To make matters even worse Chase didn’t come into work Saturday night, which felt like a slap in the face.
A feeling of sheer loneliness encompassed Florence, she hadn’t realised how big an influence Chase had made to her life at the clinic for all her talk about how she didn’t need him anymore, her cold nurse Macy or Dr. Levi were no replacement.
When she awoke on Sunday to her surprise she saw her father in the chair usually filled by Chase, fidgeting awkwardly with the armrests.
“How’s your sessions with Dr. Levi going?” was the first thing he said.
She sat on the bed, feeling exposed and vulnerable. She was no longer her father’s little girl, he was inspecting her like she was a patient, which she was but it would have been nice to be looked at in the way she had once been, with love and interest. Her entire relationship with her parents was now changed forever, she had been prepared to hate them forever.
But staring at her father she realised he looked as weary as she felt. She decide to offer an olive branch, he had put her here but had done it thinking he was doing the right thing, in a way he had been doing the right thing, she was in recovery, wasn’t she?
“They’re okay” she replied “I had one today, he seems to think I might need some medication”
Her father let out a sigh.
“That’s good, that’s good Florence. I think Dr. Levi really knows what he was doing”
She didn’t correct him, Dr. Levi had appointed Chase as her nurse, which has consequently caused her all kinds of emotional pain, but also her first hint of a real connection, even if that connection had crashed and burned. Maybe it had been a favour that Chase had given her, the final blow had been dealt and she wouldn’t ever give her heart away so easily again, she was learning all kinds of skills here.
“I know you hate me now Florence, I know you think I let you down, and I did I let you down so badly, but we just want you back” he ran a hand through his hair struggling for words.
“I’m sorry about how things went at home, we handled it badly, But Flo, please understand that we didn’t know what to do, we just wanted our daughter back”
She almost laughed in his face, which version did they want back, the fat girl or the anorexic one?
Florence realised with a shock that it was the first time she’d openly thought it, she’d always managed to tell herself that she was merely watching what she ate even as her bones began jarring out and her skin had become merely a thin layer of paper protecting her from breaking apart.
But looking at his face she could see he meant this as his own kind of olive branch, she let a little empathy flood through her veins, imagining how it must have felt for her parents to see her reduced to someone who looked as if a strong wind could carry them away.
“How’s Mum?” she asked, pulling her knees up to her chest and wrapping her arms around them.
He shook his head “You know your Mum, she likes things to be a certain way, she’s been staying late nights at the Diner every day, she feels responsible like she should’ve prevented this before got so...”
“Will you tell her that’s not true? No one could have prevented this, least of all her”
He smiled weakly, looking relieved.
“Tell her I love her Dad, and that I miss her and I’m getting better” she was shuddering now thinking of all the ignored messages and phone calls and how none of this was her mother’s fault, she had never confided in her.
He stood up “I will” he replied “Your mother will visit soon, when she’s ready” he leaned over to give her an awkward hug before leaving.
She dedicated the rest of the day to developing an indifference to all things Chase, she drank almost a litre of water, ate a full apple and a low-fat blueberry yogurt without checking the calorie count on the tub trying to ignore the ache in her heart.
Macy popped her head around the corner in the afternoon to let her know she had phone privileges, the only person she could think to call was Clarice.
Despite Davis’s promise, he’d gone ahead and spilled to Clarice, telling her he’d seen her out. She was barely talking to Florence, after half an hour of grovelling she forgave her enough to demand details about the mystery guy Davis had also, apparently by ‘accident’ mentioned.
She guessed he owed her no favours.
She told Clarice it was a brief thing that lasted a couple of days and it turned out mystery guy didn’t care about her at all.
“So are you in a hospital or not?” she asked with a sigh, possibly feeling slightly sorry for her at the state of her pathetic love life.
“Yeah I am” Florence replied “Clarice you know that thing I told you about my dieting, it wasn’t exactly just dieting”
“Well I knew that” Clarice replied “I knew you’d gone a bit too extreme, your legs were practically matchsticks, I’m happy that you’re getting the help you need Florence”
So Clarice wasn’t completely blind.
“I need to come off the phone Clarice” she lied
“Okay Flo, see you around”
And then the line went dead and Florence was left wondering whether all along they’d just been friends out of convenience, because they were drawn together by the one thing that bonded them, being outcasts, being on the edge.
On Monday night Chase was back, quietly opening her door and checking to see if she was awake, she was sitting on the armchair.
When she saw him she put down the notebook and pen she had been holding. Lately, Levi’s efforts had doubled, insisting she talk openly and that they make progress and talk a lot about her ‘feelings’, it took a lot of effort not to scream at him.
“Hi,” Chase said, his voice raspy, he looked exhausted.
“Hey” she glanced at him briefly.
“I’m sorry I wasn’t in the last couple of days”
She shrugged, trying to hide how much his absence had affected her.
“Everyone deserves a day off now and then”
He bit his lip, but didn’t say anything else, instead since she was sitting on the chair, he perched at the end of the bed.
“Levi’s considering putting you on some anti-depressants,” he said.
She grimaced, he’d said as much.
“I don’t care what he does”
There was silence, promptly broken when he finally started to move, the bedsprings squeaking. To her surprise instead of getting off the bed, he put his arms around her, steadying her trembling.
“I can see right through you Florence” he murmured into her ear.
And that’s when she knew, she knew that today she had been purely pretending because her heart was filled with joy at those few words, and what they meant, he hadn’t given up on her. There was something else going on, some other reason for his harsh words.
And she was determined to find out what it was.