Saturday, 2 November 2013
10:00:20 PM (GMT)
Charlotte glanced at the clock above the bed. It was dinner time, and Charlotte
hadn’t eaten anything other than a bowl of cereal for breakfast. “Are you
hungry?” She asked Mrs. Mercer, who had been sitting in the exact same position
since she sat down a few hours ago. Charlotte realized right after she asked that she
still hadn’t seen her mother.
“I’m starving.” Mrs. Mercer said quietly, as if anything louder than a
barely-whisper would hinder Elizabeth’s healing.
“Let’s go down to the cafeteria, okay?” Charlotte suggested, standing up from
where she’d slumped on the floor, texting Lizzy emojis and reading past
“Sure.” Mrs. Mercer stood and stretched her legs and the two of them walked
slowly down to the cafeteria, taking the stairs to wake their legs up and get in a
little bit of exercise. The walked in silence. As soon as they reached the cafeteria
Charlotte spotted her mother, eating a turkey sandwich, as if nothing was wrong.
Charlotte resisted the urge to walk over and ask her any and every single question
she could think of, and bought herself a bowl of soup and a biscuit. Mrs. Mercer
followed her, salad in hand, and they sat at the table where Ms. Malone was studying
a medical journal.
“Hey mom.” Charlotte said, setting her soup down and settling into the hard
plastic chair. It was still more comfortable than the ICU floor.
“Oh, Char, hey.” Ms. Malone set down her journal. “How are you doing? I’m
assuming you heard about Liz.”
“Considering I’m with her mother, yea. Why didn’t you text me or something? Or
come see me after you finished? I kind of need you right now. “ Charlotte said,
opening up the lid on her soup and dipping her spoon just beneath the top of the
liquid, letting the broth pool in the small indent.
“I’ve just been so busy. It’s like every single person decided to do something
stupid today.” Her mother sighed. “I barely got these three minutes for
“Mom, you were operating on my best friend. You couldn’t even give me a two
“You didn’t deserve to hear this through text.”
“But I deserved to just not hear it at all?”
“Can we, maybe, not fight right now?” Mrs. Mercer piped up from beside
Charlotte. “I really don’t think I can handle this right now.” Charlotte
apologized quietly, continuing to swirl the liquid around her spoon.
“I just, I really want her to be okay.” Charlotte said, tears threatening at the
corners of her eyes. “She’s like my only friend.” Mrs. Malone put her hand on
her daughter’s forearm.
“She will be okay. Everything went smoothly, okay? But all we can do right now is
wait.” The talented surgeon piled her lunch garbage onto her plate and stood up.
“I have to go do rounds. I’ll come see you as soon as I can, okay? Are you in the
ICU?” Charlotte nodded and her mother leaned down to kiss her on the forehead.
“I’m trying my best, Char. And I love you so much.” She said softly in
Charlotte’s hair. Charlotte sighed and nodded again.
“Love you too, mom.” Charlotte finally brought the warm broth up to her lips,
and the fire in her stomach ignited itself. She was suddenly ravenous. She finished
off her soup and her biscuit, Mrs. Mercer barely touching her caesar salad.
“Are you finished?” Elizabeth’s mother asked, pushing her plate away from her.
“I can’t eat.”
“Yea, I’m stuffed.” She said, picking up their garbage and taking it over to
the bin. “Should we go back up and see how she is?” Mrs. Mercer nodded and they
began the ascent up the stairs.
“CLEAR!” One of the doctor’s in the ICU yelled as Mrs. Mercer and Charlotte
made it to the top of the stairs. Through the clear windows of Elizabeth’s room,
they could see that there was a team of people frantically working around her bed.
They ran up to the windows but did not dare enter. They didn’t want to get in the
way. A river of tears released itself down the face of Mrs. Mercer, but no sound
emerged. This was it, Charlotte thought. I’m going to watch her die. And then she
heard that annoying, eerie sound, of the heart monitor. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep.
She was alive. For now.
Charlotte barely left the hospital for a week. She left to shower and change, to
collect her assignments from school, to get a starbucks and water the plants. She
felt like her mother, sleeping in the on-call rooms, rarely seeing anything other
than gurneys and heart rate monitors. She did homework in the room that Elizabeth had
been moved too. After the first night she had no reason to be in the ICU room. She
had crashed 6 times since then. Once a day, and twice the day before last. Permanent
dark circles lived under Charlotte’s eyes. She didn’t sleep much. She mostly read
books, and worked on homework she probably wouldn’t have gotten done if she
weren’t trying to distract herself. Mrs. Mercer just sat and stared. At the wall,
out the window, at her daughter. Mr. Mercer still hadn’t made an appearance, which
seemed extremely odd to Charlotte. She put her finger in the spine of her book and
stared out the window. The steady beep of the heart monitor was no longer eerie to
Charlotte, but rather a welcome sound, one that meant life, not death. It was the
harsh, blasting sound of the loss of a heart beat that frightened her. She had heard
it way too many times in the past few days that she couldn’t stand if she heard it
again, and she definitely wouldn’t be able to stand if it stayed that way. If her
weak heartbeat never came back, the steady beep, beep, beep of the machine went away
forever. Every breath that Elizabeth took had the prospect of being her last.
Charlotte listened to the sound of the ventilator. Not like Elizabeth was even
actually breathing. Charlotte put her book down on the table beside her and walked
over to Lizzy’s bedside, running her fingers along the rough sheets and blankets
that covered her fading body. She looked tired, even in sleep.
“Char?” Elizabeth’s boyfriend peeked around the corner of her open hospital
door. “Can I talk to you for a second?”
“Uh, yea, sure.” Charlotte walked away from the bed and out into the hall.
Brendan hadn’t visited since Elizabeth had been in the hospital. She had no idea if
he would ever visit.
“How is she?” He asked, his eyes wide, curious, and innocent. She hated him. How
could he be so ‘dedicated’ to her, and so ‘in love’ with her, if he
couldn’t even visit her in the hospital.
“Dying.” Charlotte said bluntly. She honestly was so fed up with him that she
wanted to just walk back into the room and slam the door. “You would know that, if
you visited.” She crossed her arms. She had always had problems with Brendan. His
past addiction to methamphetamines, his temporary hiatus from high school in eleventh
grade. She just wasn’t fond of him, or the way he lived his life. To Charlotte,
Brendan was nothing but a bad influence on her weak-willed best friend.
“Sorry... I just... I couldn’t see her like this.” He said, looking down at
the floor. “I can’t bear to see her so lifeless. She hasn’t woken up, right?
That’s what I heard, anyway.” Charlotte nodded, she’d been updating her social
media with stuff about Elizabeth. Posting how she was doing and reading out all the
‘get well soons’ to Mrs. Mercer, telling her funny stories, and keeping
Elizabeth’s family members who lived across the country int he loop. It helped keep
her optimistic. All the prayers they were receiving, all the well wishers. Charlotte
still knew, in the put of her stomach, that Elizabeth was going to die. And she was
going to die in this bedroom, with the patched up hole in her Atrium. Charlotte just
didn’t know when.
“Then you should just leave. If you can’t be with Charlotte through the good and
the bad, then what are you doing with her?”
“It’s not like this is marriage! She’s just my high school girlfriend. It’s
not like I expected her to end up with a hole in heart in the hospital!”
“Yea, but when you commit to someone, you need to be there for even the
unexpected!” Charlotte’s voice was raising, and the nurses shot here a look.
“I’m only seventeen! This is a lot to deal with!” He retaliated. “I
shouldn’t have come. I’m just going to upset everyone. I’m sorry, ok? I
just...” He sighed, and Charlotte pretend not to notice he was trying not to cry.
“I do love her, ok? She’s amazing and beautiful and perfect and now she’s dying
and I don’t know how to handle it. And you’re acting like a total bitch which is
“I almost felt sorry for you until you called me a bitch, you misogynistic
asshole. Please, feel free to leave.” Charlotte turned on her heel and shut the
door of Lizzy’s room, curling up on the chair by the window and wrapping herself in
her favourite afghan from home. Mrs. Mercer was napping on the cot they had brought
in for her, and besides the comforting beep, beep, beep, of the heart rate monitor,
it was silent. The snow was falling furiously against a pale grey sky. The world was
one colour. Her mother would be busy today, and probably not stop in to see her very
often. There were going to be lots of crashes, lots of surgical cases.Charlotte
almost wished she were a doctor. Maybe the blood and guts of the others would
temporarily elevate the weight on her chest, and help her so she could breathe
better. She re-opened her book, and immersed herself in a world of witches and
Every year for Christmas, Charlotte and her mother cut down a tree and put it in
their living room and decorated it together with the fire blazing, the room strong
with the scent of pine needles and hot chocolate. This year they bought a small fake
tree, and left all but a few ornaments in the box. Every year for Christmas,
Charlotte and Elizabeth would go purchase gifts together, Charlotte with her mom’s
debit card and Elizabeth with the money she’d earned from her part-time job. This
year Charlotte purchased gifts alone, with her own money, and drank hot chocolate
alone in the mall’s coffee shop, staring expressionless out the window. It had only
been four days since the funeral. Charlotte still couldn’t process that Elizabeth
was gone, and more than anything, she wanted to call her to talk about it. “So
you’re dead you know.”
“I know. It’s weird.”
“Yea? How do you feel about everyone treating you like you were a saint.”
“It’s eh. I like the attention, but if they knew about all the shit I
“Your mom found out about your Kleptomania. She donated everything except the
underwear and the makeup. I got the makeup. I haven’t used it yet. No point going
out without you.”
“She still thinks I’m a saint.”
“’Were a saint’, Lizzy.”
“I miss you.”
“I miss you too.”
Conversations such as these played on repeat in her head. Her mind was all Lizzy all
the time. She died when the snow stopped, just after Brendan had visited. She had
died at sunset, the sun illuminating the dark grey snow clouds with hues of pink and
gold. It was as if her spirit, or her soul, had left her body and lit up the sky. She
had been so bright, so energetic, so full of ideals. It had made sense.
The sound of the heart monitor was stuck in her head. It was if the white noise in
her brain was just a constant beep. A constant, long, low, piercing beep.
“Time of death, 17:53.”
It was the worst pain that Charlotte had ever felt. It was like a rock was living in
her stomach, and an elephant had settled down on her chest. She couldn’t taste. She
could eat, and she wanted to, but there was no flavour in the food.