Vivi Morgenstern Chases Snakes.
The day before it happened, River Morgenstern, but known to her friends as Vivi, lay in a full bath, and ran her fingertips over the tattoo of the snake which sat, coiled and poised on her hip.
She was sick.
The hot water soothed her aching joints, and she watched the steam rise from the bath and twirl in the air. Her nose was congested, and she had a tissue shoved up one nostril to keep it from dripping. A cough rose in her burning throat, but she bit her lip, and squeezed her eyes shut, forcing it down.
Everytime she breathed, she heard a crackle in her chest and the phlegm try and rise up her throat.
She curled up on her side, her head rested on the edge of the bath, and absentmindedly stared at the snake on her hip.
Well, not quite the snake. She was really staring at the self harm scars that lay underneath the snake, half hidden by the intricate scales the tattoo artist had drawn on her.
She had not cut herself since she was sixteen, and yet at twenty, Vivi could feel their stinging pain as if they were fresh.
Another cough rose and this time she could not hold it down, the cough, wet and harsh, made her chest ache. She sat up, and forced her face underwater to muffle the sound of her coughing fit.
She lifted her face after a moment, feeling the water drip down her ears and chin, and listened to her mum scream.
Her mother was sicker than she was.
Of course, Vivi would soon get over her illness, her mother would never.
Her mother, Lauren Morgenstern née Walton, was hospitalized for her Obsessive Compulsive Disorder for the first time at the age of five.
It was after a breakdown, caused by her sister having a cold and the two youngest girls being forced to share a room.
On orders from a doctor, she stayed in a state hospital for 6 months before her parents finally took her home. They sent her away with a diagnosis of OCD and the theory that her disorder would only get worse with age.
Lauren did have a brief remission in her adolescence, but at forty-three the doctors were right. She could no longer leave the house by herself, fearful some insolent fool may cough in her direction.
Her medication had also begun to stop working. It's effects had loosened their grip on her body, and as the effects slipped away, her doctors began to notice her severe mood changes creeping through the cracks.
Nevertheless, even as an adolescent, Lauren Morgenstern had an extreme reaction to a particular kind of sickness. She could not listen to someone, sniff, blow their nose or cough.
If she did, there were particular rituals she had to do, to make herself feel okay again. A certain set of words said in a certain kind of way, as she scratched her arms in a manner that made her calm down.
Even from the bath, Vivi could hear the words her mother was saying, and mouthed them along with her.
Vivi rubbed her face, and pulled the dripping tissue from her nose. She sighed, and pushed herself back under the water so she could cough again.