I wake up in a white room. Machines beep around me. I roll my head to the side and see my dad slumped forward in a plastic chair, his head in his hands.
“Dad?” My voice is croaky, my throat feels like it’s got sand paper in it. He raises his head and I wince at the redness of his eyes.
“We thought we’d lost you too...” His voice is low, almost thoughtful. “Your mother...your mother went to look for you in the car...” He swallows dryly. “We thought you were gone...” A lone tear snakes its way down his stubbly cheek. He wipes it away with a shaky hand and stands, walking over to the window keeping his back to me. “Heroin? Christ, Rosa-Lee! Tommy said you were drinking heavily but fucking drugs?” His voice is heavy with emotion. I ache to get up and hug him, feel the warmth of my dads arms around me. Then I realize I actually ache all over, like I’ve been hit by a bus. “Your mom and I have made arrangements for you to go to a center for people..like you.”
“What do you mean, like me?” Christ my throat burns.
“Young people who aren’t coping with the world very well. They’ll help you get over the drugs, and will help you deal with Dy..”
“Don’t say his name.” I interrupt with a hiss. My dads shoulders slump.
“Sweetheart, it’s been a year and you still can’t hear his name.” He walks over and sits on the bed next to me, taking my hand in his. When I was younger I was obsessed with the size difference between our hands, his dwarfs mine even now, and men with big hands scream protector to me. I keep my gaze on our hands, not wanting to meet the judgement in his eyes. “It’s not healthy, and it doesn’t help us grieve for our son when we can’t do it in front of you.” I bite back the sob welling up inside of me, and nod slightly to acknowledge what he’s saying. “The people from Rainbow House will be here soon to collect you. They have advised us it will be best to let you go through the withdrawl completely before we come see you.” The sob bursts through the dam I was trying to build, and I cling on to my dad with all the strength I can muster. “Shhhh. It’s ok baby girl, it will all be ok.” He rocks me gently, stroking my hair.
I sit shivering with fever on one of the most uncomfortable chairs I’ve ever had the misfortune to sit on, watching the nurse change my shitty bed sheets. Again.
It’s so humiliating having to press a buzzer to get someone you don’t know to come and haul you out of a pile of your own stinking diarrhea to wash you and change your clothes. They obviously expect this kinda thing to happen though because the mattress is covered in a wipe down plastic sheet.
“All done hun.” The nurse, Katie, shoots me a warm smile. I shuffle back to the bed and burrow my way under the new sheets, amazed at the sweat already soaking my clean pajamas. If it’s not the shit it’s the sweat which means I need my sheets to be changed at least once a day. I feel disgusting. “I’ll bring you some more water and tablets to help settle your stomach.”
“H-how mu-uch longer w-will...” I try to stutter out the question. She smiles again, picking up the bucket, brown water sloshing slightly inside.
“How much longer will you feel like this, hun? Well it depends on how much and how often you were using drugs, but I would think in a few days you’ll be feeling a bit better.” She flicks off the main light, leaving the room bathed in the warm yellow glow of the bedside lamp. “Try and get some sleep now, m’kay?” The door clicks closed behind her.
I lie shaking in the half dark, trying to go to sleep. If only it was that easy. I feel like someone is trying to bend my spine in half and repeatedly punch me in the stomach at the same time. My legs twitch spasmodically, causing them to get entangled in the sheets. As soon as I feel myself drift off a new round of pain starts, pulling me back.
The noises close by don’t lend themselves to getting peaceful sleep either. I can hear an almost constant moaning, punctuated with loud incoherent shouts and bangs.
I’ve been here in Rainbow House for two weeks nearly. My body is nearly back to normal. My skin feels itchy, and I’m still finding it difficult to keep much food down, but my fever has broken and I’ve stopped shitting myself. Go me.
My doctor here, Dr Greene, has decided I need to have therapy sessions with my parents. Starting today.
I’m currently sat on one end of a deep purple sofa, my legs pulled up under my chin, and my jumper pulled down over the top of them. My mom is sat next to me, trying to hold my hand and keep her tears in whilst Dr Greene tells them all about how my treatment is going to go. I chew at the skin on the inside of my cheeks, and wrap a thread from my sweater around my finger, watching as it slowly goes red. I glance up at my dad, sat stoically across the room. He looks like he’s aged about ten years in the last twelve months. I feel a nauseous ball of guilt at the extra pain and worry I’ve caused him.
Dr Greene opens his note pad and asks us to talk openly, no holds barred, about how we were feeling in this moment.
My parents spend the rest of the hour talking about their relief that I was getting the help I needed, and how much they missed having me at home. I sit silent, my eyes kept on the finger with the thread wrapped tightly round, watching it slowly going purple. I’m vaguely aware of my mom kissing the side of my head and my dad mussing my hair.
Dr Greene clears his throat, pulling me from my reverie.
“Well for three people who are all dealing with the loss of some one they claim they loved, you are all doing an excellent job of talking about it.” I glare up at him, and he raises an eyebrow. “At last! Some kind of emotion from you.” He smirks, and I resist the urge to stick my tongue out at him. “If you learnt how to deal with your feelings from those two then I know why you turned to drugs.”
“This doesn’t really sound like the kind of thing a therapist should be saying.”
“Well maybe I think you need a friend more than you need a therapist right now.” He sits back in his wingback chair, the leather creaking slightly under him. “I don’t think you feel like you’ve had a friend you can talk to since Dylan died.”
My breath stops. The pain in my chest feels like it’s going to tear me in two. I drop my feet to the floor and lean down over them, pressing my chest as tightly as I can to my thighs. Lights dance in my vision.
“Breath Rosa.” A heavy warm hand rubs up and down my spine. “You’re having a panic attack. Breath in deeply through your nose and out through your mouth.”
I feel myself float away into darkness.