“No matter how much I fight them, no matter how hard I try to climb out of this hell, their sinister claws always pull me back down, ensuring I’m a captive for life.”
As soon as the door slams on her way out I collapse on the bathroom floor, this sudden tsunami of emotions literally knocking the air out of my lungs.
I don’t deserve anything different, really. I’ve been an absolute asshole, without any good reason. She’s right, she shows me trust and respect and kindness, and she never ever asked for anything in return except that I at least fucking try.
And I did, I swear. I tried. I prepared breakfast to go and talk to her, but as soon as she mentioned leaving the house and talking to other people I just panicked. I couldn’t do that. I can’t do that.
“You didn’t have to fly off the fucking handle, though...” I mutter to myself as I try to catch my breath, lifting myself onto the bathtub before slowly taking a seat on the edge. With my elbows resting on my thighs I rest my head in my hands, my fingers pulling at my hair as I take deep controlled breaths, knowing it’s the best way to get my heart rate down.
I need to get this under control. Either that or I have to leave this place. It’s not fair to Mia, who literally only ever tried to help me.
The worst thing is that I have no fucking idea why I’m behaving this way. I went through this shit during my studies. Technically I have an idea of what I’m going through, seven stages of grief and shit, but I cannot find it within me to control my emotions, to even understand them. I feel numb, but my mind is fighting the feeling, it’s trying to crawl out of its paralysis, but to no avail. Because I’m being pulled into this void, the demons of my past pushing me deeper and deeper until it swallows me whole, and no matter how much I fight them, no matter how hard I try to climb out of this hell, their sinister claws always pull me back down, ensuring I’m a captive for life.
I am swinging from emotional torpor to pure and utter despair and back again, every single day. And sometimes, sometimes I swing in a different direction, a direction that allows me a glimpse of what I could have again, of the light that I stopped believing in. It only happened a few times, but every single time there was one person who triggered it, to an extent. The same person I basically treated like trash on multiple occasions.
Without knowing what I’m doing I climb into the bathtub, starting the water without even caring about the clothes I’m still wearing. Clothes she gave me.
The cold water fills the tub, and I watch as it rises and rises, ignoring the stinging pain on my skin as it swallows me with every fresh gallon. The chilling sensation running through my veins has me paralyzed, and I don’t even know how long I’m sitting in here, to be honest. I do know that at some point I start shaking, and with the way my skin wrinkles I must have been in here for hours. My teeth start clattering, and I guess it’s right then that I realize I’m probably hypothermic. I need to get out of this bath, or else my body will go into complete shutdown.
No idea why I suddenly care about that, but I actually manage to stop the water and get out of the tub, wrapping one of Mia’s large towels around me to warm myself up.
Again, I have no idea how long I’m just sitting on the bathroom floor, the towel wrapped around me only slightly warming me up. My body moves on its own as I get up, the splash of the overrun water beneath my feet echoing through the bathroom. I walk into her bedroom, seeing her clothes all over the place and her bed unmade. Not thinking much about it I step towards the bed and slip beneath her duvet, letting the heavy scent of cherry and vanilla fill my nostrils as the warmth surrounds me, a drowsy and somewhat faint feeling running through my veins as I close my eyes, letting sleep overcome me.
I jolt up from the sudden feeling of a heavy weight on my chest. A quick glance on the clock on the wall tells me it’s pretty late in the evening already, and I quickly jump out of bed, the unexpected burden has me staggering until I finally collapse to the ground.
Fuck. I can’t breathe.
Not again, please. Not again.
The walls are closing in on me as I basically crawl into the living room, looking for the one thing that will get me out of this. Luckily I find it beneath the couch table, and I immediately search through the contacts, finding the three letters I need before I dial them, my heart hammering in my chest as it rings for what feels like minutes until I finally hear her voice.
“Hello?” Her voice sounds so concerned already, and I feel the guilt of having her care for me so much weighing on my chest, the ever raging storm in my system still closing in on me.
“Mia...” It’s all I get out, my breath feeling like heavy boulders traveling through my lungs.
“Lincoln, what’s wrong?”
“Mia, please, can you... Fuck... Mia. I... I need you.” I start getting up by steadying myself on the couch table, it feels like the ceiling is about to collapse on me if I don’t move now. But my sweaty hands slip from the edge, sending both me and the vase sitting on top of it to the floor. As I lay there I wrap my arms around my body, remembering that article I once read about how physical pressure to your torso can ease panic attacks.
“I’m coming, Lincoln. I’m on my way. Take a deep breath for me, okay? I’m coming right away. Just stay on the line.” I can hear her voice, but I don’t really register anything. I try reaching the phone which slipped out of my hands, but I’m too afraid to remove my arms, and so I just sit there, listening to Mia’s worried voice, even though I can’t make out what she says anymore now.
I don’t know how long I’m sitting there, knees pulled up to my chest while I press them against me with my arms circled around them, my respiration only slowly getting back to a normal rhythm. I don’t dare to open my eyes, it feels as though these demonic walls are waiting for it, waiting for me to slip up, just so they can crush me with their force.
The slamming of the front door startles me slightly, but soon I hear the voice I need, the voice I don’t deserve at all.
“Lincoln?! Where...” The sound of splashing right behind me has me slowly coming back to reality. “Shit...”
I hear her footsteps until she’s suddenly on her knees in front of me, her hands cupping my face as she lifts my head, those ocean blue eyes immediately settling on mine.
“Lincoln. Hey, Lincoln. Focus.”
And I don’t know what it is about her, but as soon as her hands touch my face I feel my heartrate relaxing, her calm eyes seem to look straight through the storm inside of me.
“You’re okay. It’s okay. You will get better, do you hear me?” I nod my head, even though I don’t fully believe her words.
“You’re drenched... Come on, let’s get you some dry clothes.” She doesn’t even question what happened, she just grabs both of my hands and pulls me up. How the hell she managed to do that is beyond my understanding, my legs still feel like my bones have gone to dust.
But somehow I manage to stand up and follow her into the bedroom, where she quickly glances at the now soaked bed before she reaches into the closet, pulling out a large sweater and some sweatpants, not even mentioning the human-shaped wet stain on her bed.
“Here. Pull them on. I’ll wait outside...” She goes to move to the door, but I immediately grab her hand, a sudden ripple of panic pulsing through me.
“No. Please. No.”
“Please. Don’t leave.” She holds my gaze for a second, her eyes searching mine until she nods her head and squeezes my hand.
“Okay. I need you to change though, you’ll get sick if you don’t. I’ll just wait by the door, okay? That way you can see me.”
I nod my head and she squeezes my hand once more before she walks over to the door, leaning against it while she closes her eyes. I quickly change into the clothes she gave me, suddenly noticing for the first time how soaked they still are.
“I’m done...” I place the wet clothes on the chair next to her bed, suddenly feeling self-aware as hell as I stare at the pile of clothing.
“Hey...” She is suddenly right in front of me, her hands grabbing my own, and I can’t help but stare at her again before she continues. “What happened?”
“I... I don’t know.” I answer truthfully.
“Lincoln... I can’t do this. I need you to talk to me. This isn’t working if you don’t tell me what’s on your mind.” Her voice is stern, and I know she’s right. I do. It’s just so fucking hard to even get the words out.
“I know.” I sigh. I can’t keep pushing this away from me. Rationally I know I have to deal with this, but actually doing it sounds like my worst nightmare. Not that I’m not living it already.
“Are you ready to tell me?”
Fuck no, I’m not...
She nods, her hands still squeezing my own as she suddenly moves towards the door. “Come on, I’ll make us some tea.”
About ten minutes later I’m wrapped in a blanket, sitting cross-legged on some pillows in front of the fireplace. Mia hands me a cup of tea as she takes a seat beside me, her hand settling on my thigh when she looks at me.
“I just want you to know I will not judge you for anything you tell me, okay? Everything you say stays between us. I promise.”
I nod my head, immediately tracing the honesty in her eyes. I believe her, I really do. But still, it’s goddamn hard.
“I don’t even know where to begin...” I sigh because it’s the truth. I have no fucking idea where to start.
“How about you start by telling me why you refuse to go back to work?”
It’s insane how she just hit the nail on the head. And she’s not afraid to do so, either. Those ocean blue eyes just gaze into mine, helping me find my emotional footing in them. I underestimated how much she actually listened to me whenever I did decide to share bits and pieces of information.
“It’s...” I take another deep breath. “I told you I’m a pediatric surgeon.”
She nods her head, but doesn’t say anything. I guess she doesn’t want to scare me off.
“Well, to be precise, I finished my pediatric residency about three months ago. Two months ago there was an accident... The driver of a school bus fell asleep and drove straight into a tree by the side of the road. They managed to get the kids out of there, luckily, and none of them died on the scene except for the driver.” I gauge her reaction, and I see the sympathy in her eyes, but she still doesn’t say anything. I look back into my cup of tea, watching the liquid move with every breath I take.
“They brought in all of the kids, most of them luckily only had concussions or some bruised ribs, but generally they were really lucky. Except for this girl.” I swallow.
My whole body is telling me to run out of this apartment and forget this ever happened, but there’s a fraction of something inside me that tells me to stay put. When I look up from my cup I immediately meet those intense eyes of hers, and I instantly know what it is exactly that urges me to stay.
“It’s okay.” She whispers, her hand on my thigh squeezing it gently as she shoots me an encouraging smile. That smile just does something to me I absolutely cannot explain. I can’t even describe the way my heart tumbles from the sight of it, and I suddenly just know that I can trust her with everything, that she won’t judge me for what I’m about to tell her.
And so I continue.