21 - Jessica
I officially hate my cellphone. The minute I turned it on inside the walls of the hospital, while Matt was getting his stomach pumped, it had spluttered with a seizure from all the text messages and missed calls and voicemail messages from a very unwanted Greg. I thought my phone was my ally; I would have expected it to at least have the sense to divert Greg's calls and delete him from my life.
I huff, my black-screened cellphone gripped in my tight fingers. It's tempting to just propel it across the crisp white, hospital hallway and watch it smash with a satisfying crack against the wall. Thank goodness I, instead, have an excuse to have it switched off. The "No Cell Phone Zone" notice pinned to the wall across from where I'm seated has now been dubbed my best friend.
It turns out that Matt had choked on his own vomit and had fallen and cracked his head open on the edge of his coffee table. The doctors had determined it a crisis enough to lug him into the emergency room and expect me to sit around in the waiting room. At first, I was going to leave him there. I'd figured that paying for the ambulance to take him to one of the most prestigious private hospitals would have been enough. But when the hospital's automatic doors had effortless slid open and I'd been knocked with a reality-hitting blast of cold, fresh air. And something in my gut had been tugging me back. Guilt.
It wasn't faceless. It looked exactly like Matt, his face scarred and battered with tears, his eyes bleary from the alcohol. He was killing himself and I was just walking away. I was doing the exact opposite to what he had done when he'd found me exactly that way inside those mines.
And the guilt had taken control of my limbs, like it had infiltrated my brain and now was running the controls, and steered me back inside the building, back through the wide, white corridors, back to the waiting area outside his room.
It's uncomfortable here. Even if the nurses and doctors and everyone passing isn't looking, they are still seeing. They're seeing a weak, broken girl huddling inside a hard shell, hoping that someone will crack her open and finally release her. She hasn't found anyone she trusts enough, though, to do that yet.
And she's just scared that someone will hoist her up and jolt her about inside that shell like a rattle.
Restlessly, I trace my index finger aimlessly in circles on the skin of my other hand, finding it the only comforting thing in this whole building. Even if the corridors are wide, they still feel suppressing, closing in on me, forcing me to feel claustrophobic. I feel weak and unwanted and out of place.
I distract myself by scanning my eyes across the noticeboard pinned up on the wall across from the seats. All the words and pictures blur into one, a mess of advice and propaganda. The only poster that catches my attention is one that depicts a dark, cartoon hill with sunshine peeking out over the horizon. And the catchy catchphrase somebody has been paid hundreds for is, "You can get over that hill with Dr. Hill."
I scoff at it before adjusting myself in the cushioned seat – which is, apparently, supposed to be comfortable – and rest my head against the cold, white wall. I've had better advertisements for my speeches.
For the first time all night, my eyelids grow heavy. Just as I close them, the imprint of that image on the poster floats in front of the darkness.
And, at some point, I fall asleep.
"Jessica," somebody hisses beside my ear.
I grumble through closed eyelids, my hand snapping out, in danger of hitting whoever has disturbed my sleep. Serves them right.
"Jessica! Wake up!" The voice is more persistent and, for a second, a flash of recognition registers in my brain. Then it tugs my eyelids open and I see his infuriating face in front of mine.
"What the hell?" I mutter in disbelief under my breath, scoffing him. Tag looks unfazed as his dark, chocolate eyes peer out from the centre of his caramel skinned face. He doesn't look like somebody who has been hit with worry about a man he was so insistent to help, or the woman he had roped into it.
"Get up," he says, his eyes boring into me, his hand gripping my arm. I glance down at it in shock, his skin a dark contrast to mine. Aggressively, through my half asleep state, I shake him off me. He's entirely unperturbed.
"Excuse me," I straighten my back, realising I hadn't exactly been napping in the most attractive position, my legs curled up under my body, my head lolled over the arm that is draped over the back of a nearby chair. My spine is stiff as I compose myself, my shoulders aching. I wince a little at the pain but refuse to let Tag see it. "You were the one who had disappeared when Matt was practically bleeding out-"
Tag's rolling of eyes cuts me off, obviously impatient with me, before he merely points purposefully down the corridor behind me.
"What?" I sigh, irritatingly glancing in that direction. Then I freeze.
Hands clasped together, Chris and Ashley, anxiety etched on their faces, pace down the corridor towards me. They haven't seen me yet – their eyes are too distracted by the overpowering walls looming over their heads. I don't think they've looked any more uncomfortable than in this far too classy hospital.
Although, I have to admit, it hasn't met my standards either.
"Oh no," I shake my head, panic and exasperation shooting the words out of my mouth. My lips curve in an unimpressed grimace as I twist my neck back to face Tag. "You are not making me speak to them too-" He's gone. He's disappeared again. That asshole.
My jaw goes slack as I stare at the space where he was only a few minutes again, dumbfounded and feeling betrayed. When I find him next, he's going to be rewarded with a slap straight in the face. That is, if he doesn't disappear before hand.
"Jessica?" Chris' surprised voice is the worst thing I could hear right now. My jaw tightens and then relaxes as I adjust a pleasant expression on my face, turning to look at the couple. Chris looks surprisingly unsure, like he expects me to react the exact same way I had in the prison's visitor room. Ashley just looks plain surprised. "Are you... here for an appointment too?"
He pulls an appointment card from his pocket, flashing it towards me and I catch a glimpse of the unlucky doctor who has to see to them; Dr. Hill.
I scoff, shaking my head in disbelief. Do they really think I'm that in desperate need of psychological therapy? A pang of betrayal and hurt surges through me. "Thanks, guys," I spit with sarcasm. "It's nice to know you think so little of me."
"No," Ashley pipes up, finally braving herself enough to disconnect her hand from Chris' as she takes a step towards me. I feel cornered, wanting to step back to retain the safe distance. But the panicked breaths inside my throat are not enough for me to back down. I stamp my feet inside the slots in the floor and refuse to move. My chin lifts triumphantly.
"We weren't suggesting-" Ashley insists, reaching her hand out for me. My eyes flash with fear for a second, my throat closing up.
Then, for the first time in my life, I'm thankful for Chris' presence. "What's this?" he asks, cautiously curious as he leans down to pick up a scrunched up piece of paper wedged in between the seat I was on and the one next to it. Instinctively, my hand flies to my pocket, finding it empty.
I swear under my breath.
"Is this yours, Jess?" He asks, glancing up at me.
I'm tempted to shake my head, pressured into a corner, but Ashley is moving towards Chris, peering at the red, circled letters. There's a gap beside them, a place where I could rush through and escape this dreadful place.
But Ashley's voice, spelling out what she is reading, knocks me in place. "Y.O.U... You... C.A.N... can- what's this?"
Chris follows her finger, reading along with her, his lips mouthing the letters. Then their voices conveniently match each other's, both deciphering the same message; "You can get over that hill."
With Dr. Hill.