“I’m all the way here in Hawaii with you,” I say, repeating his words. “I never would’ve left my house if it weren’t for you.”
“So,” he says. He lowers his legs and takes my hand. “What do we do now?”
I don’t know the answer to this question. The only thing I know for sure is that this, being here with Olly, being able to love him and be loved by him, is everything.
“You should leave them,” I say. “It’s not safe for you there.” I say it because he doesn’t know it. He’s trapped by the same memory of love, of better times, that his mother is, and it isn’t enough.
I rest my head on his shoulder and we watch the near-dark ocean together. We watch the way the water pulls back and turns over and beats against the sand, trying to wear the earth away. And even though it doesn’t succeed, it pulls back and pounds the shore again and again, as if there were no last time and there is no next time and this time is the time that counts.
Someone has put me in a hot oven and locked the door.
Someone has doused me in kerosene and lit a match.
I come awake slowly with my body on fire, consumed in flames. The sheets are cold and damp. I’m drowning in sweat.
What’s happening to me? It takes a moment before I realize that there are many, many things wrong.
I’m shivering. I’m more than shivering. I’m shaking uncontrollably and my head hurts. My brain is being squeezed in a vise. Pain radiates out and crashes into the nerves behind my eyes.
My body is a fresh bruise. Even my skin hurts.
At first I think I must be dreaming, but my dreams are never this lucid. I try to sit up, to pull the blankets closer, but I can’t. Olly’s still asleep and lying on top of them.
I try again to sit up, but pain buries itself deep in my bones.
The vise around my brain tightens and now there’s an ice pick stabbing indiscriminately at the soft flesh.
I try to cry out but my throat is raw, as if I’d been screaming for days and days.
I’m more than sick. I’m dying.
Oh, God. Olly.
This is going to break his heart.
He awakes as soon as I think it. “Mad?” he asks into the dark.
He turns on the bedside lamp and my eyes burn. I squeeze them shut and try to turn away. I don’t want him to see me like this, but it’s too late. I watch his face go from confusion, to recognition, to disbelief. Then terror.
“I’m sorry,” I say, or try to say, but I don’t think the words make it past my lips.
He touches my face, my neck, my forehead.
“Jesus,” he says, over and over again. “Jesus.”
He pulls the blanket off and I’m colder than I’d ever thought possible.
“Jesus, Maddy, you’re burning up.”
“Cold,” I croak, and he looks even more terrified.
He covers me and cradles my head, kisses my wet brow, lips.
“You’re fine,” he says. “You’re going to be fine.”
I’m not, but it’s nice of him to say so. My body pulses with pain and my throat feels like it’s swelling shut. I can’t get enough air.
“I need an ambulance,” I hear him say.
I roll my head around. When did he get to that side of the room? Where are we? He’s on the phone. He’s talking about someone. Someone sick. Someone is sick. Dying. Emergency. Pills not working.
He’s talking about me.
He’s crying. Don’t cry. Kara will be fine. Your mom will be fine. You will be fine.
The bed sinks. I’m in quicksand. Someone’s trying to pull me out. His hands are hot. Why are they so hot?
Something glows in his other hand. It’s his cell phone. He’s saying something, but the words won’t come clear. Something. Mom. Your mom.
Yes. Mom. I need my mom. She’s already on her way. I hope she’s close.
I close my eyes and squeeze his fingers.
I’m out of time.
And starts again.
Released, PART ONE
I don’t remember much, just a jumbled mix of images. The ambulance. Being stabbed in the leg once. Then twice. Adrenaline shots to restart my heart. Sirens wailing from far away, and then much too close. A TV flickering blue and white high in a corner of the room. Machines beeping and blinking all day and all night keeping vigil. Women and men in white uniforms. Stethoscopes and needles and antiseptics.
Then that smell of jet fuel, that smell that welcomed me before, and leis and the scratchy blanket wrapped twice around me, and why does the window seat matter when the shades are drawn closed?
I remember my mother’s face and how her tears could make a sea.
I remember Olly’s blue eyes gone black. I closed mine against the sorrow and relief and love I saw there.
I’m on my way home. I’ll remain trapped there forever.
I’m alive and don’t want to be.
My mom has transformed my bedroom into a hospital ward. I’m propped up by pillows in my bed and attached to an IV. I’m surrounded by monitoring equipment. I eat nothing but Jell-O.
Each time I awake, she’s by my side. She touches my forehead and speaks to me. Sometimes I try to focus, to understand what she’s saying, but the sound is just out of my reach.
I wake again sometime (hours? days?) later to find her standing over me, frowning at her clipboard. I close my eyes and take inventory of my body. Nothing hurts or, more accurately, nothing hurts too badly. I check in on my head, my throat, my legs. They’re all fine. I open my eyes again to find her about to put me back to sleep.
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