Being Florence Clarke
“Chase?” she asked, he hadn’t spoken, he just stood there in the doorway looking like he might collapse at any second.
She hurried towards him putting an arm around his shoulders, gently guiding him towards the seat where he collapsed.
She waited for his breathing to return back to normal before asking
“Chase? I know you said you didn’t want to tell me but things are different now, your not just my nurse anymore, I’ve confronted my demons now please help me fight yours”
He shook his head, was that a tear she saw trickling down his face?
“Flo, I don’t want to tell you, not today but I promise the day after Prom, the day after your big night, I’ll tell you”
She wasn’t happy with that answer, but it was better than nothing.
He reached into his pocket and pulled out a plastic bag, inside were four perfect strawberries, he passed the bag to her.
He wasn’t the only one crying now, two trickles ran down her own face as she unwrapped the plastic and placed a scarlet strawberry on her hand, she lifted it to her lips and devoured the sweet fruit in two bites, letting the juice trickle down her chin, she was smiling as she picked up the second, she savoured every single bite, in a matter of seconds, none of the strawberries remained, she looked up at Chase who was smiling.
“You’ve come a long way Florence Clarke” he said
She grinned back swiping at her wet eyes with her jumper sleeve “Yeah Chase, I really have”
That day something happened which surprised her, she had been reading a book one of the nurses had lent her when Dr Levi popped his head around the corner of her room.
“You have a visitor Florence” he said, he was smiling broadly.
She sat up quickly, placing the book on the bedside table, no one except Chase, her nurses and Dr Levi had visited her in over a week.
“Who?” she asked, Dr Levi stepped aside revealing the person standing behind him.
She was paler than Florence had remembered and deep frown lines were on her forehead, her grey roots were beginning to show above her auburn waves, but she still had her unmistakable scent, her Mother stood in the doorway looking devastated.
“Mummy?” Florence didn’t know why but she suddenly felt no bigger than an infant, a little girl who needed a kiss from her Mother to make everything better.
It was all the invite her Mother needed, she rushed towards her and engulfed her in a warm hug, burying her face in her hair and sobbing.
“My baby” she said holding her head.
Florence had thought the time for tears was over, but it certainly wasn’t.
They hugged for a straight five minutes, Florence breathing in her sugary scent, she felt so safe enveloped in her arms, the world couldn’t touch her while she had her Mother shielding her.
When they finally pulled away her Mother smoothed her hair away from her face, Florence gestured for her to sit in the armchair Chase usually occupied.
Her Mother sat down, she didn’t seem to be capable of tearing her eyes away from her daughter.
“You’re so beautiful my Florence, I didn’t tell you that enough, you are so, so beautiful”
Now that their initial reunion was over less welcome feelings were returning, feelings of neglect and hurt.
“Why didn’t you come and visit me Mum?” she asked “I’ve been her for months, even Dad’s been four times, you didn’t even try”
Her Mother exhaled.
“When your father and I first started noticing changes in you Florence we tried not to worry so much, we knew that teenagers went through phases and thought maybe you were just losing some weight as a result of getting taller, and as for your friends I reasoned that you’d just grown apart. I can’t make any excuses though, I should have asked more questions, should have tried to get the truth out of you and not let my whole life revolve around my work, I let you down Flo”
Florence nodded, she did understand, this wasn’t her Mother’s fault, but it didn’t mean she could forgive her just yet.
“When we found the Digoxin and those blades in your room, it was my worst nightmare come true, it was only then that I took a good look at you and realised this wasn’t a result of hormones playing up or a fad diet, you were broken and you needed help, so I told your father to call the clinic up”
Florence gasped, all this time she had thought her Father had locked her up here, that this was all his fault.
“You told him to call Oakwood?” she asked
Her Mother nodded
“You needed help darling, professional help we couldn’t give you, so yes, I told him to call the clinic, and that is one decision that I will never regret” she gestured around her “Florence you look better than I’ve seen you in months, your healthy, well-looked after and don’t look like some ghost is haunting you”
It was true, coming to the clinic had been the best thing for her.
“I forgive you” she said finally meeting her Mother’s eyes.
“I whole-heartedly forgive you, and Dad, I was deranged, I was broken and sending me here healed me, it helped me find myself and it helped me fix myself”
Her Mother reached for her hand and squeezed it tight
“Things are going to be different when you come home” she said “Me and your Father have had a long talk and we’ve decided that we’re going to close the Diner”
“Your going to what?” interjected Florence
Her Mother gave her a sad smile and said
“It caused more pain than happiness to this family, and from now on we’re putting family first, we’re putting you first Florence, these last few weeks have been agony, I was too afraid to face you, to face what I had done, I neglected you when you needed me and thats never going to happen again”
They talked about everything, her Mum’s job, their family, the changes that would have to be made, life at the clinic, her progress, her upcoming Prom, the FBPG and even Chase, though of course she presented their relationship as strictly professional, he didn’t need to lose his job over her.
That night Florence pulled out her diary, she had almost reached the end, but this entry wouldn’t be very long, she pulled out her black biro and scribbled in capital letters
‘MY NAME IS FLORENCE ELIZABETH CLARKE, AND I AM GLAD TO BE ME’