The First Step
It seemed no matter when Jordan awoke from these unplanned naps, someone was pushing uncomfortably against her. Pressing into her, pinning her down as if that would be enough to forestall her plans. They can’t keep you in this bed forever. Damn that little voice. It was correct, as it had been in most of its observations. Eventually, Kurt would have to return to work. Nona had a shop to run and a child to raise. They couldn’t put their lives on hold just to ensure she didn’t end hers.
She shifted around a little, testing her sister’s hold on her. As expected, the pressure around her waist increased, preventing potential escape. She was almost positive Nona was using her powers as well.
“You’re awake.” Her sister whispered against her back.
“Yeah… you can let me go now.” She whispered back but felt Nona shake her head slightly.
“No, I can’t. I need to hold you right now. And you need me too; you just don’t know it.”
Jordan relaxed again, considering her sister’s statement. She did need her sister, she just wasn’t sure Nona needed her in return. Her skin was feeling uncomfortably gritty and she remembered that she had tumbled into a creek sometime earlier that day.
“What I need, is a shower,” she joked weakly, trying to lighten the mood. “Your son is a little liar. I do not in fact smell like s’mores!”
There was a little chuckle from behind her and she felt a small sense of relief that she could bring a little bit of happiness to her sister. At least our last few hours together don’t need to be full of sadness. Her eyes went wide. Where had that come from? She tensed involuntarily and Nona gripped her ever tighter.
“You’re wrong.” She whispered with her head still buried between Jordan’s shoulder blades. “You smell like you.” She paused as if enjoying the scent but feeling the tense pull of her sister’s muscles added “ But a shower might help you relax.”
Nona carefully untangled herself from Jordan as if her sister were too fragile to jostle. She looped one arm through Jordan’s pulling her sister into a seated position. The older woman didn’t struggle when her sister led her to the bathroom, sat her down and turned on the shower. Both sisters seemed unsure of how to proceed further.
Hazarding a glance back at Jordan, Nona turned the shower off and began filling the tub instead deeming her sister too weak to stand for long. Once it was full, she stepped outside the door, allowing her sister to undress in private. When she heard Jordan settle in the water, she came back in.
She had her knees drawn up to her chest, arms wrapped around them and her cheek resting lightly against them, eyes closed. The scars on her back were on full display and she flinched when her sister began to gently wash the area but didn’t resist. Nona felt a pang of guilt deep within that she had caused these scars. It didn’t matter that she was under another’s control, she had hurt her sister and these scars ensured the moment would not be forgotten. She trailed the washcloth over her sister’s back, mindful not to press too firmly on the welt-like stripes as she broke the silence.
“Kurt told me what happened earlier… after you left the doctors office. You’ve been suppressing your powers?”
Jordan nodded but remained stubbornly silent on the matter. Nona took note of how her shoulders tensed at the mere mention of her powers and moved on to a less heavy subject.
“Do you want me to wash your hair, too?”
Another wordless nod followed her question. It seemed her sister had nothing else to say after her gut-wrenching confession. The silence was killing Nona, a poor choice of words but true. Jordan’s emotional roller coaster was giving her the spins and she had only been dealing with it a few hours. Just a few minutes before Jordan had been joking lightly and now she was sullen and withdrawn. What emotional hell had her sister been living in?
“I remember when we were kids,” she began lightly as she soaped her sister’s hair. “You were staying with us for your rehab and you needed help to shower. And you were so angry when mom tried to help you…”
Jordan tensed again at both the memory and the mention of their mother. She silently wondered why her sister would pick now, when she was hanging precariously off an emotional cliff, to bring up the one other time she had doubted her will to live. Curiosity got the better of her and she kept silent allowing her sister to continue.
“You wouldn’t let anyone help you… except me. You never turned me away when you needed help. Let me help you now.”
Nona rinsed her sister’s hair then knelt down beside the tub so Jordan could see her, see the earnest behind her words. She placed a hand on Jordan’s knee but her sister didn’t meet her gaze or respond. She couldn’t, because Nona wouldn’t understand. I can’t let you help me because I’M the big sister. You should be coming to me, leaning on me. I keep failing you and I don’t know how to make it better.
“Okay… that’s okay…” Nona patted her sister’s knee lightly when she received no response. She stood and made her way to the door. “I’ll go get you some clean clothes while you finish up.”
Stepping out of the room, she made sure to leave the door open lest Jordan decide to use a razor for something other than shaving. She stepped back in a few minutes later to help her sister dress. She had managed to get her undergarments on but the rest seemed like a monumental task. Once dressed, Nona watched her drag her warm hands through her hair, drying it hastily before heading unsteadily out of the bathroom.
Kurt was standing in the bedroom with a tray of food, having just changed the bed linens. He set the tray down and cautiously approached Jordan as if he feared she might bolt at any moment. It was so strange. He had spent countless months with this woman, thought he knew everything about her. Yet the eyes staring back at him were not the sparkling green orbs he was accustomed to. These were dull and hollow; as if the life was already gone from them. He gently took her hand and leaned in to peck her on the cheek. When he pulled back he could see she was visibly upset.
“I spoke to Taylor”, he informed her quietly, knowing that somewhere in her distressed haze, worry for their daughter swirled with everything else she had been feeling. “She’s having fun. She’s safe and she said to tell you she loves you.”
Jordan stared back at him, a terrified stranger in his love’s body. He had never seen her so afraid, so overwrought with emotions. He imagined she must have been in a similar state when Nona had died previously but no one remembered that event except her. The only other person who’d had any idea what truly happened during that time was dead as well. Kurt had seen for himself the damage CLU had caused on both her mind and body. So many terrible pressures heaped upon one person.
“I’m sorry…” she began shakily, tears rolling down her cheeks. He smiled gently at her before reaching out to wipe her cheeks. “I tried so hard…”
“I know you did. You don’t need to be sorry. I just want you to get better, for real this time.”
“I keep hurting you…”
“No love. The only way you could truly hurt me is if you were gone. Remember that, please?”
He leaned in again cautiously and captured her mouth with his. He needed to show her how much he loved her, needed her to feel their connection. She kissed back tentatively and he felt a surge of hope. He broke the kiss sooner than he would have liked, not wanting to overwhelm her. Without a word, he led her over to the bed and tucked her in again.
“You should eat, then rest. I have to run to the hospital to drop off some files since I won’t be in for a couple days…” He felt her hand tense in his at the mention of his missing more work. “It’s fine,” he assured her. “Everyone just wants you to feel better, love.” He bent down to press another kiss against her hairline before turning to Nona.
“I won’t be long. I brought food for you too. Your parents came and got Hendrix a few minutes ago but they didn’t want to disturb you.” She nodded as he bent to kiss her on the cheek too, knowing she needed as much comfort as her sister. “I won’t be long.” He repeated as he stepped out and closed the door behind him.
Nona picked up the tray and moved to the side of the bed, sitting lightly across from her sister. She surveyed the assortment. Jordan eyed the food with disdain, not reaching for any of it.
“What looks good to you?” Nona tried to prompt her. “How about some fruit?”
“Yes, you can. You need to eat, you haven’t all day.”
“No. I can’t! I can’t… keep anything down…” Jordan eyes were pleading, beseeching her sister not to force the issue. Nona set the fruit down and grabbed her sister’s hands.
“You haven’t been eating either? For how long?”
“I… a few days…”
Her powers, Nona surmised. Her sister had once described how it felt to use her powers, and the unease that came from suppressing them. She had said it felt like swallowing a hot coal and holding it there until you could no longer stand it. If she had been suppressing her powers for who knows how long, it would stand to reason that there would be little room left in her stomach for anything except that burning lump. But yesterday…
“Yesterday you were making a smoothie when I came by?”
Yesterday? Had it only been one day? Jordan thought in panic. That was all it had taken for her to completely fall apart, to destroy all the progress she had been making over the last few months. What progress? The voice had returned. If you had truly made progress you wouldn’t be such a mess now. She suddenly remembered her sister was waiting for an answer.
“It’s all I can keep down lately…”
“Jordan… starving yourself is a painful way to go, you know.” Her sister nodded but looked no less upset. She sighed and looked over the assortment for something that might be easy on Jordan’s stomach. “How about some yogurt?”
Jordan reached out and took the cup from her sister. She hadn’t been trying to starve herself. Nona was right about it being a painful way to go. She just hadn’t been hungry and when she had hazarded a meal, it never stayed buried for long. Her stomach was constantly tied in agonizing knots, her many medications further exacerbated the situation. Nona watched her sister sadly.
The two ate in silence, Jordan mostly pushing the yogurt around the cup but she was able to take half a dozen solid bites as well as drink half a bottle of water at her sister’s insistence. Nona cleared the plates, setting the tray aside. Jordan curled onto her side again while her sister changed on the other side of the room. Nona slid under the covers and propped a few pillows behind her head. She had planned to read a little because she was simply too wired to sleep right now and someone had to make sure her sister was still breathing. As she settled down with her tablet, she was shocked when her sister turned over, throwing an arm desperately across her waist! Jordan clung to her, eyes closed, savoring the contact, her head tucked securely against Nona’s chest.
Nona stroked her hair, trailed a hand up her arm towards her scars and enjoyed the warmth of her sister. She switched her tablet to the other hand so she could grip Jordan more securely. Then she did something she hadn’t done since they were kids. She started reading out loud. She and Jordan had made it their ritual as children to read to each other every night they were together. The soft tone of her sister’s voice seemed to have a calming effect as Jordan’s breathing fell into an even rhythm. Within minutes she was asleep again, her body too exhausted and confused to make sense of what was happening. There was a tense line between her eyes and Nona wondered what nightmares followed her sister into her slumber. She was determined to offer Jordan all the comfort and support she could, so she kept reading, watching that little line grow fainter and fainter until it faded all together.
Satisfied that Jordan was blissfully asleep, Nona set the tablet aside to muse. Wrapping her other arm around her sister, she set her chin on top of Jordan’s head and held her just like she had so many months before. Back then her sister had been poisoned, weak and unsure of herself. “Can’t…can’t help… can’t feel my powers…something’s wrong…useless, no powers…” Now Nona could see clearly that her sister had never truly moved past that moment. There were signs weren’t there; little clues to Jordan’s state of mind that were missed. “I’m just a burden to him”, she had said. “He deserves better… MORE”. Clues she missed, Kurt missed. Had she said similar things to him and been dismissed? It seemed at some point Jordan had decided to stop expressing those thoughts to others, letting them build up inside her until the news about CLU had broken the proverbial camel’s back.
The last time she had held her sister in this room was the day she had come home from the hospital, the day Julio was laid to rest. It occurred to her that Jordan might be carrying around guilt about that too. What was it called? “Survivors guilt”, wasn’t it? Feeling the scars covering her sister’s body, raised areas beneath her fingertips; it almost made her wonder if Julio had not been the lucky one. Nona felt a hot tear escape, then another. She was angry and hurt and confused. She clung more fiercely to Jordan but released her grip when her sister let out a pained gasp. Nona realized she had let her hand wander too close to the wound in her sister’s shoulder. She pulled back, instinctively massaging the area until her sister settled back into a relaxed slumber.
“Sorry,” she mumbled into the dark.
Jordan’s unconscious reaction brought her sister back to her most recent lie. “They don’t hurt anymore… at least not a lot...I’m okay Nona, really.” She had said that just yesterday afternoon. Nona needed Jordan, needed her to realize just how large an impact she had on the lives around her.
“You are my sister and I love you. You are the strongest person I know and if anyone can bounce back from this you can. You are NOT a burden; you are not ALLOWED to feel that way. Not while you have a family that loves you, not EVER.”
Somewhere, somehow Jordan had lost of sight of that. Nona closed her eyes, just taking comfort in the fact that her sister was there, warm and breathing. The rest would have to wait.