My face is a mess as I crutch myself out of the hospital. Makeup runs down it like ravines and, suddenly, I wish I was in one. I wish that it would have been me that died instead of them. Me instead of them. Why am I still alive? Why didn’t God just let me die?!
I make across the street, going as fast as I can on crutches, sobs shaking my body. I keep going. I don’t know how far or how long I go for. I just do.
It’s not even a gloomy morning. The sun is shining down like nothing bad ever happens. It shines down like it has its own case of doll-syndrome. It’s the one with a doll face. Why can’t Dahlia just call the sun plastic instead of me?
I shake my head. I’m being irrational.
But I need to be.
I sit down on the long bridge, my back up against the cement. Cars pass by, the people inside living their lives. Maybe they’re happy. Maybe they’re like me.
My spine scrapes the cement wall behind me as I cry, my body bouncing with each sob. My parents don’t know I left the hospital room. They’d have a fit when I got home.
If I came home...
I curl my body up in a tight ball, trying to get as small as I can. Maybe if I got small enough, I would disappear. I wouldn’t have to go through any of this anymore.
I sit like that until my muscles ache and the sun is hot on my body. I feel swear start to gather all over my body and the traffic increase.
What if I died today? Would it be easy to go, or would it be painful? Would I fight for my life like how Tobiah fought for mine? Or would I go as quickly as John?
I look up at the world around me. Everything has its own place in this world. Everything belongs where it is placed, and even if it doesn’t, it will get there some day.
But where am I?
Am I where I’m supposed to be? Have I finished what I need to do here? Or am I still making my way there?
I look up at the blue sky, not a cloud in sight. I’ve ran out of tears and my body is torn between going back and staying here.
A car pulls over to the shoulder near me. Something inside of me prickles with fear, but the rest of me is just tired. I don’t move, but I keep my eyes on the car as the doors open.
Faces of people I know look at me, concerned. They walk to me and kneel down beside me. Can’t they just leave me alone? Can’t everyone just leave me alone? Can’t they see I don’t want any company right now?
“Amabel? Are you okay?” I hear Dahlia speak. I don’t look at her. I don’t respond. I just stare straight ahead blankly and refuse to move. I refuse to answer.
“Amabel, sweetie?” I hear. It’s her mom. “Amabel, hey, look at me please.”
I close my eyes and lean my head back against the wall, giving in to what someone else wants me to do again. I become a doll again.
My eyes open slowly to look at her. Her eyebrows are pinched together and her face wears a mask of worry. I say mask like she’s trying to hide something, but I can’t find anything she hides. Anger bubbles up inside of me, sadness courses through me, jealously makes my blood tingle, and tears begin to fall again. I lurch forward and place my elbows on my knees, pressing the palms of my hands into my eyes. I can’t help it. This is all my fault.
I feel arms hold me tight and pull me into a warm body. How can people I’ve only met once comfort me better than my own flesh and blood can?
I sit in the back seat, staring out the window and trying not to break down again. They’ve already seen it once, and I don’t want them to have to deal with me.
Dahlia sits in the back with me. She had to move the shopping bags to the passenger seat in order to. I tried to help, but my injuries limited me.
The crutches lie on the bottom of the car, my feet sitting on top of them. For a moment, I move my feet away from it, feeling almost as if it can feel the pressure of them on it and that it doesn’t like it. And then I realize it’s not a real thing.
I stifle another tear as we pass over a big bridge. The city looks strange from this angle. Had I really walked this far?
The feelings inside of me are numb now as I try to suppress them, as I always have. I’m sick of hiding, I’m sick of not feeling, I’m sick of being this way, numb… but it’s the only thing I know how to do.
Dahlia tries to talk to me, to make light conversation about school or about coming over one day and going shopping with them… but I don’t care about any of that, I don’t want to do it. I have more than I need. I have a life when two of the most important people died in place of me. I don’t tell her any of this, all of it stays in my brain. The only thing that does come out are a couple grunts, a couple of ‘okays’, a couple of ‘maybes’…
My house comes into view and Dahlia’s mom pulls into the driveway. My mom’s car is gone. So is my dad’s. I just hope that they’re at the hospital, wondering about what’s going to happen now. Rethinking their divorce. Rethinking their addictions.
But I hope they don’t worry about me.
I’m nothing. I’m the reason why this has happened. I did this to them, whether it was directly or indirectly. My fault…
I step out to weather the weather that’s coming my way. The weather that’s already in my way. The weather that I’ve weathered that is coming back my way.
They drive off with a few words from Dahlia’s mom, who tries to make me feel better. I fake that it does. She doesn’t need to worry either.
The trudge to my front door seems too long and too tedious, but I do it anyway. I unlock the door and go inside. Haven’t eaten all day, but I pass by the kitchen. One flight of stairs, two… into my room. I lock the door that sits on my floor and open the window above my bed. It’s just big enough for me to fit through.
I sit on the tiny sill and try to stretch one of my legs across to the roof. I’m able to get it on, and I twist myself around, holding the frame of the window tightly with my hands. The boot on my other foot seems sort of slippery as I step with it onto the shingles. Pain makes its way through my body, but I don’t care. I want to be on the roof. I want to think. So that’s what I’m doing.
I crawl up and sit down on the point where the roof is the highest. I can see my entire street. I can see the birthday party going on a little ways down for the little boy named Thomas, and I can see my neighbors returning with groceries. Everything looks normal from up here. There’s nothing wrong with it. There’s no adultery, no drugs, no alcohol… just me, the wind, and my street.
I look up at the clouds, wondering if Tobiah is staring down at me from heaven, wishing I would stop thinking the things I was thinking. Did he make it to heaven? Did he find his way to Jesus? Or back to Him, if he had been lost before?
What about me? I ask myself.
The shingles are rough against my palms as I look at my feet. So much has happened to me, and I sit here and ask God why they happened. I should know better, of course. There are two forces at work, after all, and God makes great things out of the bad things… but which one am I? The good or the bad?
I close my eyes and clasp my hands together. I need some comfort, some real comfort, and I know that God can give it to me. He can give me strength, and he can give me hope… I really need that right now.
“God,” I whisper, my eyes filling up with tears. “I know I sound selfish asking for you to give me the hope and strength I need to… to… be okay again… I know other people… they need it more than I do. But… God, I miss John… and I miss Tobiah… Whatever I did to… I’m sorry…” Tears start to fall, hot on my cheeks. “If they’re up there with you, God, tell them I love them… tell Tobiah I say thank you for saving my life, although I wish he… I wish he was still here… and, and… tell him I wish it was me…”
I look down at my driveway as my mother’s car pulls in. She opens the door and steps out, looking up at me, worry covering her face.
“Amabel?” She calls. “What are you doing up there? Come down!”
I pull my knees to my chest and rest my chin on them. I shake my head slightly and move my eyes away from her. I don’t want to talk to her. I don’t want to talk to anyone.
“Amabel Doll!” She shouts again, and I’m forced to look at her. “Come down here this instant!”
She’s mad. Furious even. And later she’ll probably get drunk mourning over her sons death… and I’ll be upstairs alone, waiting for her to crash so I can clean up the mess before dad gets home…
She screams my name again and I feel frustration enter into me.
“Why?” I shout back, not making eye contact with her. My eyes stay on the rooftop across from me. For some reason, it seems so inviting. Does that even make sense?
“It’s dangerous up there, Am! Come here.”
I ignore her.
“Why?” I shrug and finally look down at her. “So you can go and get drunk and pretend like Tobiah didn’t just die?” The word sticks in my throat like a big wad of gum and tears shoot into my eyes. Admitting it out loud makes my heart hurt, and immediately I want to take the word back. I don’t want it to be true.
“Amabel Ray Doll,” She says in a low, threatening tone. “Get your butt down here. Now.”
I groan and stand up, my attitude reflecting through the actions.
And that’s when my foot slips out from under me.