Stay Strong

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Chapter 9

I slept little the night before. I spent all night thinking about Sonia and Landon and what happened three years ago. The few times I fell asleep I quickly woke up from nightmares that I couldn’t remember. I ended up going into Candice’s room and sleeping beside her bed on the floor. She woke me up the next morning asking if I was having nightmares again. I couldn’t tell her the truth so I simply hugged her and told her that I was fine. I’m sure she didn’t believe me.

I was paying for my lack of sleep now. No matter how hard I tried to listen to the teacher drone on and on, no matter how many times I rubbed at my eyes, I seemed to be drifting off to sleep. I found myself laying my head down on the surface of the table.

“Aspen...” A hand was on my shoulder, shaking me. I opened my eyes and looked up at Landon.

“What?” I half mumble. He smiles down at me. “Class is over. You slept through it all but I got all the notes down so don’t worry.”

I bolted upright. I never fall asleep during school. Ever. If Lorelai somehow found out that I did then she would use that to take Candice away from me. “Shit, shit, shit,” I mutter, gathering my things quickly.

“What’s the matter?” he asked, curious if anything.

“Nothing. I just...never fall asleep in class. Ever.” He laughs at this and shakes his head but says nothing. I roll my eyes and sling my back onto my shoulder.

I walked out of the classroom and headed to my locker. Lunch was next and I was starving. The day I met Landon I had thought he had only one class with me, but it turned out that he was in three of them. Back then it would have made me irritated but now it kind of made me happy.

I shove my books into my locker, hoping to shove these thoughts in there with them. I turned around after shutting my locker and ran straight into a chest.

“Oof.” I stumble back a step and look up to see Landon trying not to laugh. How did I not notice he was there? I must have been more tired than I thought. I shove him gently but he doesn’t budge. I huff and walk past him. I didn’t want to deal with this.

As I plopped down on the bench next to Vanessa I let out a yawn. Bryson was quick to question me. “How much sleep have you been getting?”

Landon sat down next to Bryson, staring at me, wanting to know the answer as well. I stare at Bryson as I say, “Enough.”

“No, you haven’t. You have bags under your eyes. And I can feel the exhaustion rolling off of you,” Vanessa snaps, then, says in a softer voice, “These extra hours aren’t good for you.”

“I know they aren’t. But what am I supposed to do?” I whisper sadly.

“Let someone help you,” she says just as softly.

Landon was looking between the three of us and I could see the questions forming in his brain. “I don’t want to talk about it now,” I state bluntly, eating my food quietly. Vanessa sighs but drops the subject and Bryson huffs but starts to eat.

As the bell rang, I stood up I got extremely dizzy. I clutched the table and put a hand to my head. “Aspen?” Vanessa laid a hand on my shoulder.

“I’m good. I just got a little dizzy is all.” I laugh gently but I can tell she doesn’t believe I’m alright.

During the next class, I fall asleep again and Landon has to keep waking me up.

“Aspen. Are you sure you’re okay?” he asks, worried.

“Yeah, yeah. I just,” I stop to yawn, “didn’t get enough sleep is all.” He looks at me with disbelief in his eyes but doesn’t say anything else.

Once the final bell rings I gather my things and head to my car. As I get in the car my phone vibrates. I look down and see that I have a text from an unknown number. But I felt like I knew who it was. Still, I opened the message.

Unknown Number: Why do you keep ignoring my calls? I simply want to talk to you.

I block the number and throw my phone into the passenger side seat. This man was making me angry and annoyed. A bad combination for anyone. If this man claiming to be my father wants anything to do with me then he would have to meet me in person and have a face to face conversation. Not a phone call or a text message. Not where he can hide.

I arrive at work and quickly change into my work clothes, but not before Eddie stopped me when I walked through the door and asked if I was feeling alright.

By this point, I was sure I looked like hell. Almost all of my teachers have asked me that and my friends and boss seem beyond worried. Even if I wanted to go home and collapse I couldn’t. I had to provide of Candice and me and taking a day off to sleep would not pay the bills.

As I walked out to the main room of the restaurant we seemed extremely busy. Busier than normal. My head swam and the thought of all night being busy like this. I was so, so tired. I didn’t sleep well last night and combine that with the late hours I have been working, it makes a person very tired.

“Aspen? You good?” Bryson leaned down to look me in the eye. I nodded my head but I couldn’t wipe the grimace off of my face. “Maybe you should go home,” he says while looking around for, I could only guess, Eddie.

“No.” I grip his arm. “No. I’ve got bills to pay.” He sighs and looks at me sadly but nods his head and backs away, going back to whatever he was doing. “I appreciate your concern, Bryson. I really do, but I’m fine.” He looks me over his shoulder and nods his head again but doesn’t say anything.

I sigh as I tie the apron around my waist. I go to my first table of the night, shoving a yawn down my throat.

All through the night people poured into the diner. It wasn’t even the weekend and we were still this busy. I winced when I thought about how busy it would be this weekend.

As I was talking to one of my tables, an elderly lady that was eating with her daughter and granddaughter, I felt my body shift to one side. I quickly adjusted my footing and regained my balance.

“Are you alright my dear?” the lady asked, staring at me with a kind but worried look. I smiled down at her even though I felt my world shifting slightly.

“Thank you for your concern, ma’am. But I am perfectly alright,” I say with a gentle smile as I began to sit down their food on the table.

I knew that was a lie. Even before the bright lights overhead seemed to grow dimmer and the white walls of the diner tilted sideways.

It felt like it was happening in slow motion. The tray clattered to the floor, plates breaking. My hip made contact with the floor, causing pain to shoot up my side and down my leg. Next was my elbow as I tried to catch my self, but I felt my arm glide sideways on the smooth black and white tiles, the skin breaking. I waited for my head to hit the ground but the impact never came. Instead, I was staring up into blue eyes filled with panic. “Someone call an ambulance!” Bryson yelled before turning back to me. “Stay awake Aspen.”

I tried to, I really did. But I lost the battle in the end and my eyes closing as sleep engulfed me.


I know... I know. I’m a terrible person. I’m trying to update as often as I can but it’s my senior year and things are a mess. I will be adding a few more chapters today though.

I want to take a moment to thank those who severed during 9/11 and to say stay safe and be careful to those who are in Florence’s path.

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