She sighed into the cold air above her, her lungs shrieked in response and her nerve-endings effectively woke up. Damn it! The air was frosty, bitter … and harsh and the sleepy heat she loved so much was evaporating by the second now.
She was awake. There was no turning back.
She blinked hard, allowing her eyes to adjust to the dim pre-dawn light seeping in from the window situated above her. She rolled to her side, the floor creaked under her light weight – her collection of blankets and clothing created opportune pockets of space for the cold air as she did – the cooler air biting her skin now as it stealthily moved in, stealing the last of her heat. She rubbed her feet together like a Girl Scout would use a pair of sticks – hoping to spark her natural heat – but alas the cold won the game again.
Her eyes scanned the studio apartment now – the home she created here, long gone – as gone as her mother's mind and her life, as gone as her father, as gone as her youth. Just gone. And like many other places she called 'home' in her life, the doors were closing and it was time to move … on. She rested her eyes on the last of her belongings packed neatly by the door, her toiletries alighted in a Ziploc on top of her small duffle bag – by which sat the last box of her mother's diaries and her backpack – all ready to go … all ready to move on.
She shifted, her shoulder rolled against the floor, the wood creaked again. Peering down, she glanced at her watch – 5:34 AM – it would be light soon, she opened her eyes wide, ready to face the reality of the situation. For she had no choice – she had to deal with the cards she was dealt – and she was no poker player, nor would she ever be … because poker players were methodical, they were even and clear minded and level-headed in a crisis. And as much as she had been moving through her own personal crisis for the last several years and as much as she displayed the physique, the stance of that level-headed poker player – she was crumbling on the inside – her skin nothing but a thin protective sheathe that all of a sudden was no match for the cold that encapsulated her.
Meredith closed her eyes, a lone tear slipped free – knowing it would be the only one she would allow – she permitted it to make its own way, create its path and fulfill its simple destiny, following its weight along her hairline where it sharply turned, seeping into the crease of her neck where it stayed … salty and wet and fresh. Opening her eyes, she once again rehearsed how she arrived at the here and now – laying on the cold floor of the studio apartment she once called 'home' with deep fear lodged in her heart – terrified to move on and forward, but having no choice but to do just that … the situation not unlike many she had been presented with since she moved to Seattle almost four years ago to take care of her ailing mother.
Once she came to be with her mother, Meredith realized that she was no match for her illness – the evils of Alzheimer's claimed her quickly – a verity Meredith was secretly thankful for, for had her mother been aware of her condition for too long, the frustration alone would have killed her. As it was, in those early days before she truly lost it, to say things were tense between the two women was an understatement. Amid her mother's forgetfulness (and her displaced anger over her mistakes) and Meredith's apparent indecisiveness about continuing education, namely medical school … well … things were tumultuous at best.
Eventually, Meredith moved her mother into Rosewood, a nursing home specializing in Alzheimer's patients. Thereafter, she studied the disease and spent many hours with the staff assigned to her mother's case. She learned about the disease – its grand theft of the brain's capacity to survive astounded her – and in the end, it was her mother's illness – not her constant browbeating – that provided the impetus for Meredith to enroll in medical school. She was and remains inspired by the tenacity of the illness – by its unbiased claim of the brain – so much so that she felt an innate need to beat it, with the winning hand; wanting nothing less than to find a cure for the disease before it ever has a chance to claim her.
Once her mother was situated, Meredith fell into a routine – work, visit, study, work, work, study, study, study – she made a conscious effort to avoid forging friendships, she had other priorities and it was as simple as that. She had an ailing mother to take care of, grades to keep up and a job at the medical school library to keep, using the small stipend to pay for her rent here. And this was fine by Meredith – she had loafed off a lot in her undergraduate years, adding to that an extra year she spent 'studying' abroad – she'd had her fun and now she was all about medicine, all about the powerful disease that stripped her of her mother.
And Meredith could have kept this routine up for an eternity, a lifetime if it was possible, because as much as her mother was a foreigner to her when she was growing up – it wasn't until she fell ill that Meredith really got to know her – in part because she studied her mother and watched the disease take its toll, but even more so because of the gift: her mother's diaries. The diaries – they opened Meredith's eyes to her mother, they introduced her to her mother – and her entries helped Meredith understand her mother's pain, the pain of a lost love, of a broken heart … of a lost woman.
Woman to woman, she finally understood her mother and it was a beautiful thing. And in the end, the diaries were the catalyst … they afforded Meredith with the compassion to take care of her mother and understand her in a way that no one else ever could … child to mother, woman to woman.
Sadly, her mother, the great Ellis Grey, one of the foremost female surgeons in the world, passed away – and quite suddenly too – almost six months ago and no … no, she never did fully understand that Meredith enrolled in medical school, her mind was too far gone – her days were filled with distorted memories from twilight to twilight – Meredith was always her child, the nuisance she was to her mother, but over time Meredith learned to accept her mother and to love her and when she did pass away … she missed her. Terribly.
Another tear threatened to fall; Meredith sat up, hugging her knees to her chest, the empty space a shade lighter now, dawn would break soon. A profound shiver ran up and down her spine, she was freezing from the inside out now. She blinked. Her belongings were right where she left them. Almost time to go.
Yeah, she missed her mother, which in and of itself was an anomaly. Considering she spent most of her life trying to escape her mother's intense scrutiny only to assume the role of the medical student/daughter she had always wanted but never got to … see, well, the whole thing – the twist of fate was quite incredulous – and really, the only person Meredith Grey knew who was ballsy enough to make such demands, whether quiet or boisterous was Ellis Grey.
Thankfully, her mother left a decisive Last Will & Testament, one in which she bequeathed the total of her liquid assets to her beloved Mayo Clinic – a stipulation that was no secret to Meredith – for she had long-since been her mother's Medical Power of Attorney and over the last several years she was actively involved in her mother's estate planning – careful to avoid any inheritance – full-well knowing that death benefit taxes were a sham, believing that any inheritance she would have received would be better utilized by Mayo anyway.
So things were fine for Meredith, even though they weren't.
She was fine, getting by financially with the money she made from the library stipend, she was fine as long as it was the status quo and it was for a couple of months until her neighbor, Floret, had an emergency when her daughter who still lived France was abducted. When Floret needed to flee immediately and leave everything behind – she appealed to Meredith for help – who in turn offered to pay for the frazzled woman's expensive airline ticket with her rent money and then some. Thereafter, things were tight and had been for the last couple of months, the threat of the back rent foremost on her mind. Then, to make matters even more complicated, Meredith was informed that she could not fold her book and lab fees for her final semester into her already hefty student loan balance; she was maxed out – which left her with a choice – books or back rent and rent. She chose books without a second thought.
Perhaps the worst part of it all though – was that Floret had remained in France – and her daughter, a lovely child named Claire, was still missing. Meredith was crestfallen and hopeless over Floret's situation – having just lost her mother, her heart ached in a way she never felt before. It was a hard prospect for Meredith to come to terms with – as she could identify, for she felt like she was a missing child sometimes – and so every night she did the only thing she could do … prayed for the girl's safe return.
Glancing at her watch again, Meredith sighed and finally made the effort to stand amongst the bluish tint of morning shadows that seemed to dance. She held the two blankets she had, one around her shoulders and the other around her waist, She leaned over to pick up the small rounded pack of hoodies she had been using as a pillow and pressed her lips together as she shuffled her way across the cold floor, her thin socks no match for the naked floorboards. She reached her belongings, unzipped the duffle bag, grabbed the clothing she set aside and put the hoodies in the empty space there. She grabbed the Ziploc and headed to the bathroom.
Stepping inside the bathroom, Meredith flipped the switch … nothing happened. She flipped it again – up, down – still nothing. She walked back into the hallway and flipped the light switch there … still nothing. The Electric Company had made good on their promise to disconnect her utility.
She had no electricity … no light to shower with in there … it was almost time to move on.
Meredith sighed and stepped into the bathroom again and turned the hot water on. She shivered as she let the blanket around her waist go; she folded it and placed it on the Formica counter. Leaving the other blanket around the small frame of her shoulders, Meredith slipped her fleece pants off – the cold air clung to her legs like a layer of wet snow – she moved the blanket down to her waist for a beat, she took her long sleeve shirt and hoodie off in one motion before she moved the blanket up and around her shoulders once again. The air was drafty, cold … her skin and nipples hardened, reacting … her nerve-endings stood on end.
Grabbing her washcloth now, she held it under the water – yelping when she felt the frigid temperature – realizing all in the same moment that without electricity … there was no hot water!
She had no electricity … no hot water … it was almost time to move on.
Overcome, Meredith rested her palms against the edge of the basin and looked up and found her muted reflection in the vanity mirror there. Her face was still hers, the faux poker player was still there – but she was fading and noticed for the first time, a set of dark circles around her eyes akin to a raccoon – she inched closer, raising her fingers, pressing ever so softly against the tired skin… yeah … she was almost ready to fold.
Tears of defeat stung her eyes.
Steadying herself now, Meredith poured a spot of her shower soap onto her washcloth and set the faucet to run on a trickle. Quickly, she lathered her neck and face, then she cupped her hands under the water for a beat and pulled them away – carefully, she raised her hands to her mouth and blew her hot breath over the frigid water in an effort to warm it up – she splashed it along her face and neck, repeating this action a couple of times, using the 'heating' method to wash her body. She was freezing, but clean by the time she was finished. Tossing her clothing on, she felt better. She brushed her teeth, folded her belongings and carried them out to the front door.
Everything she owned was right here … it was almost time to go … it was almost time to … go.
She organized the balance of her things and looked up and around the apartment one last time. She shook her head and stifled a sob from somewhere deep inside of her … she felt a dull, easy ache in her heart. Ouch. She closed her eyes and then opened them. The morning light had begun to filter through the small place, illuminating all of her favorite nooks and crannies. She would miss this apartment. She would miss her home. She really would.
Another tear threatened to fall now and that was okay – fine by her – for she had expected this much. It was an emotional good-bye, she could allow herself this one – moment of weakness –because she knew, deep down … Meredith knew she would leave this apartment and essentially be … homeless.
She was homeless.
She had no home.
With that ugly range of thoughts in mind, she grabbed her jacket and put it on, fishing her key ring from her pocket; she slipped the key off. Leaning down, she pulled a small envelope from the side of her backpack – a letter in which she apologized profusely for evicting herself before he, her landlord (who always seemed to be nice enough) had a chance to … a letter in which she promised to pay for the back rent– she slipped the key inside the envelope and sealed it along with her fate.
She picked up the box of her mother's journals and clutched it to her chest as she stepped into the hallway. She closed the door behind her and all was quiet. And so with a raging heart, Meredith slowly walked by Floret's abandoned apartment, a frown in her heart over the lost girl and her terrified mother, turning the out of the corridor now – she was ready to set into action a plan she had carefully orchestrated – one that would hopefully carry her for the next six months – she would be homeless, that much was true – but at least she would graduate … she just needed to focus and graduate, then she'd find another place to live ... another space … a home.