time.
When my mouth opens and I gasp for breath, my eyes flicker open and I see nothing but white light. It cascades down around me like rain, opening me up to my rebirth, pulling me into this world by force.
There are voices, more than one, I think, but I can only pick out that one, single word. I'm like a newborn in every way; I've even lost my vocabulary. Hands are touching me, I think, but I'm not sure because I'm still stuck halfway in the womb of the world, and I'm trying to push my way out. My arms and legs feel heavy, like they're filled with sand, and my head is thumping hard, pulsing as it draws desperately from blood that isn't mine, sucks it up into a tube and pulls it inside of me.
I start to struggle.
Like a babe, I kick, and I scream, and I want to know why I'm here and how I got here and who was cruel enough to put me here.
Red blood dripping across white tiles, staining them crimson. Wet moistness everywhere, coating me, dragging me down. Glass clattering, tinkling like wind chimes.
I fight to breathe as the light breaks into pieces around me, shatters like glass and stabs my eyes with hot darts of pain.
That one word, that voice.
At least there's something that I know: Emmett Sinclair. Even in this daze, I recognize that sound. Somehow, I know that he isn't really there, that I'm drawing on memories instead of reality. The voices around me are free of emotion, clinical, talking about blood loss and vital signs and a bunch of other shit that means nothing to me then. Nothing.
I don't remember who he is to me exactly or where I met him or what happened between us, but I do recognize the sound of his voice.
“Claire, are you alright? Do you need some help?”
Yes, I whisper this time. Yes. I tell the truth, and I think my lips actually move, form the word and push it out into space. Yes, I need help. Can you help me? Will you help me?
“Claire, even when you think there's only one road to your destination, you can always find a scenic detour.”
I try to lift my arms, so I can sit up, but I can't move them. My mouth opens again and lets forth another cry as I gasp for breath and collapse into the hospital bed.
The blood loss takes over and I pass out.
I don't know how Sleeping Beauty felt when she awokefrom her enchanted sleep, but if it is anything like the way I feel right now, then I can guess she was one pissed off princess. My head feels like a balloon, attached to my body by a thin string, one that's liable to snap at any moment. My eyelids are weighted down with stones, and my left arm feels cold and painful. Fluids pump into me and slide up my veins, making my whole body tingle with the invasion.
I slap at the sore spot with fluttery fingers and wince when the needles jab into my skin. My eyes snap open suddenly and flick back and forth in a desperate attempt to focus on something, anything. My brain is racing, trying to recap the last few … hours? Days? How long have I been out? And, in fact, why am I out? Where the fuck am I?
The treehouse … Emmett and I making love … Oh. And Marlena. The glass. The blood.
I press my hands over my ears and hear the thumping pound of my pulse, beating away inside of my empty head.
What happened? Did I take it too far?
My head whips around and my vision blurs for a moment, fading to black and then springing to technicolor in an instant. Bile rises in my throat and my eyelids flutter. I lean back with a groan while white blotches of color fall in front of me, obscuring my view of the hospital room, the mounds of flowers that line the tables on either side. The whiteness flitters around like a butterfly, popping up here and there while I try desperately to blink it away.
“Oh my God, Claire.” The voice is familiar to me, one that I've had ringing in my ears my entire life. Right now, it's choked with tears, afraid and ecstatic both. Mom? I think, but I'm not ready for words yet. My mouth is so dry that it hurts, like my saliva's turned to sand. My tongue grinds against my teeth as I try to regain control of my basic motor functions. Ones that I should've never lost in the first place. I dig through my skull looking for memories, trying to pull together a play by play of what happened.
An accident. A mistake.
Anger hits me then, like a freight train it barrels through me and makes me dizzy. The power of the emotion is so strong that when I finally do get a glass of water lifted to my lips, I have a hard time swallowing past the rage in the back of my throat. Marlena came in and did what she always does, sticking her nose in other people's business. I want to blame her for this, but I know deep down that I'm the only one at fault. I didn't do it on purpose, but I did do it. It was me that refused to put food to my lips, chose instead to put a blade to my skin.
My vision clears, but I won't look at my mother. I just can't right now. Instead, I focus straight ahead, at the door. In walks a doctor, a beautiful one with a full figure and a head of long, dark, silky hair. Already, I dislike her. She has sharp eyes and a small mouth that's set in a smirk, but not at me necessarily. I can tell from the lines around her mouth that this is just the way she is. Not good. I know what this looks like.
I can hardly get my brain to form the word, but my lips move. Suicide. Luckily, nobody sees this.
The doctor swings a tablet out from under her arm and flicks the screen with her finger. She's using an iPad instead of a clipboard. Fancy. Guilt starts to creep in then.This must've been very expensive. I can't do this to my family. I have to get out of here now. My fingers slide across the bed and touch the mass of tubes. It's only then that I realize there's one that isn't in my arm. My head flops to the left, and I see it.
“Mrs. Simone?” the doctor asks, coming forward and holding out her hand. I hear the slight creak of a chair and assume my mother is standing to greet her, so they can talk about me like I'm not here. I don't like that. I don't like that at all. It's my life, and no matter how stupid I'm being, how reckless, how careless, those are my choices to make. My eyes remain locked on that … that thing. I try to reach up to check, just to be sure, just so I know what's really happening to me. Just so I know that I'm attached to a feeding tube.
I start to panic.
“What's going to happen now?” I hear my mother say, but I'm hardly listening. Instead, I'm trying to guess how many calories are in that bag hanging nearby, full of some fatty, disgusting goop that's being pumped through my fucking nostril and into my stomach.
A whimper escapes my throat and both women turn to look at me.
“Hello there, Claire,” says Smirk, MD, looking at me like she knows how badly I'm suffering and doesn't care. Yeah, I decided that maybe I kind of wanted to get help, but I don't want it forced on me. Oh God, I just want to make my own decisions.
But I'm weak, oh so weak, and there isn't any fight in my body, just my spirit.
“I want Emmett.” I croak these words out, force them through a tight, dry throat and out my chapped lips. “I want to see Emmett.” My mom looks horrified, face scrunched up like she's found out I've got brain damage or something. I barely look at her. Instead, I'm staring at the doctor. “I'm eighteen years old. I'm not a minor.”
Dr. Smirk gives me a patronizing look.
“Glad to see you're awake, Claire. The nurse will be in shortly to check your vitals.” She doesn't acknowledge my statement and instead reaches out a hand and places it on my mother's shoulder, drawing my mom's green eyes over to her and off of me. Thank God. Right now, my mother's looks are less than pleasant. I can't tell if she's irate with me or if she's just happy to see me alive. “I'd like to talk to you in the hallway for a moment if you wouldn't mind. We got a call back from Bayview Hills.” My mother nods and reaches down to pick up her purse.
I watch them go with rage boiling inside of me, cooking my soul, charring it black.
I want to reach up and wrap my fingers around the feeding tube, yank it out of my stomach and throat and storm out of there, but I'm not a fucking TV trope, so instead I just sit there and hold back a scream.
If they send me to Bayview Hills, I'll walk right back out and keep doing what I'm doing. I don't want their kind of help. I don't want rules and regulations and people hovering over me with clipboards. I want Emmett Sinclair and his easy smile, his arms with their tiny scars, his beautiful brown eyes. I hope he hasn't given up on me. But he should. Emmett should go find a girl who's happy with herself, that makes him happy. He doesn't even know me, not really. I mean, maybe he already has walked away, thrown my stuff on the lawn, gone out to drinks with a pretty blonde from work.
The rage turns into a fury. I fling the blankets back and stare down at my legs.
My stomach rolls and I end up leaning back with my eyes focused on the ceiling and tears pouring down my cheeks. What did I just see? What just happened? I sniffle and sit up again.
I'm not wearing Valentino anymore, not Alexander McQueen, not Roberto Cavalli. No, no. Claire Simone has fallen far. She's got on a pale blue hospital gown, thin, cheap, like a wisp of smoke hovering around these … these sticks. A scream builds in my throat. I see sallow skin wrapped around bone and knees that are bigger than my calves. I lift my hands up to my face, catch a glimpse of white bandages wrapped around my wrists. My fingers are so little, long and thin, like witch hands.
No. No. This isn't me. I glance around quickly, eyes flickering back and forth like fireflies. I'm fat. Claire Simone is fat and huge and disgusting. I pull my legs over the edge and let my bare feet hit the floor. No, her feet. They aren't mine. I have pudgy feet with big, ugly toes.
I stand up and drag myself over to the table next to the partially open bathroom door. The IVs and the feeding tube come with me, pulling their metal stands along behind me.
I snatch one of the cards from a jar of roses.
Get well soon! We love you, Claire. -Jenn and Leanne
I toss it to the floor. Next card.
Claire, you are and always have been one of God's angels. -Auntie C.
I'm sorry, and I love you, Claire. -Marlena
All of these pieces of paper with my name on them. My heart starts to pound and my vision whirls, sending me stumbling sideways. But of course. What did you expect? That you'd switched bodies with someone? This is you, Claire. And you're not fat. You're skinny, Claire. You're skinny and you're dying. That's the truth, so get over yourself and deal with it or they'll deal with it for you.
I hit the edge of the bed and I start to fall. The door opens and people rush in, but they don't get to me in time. My head smacks the floor and I get the rare and blessed opportunity to flee this world for another, at least temporarily.
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