I knew someone was here.
I felt like I just came back from somewhere dark but very comforting. I can actually hear, see and feel wavy rings, white and slivery until I opened my eyes for the first time this day.
Information started to register on my mind again. Everything around me is so white. I hate it, and at the same time, the plain unassuming wall felt good to the eyes.
"Chloe – you're awake – a-are you there?" A sound of a boy's voice in the verge of breaking, it somehow irritated me and at the same time, I don't want to stop hearing it.
I turned to look at him. It felt so natural not to have a given automatic facial expression as I wanted to study his before I could respond one of my own. He looked so troubled but the smile he was forcing looked so genuine.
"Good morning." He said. Girls should tell him more often that he looked charming when he smiles. Thinking of this, I decided to give him a smile.
"Hey, good morning- Are you taking care of me? I kinda lost it, huh? Did you prepare me breakfast or anything? I'm hungry."
Miles made a step back. He looked at me like he was looking at a ghost. Maybe, I was a ghost. But then, he shouldn't have heard me. No! He just said 'Good morning' to a ghost.
"Miles?" I tried again. Well, assuming that I'm not a ghost, he should respond to that.
"Chloe- you're back! You're alright!" I'm back? Guessing, I think that meant that I was asleep for days. That's a worrying thought.
"Yeah, how long was I asleep? Did I pass out along the way home—'' Hurricane of recollections came back to me… Charles died. The gales stopped there. That single thought quieted me down. Everything did until Miles' voice rang once again.
"Chloe… hey, what do you remember?" I gulped down my emotions for now, the bitter pill. I tried to answer him.
"You were walking me home-" I said raising a questioning eyebrow at him.
"Yeah, that's right!" he responded.
"I wanted to break up with you?" It sounded like I quipped because of guilt I felt as I said that. He looked uncomfortable but he smiled.
"Hey, it's alright," he said waving his hand dismissively. "We'll talk about that later, what else?" I eyed him suspiciously. He didn't look affected at all? Never mind, for now…
I dug my thoughts for more mention-worthy memories but the only one that comes is the fact that Charles was dead. I inhaled before letting it out.
He surveyed me for a while, looking at me up and down. I started to observe him again. He somehow looked fidgety, the type that's leaning more to excitement than nerve. He looked like a playful child peering from a door holding something behind.
"Charles is alive." He did sound hesitant. It was like he didn't know how to say it to me, probably because he wouldn't how I would respond to it. He's kind of right. I don't know how to respond to that myself.
"H-he's alright?" I asked even though I know full well that Miles wouldn't joke about something like this. Still, why am I afraid a negative response?
"He's fine. He'll visit later," he looked indignant that I didn't look like that I had believe him. "He's visiting later if you can't take my word for it," he softened a bit. "He'll be in crutches in a while, though." He was still holding back.
"Hey it's not like that I don't believe you. But you're not really lying, are you?"
"Then, you're not telling me something. What is it?" He flinched. Gotcha!
"It'll be better if professionals explain, Chloe," he said.
"I won't believe them if they say I'm in some kind of terminal disease. So you better believe me too."
"I believe you, Chloe."
"What? I'm perfectly fine. I'm healthy as a – wait what?"
"I believe you, Chloe." He repeated.
Really? So, if I'm not diagnosed by some kind of life-threatening illness, then what is it?
There was another moment of awkward silence. Then, Miles decided to prepare me some slices of apples. Seriously, there's nothing else? But that feeling of complaint was drowned by hunger and thirst.
Then, as I savour the plain taste of the apple, Miles finally said something that bothered him.
"Are we really breaking up?" he said as he played with his fingers.
"Oh? You looked okay about it earlier. And I did remember that little speech of yours one time about knowing that I care about you is enough," he turned quite red so I continued. "It's just a silly title you know."
"You're right," he agreed but he did look discontented.
"Fine, we're back together, happy?"
His smile, he almost laughed, but I can clearly see that it wasn't complete. Still wasn't satisfied?
"Miles, I—," He stirred to listen to what I wanted to say but the sight of my older brother's face appearing from the door made me stop in midsentence. I haven't seen him in- when was the last time I was awake?
The fleeting question disappeared with the hype of embracing my older brother. Miles was right, he was only in crutches but other than that he looked as annoyingly energetic as ever. But also, like Miles, his smile didn't reach its usual peak. Another thought came to me. Why did I ever think that he died?
After letting go of me, he grabbed Miles by the collar of his shirt. Helpless and panic-stricken, I thought. Is this the reason why? I felt like crying at the sight of them not getting along. I had to stop them. But I almost wanted to hit the both of them from suddenly relieving me, courtesy of Charles' humor.
"You!- you stink, get out of here." It lacked the usual wit but I might be missing something as Miles begrudgingly did go out waving goodbye to me and mouthing: 'I'll be back later.' The annoyance of Charles making Miles leave was now embodied with the glare I gave my older brother. Though, he didn't seem to notice or that he completely ignored it.
"Now that the little runt is out of the way, how's my little sister? Is she alright?" Charles asked and my glare melted. And instead of answering I eyed his right leg.
"How about you?" but he downright waved it off.
"Nothing serious really- I don't even know why I'm wearing this. It'll be off in a few days, I think. They did recommend me to use a walking stick for a while. Not that I mind much, I can whack Miles whenever I see him." I frowned at him. "Kidding. Anyway enough about me, you?" he contemplated, his smile vanishing with it. He terribly looked like Miles today. He's even wearing the same expression as him.
Nothing was said for a while and Charles was winning in our staring contest. I exploded.
"How the f*ck should I know!? I don't know! STOP STARING!" Then, I realized that it was quite irrational for me to shout. I took a deep breath to calm myself down. "Sorry, but you're being creepy, big brother. If it's about Miles, then he's done nothing wrong." Why did I suddenly say that?
"So he did something wrong, huh? That little idiot, just wait 'til I get my hands on him." Charles cracked his knuckles loudly to prove his point.
"Hey, you're 22, start acting your age! Sheesh. Why are we even talking about this? If you're gonna say something, then say it." It was another ten minutes interval but this time I waited for him to say something first again. He looked apprehensive on those whole ten minutes, like he's thinking of how to say it (whatever it was) to me. It took a while but I think he figured it out.
"Nah, forget it." Now, I feel the urge to smack him hard on his head but I decided against it. "Hey, Mother and Chelsea are going to visit later." I nearly forgot that those two even existed. Despite being a few floors apart, I was sure the last time I actually spoken to them was about a month ago or so.
"Oh." That was my only response to that.
Miles had messaged Charles (so they're texting buddies now?) to say that he won't be going back again for today due to his custodians not allowing him to. He did say he'll come back tomorrow after class.
The visit from my mother and Chelsea turned out to be more comfortable than usual. For the first time in years, the four of us sat together for dinner. We were in the empty lobby. The food was instant-made, from a convenience store. They tasted dull but for some reason, I haven't tasted anything so good for a very long time.
Mother and sister left after embracing me tightly, and I dare say, lovingly. And it felt so liberating, embracing them back. Charles kissed me in my forehead 'Good Night' while saying that he would be staying for the night but I might have fallen asleep before responding properly. I forgot the several questions I wanted to be answered.
That day was the 16th day of March, apparently.
Morning came, waking up to hostile voices around.
"Miles, I think it's best to—,"
"To what!?" It was the first time I heard Miles speak with so much venom. It sounded deadlier than when he confronted those thugs last year.
"Stop it you two." I recognized that one as Mel, so the first one was probably Zec. It surprised me to know that Miles could yell at him like that.
I opened my eyes, only to find out that I was inside my closet. Fear made me hastily and forcefully opened it revealing the three of them in my room. I felt temporary relief, even with the awkward atmosphere and Miles acting up for some reason, it was nice to see my friends in my room.
Mel was the first one to notice me and she immediately parkoured to hug me.
"Mel," I uttered as I found my voice. I saw Miles' tear-stained face was in complete disbelief and Zec's his usual grin replaced with astonishment.
"Chloe, you're awake." Mel let out a sob. "Is it really—"
"How long was I out?" By observation, I knew it wasn't a schoolday as the three of them weren't in their school uniforms and my clock said it was only 8:26 AM. They did not answer but I had a pretty good guess. "6 days? 7 days?" Not a response, besides Zec's slow nod. The other two didn't like what he did, apparent in Miles' grip on my bedsheet and Mel's detachment from the embrace.
"It's Sunday today." Zec confirmed. But the last time I was awake was a Sunday too.
"I've been asleep for a whole week?" I asked incredulously. Zec didn't respond back. I looked at Miles who was trying his best not to make eye contact with me.
Mel, who held my hands started to speak.
"No Chloe," she started but she didn't look too sure if she could continue or not. "I'm not the best person to say this to you but I think you should know." She paused letting it to sink in. "You weren't in a coma," another pause. "You were awake in the last six days," I wanted her to stop but I can't say anything. "-but you are not yourself." Miles started to quiver slightly along with his hushed tears.
"It's not you Chloe," Mel repeated, hugging me again. "But it's you today, right? Chloe?" Mel started to cry too.
"Yeah, it's me."
From the 23rd day of March 2014 onwards, I learned that my life was cut short to its seventh.