Chapter 2 - A Death to Remember
I yell after a desperate gasp, as if I had been underwater the whole time I had my eyes closed. I sit up, fast, and at least four nurses go rigid around me while the defibrillator is shut down. My heart monitor starts beeping steadily as I start to feel my own breaths, but everyone turns to stare at the machine like it’s a ghost. My head hesitantly turns in time to see that my heart had been nearly inactive, and steeply returned to a regular rhythm as I awoke.
“Is that... normal?” I turn to ask the nurses. They only subtly look at each other and shake their heads before one of them says, “You’re perfectly fine now, must’ve been the machine, we’ll get a new one in right away.” Then, they all scurry off, more or less.
My phone suddenly strikes a cheery tone. Oh! Right, I wonder if they texted me back yet...
I lift the screen to my face and the message reads, “Hi!! Shina! I’m Mochta~ I’m so glad we met :) I go by he/him, and my other friends call me by a nickname since it’s easier. Wanna grab a coffee soon??”
No one’s ever been this eager to become friends with me before... I guess I’ll reply, “I’d love to, how does 1 p.m. sound? And I think I’ll just call you Mochta, it’s a beautiful name.”
“Really?? That’s so sweet of you to say! 1 p.m. sounds perfect, see you then!” Wow. His replies are quick, is he like this with everyone?
Let’s see, it’s 12 now... I think I’d like some fresh air. I look around to see where the nurses are, and what I’ll have to remove before I can get up. I hate having to rip those little sticky things off my chest one by one, but once I take out the IV, I’ll be good to go. I wince as I yank the needle from my vein. Damn! That hurts! It sucks that I’m a bleeder too; I might need a bandage… I scoot to the edge of the lifted, starch white deathbed and carefully transfer my weight to my feet. The pain from my wound comes flooding back to me, and my face scrunches inward with a harsh grimace. It’s actually.. not that bad. If I stop and take a deep breath... I’ll be okay.
Softly clutching my abdomen with one hand, I look up and reach for my clothes. Of course, my shirt is ruined… Lifting it up, I further examine the gaping cut and even larger blood stain around it. Well, I don’t have much of a choice. I step into the corner of the room for some privacy as I change out of this loose, humiliating patient gown, into my gory attire.
Afterwards, I hastily shove my phone into my pocket and peak into the hallway. Looks like the only nurse around is walking away, and the receptionist looks pretty busy. Alright. I walk out and shut the door slowly behind me, as if it were a masterpiece made from glass. Glancing around the overly luminous halls one last time, I start to casually head for the door, gradually picking up speed. I’m almost there...
“Ma’am?” I hear the desk lady behind me. My knees twitch, urging me to stop in my tracks, but I force myself to keep walking.
“...Ma’am?” I notice the creak of an office chair and quick, fluttering steps. On a whim, I run out of the door and sprint down the sidewalk, briskly passing frightened pedestrians. Everything’s zooming past me again, like me and the world are two separate forces constantly evading one another. The breeze I make gives me momentary goosebumps despite the annoyingly warm weather. My stitches cry but I tell them to shush through a clenched jaw while I make my escape.
Once I’ve ran a few blocks, I take a glance back and--oof! Shit.. what did I just run into?! The impact causes me to stagger backwards, about to fall on my tailbone, but I prop myself up just in time. The prickly concrete scathes my palm while I investigate the shocked face before me, it looks vaguely familiar.. and angelic. The man, with short, light and airy curls accompanied by a clean fade seems more concerned than a stranger should be. His fair skin welcomes the Sun and his fingers hover over parted lips, “Shina?!”
“...Mochta?” His hand reaches out to me and I take it kindly. Once I’m standing again, I find that I’m not very far away from Mochta’s glowing complexion.. and, oddly enough, I don’t feel uncomfortable. “What are you doing here?”
“Hmm?” His head tilts sideways like a bewildered pup. “Oh! I decided to do some clothes shopping before we met up. Speaking of...” He points his finger down, disapprovingly, to my gruesome mess of an outfit.
“Ah.. um--right. Sorry, I didn’t really...” This is insanely embarrassing. I can feel my own plasma rush to my cheeks and burn me as punishment for poor planning and social awkwardness. What was I thinking, running out here like--?
“It’s fine! I can get you some new clothes, as a thank you!” Mochta’s smile is perfect and endearing.
“Wh-what? You don’t have to do that! Clothes are expensive.. and I have clean ones at--”
“Pfsh, come on, who doesn’t want cute, new clothes!” He grabs my hand and carries me off before I can react. I’m afraid that my hand will sweat and I’ll be forced to let go due to my own insecurity. My thoughts fizzle into a mist until we enter the nearest clothing store. People start to stare at me with disgusted and horrified looks on their faces.. one by one... Just as I expected to happen.
“Everyone, this girl just saved my life so don’t be rude and stare, okay?” Chipper and yet.. demanding, Mochta’s voice echoes throughout the store. It worked, though, it seems everyone is back to minding their own business. While I’m being dragged through isles of pricy blouses, I can’t help but momentarily gaze into his breathtaking, blue eyes.
“Oh, wait!” I tug on his hand as I abruptly come to an awful realization. Mochta turns and stands by my side, my fingers slipping from his palm.
“What’s the matter?”
“I.. don’t think I can try on clothes right now...” With an anxious hand, I roll up my black sleeve stained with a barely distinguishable red, to reveal the messy overflow from my punctured vein.
Mochta cringes and lowers his voice to somewhat of a whisper. “Wow, they did a horrible job cleaning you up... It looks like the vein in your arm exploded!”
“I don’t.. think it exploded, but... I kind of left before I was cleared for checkout.”
“What?!” His voice rises in disbelief. He clasps a hand over his mouth in surprise before he speaks quietly again. “So, that’s why you were running? I thought people only did that in movies!” He begins to chuckle ever so slightly, “You really are crazy.”
I avert my eyes in shame. “What.. made you think I was crazy before?”
“Are you kidding? What kind of person runs straight into danger like you did?!”
I turn my gaze back towards Mochta with unintentional, but piteous puppy-dog eyes. “...Are you scolding me?”
He pauses for a moment; he looks a bit choked up as he keeps his eyes fixed on me.
“Mochta?” My expression metamorphosizes into one of concern.
“Huh? Oh, sorry. I zoned out and forgot what to say.”
“Y’know,” he continues, “You’re pretty cute for someone as rugged as you are.” He starts to walk past me, towards the exit. I’m flustered and.. at a loss for words. I’ve never heard anything like that before. I mean, when I was in high school, stupid, selfish boys would try to compliment me sometimes, but that was it. No one tried to get to know who I was inside, no one was nice to me unless they wanted something…
Mochta stops and turns to me. “Aren’t you coming? I’m going to walk you home.”
Remaining speechless, I exit the store, following behind him.
It starts to rain, and we walk shoulder to shoulder. The raindrops grow heavier and more abundant the closer we get to my parent’s house.
Mochta takes off his jacket to drape it over my back before it becomes drenched. “Thank you.” I give him a short glance and a weak smile. I don’t acknowledge it, but he starts to look at me with worry and solemnity as our feet repeatedly slosh into shallow puddles.
Eventually, I stop in front of my destination, and look up at the door above stone steps with a sense of regret.
“Thanks for hanging out with me today, Shina.” He lifts a hand up to wave with a smile. “Sorry it wasn’t like we planned...” Mochta’s voice begins to drown and spin in a whirlpool of my emotion. I’m not sure what to think, I’m worried about the voice I’ve been hearing in my sleep.. my health.. my life, my wilting family dynamic. I’m worried that I’ll always ruin potential friendships because… I’m not happy.
But.. I have to try to be.
Without waiting for clear skies in my head, I turn around in the pouring rain to tightly embrace Mochta. I can feel all his muscles contract for a few seconds, and the soft squelch of raindrops escaping his shirt, before he loosens up again and wraps his arms around me.
“You can talk to me whenever, okay?” He reminds me in a reassuring tone. I step back and nod, giving him a warmer smile than I’ve been able to give in a long time.
Once Mochta has departed, I turn towards the front door and look up at the shedding sky with my eyes softly shut. Each icy raindrop strokes my eyelashes and descends like a tear. The small bit of sunlight bleeding from the afternoon clouds tints my eyelids with a deep shade of red.
All at once, I hear a devastating clap of thunder before my unfulfilled life flashes before my eyes. Lightning struck me in less than a split second, and now I feel the shockwaves pulsing violently within me. My whole body is frozen, and yet my veins feel filled with lava. I drop to my knees so hard I can feel the muddy drops of water from the puddle beneath me stain my neck. I want to cry, I want to yell, I want to ask “why?” This pain is unbearable.