Dying sucks. But dying from pancreatic cancer sucks even more. Rose paused, her face contracting in pain as a sharp twinge flew through her, vanishing as quickly as it had appeared. She shifted in her bed, continuing with her writing. The pain isn't as bad as it was. I think I'm nearing the end now. Her pen stopped for a moment, before scribbling in tiny letters: I'm scared.
Confined to a hospital bed for the past fourteen months, Rose was literally wasting away, unable to move. Paralysed from the pain and hating every second of it.
In her opinion, life really, really sucked. Dying before finishing college really, really sucked. Never falling in love - properly - really, really sucked. Worrying her family endlessly really, really sucked. Unable to leave her room really, really sucked. All in all, she really, really hated her life.
Oh, she knew it could have been worse. Rose could have been hated. She could have been abused. She could have had to live on the street, maybe, but it was still pretty bad. Her parents were good people. They loved her and did everything possible to make sure she was comfortable and happy. Her little sisters were amazing, and Rose knew it was hard for them, too.
She loved her baby sisters, and it was so hard to let them see her like this, hooked up to drips and feeds. But they always visited after school, determined to cheer her up. When her sisters visited her, they always brought something new to distract her. Sometimes a book, or a movie or game or… anything, really. Rose loved the books more than anything. She was constantly teased about being a book-worm. She didn't mind. She devoured those books like they were a hearty meal. She was envious of all the feats the characters could accomplish. She was jealous of how, despite the hardships faced, they were able to stand up, tall and proud. She wanted to be like that. She wanted to be okay with dying. She didn't want to live as a nuisance.
She really did.
She wasn't sure if she succeeded, though.
When Rose died, she died at the age of twenty-one; July eleventh at four-fifteen in the morning. To even begin to describe how it felt when it became clear that she died, the physical or emotional experience, is impossible.
She couldn't, even if she tried.
Rose bolted upright in her bed, panting heavily. Sweat trickled down her skin, making her clothes stick to her body. Her hands shook slightly as she pushed back a stray hair from her face. She paused.
That was impossible. She'd been near bald in the hospital. Very slowly, she pulled a lock of sweat-drenched hair up in front of her eyes and stared at it. Brown hair. A mousy brown lock of hair.
When the hell did I dye my hair?
That's when she noticed the room.
What the hell?
The sheets were a bland white and scratched her skin. The wall, a plain white, the floorboards a dull brown. The door was wooden with a latch, and a porcelain bowl filled with water stood on the wooden nightstand. Rose wanted to scream. What the hell was going on? Where was her room? Where was her amazing room that was covered in posters? Where was her computer, hooked up with her sticker-covered-speakers? Damn it, where was she?
Confused and frustrated, she threw the woollen blanket off of her and stood. For a moment. She promptly plopped straight back onto the bed, her legs tingling weakly as the room spun. Groaning in exasperation, she stood once more - slowly this time - and made her way across the room gingerly, towards the single mirror hanging on the wall. She had to stand on her tippy toes to even reach it. When it was finally safe in her hands, she stared at the person contained within the glass in shock.
Mousy hair in the place of black. Brown eyes instead of turquoise. Most shocking of all, a child's face stared back at her, instead of the adult she was so used to seeing. Rose stared at her reflection, slowing brining up a hand to touch her cheek. The girl in the mirror copied her.
What on earth...?
She was in shock for a few more minutes until she came up with two possible theories.
1. She was having a very weird dream, and any minute now she'd be woken up to yet another nurse poking yet another needle into her veins.
2. She had actually died, and this was either the afterlife, or she'd been reincarnated into her next life.
Both of her theories were improbable. But not impossible. Either way, for the first time in her life, she was free. No more pain. No more needles. No more crying parents. She could run. She could jump. She could go to school. She could read and draw and paint and… She could play an instrument. She could fall in love. She could do anything. She wasn't bedridden. She could, at last, have the life she'd thought was beyond her reach forever. There were so many possibilities. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Literally. And she was not going to waste it.
At least, that's what she was thinking when the floor decided to collide with her face.
Waking some time later, Rose found herself looking at a tired-looking woman and an equally exhausted man in the strangest clothes. They were conversing quietly at the door to the room, but as she struggled to sit up, they turned. The woman's face brightened, and both of them came over to the bed, the woman sitting on one side, and the man standing at the other. She recognised the woman from...somewhere. But Rose was one hundred percent sure she'd never seen the woman in her life.
"How are you feeling today, young miss?" the man - a doctor, Rose summarised, as he took her pulse - asked, his eyes twinkling kindly. "You gave us quite the scare, you know."
"I did?" Rose asked, her voice soft and scratchy as though she had the flu. The woman nodded.
"Indeed, child!" she replied in a warm, sweet voice. "Getting out of bed in your condition and fainting onto the floor? Hardly sensible behaviour!"
"I'm sorry," Rose muttered, her cheeks burning.
"It's quite all right Jane," the woman soothed. The child blinked up at her in confusion.
"Excuse me?" she whispered. The doctor and the woman glanced at each other.
"Do you know where you are, child?" the doctor asked slowly.
"England?" Rose said tentatively, feeling her stomach settle as a nod greeted her answer.
"And who am I, can you remember?" the woman asked. Rose looked at her anxiously, wondering what the heck she could say. Miss Temple, a little voice in her head whispered. She is a friend. You can trust her.
"And what is your own name, child?" the doctor asked. Rose inwardly panicked; they had called her 'Jane' not five minutes ago, clearly believing her to be someone else. If, however, her theory was correct, then she was someone else. Rose Carter didn't exist here - not to everyone else. She had to keep herself a secret from the world. Her head was throbbing in pain.
"I-I can't remember," she stuttered, holding a hand up to her temple. "I'm sorry, but I can't-"
"Hush now," Miss Temple soothed, gently pushing her down into the bed and tucking the blankets around her, "There is no need to fret. Just rest, Jane. You are still weak after the fever."
"Yes Miss Temple," Rose answered quietly, sinking back into the cool pillow and shutting her eyes as the two adults moved away towards the door. They spoke quietly, but she caught a snippet of their conversation - "Amnesia, it looks like. Brought on by weakness of the body due to the fever and her tumble yesterday. She may have to be re-taught everything."
Amnesia. She mentally snorted. I'll have to play that card for all I'm worth now. Or someone will know that something's wrong. And that's not good. She turned over in bed and yawned.
Not good at all.