The wind was howling, cold air blowing onto pale skin.
Hospital doors closed behind her.
She looked out at the world, reflecting on the fourteen years she had had on it.
The wind though cold, freezing like ice hitting her sensitive skin, she somehow enjoyed it.
It made her feel alive, something she didn’t feel much anymore.
She looked beyond the ambulances and teenagers hobbling open of cars, their biggest worry was missing the rugby final, oh how she missed those days.
She looked at the world, in all its bittersweet glory.
Watching traffic break holes in the O-zone layer, watched the people in the cars.
The mothers listening to their kids’ stories from school, the new drivers singing pop music with friends at the top of their lungs, the parents fighting in the front seats kids shoving headphones in to block out the sound.
She watched as a group of teenage girls laughed uncontrollably as they walked down the path, she wondered what they were laughing at?
She was beginning to feel faint, her head was getting hazy and her body was beginning to feel heavy yet weightless at the same perplexing time.
The doors opened again, and she heard the footsteps come towards her.
“Layla, what are you doing?”
The voice was instantly recognizable.
The deep caring tone reminding her what she was going to have to leave behind, it was her older brother Charlie.
He walked over.
“Come on it’s freezing out here.”
He put his hand on her shoulder,
He took off his jacket placing it over her shoulders.
She took a deep breath,
“Come inside, you’re gonna catch your death out here.”
The wording was poor, she turned around losing her balance as she did.
“Okay, it’s alright.”
He said catching her.
She closed her eyes for a moment, she wasn’t the girl she used to be, not anymore.
She looked at him, he wasn’t the boy he used to be either.
His face was meant to be youthful, only twenty-two years exposed.
Must of it was, not a wrinkle in sight but his eyes, they were killing her, the pain, the pain, the fear that sat in the ocean blue eyes.
She put her tired lips in a tired half-smile, green eyes bright but fading.
“I’ve already caught it though.”
She closed her eyes again briefly.
He didn’t reply, he didn’t want to admit the truth.
“Come on let’s get you back inside.”
She took a deep breath and began to walk but she couldn’t make it to the door.
Her head started to spin, her eyes couldn’t stay open and her body gave in.
She fell onto the hard concrete below.
She heard Charlie shouting for help, a nurse ran out.
She could hear the pain in his voice, she didn’t know how much longer she could take it.
Then for a moment, everything went blank.
The pain was gone, in some twisted way, that moment was bliss.
She wondered was this the end, not knowing what she wanted the answer to be.
Then it came back.
She heard the noises, deafening noises like someone was pushing razor deep into her eardrums.
Then the smell, overwhelming burning her nostrils with every breath.
She could almost taste the air, the medicine, the inevitable grief.
People say they are afraid of dying, all the kids in her old school used to ask her what it felt like to die.
She’d done it almost gone but saved thing before too many times.
She’d tell them how scary it was the black, the nothing and she used to believe that.
When she was eight, she’d cry for hours before ever surgery scared that once they knocked her out she’d never wake up again.
Then something changes, the surgeries weren’t to save her anymore, they were just to buy time, control uncontrollable pain.
Everything she collapsed now it felt the same.
She used to be so glad to be back now it was painful.
Once she opened her eyes all the pain came back.
Every bone in her body ached, her stomach turned.
She began to lie to the kids in her class, saying how scared she was when she almost died but she wasn’t scared of dying, she was scared of waking up again.
But she had been too afraid to admit it.
Things began to become more vivid, she could hear the machines connected to every inch of her body.
She started to feel the pain again, shaking from the feeling in her stomach.
Like she was being stabbed constantly.
She didn’t do anything.
Then she looked over and saw them.
Two boys, not men, sitting beside a man too used to this kind of thing.
Charlie pacing up and down the small room, Eli’s hands shaking placed on his knees feet tapping against the floor.
And her dad sitting there looking distant, too afraid to be close.
Charlie was the first to notice.
He turned around taking his hands off his head, for a moment there was a sense of hope in his eyes, false hope.
He ran over and sat down by her head.
His shaking hands grabbed onto hers.
“Come on, Layla. Come on.”
Tears ran down his face.
She was into much pain to more, too weak to talk.
She tried though.
She pulled her bony hands away from him, grabbing onto the bedsheets.
She took a deep breath, it was loud and there was a kind of rattle in her tone.
She gritted her teeth and with all her strength tried to pull her body, her small body up.
Her arms began to shake, her whole body tensed up.
Trying so hard but not hard enough.
She fell back down.
Trying so hard not to cry but the pain grew.
Like a bear crushing a butterfly, her body sank in it.
Her lips began to tremble and tears began to fall down her face, her whole body shaking.
Charlie was looking at her, wiping her tears away.
“It’s going to be fine, just fine.”
He looked over at their dad,
“Go get the nurse.”
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw him nod and get up.
“They’ll give you something for the pain now, okay?”
She felt the machine tubes and strings making her question what parts of her were human anymore.
She looked at Charlie, frantically trying to make everything okay.
She couldn’t bear looking at him like this anymore.
She looked over at Eli.
He was just sitting there, he’d seen this all before.
Her eyes met his, there was no sense of hope in his hazel eyes.
Just empathy, she knew he could see the pain in hers.
Then the door swung open, she gulped.
She might have hated this part the most.
The poking and stabbing began.
The side effects, the measuring.
Followed by the
“how to do you feel.”
What was she meant to say?
“Oh, apart from the whole cancer thing, I’m doing grand.”
Was there anything but cancer anymore?
She wasn’t a girl anymore, she was just a cancer patient now.
She wasn’t living, just barely surviving.
All she was doing was crying until she numb.
Then it would stop and everything was “normal” again.
Her kind of normal.
Charlie spent hours sitting by her bedside, talking constantly until the meds kicked in and she could make conversation.
Their dad was gone, he had to go to work, the world doesn’t stop for one dying girl.
Eli’s mum was working hard so that her dad could be in with her but she could never work hard enough.
Eli was sitting beside Charlie, every now and then going and getting him a drink, something to eat, going to have a ***.
Charlie refused to leave her side until she was awake and talking, even then he couldn’t leave for too long.
After some time the drugs kicked in.
She was talking, moving slightly.
After an hour or so Eli convinced Charlie that she was okay and that he needed to get some fresh air.
“I’ll be back soon okay?”
He looked at her wanted her to say that she’d be fine, perfectly fine but all he got was a half-hearted nod and fake smile.
“I’ll be right here.”
Eli told him patting him on the shoulder, he turned around all he did was nod.
Once he was out the door, Layla looked at Eli.
He was sitting by her side looking at his phone.
She could see he was struggling to.
She trusted him, he always seemed to make things better.
When his mom got married to her dad she was not happy, she wanted her own mom to be standing at the altar instead, not his.
He clearly noticed, he came over to her, she had been sulking in the corner.
She started to cry and he sat with her, minding her.
Then after that, they started to make trouble, the kind of stuff six-year-olds find hilarious, that ten years probably don’t find in the slightest bit funny but he went along with it to make her happy.
They weren’t related but they might as well have been.
She turned her head to look at him.
He put his phone down and smiled at her.
Her voice was rough and it was hard for her to talk but she needed to speak up.
“You know when your dad was dying?”
He looked down for a moment and nodded.
“What was it like at the very end, was he your dad anymore?”
He looked at her, she nodded.
“No, that man wasn’t him. He died before he closed his eyes. He was consumed…”
“By the pain.”
He looked her in the eyes,
“Eli, I don’t want to get like that.”
He looked scared, not sure where this was going.
“I don’t want to be consumed by the pain anymore.”
“But, it’ll get better Layla. I can get you more pain killers now if you want?”
She began to cough gasping for breath.
He handed her a tissue.
She covered her mouth with it.
When she eventually stopped coughed she lifted the tissue away.
Spots of blood cover the fabric.
Eli noticed it too.
He said walking over to throw it in the bin.
She said shaking her head.
“It’s not going to be okay. Eli, I’m dying.”
“Don’t, don’t talk like that.”
“But it’s the truth.”
Eli took a deep breath, a tear falling from his eye.
“I don’t want to do it anymore.”
“What do you mean?”
Eli looked even more scared now.
“I don’t want another surgery or more medicine. I’m always in pain. I want to die.”
Eli shook his head.
Layla nodded hers,
“Yes, I do. I don’t want to be in pain anymore, I don’t want to put you guys in pain anymore.”
“Don’t worry about us. Layla, you have to try and fight it.”
Eli grabbed her hands, Layla grabbed onto his.
“But I have tried and I’ve lost.”
She looked him dead in the eyes.
“I don’t want to suffer anymore. I don’t want to watch Charlie slowing going insane.”
“No, no, Layla please.”
He was pleading now.
“Eli, I’m ready.”
“You’re too young for this, please Layla.”
Layla shook her head, tears falling down both their cheeks.
“Help me, Eli. I want to end this pain.”
Eli shook his head,
“No, no. I can’t.”
Layla’s voice was getting weaker,
“Please, for me. Please.”
There was a moment of silence,
“I don’t want to lose myself any more than I already have.”
Eli couldn’t manage to talk.
After a while, he nodded.
Layla smiled through tears.
Then the door opened and Charlie entered the room.
The days that followed were painful.
Layla wanted this to be over, she wanted to stop hurting.
Eli though reluctant was going to help her.
It was Charlie that was making everything harder than it already was.
Coming to the hospital, with story after story of miracle survivors, deep down knowing full well that she wasn’t going to be one.
Then the day came, she could feel it, how relief was only a couple of hours away.
Eli was tension all-day, Charlie was his normal self and her dad was still distant.
When they were going the night before, she said her goodbyes.
Charlie got up from her bedside and she just hugged him for ages, repeating “I love you” into his ear.
Her dad stayed overnight, Eli came at 6 A.M.
She repeated the same hug and “I love you”s with her dad.
Then he was gone and the end was in sight.
Eli was standing by the door, crying and shaking.
“I have it, a lethal overdose.”
He walked closer to her.
His skin was almost as pale as hers.
Layla was crying.
Eli took a deep breath,
“Once you do this, you can’t go back.”
“I know, I want it to stop.”
“But I can’t do it.”
He stood back, ready to walk out the room,
She yelled after him.
“I’m ready to go. Do this for me?”
He turned back around,
“Just hand it to me, please.”
He nodded and walked back, handing it to her.
“This is gonna kill you, Layla.”
“That’s what I want.”
She had told him everything.
“You know what I’m gonna do.”
She looked him in the eyes,
“I’m going to drink this, and unplug this.”
“Promise me you won’t go get a nurse, let me go, coming back is the worst part.”
His lips were shaking and the pain in his eyes was unbearable.
“I, I promise.”
She took it from him, her hands were shaking as she held it up to her mouth.
“Wait, I have this for you.”
Eli took a photo frame out of his bag, handing it to her.
It was the photo that lay on the wall by the staircase at home, home she hadn’t been there in a while.
It was taken on the wedding day.
She looked at herself, tanned skin, thick brown hair, smiling brightly.
Charlie was smiling brightly, he didn’t look in pain.
Everyone was so happy.
“Thank you, Eli.”
She looked at him listening to the machines beeping.
“Thank you for everything.”
He shook his head.
“We made the most of it, didn’t we?”
“You are going to have a good life you know?”
He shook his head,
“I don’t know if I can, not after this.”
She took his hands.
“I just asked for mercy. You just gave me mercy”
She smiled at him, then she unplugged one of the many machines and swallowed it.
“No, no I can’t.”
Eli went to plug back in the machine, she grabbed his hand, shaking her head.
He sat back down.
Then the door flung open and Charlie walked in.
He was shouting, trying to plug the machine in again.
Eli didn’t try to stop him.
Layla placed her hand on his,
“Let me go, please, please let me go.”
He cried, but her hearing was going, she was going.
She looked over at Eli.
He said back.
She looked Charlie dead in the eye,
Her voice was fading away.