The Reckless Sick (A Tale of Two Moons)

A Tale of Two Moons

 

When Harla did open her eyes, it was the middle of the night and her mother happened to be awake still. She looked like she was contemplating life heavily and there’s no better time for that than the middle of the night.

“Mom?” She sat up in bed, her brows furrowed from confusion.

“Harla! Rich, she’s awake. Get up,” Margaret spoke in a sort of whisper scream.

“What happened? Why am I here?”

“Oh, baby. You fainted and hit your head pretty hard.” She paused and looked into her eyes, speaking softly again, “And you haven’t been eating, have you?”

Harla detected two sets of weary eyes staring back at her in the dark room and it hit her. Her face colored itself from pale to a flushed pink hue in a matter of seconds as tears filled her gaze and stained her cheeks. “Mom, I’m so sorry. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”

They raced to her side and held her fragile body in a delicate embrace.

“It’s okay, Harla. You’re going to be just fine,” her mother stammered through a flood of sentiments. “Get some rest. Your body needs it.”

As the next day approached and Harla regained some of her strength, she just couldn’t find it in herself to be thankful for her health. She was ashamed that her secret had been found out but mostly, she felt discouraged that all her hard work would be counteracted now that her parents will make sure she eats and keeps it all down.

Her parents anxiously paced the room making necessary phone calls to request time off of work while the nurse checked her vitals. When the doctor came in to speak to her, she felt overwhelmed with all the unwanted attention and exaggerated expressions on the familiar faces surrounding her. He proceeded to ask her a series of questions which she found intrusive and was met with brutally honest answers laced with utter discontent.

“Can you take this thing out of me, please?” She asked in an aggravated tone referring to the IV in her arm.

“Sure. You think you can eat something?” The doctor asked with a smile ignoring her bitter resentment toward him.

“Fine.”

“Great. We’ll bring you something.” He motioned for the nurse to remove the needle while he jotted notes on his clipboard before heading out the door again.

“I need to get out of this bed.” She stretched her legs over the edge and carefully slid down.

“Is that a good idea? I don’t think you’re strong enough to walk, honey.”

“I’m fine, Mom.” She could depict concern painted on their faces and realized she had just put them through something fairly traumatic. She needed to humor them or at the very least, ease up on them. The only way they would feel better is if they saw progress. “I’m hungry. I don’t want to wait for the nurse to bring me jello or pudding or whatever they make you eat in here. Can you guys get me some fruit from the cafeteria?” She would say anything to clear the room if it meant a few minutes of freedom from being constantly monitored and fussed over.

“Of course! We’ll be right back.” They jumped up and made their way to the elevator leaving her alone for the first time in hours.

This was her chance to leave the room if only just for a moment. She stepped down impatiently and staggered across the room, almost falling several times from her lightheaded state of being. Soon she was able to manipulate her feet to walk slowly and carefully enough to make it out of her room, just in time to bump into another patient and knock his bag of chips out of his hand to scatter across the shiny, hospital floor.

“Whoa! Aw man, I just bought those,” he exclaimed.

“Sorry, I didn’t see you. Here, let me help you.” She bent over forgetting the condition she was in and also that she was wearing a hospital gown that opens in the back. Even though she had tied the strings together tightly before leaving her room, it didn’t do a very good job at concealing her backside.

He laughed at the sight and said, “Hey, don’t worry about it. They’ll clean it for us sickies. Besides, you’re mooning the whole place.”

“Oh, my gosh!” She stood up quickly and instinctively held her hand to her forehead and grabbed onto the boy with her other hand so she wouldn’t tumble over.

“I got you. Where you staying?”

“Staying?”

“Yeah, your room. Which one is it?”

She didn’t want to go back there, she only just escaped that fortress seconds earlier. “I’m fine, I just need some air.” She realized she was still holding his hand and jerked it away, looking slightly embarrassed.

“Okay.. Well, I’m-” Just then, he was cut off by a shrill voice.

“Levi! You’re supposed to be resting. Back to the room, now.” She was a tall woman with a strict manner about her. She glanced at Harla hastily then turned to walk back to whatever room she had just stormed out from.

“Levi.” His mouth pressed into a forced smile as if to say, ‘Awkward.’

“I take it that’s your mom?”

“How’d you guess? Dianne is a little short-tempered right now but that’s normal considering where we are.”

“You call your mom by her name?”

“Only when she’s not around to hear it.” His smile was distracting and she was presently at a loss for words creating an uncomfortable lull between them. He broke the awkward silence though, interrupting her temporary daze. “Well?”

“Well, what?”

“I shared my name. And you are?”

“Oh, I’m Harla.”

“Harla, that’s a pretty name. Well, I better get going before Dianne flips out again. It was nice bumping into you though. Maybe I’ll bump into you again.” He walked off in the opposite direction of his room and she wondered if he knew he was going the wrong way.

“I thought your room was the other way,” she called out to him.

“It is, but someone dropped my chips.” He turned and flashed her a charming smile and then he did something quite appalling. He deliberately untied his gown and turned to moon her just as she had done earlier, except her indecency was purely accidental.

As soon as his bare backside was exposed, Harla burst into laughter. “Oh my gah! What are you doing?”

“You show me yours, I’ll show you mine. It’s only fair.” With that, he turned the corner unashamed of his preposterous action, although his naked flesh turned a light shade of pink as if to blush for him.

She couldn’t believe the shameless nerve of that boy. Who was he to have such confidence in himself? But she had to give him his props for having the ability to make her laugh in the middle of a hospital full of sickly people. He was different and she liked different. Maybe this scary turn of events wasn’t all bad. She stood there smiling a little longer, too long actually.

“Harla, what are you doing out here? You shouldn’t be wandering the halls.”

She rolled her eyes at her mother’s insufferable habit of exaggerating every little thing. She was barely two feet from her door and to Margaret that was “wandering the halls.” She couldn’t wait for this all to be over, but it was only just beginning.

The Reckless Sick (Running On Empty)

Running On Empty

The weekend holds so much promise of careless mischief and wild teen parties for the small town kids of Whisper Woods. They’re scattered throughout town catching late night movies, laughing over burgers and shakes, cleverly sipping vodka from water bottles in the neighborhood parks, beating high scores at the local arcade or making out in the alley behind it. Everyone has a safe place to commit the oldest sins. One girl in particular prefers her vices done alone in the privacy of her own home.

The savory smell of roast beef and steamed vegetables filled the air, casting a powerfully blended sense of utter starvation and dizzying nausea on Harla as she sat motionless, afraid to make the slightest movement for fear she would faint right out of her seat. She stared off unaware of her fingers picking at a loose string hanging over her lap from the tablecloth set before her.

“Sit up straight, Harla,” Margaret commanded in a soft yet firm tone.

“Sorry, Mom.” She sat up briskly without a second thought and felt a wave of vertigo overpower her every sense.

Don’t faint. Don’t fall down.

As if she could control it with her thoughts alone. Just then, her mother set a plate of food in front of her, smiling briefly before sitting down across the table. Her portions were significantly less than what was served on the other plates. Margaret noticed Harla hasn’t had much of an appetite lately and preferred not to waste a perfectly good meal on her knowing it would only end up in the trash. Harla looked at the meat smothered in a hearty gravy, trying to hold back an obvious look of disgust. She couldn’t fathom how it could look so delicious and so revolting at the same time.

“Eat, girl. You’re too skinny. Isn’t she too skinny, Margie?” Richard pointed out blatantly.

“Oh, leave her alone. She just has a small frame. She gets it from me.” Margaret shot a proud smirk around the room as if waiting to be praised for her slender figure.

That was Richard’s cue, “Of course, darling. You look wonderful.”

Somehow, conversations in the Fox household always revolved around Margaret. She was quite the attention seeker, no doubt leaving Harla feeling like an old, faded piece of furniture discarded in the back of the most unused room in the house. Her mother’s ego was far too sickening to withstand any longer and she quickly shoved every last piece of food in her mouth before placing her plate in the sink and making her way to her bedroom in a very rhythmic and rehearsed walk so as not to draw attention to her swift exit. As soon as she made it to the room she locked her door and waited, finding anything around the room to distract her for just a moment longer.

As soon as her parents turned on the television, she snuck quietly into the bathroom just down the hall. She closed the door gently making no sound at all, she had it down to a science. Where to step in the hallway without making a creak, how slowly to turn the door knob so it didn’t click, waiting for a loud commercial break when her parents would talk amongst themselves so her heaving couldn’t be heard by even the most sensitive ears.

She stared at herself in the mirror. It was more of a glare actually as she detested every flaw she could think up. She studied her figure, lifting her shirt up midway to see her flat belly starting to sink inward. She thought she would be satisfied with the image staring back at her but it wasn’t enough. Why did she still look so big? Why could she pull at her skin when there was barely a trace of fat? Nonetheless, she was proud of herself for sticking to her guns and refusing to give up so easily. Soon, very soon, she will be beautiful enough. She will be so thin that there will be nothing left but skin and bones and for some reason, that’s beautiful.

But tonight, she would overdo it and life would change instantaneously.

Margaret and Richard laughed at a silly ad playing on the television when they were startled by a loud bang from inside the hallway bathroom.

“What was that?” Richard asked as if Margaret would know more than he in this instant.

Suddenly, Margaret’s face transformed and she wore a worried expression as she blurted out, “Harla!”

They rushed to her bathroom, opening the door so abruptly that it bumped forcefully against Harla’s leg. They pushed the door open a little wider to find their daughter passed out on the floor with the stench of vomit emanating from the toilet bowl and polluting the air.

“Oh, my God! Harla, wake up! Wake up, sweetie, wake up now.” Margaret was immediately hysterical, holding her daughter’s listless body in her arms and lightly tapping her face.

“Honey, calm down. We need to get her to the hospital. She could have a concussion. Get her a bag ready, I’ll carry her to the car.” Richard lifted his daughter with ease, giving no thought to her lightness as he strapped her in the car and sat in the driver’s seat trying with all his might not to look back at her lying in the backseat unresponsive. He was weak though and he turned his head briskly. It was a huge mistake, the biggest because as soon as he laid eyes on her face, the tears streamed heavily down his face and his head bobbed as he cried for the first time since his mother died when he was only thirteen. He couldn’t bare to see his little girl like this. Even if she was no longer his little girl, she was still his and still she was. Margaret practically threw herself in the car, glancing briefly at her husband. She did a double take when she saw him silently sobbing with his head resting against the steering wheel. He turned and gave her a look of defeat.

“Oh, Richie. She’s going to be okay but we have to get her there quickly.” She tried to sound brave but the tears falling from her glistening eyes spoke otherwise. She had never witnessed him cry in the whole nineteen years they’ve been married and it scared her to see him vulnerable.

He wiped his tears away with his jacket sleeve and shifted into gear. The car bolted out of the driveway, screeching down the street of their quiet, little neighborhood. He drove like a madman, marking the streets with his brand new tires.

“Careful, Rich! She’s falling off the seat.”

“Well, pick her up.”

Margaret climbed in the backseat to sit with her daughter, holding her close and checking for a pulse every few seconds. The trip felt long and she thought they would never reach their destination. Finally, they arrived at the nearest hospital and pulled up to the front so fast, he almost didn’t see the wheelchair rolling out of the doors with an elderly lady in it. He flew out of the car and opened the back door to help his wife and daughter out. They rushed her inside leaving the car running just out front with the doors wide open.

“Rich, I’ve got this. The car.” She pointed just outside and his attention shifted.

Soon they were impatiently settling in the waiting room to hear news of their daughter’s condition. After an hour, a Dr. Peck called them to the back to see her.

“Your daughter is going to be fine, the blow to her head wasn’t too bad but she is very weak. It’s not surprising since her blood work shows a loss of vital minerals. We have her on an IV in the pediatric ward where she’ll stay for a few days if you decide to keep her here. I recommend that you do. She’s suffering from slight malnutrition and drastic changes to her diet can be dangerous.”

“What? That can’t be. She eats every meal. She doesn’t eat a lot but she does eat,” Margaret assured the doctor. It was apparent they didn’t know what was going on right under their noses.

“Did you know your daughter has an eating disorder?”

“Oh, God.” Richard dropped his head in his hands.

“No. No, Rich, it’s not rue. It can’t be.” She gazed at her daughter in the hospital bed, disbelief was written across her face as she put the pieces together.

“She admitted it to one of the nurses when she came to. I don’t think she was aware of her surroundings though and she fell back asleep soon after.”

“I told you she was too skinny. I knew something wasn’t right.”

“No,” Margaret whispered to herself. She couldn’t believe any of this was happening. She never saw it coming, never noticed the signs. What kind of a mother doesn’t see the signs?

“She’s in a bad state but it’s good we caught it before she could experience serious risks such as heart failure…” The doctor’s voice trailed off. Margaret couldn’t hear anything, just the sound of her own heart beating fast. She placed her hand on Harla’s chest timing her faint heartbeat to her own. Looking closely at her, she could see just how thin her daughter really was and closed her eyes in anger for not seeing it sooner. She planted herself in the big chair next to her daughter’s bedside in hopes that she would be the first person she sees when she wakes up again. All she could do now was wait.

 

To be continued..