Saturday, 2 November 2013
05:57:56 PM (GMT)
Don't be an asshole and steal this. I mean, it's shit, but still.
Her breath was the only sound that she could here, aside from the steady rhythm of
her footsteps. Her heart pounded in her chest and the snow crunched beneath her
bright pink nikes. “You have gone one kilometre.” The robotic voice told her
through her iphone app, tracking her distance, speed, and pace. “Pace: six minutes
per kilometre.” Automatically, she took an extra step every few seconds, speeding
up, the houses beside her passing quickly, the glow through the windows illuminating
the determined runner. Her shins were already starting to scream at her. No matter
how far she ran, they always bugged her right about now. She inhaled deeply and
slowed down again, the pain subsiding as she remembered why she had been going to
slow in the first place. The park came into her view. It was empty, which was no
surprise, as it was ten o’clock at night. Night runs were her favourite. Her pace
steady, she tilted her head back and looked at the stars. They glittered and shone
and a content, endorphin-fuelled smile spread across her face. This was why she loved
to run. The quiet nights alone, just her, the stars, and her iphone telling her how
far she’d gone every few minutes.
Charlotte entered her house just over thirty five minutes later, drenched in frozen
sweat, and breathing heavily. Her legs were dead. “Mom?” She called, taking her
earbuds out. Her mom was rarely home when she was, but she figured, as it was now
eleven, that her mother must have made it back to their house. However, she heard no
response back, and assumed she was alone. Charlotte never found her empty house eerie
or spooky, but simply tranquil and relaxing. Her mother was a successful surgeon, and
spent more time fixing other people’s bodies than she did taking care of her
daughter. Charlotte was used to it, it barely phased her anymore. The house was
silent other than the sound of the heating system. It was nearing Christmas, and it
was a solid fifteen below. The house barely warmed up with the heating on. Charlotte
turned on the fireplace and walked downstairs into the frozen basement to retrieve a
box of Christmas decorations. She loved to decorate, and her mother loved to make
Charlotte happy without having to be home. Her mother paid for all their classic and
elegant decorations, and Charlotte forgave her every night she stayed over at the
She carried the three plastic bins upstairs and began unloading them, taking the
garland and the lights out first. It was getting late, but Charlotte knew she
wouldn’t be able to sleep anytime soon. Not like she had to endure waking up for
school in the morning. She wound the sparkling red and gold garland around the
banister, and followed it with small, delicate snowflake lights. She entered a world
inside her head, and imagined her mother sitting in a chair beside the fire, a glass
of wine in her hand, Christmas music playing over the sound of the wind outside. A
boy’s hand on her waist as he walked up to her, kissing her cheek, turning her
around, kissing her softly while her mother spoke with her father. A perfect
She sighed. She knew she needed to stop living in her head. It distracted from her
life in the present. She couldn’t help herself. At this point in her life, the
inside of her head was so much more interesting than her real life was. She was
single, her mom worked more hours than was most likely legal, and her parents were
never married. Her dad was more of an idea than an actual person in her life She had
met him, and they had been close until she turned nine and his over-bearing Christian
ideals began to drive her up the wall. Not that she had anything against the
religion, she could just never get over his hard and fast ideas of how life should
Her many thoughts danced through her head, and before she knew all three boxes had
been unpacked, except for the Christmas tree decorations. Her and her mother always
bought a real live Christmas tree together. It was one of their many traditions. Her
mother still managed to make time for the important things, like Christmas, and
dressing up on Halloween, and baking a cake for Charlotte’s birthday. “Hello?”
She heard her mother call from the front door. Charlotte smiled and walked to her,
taking her things for her.
“How was work, mom?” She asked, setting her mother’s things on the kitchen
“Stressful. I had to do an emergency surgery that took it completely out of me.
I’m exhausted.” Charlotte’s mother glanced around, “I see you decorated,”
She said, “It looks wonderful.” Charlotte’s mom gave her a warm smile and
embraced her daughter. “It looks wonderful, thank you.”
“It was no problem.” Charlotte shrugged and hugged her mom back, giving her a
kiss on the cheek. “You should get to bed, though. You look absolutely worn
Her mother nodded. “I definitely am. I don’t work tomorrow. Would you like to go
get the tree tomorrow? We could grab starbucks, maybe visit Chapters and get some
“I’m game. I’ll buy the drinks?” Charlotte had a job at a local soap store,
that paid her just over minimum wage. She really didn’t need a job, her mom’s
paid more than enough for the both of them, but she felt guilty a lot of the time
just taking her mother’s money.
“No, honey, that’s fine. Save your money for clothes or something.”
Charlotte’s mom smiled and began to ascend the stairs. “I’m going to straight
to bed. I love you.”
“Love you, too.” Charlotte listened to her mom’s footsteps and then made her
way to her own bedroom. She lit a candle and settled down in bed with a book. Out the
window it had started to snow again, lightly, the thick flakes lazily drifting down.
It was so peaceful, she almost wanted to cry. It was too perfect to stay that way.
The next morning Charlotte woke up to a silent house. On mornings Charlotte’s mom
didn’t work she was usually blasting trashy dance music and cleaning. Her mother
loved to work on anything and everything. Weird, she thought, climbing out of bed and
tying her robe around herself. She walked into the kitchen to find a lack of mother,
same thing in the living room, the basement. “Mom?” She called.
Charlotte glanced at her phone she stuffed in her pocket before exiting her room.
‘Emergency, Will be home by dinner. Sorry. Love you.’ Charlotte swallowed her
disappointment. Her mother was saving a life. The tree could wait until later. So,
she texted her friend to meet her for coffee instead and went upstairs to get ready.
She wasn’t going to let this ruin an ounce of her day.
After jumping in the shower, Char instinctively glanced down at her phone. It was an
addiction, really. Her best friend, Elizabeth, hadn’t replied to her yet, which was
strange. If anyone was more addicted to their cellphone than Charlotte, it was
definitely Elizabeth. She texted her again before blow drying her brunette locks. Her
phone never buzzed or vibrated. Thinking that it was extremely weird to not get a
reply, she decided to call her. Maybe her phone was just dead, or lost. But it
didn’t go straight to voicemail, and it were lost she most likely would have found
it by then. She sighed unhappily. She was so not in the mood to be alone, but she
also had no idea who else she could spend the day with.
A solid hour later and her phone finally began to buzz. She quickly hit the answer
button, and muttered a quick, polite “Hello.”
“Hi, is this Charlotte? It’s Elizabeth’s mom.” The lady on the other end
said. She sounded distressed, and shaky.
“Yes, hi, what’s up?”
“I have some... news.” She said. Charlotte didn’t like how this was sounding.
It sounded as if Charlotte was dead, or something. But that couldn’t be it. Bad
stuff doesn’t happen to normal people. That’s just in tv shows and stuff, she
“What is it?” Charlotte asked, trying not to let her worry seep into her words.
“Elizabeth was in an accident.” What a cliche sentence, Char immediately
“You know how she was taking archery classes? Trying to be like that girl with the
braid from that book?”
“Yea, Katniss Everdeen.”
“Well, she went to go get her arrows, and her class member didn’t see her,
and...” Charlotte heard Elizabeth’s mom stifle a sob. “She got shot! She has an
arrow through her abdomen. She’s in surgery right now. I didn’t know if you knew
or not, your mom is one of her doctor’s here...”
“Holy shit.” Elizabeth got shot with a freaking arrow? It wasn’t even a car
crash or a kidnapping or something, she got shot with an arrow. Charlotte almost
laughed at the comical aspect of the situation, but was too worried about her friend
to. “Is she going to be okay?” Charlotte demanded.
“We don’t know.” Elizabeth’s mom replied.
“Wait, back up, you said my mom was one of her doctor’s?”
“Uh, yes. Did she not tell you anything?” Elizabeth’s mom would have sound
surprised if her voice wasn’t so heavy with worry and grief over her daughter.
“No, she didn’t. I- don’t worry about it. I’m on my way to the hospital,
ok?” Char said as she grabbed her keys out of the decorative bowl by the front
“You don’t have to co-”
“Elizabeth is my best friend, Mrs. Mercer. I’m coming.” Charlotte said. “Any
idea how long surgery will be?”
“The doctor’s said barring any serious complications, it should be only a few
“Okay, thank you.” Charlotte said, starting her vehicle and peeling out of the
driveway. It didn’t feel real. The fact it was an archery accident made it even
more surreal than it would have been if it were something normal, like a cliff
jumping accident. Not that, that made sense in December. Charlotte somehow managed to
make it to the hospital without going more than ten kilometres over the speed limit,
but if you had asked her if she had hit any children on the way, she honestly
wouldn’t have been able to tell you.
Charlotte knew this hospital about as well as she knew the high school she had been
attending for four years. Inside, and out. Char made her way to the surgical waiting
room, and found the familiar blonde woman sitting on the edge of her seat, a tissue
clutched in her weathering hand. Elizabeth’s mother was older than most. She had,
had her daughter when she was forty-two years old, making Mrs. Mercer fifty-nine. She
was an attractive woman for her age, although the grey in her hair made the blonde
look dingy, and you could see thick veins and loose skin on her hands, she had kind,
light blue eyes and full lips. She carried herself well, and somehow managed to not
dress like a grandmother. Her clothes were in-style and always complimented each
other. Unlike her own, younger mother who dressed like an eighty year old woman on
the days she managed to escape the sterilized walls of the hospital.
“Mrs. Mercer?” Charlotte said tentatively, her own young, youthful hands
reaching out for the old woman’s shoulder. She sat down, her hand still on her
friend’s mother’s shoulder. “I- how is she?”
“We haven’t had an update.” She said meakly, not looking up from the spot she
was staring at on the floor. “I...” Mrs. Mercer trailed off, slumping in her
chair, her forearms on her thighs. She looked so tiny, fragile. Mrs. Mercer had never
been one to deal with shock like this, she recalled. Elizabeth had told her that her
mother didn’t deal well with things like this. Charlotte’s hand moved to her
back, rubbing it in slow circles.
“I’ll go see if I can find someone. I know most of the surgeons in this place. I
could probably find at least one person who knows how Elizabeth is.” Charlotte
stood up. “Text me if you need anything, ok? I shouldn’t be too long.” As
Charlotte walked away, she realized how Mr. Mercer was nowhere in sight. ‘Maybe he
just went to go get coffee?’ She thought, walking down the pristine halls of the
surgical ward. She turned a corner, and found the office in the middle of the floor.
Her fist hit the door three times, and a man she had become very familiar with opened
the door. He was quiet young for a surgeon, Charlotte recalled hearing he was doing
his residency. He was tan, and fit, and most likely no more than ten years her
senior. She smiled weakly. “Hey...”
“Hey, Charlotte, right?” He said, leaning against the door frame. Charlotte
nodded, but couldn’t quite remember his name. She had seen a lot of surgeons come
and go, as her mother had worked in this hospital her entire life. “My name’s
Max, guess you don’t remember me.”
“I remember you. I just have a lot going on right now.” She sighed, and glanced
around into the office behind him. “I’m looking for information on a patient of
my mother’s, for the patient’s mother.” Charlotte said.
“Even though you’re Ms. Malone’s daughter, I can’t give that information to
anyone other than a doctor or immediate family. Confidentiality, and all that great
stuff.” He smiled, and flashed her a row of beautiful white teeth.
“What if I told you that it’s my best friend and she may be dying?” Charlotte
said, emotions pushing their way out of her chest, her eyes watering. “Sorry, I
just... it really just kinda hit me. Being here. Saying that. Whatever. It’s
He crossed his arms, the waterworks making him nervous. Max didn’t like it when
girls cried. “I... here, okay. One second.” He grabbed a tablet off the desk and
scrolled through, tapping on things that Charlotte couldn’t see. “Okay, so,
she’s in surgery for an arrow to the chest. It punctured her lung and her
pericardium, which is the sac around th-”
“I took biology. I know what the pericardium is.”
“Right, okay. Sorry. If they can smoothly extract the arrow without bumping
anything, or causing more damage, she should be okay. Of course there’s always a
risk of stroke from clotting, or they could nick one of the major blood vessels. But
your mom is fantastic. I’m sure your friend will be fine.”
“Thanks.” Charlotte said.
“No problem. Just... don’t cry. Ok?”
“My friend is in surgery. Fuck you, I’m going to cry.”
“I was just trying to be nice.”
“You’re being unrealistic, and slightly misogynistic.” Charlotte said before
walking away, feeling like an asshole, and realizing why Elizabeth was her only
After relaying the information to Mrs. Mercer, Charlotte plugged her headphones into
her iPod, and tried to distract herself while together, her and Elizabeth’s mom
waited for a report on Elizabeth. A poster of a fox by a stream was on the wall
across from them, as if fake animals and fake water were going to relax and calm down
people who were waiting to here if their loved ones were going to die or not. In the
corner was a small kids table, and a book with a picture of a cow ‘moo-ing’ on
the front. Charlotte looked back to the poster and wondered, exactly, what the fox
said. She knew what the cow said, and the chicken, and the pink, but not the fox. And
then she understood why the poster was there. Not necessarily to calm down the scared
family members of those in surgery, but to change their train of thought away from
the imminent death of people they held dear to them.
“Mrs. Mercer?” A doctor called from the front of the waiting room. The woman
stood, and Charlotte took out her earbuds.
“Yes, hi.” Mrs. Mercer said, stepping towards the woman. It was Alice, on of the
other cardiothoraic surgeons, other than her mother, who worked in the hospital.
“Your daughter is out of surgery now. She’s in the ICU for close observation.
The arrow hit more heart tissue than we had initially seen with xrays, but we could
never have understood the extent of the damage until we got in there. If she can make
it through the night, she should be in the clear.” Charlotte took a second to
admire how calm surgeons could be, delivering news like that. It astounded her.
“Can we go see her?” Charlotte asked. She understood some of what all the
machines meant, and all the data. Maybe she could figure out what was really going
on. None of this cushy, protected bullshit they gave the family to protect them from
“Only family, sorry Charlotte.... what are you doing here, anyway?”
“My mom didn’t tell you while you two were in there?” Charlotte asked,
“Tell me what?”
“You two were operating on my best friend!” She shrieked.
“I see. She never thought to mention that, no.” Alice looked at her pager
quickly, and turned back to the two of them. “Well, is it just the two of you here?
I’m sure if it is, we can let you in too, Char. I can trust you not to stress out
“Right. Anyway, her room is 32B. You know your way around here, and I have another
patient. Can I trust that you know your way?” Charlotte nodded. “Okay, good. I
really hope she makes it. She’s so beautiful.”
“I’m glad you could focus on her aesthetics while you were cutting into her
chest.” Charlotte bit, never quiet liking Alice and her obsession with beauty. Many
times when Charlotte had been in the staff room with her mother, or the cafeteria,
Alice would be discussing the physical attributes of her patients as if that were
more important than fixing them up, and bringing them back to life. Alice scurried
away as if she hadn’t heard the comment, and Charlotte led Mrs. Mercer up to the
ICU. This wing of the hospital had always creeped her out. The wing had lots of
windows, so the doctors could always see the patients. There was no privacy in the
ICU, which was why it was family only. But when you’re the daughter of someone who
fixes hearts, you get special privileges. Charlotte easily found 32B, while seeing a
minimum amount of half machine, half human, humans. Most people in the ICU looked
Elizabeth looked just a frail as her mother. Her skin was ghostly, and the heart
monitor beeped a little too quickly. Her idea that she would asses the machines and
use her small amount of medical knowledge to figure out how bad Lizzy was went away
as soon as she saw her best friend. Mrs. Mercer took the chair, and Charlotte took a
knee on the floor, her head leaning against the side of the rolling bed. She reached
up and touched Elizabeth’s hand. It was colder than it should have been, and a
sinking feeling reached in and took ahold of Charlotte’s stomach. Elizabeth
wasn’t going to make it through the night. Their ice cream run the other night
would be the last memory they- no, she, she would have of the two of them together.
Wasn’t it? Elizabeth didn’t move. She didn’t grab Charlotte’s hand or wiggle
in her sleep and give Charlotte some other indication she was going to survive the
The oxygen machine made the horrible hissing sound Charlotte had learned to ignore,
and she couldn’t help but think about how painful intubation must be.
Last edited: 2 November 2013