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[TW: READ MAIN] Lone Traveller

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I wake up what feels earlier than usual to find the right side of my stomach feeling agonizingly sore. I roll onto my front, feeling surprisingly like I could just not move all day if I could. Having forgotten about yesterday's thoughts, I sigh and reluctantly push myself up, my stomach seemingly disagreeing more with that. I must've really fatigued myself out with all that running yesterday. I probably just need some food in me.


The pain in my legs finally hits as I stand up. Nothing unusual, just feels like I've pulled a muscle. I used to do that all the time back in P.E class to the point where sometimes I'd write myself excuse notes to try and get out of sitting down with an ice pack for hours on end. I hate those things.


I navigate myself back out the alleyway, trying to gradually recall the way I ran in my haste last night. It takes me a while longer than usual, both thanks to the distance, but also thanks to the fact that I'm struggling to walk on this ankle. After a few lost twist and turns, I finally hunt the soup kitchen down.


I step in the door and look around for Rae as usual. She's still been letting me use the staff room and says I can keep eating there until I start feeling comfortable enough to go outside and join the others, said I might even be able to make a new friends, although most people apparently tend to keep to themselves around here. It's somewhat comforting to know I'm not the only person. 


I spot Rae heading over to me in her useful manner, looking as bubbly and upbeat as always. She places a hand on my shoulder and welcomes me like she always does as we begin walking to the center counters. I throw on a smile in hopes of convincing her against the fact that my stomach feels like someone's thrown a full scaled truck into it. If she asks, I suppose I'll just say I'm extra hungry today. To hear such a thing might make her happy at least. 


"I got some nigiri for you as a snack," she says. She then bombards me with another two questions, "did you sleep well? Have you contacted Doctor Yamatoshi?". I lie through my teeth and tell her I did sleep well. Technically, it's not a lie. I still slept. I haven't yet contacted Dr. Yamatoshi, though. I keep meaning to, but I'll admit to myself that I'm slightly scared. I still have no clue what human plasma is.


I take a sit in the same seat as I've been taking up every day since I first came here. The routine continues as usual - Rae disappears off for a minute whilst I get comfortable, coming back a minute later with a tray. Every day, I've been having the same noodle soup. After a few days, she gave up on offering me the menu and started having the soup ready and waiting for me each morning. This time, there's some sushi paired next to it. I've seen sushi loads of times before, but I've never actually tried it before. 


Just like I always do, I dig straight into the noodle soup, but as soon as I take the first spoonful, the pain in my stomach comes back. It's not that bad, but it's enough to sort of put me off. I am starving, though. Maybe if I eat it slowly, nobody will notice. Rae sits at the other end of the table on her phone. I feel a bit more comfortable being around her now. She lets me do things in my own time. She doesn't mind if I don't speak and she doesn't pry about it either. She makes me feel safe, and that's all I want from this. 


I think that to myself just before she perks up. "For this to work we need to both be honest to one another," she starts. You know when someone asks you a question that you've been dreading the inevitable of? Or like when the teacher picks on you in class when you don't know the answer? It's like that. I take a moment to look up from the bowl. "Pride brought fortune to no person, and I know you want to feel in control of things in a world that took away that control, but you'll have to be honest with me when something doesn't go well. You're doing yourself no service by avoiding telling me what's wrong with your leg, Ellie". I can tell this is a situation I don't think I'm going to be able to wiggle myself out of. Her normal, upbeat voice has switched to a more stern one and I could see the look of what seemed to be anger, but yet almost a little disappointment, burning in her eyes.


I catch my gaze back down to the bowl. Maybe I can bend the truth a little? That way I'm still technically being honest. 


"I just caught my ankle in a bad position yesterday whilst walking.. that's all, it's no biggie". As much as it was unintentional, even I can hear myself sighing. Even though I'm not looking at her anymore, I can still feel her staring at me. In that moment, it felt like I was back home with Mum when I had done something wrong at school or made her angry by messing something up. My body tenses up again. 


"Off Chilliad?"


"No, I just.."




I feel myself run out of words to say. Clearly "I caught my ankle in a bad place" wasn't enough. I really don't know how to expand on that, even if this was a legitimate situation.


"So, if you ever would be so kind as to let me check your leg, it would be something like a scratch or a bruise?". She stands up from the table and wanders over, towering above me. As she says that, I feel a little bit more at ease. If she just checks the leg, that's all she'll find. She'll be satisfied and I won't have to worry about her checking my stomach.


"Just the leg, right?" I confirm. She nods and goes back to smiling gently, asking me to come with her. I still can't say I fully see this as a good idea, but if it's what I have to do to get her to forget about it.. I guess it's my only choice. I pick myself up from the chair and tail her out, backpack in tow. She disappears off into one of the offices for a minute as I awkwardly wait outside, debating running, but I know that if I did that, I couldn't come back tomorrow. I can tell Rae is the sort of type that won't stop until things are done the way she wants them to be done. That's what Dad was like. Stubborn, but it always turned out to be for his own good.


For a few seconds, I get lost in my own thoughts before she re-emerges. I follow her outside, which is.. not where I was expecting us to go. Surely she could be using one of the offices at the soup kitchen. I feel myself trailing behind her a little slower, which is when we approach a vehicle. 


"Where are we going?" I ask. Even though I know the answer is pretty obvious. She wants to take me to the Hospital she works at. At least that's what I hope that, if she were to kidnap me at this very moment and I had no other choice, that's where she'd want to go, even if I hate Hospitals. She cracks some sort of dark joke that she's going to drive us to a landfill to collect my organs for the black market. I ask the same question again. Even though I know the answer, I just need to hear it from her. I need to know she isn't going to try and take me somewhere I don't want to be. Even though I know I've never told her where I live, what if she found out? What if she did research? What if someone approached her about it? If I'm going back, I want to go back on my own terms. Not like this. 


She confirms what I thought before, that we're going to her office. She explains to me that she's got a GPS system in the car and that, if it helps me feel more at ease, I can press the destination myself to make sure it's where we're going. "Okay.." I sigh, and force myself over to the passenger door, even though everything in me is screaming to not do that. I sit down but don't close the door behind me so I still have a small opportunity of window to run if I need to. 


She climbs in through the other door and buckles her own seatbelt up, gesturing to the GPS screen in front. It's been ages since I've been in a car like this. I click on the destination reading "work", but pause as I go to put my own seatbelt on. "You promise, right?" For once, I manage to look straight at her in the eyes. 


"Promise," she says. I take a deep breath and finally put my seatbelt on, shutting the door to my right. "We'll just make sure you're okay. You'll get to see where I work, in case you ever need to pay me a visit there," she reassures, but I don't say anything. I'm too busy keeping my eyes locked on the screen in front of me. The ride feels so awkward, like I should be saying something, but I have nothing to say. We pull up to a red light. "Okay," she begins. "You must have some things you enjoy doing or listening to. Think of something that brings you happiness, tell me about them".


Well, I'm stumped. Most of the last few years has just been looking after Mum and the house. When I was younger, I had load of things I used to enjoy. Going to the beach with both of them, karaoke with Mum and Dad on Friday nights.. writing stories.. all of that changed after Dad died. It just sort of all went away, almost to a point where I forgot those things ever happened. It's like the moment he died, mine died as well, and a new life began - the one with Mum, only it's like I've completely forgotten about life before until someone brings it up the way she has. I still crave things going back to the way things were, but one of the things Mum taught me quickly is that it won't. Ever.


"I don't know... music, I suppose?" I make up. It's something, but at the same time, it's nothing.


She asks me what genre I enjoy. I've always been one of those people that doesn't really mind. If it sounds good, I like it. If not, then well.. I don't. It's as simple as that.


Finally, we pull up outside the Hospital and both unbuckle. I follow her inside to an office that is probably just like how you'd imagine it. She indicates me to sit on the consultation bed and heads out to another room. I sit down with my backpack still on, taking a moment to observe the office. Sitting down on this, I feel I could just fall back asleep, even if it's not a proper bed.. it already feels better than the concrete. I go back to admiring the floor before Rae steps back in. 


That's when what I feared happens. "Afraid the backpack has to go on the floor," she goes. Why? If she's just checking my leg, why would the backpack need to come off? It's not on my trousers, it's on my back. I can get them off without taking my backpack off. I know that, she knows that, so why is she asking?


"I thought you said you just wanted to check my leg..?"

She launches into some speech about being co-operative with free healthcare, saying she cares about me and wants to see me safe. She states she doesn't see me having anything to lose by letting her help me and offers me the choice. She says we can head back to the car and drive back to where-ever I want, if I'm really going to refuse her help. What the hell do I do? If I say no, I have to live with that awkwardness. What if she says I can't see her anymore? What if she says I can't come back into the soup kitchen until I get it checked out? At the same time, what if I say yes and she finds something she wants to admit me for? I don't want to stay in here any longer than I have to. I spent too much time in here watching Dad just deteriorate. I know it's not the same place, but still.. it reminds me too much of it. 


All I can do is sigh, but I suppose she takes that as my answer. I slip my backpack off and drop it onto the floor below. She mutters something I'm not sure I fully understand, but.. I can't be asked to argue right now, I just want to get out of here. Once I've taken my backpack off, she comes over and lifts the back of my top off, taking her stethoscope out from around her neck. She also wraps something around my arm. I don't know the name of them, but I've seen one of them before. I remember this time I was in Hospital as a while for a kid because of some stomach bug. It sucked.


She puts the stethoscope on my back and asks me to take a deep breath, so I do. After, she cups her hands around my jaw and begins pressing lightly down to my neck. Not sure what she's checking for, I go along with it. She then goes back to the device she wrapped around my arm. If there's one bit I remember most from my time in Hospital as a kid, minus the IVs, was the feeling this thing gave you. It gets so tight around your top arm and makes it feel like the rest of your arm is going to pop off. A few seconds later, it deflates and beeps a few times. Once she's done, she finally takes the device off. 


"I need to see your leg," she follows up with. Like this doesn't feel awkward.. I roll both the bottoms of my jeans up until they sit just above my knee, which is when I notice what's been causing the issue. Both my knees are bruised and grazed. How the hell did that happen? If I did, I don't remember falling over. and nobody else has been near me as far as I'm aware. She says she'll be back in a minute and disappears off. I keep looking at the bruises on my leg, which is when I begin wondering.. Whilst she's gone, I take a moment to roll up the front of my t-shirt. There's a bruise on the bottom right of my stomach as well. I'm plagued with confusion by this point, trying to think of why or how something like this could have happened. I hear the door click open and quickly let go of the shirt, letting it cover over what I just witnessed. 


She sets some things down onto the bed beside me and begins wiping down the grazes on my knees. It stings, but it isn't as bad as what I thought it might have been. She sprays something else onto it which feels surprisingly cold.  She then puts two pads over them after putting what looks like sudocrem onto them. Once she's done, she tells me I can roll the sleeves back down whilst offering me a small tube of the cream she had just applied onto the grazes. "Twice a day in the morning and before sleep, don't need to use too much". I just nod. Unexpectedly, she then reaches forward with an offer. She brings up the fact she has a guest room at home and offers me a place there. I don't know.. I'm getting desperate to get out of where I am, but am I at this point yet? What if things are still fixable with Mum? I'm still holding on to that little part of me. But at the same time, would it be selfish of me to say no? I trust her, but something in me feels like it isn't right.


"Would it be alright if I thought about it for a while?" I ask. She replies with a "sure," it's a simple, direct word, but at the same time it feels like a word of disappointment and upset. She picks up my backpack before I have the chance, and so I pick myself up from the bed and tail her outside back to the vehicle and asks me where I want to be dropped off. I ask her to drop me off somewhere around the corner from the Fire Station near the soup kitchen. It's the one place I keep seeing on the daily at the moment, so it's an area I've come to trust being around a little.


We drive there in complete since and she reminds me about her offer before letting me go. I feel so overwhelmed by the day that right now I just don't want to do anything. I find my route back to the same alleyway I stayed in last night, the pads on my knees making it a bit more uncomfortable to walk. Right now, I can't be asked to look for somewhere else to be. It was safe last night, surely it'll be safe again, just for one more night.


Edited by Misuzu
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The past two weeks has been.. mentally numbing. I avoided going to the soup kitchen for a few days after the last conversation with Rae. She wasn't very happy with me when I did eventually start attending again. It was a bad idea.. for the first day, I didn't eat at all. The second day, I just slept. Day three was when I probably couldn't survive without either going back and facing Rae or resorting to stealing. I.. knew which path I'd rather take.


The longer things are going on, the more I keep thinking about how things used to be. But it's too late to turn back, that's all I know.


Today, as usual, I get up and I walk. I've stopped caring so much anymore about what happens to me or who sees me. It feels like I've stopped feeling much at all. It's clear she isn't looking, so why does it matter? I finally decided last night to ask Rae if she still has that place available at her house. I've realized now that nothing is holding me back from staying with her other than my own mind. 


I walk into the soup kitchen and walk over to the counter Rae usually walks to me to. The past week we've started sitting outside the staff room with the rest of the visitors. There's this older lady, who seems to get along with Rae quite well. She's quite nice to me as well and always keeps offering me parts of her food, even though I've already got plenty. She fits your stereotypical Grandma. I quite like her. She's got one of those smiles that's quite infectious.


I can see the old lady sitting in her usual space in the corner of the room, chatting with two of the other regulars, but I can't see Rae anywhere. Again, this hasn't been unusual the past while. Often she's out back and won't notice me until she comes back out, so waiting has become a staple for me. Minutes pass and, even though I'm not sure specifically how long it's been, I can tell it's longer than usual. I'm not particularly worried though. The place has also started becoming noticeably busier since the snow started falling more.


Eventually, one of the other members of staff, the one I usually see Rae chatting to, approaches me. She knows me by name now and asks me if I'm alright, why I'm standing there by myself. I tell her I'm waiting for Rae. She looks at me in confusion for a few seconds before it looks like she's realized something out of nowhere. Apparently, Rae had to leave the city in an emergency to go to another Hospital. She doesn't know if and when she'll be back. The lady offers me a menu but I tell her it's alright and wasn't hungry, I just needed to speak to Rae. And with that, I walk out.


Okay then.. it's just another person on the list. I can do it on my own. 


That's all.. that's all.  


Edited by Misuzu
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I wake up the next morning feeling better than I have in a while. It's still cold, but I was at least warmer. Nonetheless, I feel a bit guilty at one fact: I never did get his name. 


I want to get moving as soon as possible, but I should probably take my time with this. For a while, I just keep lying there, but it isn't long until I feel the need to move anyway to get some more warmth going. I take my phone out of my backpack and, to much relief, it turns on. I watch the screen as it flickers back on - a sight I haven't seen in so long. It doesn't take more than a few seconds for my phone to start pinging wildly, a flash of notifications coming up on my screen. 


2 missed calls from Uncle Ray.

7 missed calls from Mum.

6 unread texts. 


Like I wasn't anxious before, now I feel even more sick to my stomach. Was she calling me because she was angry? Upset? Worried? Happy I had gone? Either way, all the last notifications are week old, so it's still clear even she gave up after a while. With my hand shaking, I open the texts from Mum.


06/NOV/2020 - 23:52


Where the fuck are you? I come back and you're not here. James has gone out to fucking look for you and if you're not there I'm calling the police.You'd better get yourself back home soon or there will be consequences.


07/NOV/2020 - 03:47


Ellie, I'm sorry. Please just come home. I'm worried sick. 


08/NOV/2020 - 01:17


ffuck you


little brut


i spend 16 years raising you adn this is how you fucking repay me

if i ever see you again youre going to wish you never fuckng left likw tjis;


11/NOV/2020 - 11:08


Ellie, one of our neighbors told me he saw you walking around the other day. Please just text me back at least once if you're getting these. I love you.


13/NOV/2020 - 22:58


why do you ignore me i know you're not dead

why do you insist on putting me through so fucking much


this is all your fault

i hope you fucking suffer so you know what it feels like


sselfish fucking chidld


ufcking just text me


21/NOV/2020 - 15:27


Ellie, I'm going to stop texting you from now on.


Whether your phone is off or you're just ignoring me, I don't know. But I can't blame you. I know I need help. And I'll get it if it means you'll come home. I'm begging you. My friend has agreed to let me stay round her's for a week to help get sober and I promise if you're there when I come home that things will change.


Just come home and we can talk it over if you want to, and if you don't that's okay. I just want to hold you in my arms again. I miss dinners and cuddles with my little girl. x


Please come home. I'll always be waiting for you.


- Mum x 


I can barely bring myself to read through most of these before I start crying. What the fuck have I done to her? 


Can I really go home like this? I mean, the text was weeks ago, but maybe she still means it?


All of a sudden, I remember I need to text the guy from yesterday. I don't want him to start worrying about my case again as well. But right after I'm done, I'll head straight back home. I need to see her. I need to let her know that everything's okay. That I'm okay. 


I take out the note I scrunched into my jacket pocket and type the number into my phone. I don't want to call in case he's busy or still asleep, so I'll just text to let him know I have my phone up and running and to thank him again for yesterday. I barely have the chance to put my phone down before my phone pings again. Is it Mum?


Nope.. it's him asking if we can meet up. I have at least some time to kill and maybe I'll take up the offer of that ride today. I just want to be home with her more than ever right now. I have to look around a bit to find my location, but after a bit of going back and forth, we finally find eachother. He motions me to get in his car and out of the harsh weather. Without really thinking about it anymore, I oblige and crawl into the back seat. The strong smell of one of those takeouts hits me like a ton of bricks.


He hands me a bag from the front and says it's mine if I want it. I feel bad declining and, well.. I am hungry. Looking for excuses like this.. something like that is fine, right?


He tells me to buckle up and that he's just going to drive to a nearby car park so we aren't obstructing. On the way there, he asks me how things have been going, so.. I fill him in with the details. Maybe he'll have a good idea on how to best explain the circumstances to my Mum, or how to rekindle things with her? As we talk, he explains to me about some of the stuff he went through back at home, how things were with his family.. our circumstances were different, but hearing all of it puts my mind a little more at ease.


Afterwards, he asks me if it's alright if he can drive me to a couple of places. Rather invested in the food, I ask where. He says he wants to show me a couple of places I can find him if I ever need him and can't get ahold of him on the phone. I'm apprehensive, but I'm at least beginning to trust him. He's helped me out this far.. why would it switch now? I tell him he can, but to please just go slowly. Driving around, I look in observation of our surroundings, just in case things do end up going sour. 


We pull up to several locations. First, we go to this place that looks like it's an old building, but I'm not sure what kind. Then, we go to some big house out in one of those areas kids like me could only ever dream of properly being in. He says that, if I like, I can stay there, even if I go back to live with my Mum, I can use it to take a break from her if I need one, so that way I'm safe. I tell him I'll think about it, and we go off to the third location, a coffee shop on the other side of town. It's so nice and cozy in there and, being the only two people inside, it's so relaxing. 


He makes us both a hot chocolate, and it's the best thing I've tasted in weeks. It's like forgetting what the cold feels like entirely for that split second. As we sit in silence and drink, he suddenly gets a text. As it turns out, it's from his partner he mentioned the other day. He asks if he could please take me there to get my leg checked out and then, after, he'll take me back to my Mum's so I won't have to walk any further. Already having come this far, why not? Plus, Mum would be worried if I turned out to be injured worse than I thought.


10 minutes later, we're at the Hospital I hate most. Dad's death ward. If he could see me right now, he'd probably be yelling at me for a million things, but I have to do this, for Mum at least, it's perhaps all I can do after all the hurt I've brought her the past few weeks. I anxiously head inside and watch as he approaches reception. Standing there is a lady dressed in Hospital attire. I decide to let him do all the talking. After a brief introduction, she takes me up to a private room where she stays with me whilst the man waits outside.


She asks me a couple of questions, like how it happened, if there were any animals involved and.. other things I can't remember. Thankfully, they're just grazes and bruises like they were that time with Rae, so it's a similar process. After, they explain that they can offer me two types of help if I want it. Off the books, which is the man's job, and on the books, which is her's. We both hop in the car after and they drive me back home. He offers to come in with me, but I know I want to do this by myself. Besides.. she'd flip if she saw me with someone she doesn't know. Either that or she'd try getting with him, but considering he has a partner, I'm not so sure that's a grand idea. Not to mention they're polar opposites. 


Oh. I learnt his name today, as well. It's Rico. 


As I approach the stairs to the apartment, my heart is racing. What if she changed her mind? What if she was lying? What if she's not home? What if she's hurt herself? What if she's gone back to her old ways already? But right now, I have nowhere else to go. If she isn't, then.. I don't know. If she still has the spare key under the mat, I can use that to get in and just.. call Rico or his partner in the morning. I don't want to bother them any more than I have to though. 


I reach the door of our apartment without interruption and stand there, staring at the door that feels like a stranger. Staring at the ground, my hand reaches to knock on the door by itself. I half don't expect an answer. She's either out, or I used to be getting the door. But I can't get the door, because I'm not inside. As I go to bend down to check under the mat for the spare key, I hear the door click. I look up and I freeze. It's Mum, just standing there. She looks better than I've seen her in.. ages.


What if I fixed her by leaving? And what if, by coming back, I ruin it all again?


We just stand there staring at eachother, like time's frozen around both of us and not just me. All of a sudden, she steps forward and wraps me in the tightest hug she's held me in since the day Dad died. And as she does, I finally feel it.


I'm finally home. 

Edited by Misuzu
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As cliche as it sounds, waking up the next morning still feels like it isn't real.


After Mum stopped hugging  me, we both went indoors. She insisted on checking me over, so she found the pads that Rico's partner put on my knees yesterday. She wasn't too happy and kept asking me how I got them, but I was too tired to feel like explaining, so we both just decided we'd go to bed, talk about it today instead. I'm not exactly looking forward to it, but if it'll avoid an argument for a while.. so be it. 


One of the things Mum mentioned is that the landlord has filed an eviction notice against her. Apparently she's still with that James guy who she was seeing the night I ran off and he's said she can come and stay with him at his place in a few days time, so she'll contact him today and ask if I can move in with her as well. Right now, I'll take it. 


It's already the early afternoon when I wake up. I'm not surprised. It's the first time I've slept on a bed in a month or so - it was actually sort of uncomfortable at first. Guess I stopped being used to it after a while. I roll myself out of bed, sort of reluctant to. I'd stay right here if I could. I can tell that Mum's already awake, since I can hear the television from the living room. That's one thing that's not changed, I suppose.


I leave the room and eye her from the doorframe. She peers down back at me and motions me over. Stepping into the living room, it doesn't even feel like the same place anymore. I think she must see the confusion in my eyes, because the next thing she says is "Emmy helped me clean it up. Figured that.. if the landlord was going to come to take it away, might as well take some of the effort away from him," before sighing. I nod and go to sit down on the sofa opposite her. I'm not sure what to say to her. Do I ask her how she is? Do I apologize first? Do I just.. explain? 


"Ellie.." she starts, "I don't expect you to tell me everything, not if you don't want to. I know I wasn't the best before, I wasn't in the right place. I'm sorry.. I stayed with Emmy for a few weeks like I promised you I would. She got me with this guy she knows who's supposed to help out people who are recovering, but.. I'm better now. You and me, we can both have the life we deserve, see?" As she says that, she reaches forward and takes both ym hands. Her voice is trembling again like it usually does when she's on the edge of having one of her breakdowns. I take both her hands back and interrupt before she can go any further. "Look, Mum... it's fine. I promise," I say with a small, forced smile. I don't want the first day I spend back with her to be like things were before, so i need to try and keep her grounded if I can. "How about I make us both some breakfast or something?" I follow up with.


She lets go of my hands and leans back. "It should be me who's making it," she goes. She stands up before I can say much else, looking back down at me. "What did you want? Cereal? Scrambled eggs?". "Cereal," I say, without second thought. Who knows I would've missed cereal so much? I certainly never imagined it at least. She nods and smiles, running a hand through my hair before moving away. Whilst I hear her messing around with the bowls and plates behind me, I look over at Dad's old reclining chair and can't help but smile a little. I wonder if he's happy to see us back together again. 


Maybe I'd better text Rico again in a bit to let him know I'm alright. I still want to thank him and his partner for everything they've both done for me. 


Minutes later, Mum returns with the cereal. She hasn't got any herself, but I expect she already ate considering the time of day. Even if you were to take away the fact that I've been gone for a month, this is awkward. I haven't sat down for a meal with Mum that isn't during a breakdown in.. well, I'm not sure how long. We both sit there in silence and she goes back to watching her reality shows on the TV. "He said it's alright, by the way, El'," she perks up. I raise my head a little, looking back at her. "James said you can move in with us". I chew for a moment, nodding before letting out a quiet, "When?". She ponders for a moment and looks like she's about to break something I may not like the sound of. "Well.. it was supposed to be on Thursday, but.. since you're back, he says we could move in today if we wanted to. There's a spare bedroom he's set up for you."


"What about the stuff we've got here..?" I ask timidly. I never really liked asking her questions that made it sound I was going against whatever Mum wanted. it was one of those things that usually made her angry or upset. "Well.. there's not room for much stuff at James', but.. if there's anything here you want to take with you, I can talk to him about it, see what we can do, eh?". I swallow and let us both bathe awkwardly in a moment of silence. "What about Dad's old chair..?" I go, my voice more quiet than before. Mum sighs, like she has no clue what to say. It makes me realize just how much of her I lost to the alcohol beforehand.


"Look, Ellie.. I'm not sure us taking it with us is a good idea. I need to move on from your Dad and.." she stops talking. I see her voice of reason still hasn't improved much either. I don't want to argue with her, but already I can feel something ticking off inside me. Okay.. deep breaths, that's all I need to do. Don't let this turn out sour, don't be the reason it all goes to ground zero again. "Mum, please.. it's all we have left of him," I stutter, trying to find my own voice of reason. "If you don't want it, it's fine, you don't have to, but please, let me have it in my room or something". My right finger scratches against my trouser leg a few times. For some reason that's something I've always done when things get awkward or if I'm upset. I don't know why though. "Please," I beg again, just looking at her. 


She looks back up at me, heaving a sigh and seemingly lost in contemplation. Does she do what her daughter wants or what she feels is best for her? Was it wrong of me to ask? "I'll.. see what we can do, but I can't promise anything. I'm sorry," she says. This is the first time I've seen her this calm and simultaneously upset ever since Dad got sick. It's.. really unnerving and I still feel on edge, like she's going to snap any second but I won't know it.  Not wanting to say anything or make things worse than they already are, I just nod. "Thanks, uhm.. for the cereal," I say and push myself up, following my old routine of putting the bowl back into the sink. It's at that moment I realize how much I've not done for a whole month. Slept in a bed, eaten cereal, washed up, got dressed, had a proper shower, or even been able to properly brush my teeth now that I think about it.


It's as I think that, that I've decided what I want to do next. "I'm gonna go take a bath" I state, looking over my shoulder at Mum, who's already seemingly forgotten about the conversation and, once again, gone back to her TV screen admiration. She doesn't respond to that, but what can you say to it?


I run myself a bath, and it's the same feeling I got when I was having that hot chocolate with Rico yesterday. The feeling's just so overwhelming that, right now, everything feels okay, even if it isn't fully. Well, not yet at least. I'm trying not to be too optimistic about Mum, but at the same time I don't want to do the opposite and shut her down if I were to call the difference I see in her just temporary, or a lie, but who knows..


Maybe everything really will be okay. 

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26/DEC/2020 (PART I) 


She kicked me out.


She wasn't even that drunk. She just kicked me out.


We got into a stupid argument. What's worse is that it's all my fault. I was worried that she was going to start drinking more than what she was supposed to, so.. I started shouting at her. I told her that if she went back to how things were that I'd never forgive her. Then I said the worst thing I possibly could have at that moment. I screamed at her that I wished I had never come home.


Then she started screaming back at me, running through the "do you know what could have happened if" speech. "Like you care what happens to me," I yelled back. Then she said she'd teach me what it feels like and then, after that.. she said that if I liked being hit so much to just go back. She didn't even give me time to grab my stuff. Not my phone, not my shoes, not even a coat. She just pushed me to the door.


I've waited out here for her all damn night. I did everything. I sat crying outside the door for hours. I fucking begged her. She didn't come for me.


I need to find Rico.


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26/DEC/2020 (PART III) 


Out of all the odds, one thing was in my favor today at least.


It didn't seem that Rico was inside the coffee shop, so I thought maybe I'd wait outside until he shows up. Thankfully, I didn't find myself waiting long at all.


10 minutes later, there he is in front of me on his bike. I can't tell what he seemed more surprise about - the fact that I was standing there or the fact that the hit to my eye had become a little more evident than I had hoped for. Words can't describe how bad I feel for going practically MIA on him for weeks and then suddenly showing up like "hey, I need your help". He asks me to wait again whilst he goes back and gets his car. Honestly, I'll wait however long it takes. 


Less than 5 minutes later, he's back. He asks me if I want to go out and eat lunch somewhere or just grab pizza and go back to his place. I really don't feel like going anywhere busy or public right now, so we decide on the latter. On the ride to his, I realize how long it's been since I've actually had a takeout pizza. Mum and I used to have a lot of those frozen supermarket pizzas a lot after Dad first died. She stopped cooking and I had, well.. have, no idea how to cook properly, but we couldn't afford constant takeout pizzas, so those were always the best alternative.


His place is a lot different to what I expected it to be. Not in a bad way. I'm almost taken aback by it. I always wondered how people could afford places like these, but now I'm actually in one. I don't actually know what to do with myself, so I just stand there looking lost until he advises me to go and take a seat on the sofa. The sofa is the kind where it's so comfortable, it feels better than any bed I've ever slept in at least. I'm not sure if it's supposed to be like that, but it is. 


Rico sits down and we talk about everything that's been going on. I open up to him about my Mum, the drinking and.. most things, but I don't tell him about the argument. Not the one from last night. He says that, regardless, a parent shouldn't hit their child the way she hit me. Then he asks a question that, even though I know the answer to, "do you need a place to stay?". As much as I know the answer is yes, I can barely bring myself to vocally say it. Much like back at the soup kitchen, it's like all my vocal chords just froze, but I think my face says all he needs to know. He says not to worry and that he'll set up a bed in the office on the bottom floor, and off he goes whilst I'm left to eat what's left of the pizza.


Minutes later, he returns, and for just a little while, we sit there together. He insists on checking my eye, so I let him, but it hurts like crazy at the moment, especially when he prods at it. He mentions he thinks I have a fractured eye socket, which sounds bad in itself, but explains that we'll go and have someone check it out later in the day, so I feel that it can't be that serious if we're not going straight there. Then, Rico asks me if I need anything from my house. Whilst it's not necessary, ideally I'd at least like to get my phone and backpack returned. It's got all my music on it, and right now I could drown myself in pure sound for hours on end. However, I explain that the chances are, my Mum won't let me in and I doubt she'd be any less reluctant with him. Unlike back at our old apartment, there was no mat to keep a spare key under, so unless Mum or James was home, there was no way it was going to be possible. Then he offers something sort of crazy - lockpicking.


As much as I'm against the idea, I agree. He calls up his brother who meets us both outside the house a while later. His name's Dexter. We drive down to the apartments and I sort of sink into the front seat. Even if I'm not going anywhere, this situation is nothing but the definition of anxiety. What if he gets caught? What if Mum does something to him? What if Mum or James sees me out here? What if the police show up? I'm so plagued in those thoughts that the situation drags on for ages. I'm not sure where Dexter's gone, but I think he's supposed to be nearby. Rico finally returns later with my phone and backpack. I thought I felt relief that time I first went back home, but this beats that feeling by far. 


After that, we go back to Rico's with Dexter and my belongings and talk about some casual stuff. Where I'm from, what I want to be when I grow up and, in all honesty, I don't know what I want to be. I sort of gave up on ambitions once I left school, believing that when I gave up school, I had given up on a future through that one act. Rico mentions he might be able to get me some sort of placement with the Hospital or something similar. I'm not sure if it's anything I'd ever be good at, but anything's got to be worth a shot. The sooner I get one, the better. I'd be able to pay Lucas back, pay Rico back, and start being able to financially depend on myself for basic things. He also asks me if I'd ever consider going back to High School. I've thought about it, but I'm not sure. I feel like it's too late to go back, like I've missed out on too much to ever be able to catch up with it all. 


One of the conversation topics we touched on was driving. I've never really thought much about if I do or don't want to drive. Driving certainly makes things easier, and the idea of it in itself is appealing - I'd be able to drive myself to anywhere at any point, travel to places I've not been able to before. It's the other people on the road that scare me. You hear too much about car accidents or people just driving stupidly. Nonetheless, he suggests that we go outside and he'd try teaching me how to. Surprisingly, there's a lot less to it than I thought there was. I thought there was a whole load of technical knowledge you needed to know to operate one of these things, but when he explains it, it sounds so simple. We manage to drive around for a bit but get interrupted by one of Rico's friends who has somehow managed to get themselves stranded out on an island. I'm still not sure how it happened, but when we finally got there, his boat was parked half-way up the island. I couldn't figure out what to do, so I just sort of stood there and watched Rico, Dexter and this friend they called Ron push the boat back into the ocean.


We all head back to Ron's house with a proposed barbecue, but he sort of disappears somewhere. We even saw Lucas on the way back, which felt really awkward. He offers me a place to live, I say I need to talk to a friend and here I am having now moved in with that friend, I'm not sure how he must be thinking of me right now. I sit there hoping Ron didn't get his vehicle stuck somewhere like he did with his boat. We all sit and wait for about 30 minutes before giving up, so Rico proposes that we go to the Hospital to get my eye checked out. Might as well get it over and done with, I suppose. 


Rico's partner isn't available, so we get stuck with another person instead. She reminds me of Rico's partner a bit though and is really nice about the situation. She keeps doing her best to comfort me, but in a place like this, I can't help but feel uneasy. She takes me to get an X-RAY, which isn't all that comfortable as I end up having to wear this weird blanket that's unusually heavy. Fortunately, it's quick, and I thought that maybe was it, but as it turns out, it wasn't. She leads both Rico and I through to an assessment room and goes through some stuff whilst we wait for the results to come back. Half way as we're talking, Rico suddenly runs out saying that he needs to be sick. From then on, it feels like everything's going wrong again and I just want to go home.


He comes back a few minutes later but looks like he's just seen a thousand ghosts standing out in the hallway. As it turns out, Rico was right about the fractured eye socket. The lady we're with says they can either call in a reconstructive surgeon or wait and see if the swelling goes down in a few days. I immediately know what option I'm going with. Rico asks me to go and meet Dexter down in the waiting room whilst he stays behind and gets some stuff done. I do, but it's not a place I want to be. Being in the waiting room feels like waiting for bad news and makes my stomach hurt. Dexter and I sit there for a few minutes, but after I ask to go and sit outside, he proposes we go back to the pier for ice cream. I decide against telling him that I've already done that once today. It's a chance to get out of here and if Rico trusts him, I'm sure I'll be okay with him. 


Whilst on the pier, we talk a little about Rico. Dexter says he worries as well but is sure Rico will be fine. I'm trying to believe the same, but I'm struggling to. We eventually go back to the Hospital to pick both him and the lady who treated me up who, as it turns out, is Dexter's partner. However, when we get there, Rico isn't there for us to pick up, which everybody seems confused on. Dexter picks his phone up and dials who I only assume is Rico, only I understand nothing of the conversation. They have to be talking about me, right? Otherwise why would they speak in another language? I know that, deep down, there's probably some other logical explanation, but I can't help but assume the worst right now for some reason, like my mind is doomed to it.


Dexter drops me off back at the house and says Rico said he'll be back a bit later, but doesn't know when exactly. There's really not much I can do but go inside and set myself up downstairs, but for hours I'm unable to get to sleep, just wandering when and if Rico is actually coming back home.


It's fine, I'm sure it'll just be a little longer..



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I never should've fucking come here.


Today was supposed to be good. It was supposed to be happy. We were supposed to have the party all together.


I knew it. I knew something was up the moment they took longer than 20 minutes to come out of that damned Hospital. When somebody says they won't be long and they end up taking ages, what are you supposed to fucking expect? It was too quiet. We rode back in silence. He didn't even come inside with us, he just said he "needed a minute". That was enough for me.


I want to shut off and go to sleep but his brother calls me up before I can even hit the pillows. It's cancer. Fucking cancer. Again.


He says "he'll be fine" and that "even though the survival rates of his type of cancer are 53%, he'll be fine", "we need to be there to support him". How the fuck do you expect me to believe such bullshit? I've seen it. I've seen what it does to people. It destroys them. It destroys their families. It destroys everything and everyone. 


Even after that, he still has the audacity to come down and say "Hey! Do you want to cut the fucking turkey?" like absolutely nothing is wrong. I sit upstairs with the others and play pretend because that's what everyone else seems to be doing as well. Does nobody want to acknowledge it? Absolutely nobody? 


How fucking dare he. 



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I can't sleep. I don't even know what time it is. 


This has to be something I've brought upon him. It just has to be. If I had never showed up again, maybe all of this never would've happened.


We can't go through this again, you know that.


But what about him? How's he going to feel if I distance myself now? How much of an asshole does that make me?


But what about yourself? He's going to die, Ellie, and there's nothing you can do. If you distance yourself now, when he dies you won't hurt anymore. This is for your own good.


He'll hate me. I can't just leave him. It's like Dexter said. I need to continue supporting him. I can do it. I'll get a job, help out with the finances so he doesn't have to. I'll be there for him. I have to be. I want to be. Even if he dies, I want to be there for him until the very end. I'll never forgive myself if I'm not. 


It should be you hating him. He's the one who's leaving you here. Once he goes, you'll have nobody. Everyone's leaving you alone again. Maybe it's just how you're destined to turn out, poor thing.


Don't call me that.


That's what you need to believe. 


That's not true. It's not his fault, he's not chosen this. Nobody does.


But somebody has to be at fault. If it's not his, then whose? 






I don't know. It just has to be. It isn't his. So that just leaves me.




What am I supposed to do?


Just save yourself and get out of here. You've done it before, you can do it again. It's easy. You just run away from all your problems as always because that's the only thing you know how to do.


I don't want to.


Is that so?




That so?


That's so. 


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Happy New Year, I guess. 


It's almost a week since things changed. I still don't know what to do.


I managed to land myself a part-time job at one of the fast food restaurants down in Del Perro. I'm not sure if they were just that desperate for staff or if the bruise still lingering around my eye won me sympathy points, but I start in a few days. I have training tomorrow, but for some reason it's at a God early time of 8am. I'm not sure if I've been up that early since I stopped going to school. Nonetheless, it's what I have to do, so I'll do it. It's just one day.


Lately, I'm trying not to think or feel much, but it's difficult. I don't even understand why I feel this way. One moment it's like nothing has happened. The next I go back to being angry, and then sad. Some days I barely spend time in the house, other days I do. I wish I didn't feel this way. It shouldn't be me feeling this way. Everybody else seems to be managing it just fine. Nothing has changed between all of them. It's just me. I feel so selfish and I wish everything would just shut up. I wish all those thoughts and feelings would all just disappear and that I could be the same way everyone else around me is.


What must he think of me?



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All I can see in me right now is her. The anger, the selfishness, the self centeredness; everything. 


Walking didn't help at all today. I can't count the minutes or distance I walked before I gave up. We're having good days, but everybody else is still the same, with only me that has changed. I don't get it.


Rico has moved to doing chemotherapy at home. Both him and his brother keep reassuring me that he'll be okay, but no matter how many times either of them tell me, I can't seem to shake out the imaginary fact in my mind that he will die from this. I don't get it.


Being able to support him helps, and it doesn't help. Distancing myself helps, and it doesn't help. I want to die, but I don't want to die. I want to live, but I don't want to live. Can you understand others without becoming others first? Why am I making this all about me? Does thinking this way make it even more selfish than it already is? Am I seeking justification or am I seeking punishment? Am I seeking comfort or solitude? Am I seeking both? I don't get it.


I feel everything but nothing simultaneously. I want to feel nothing, because everything is more overwhelming. But if I feel nothing, I do nothing, and if I do nothing, I think of everything. I don't get it.


Today, I hit the wall so hard my knuckles bled, but for a moment, it felt alright. Like every bit of anger I felt towards myself got transferred into that object. It was a painful form of nice, but if you think about it, that nice isn't nice at all.


I don't get it.




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