“I got you a frosty.” Ashlynn gestures to the cupholder.
“Thanks.” I take a spoonful of the frosty, hoping that the swirl of chocolate and vanilla will get the bitter taste out of my mouth.
“I broke up with Leo.” I swallow a lump in my throat.
“What?” Ashlynn gasps. “What happened?”
“You were right. I shouldn’t have gone to that stupid party.”
“Do you wanna talk about what happened?” She put her hand over mine.
“This bitch comes out as soon as we get to the party, and she’s literally flirting with Leo, you can tell she has a major crush on him.”
Ashlynn turns her blinker on. “So is that why you left? Did she make you feel awkward and uncomfortable?”
“It wasn’t just her.” I take another spoonful of frosty, and continue. “Apparently while I was having the surgery to have my eye removed, Leo was texting her.”
“What?” Ashlynn raises her eyebrows in the mirror. “Why was he texting her?”
“I don’t know why he was texting her!” I cover my face, because I’m bawling.
Ashlynn runs her hand along my forearm. “We can talk about this more later if you want.’
“She called me a charity case. The girl called me a freaking charity case. And that;s when it occurred to me that Leo’s only with me, because he feels sorry for me.”
I fold my arms across my chest.
I notice Ashlynn staring at me.
“What?” I demand.
“Do you really think he feels that way?” She asks, quietly.
“I love him. I love him so much. But he gives me way more than I give him. He does so much for me. And I want him to be with someone who could put their all into the relationship.”
“Because you don’t drive?” Ashlynn asks.
“Yes Ashlynn! Because I don’t drive!”
“I’m sorry.” Ashlynn says quietly. “But where is this coming from? You’ve been with him for four years.”
“Well maybe I just woke up and started smelling the weak ass coffee.”
“What do you mean?” She asks.
“Because when he’s introducing me to people, he talks about my disability. How he has to drive me places. He said he doesn’t mind, but it makes me feel like crap.”
“I can understand that, but he loves you. He didn’t mean to hurt you.” Ashlynn pulls into the driveway.
“Do you wanna watch a movie? Want some popcorn?” She asks, as we go into the house.
“No thanks, I just want to be alone.”
“Okay, well I’m here.”
“Thanks.” I grab a pajama shirt and sweatpants out of my drawer and hop into the shower.
I ball my fists, still angry about tonight.
I thought I accepted this crap already. But apparently not, because the anger is already coming back. And now I don;t even have someone to hold and kiss me anymore.
I think back to the first time Leo and I were at the beach as friends, when I poured my heart out to him, and told him about my disability. I felt like he knew me as a person then. But apparently not, because it seems like I’m defined by my disability even when I’m with him. I cover my face to muffle my tears and hop out of the shower. I feel like absolute crap.
“Hey, sweetie.” Mom comes into my room the next morning. “Want some breakfast?”
“No thanks, I’m not hungry.”
Mom brushes some hair away from my face. “What happened? Ashlynn picked you up from the party last night.”
“I broke up with him.” I say, my face expressionless.
“Why?” Mom puts her arm around me.
“Because he told some girl that I didn't even know that I had my eye removed!” I burst into tears.
“I’m sorry.” Mom says quietly. “I’m sure he didn’t mean to hurt you.”
“Well she also called me a charity case.”
Mom runs her hand along my cheek. “I’m sorry.”
“I’m sick of him doing everything for me, and I can’t do anything for him in return.”
“That’s not true.” Mom says quietly.
“Yes it is. I can never bring him food. I can never just let him relax, and drive, and I’m defined by my disability. It’s everywhere.”
Mom sighs. “I think you should talk to him.”
“Because I don’t think he feels that way, and I don’t think he meant to hurt you.”
“I don’t want to talk to him.”
“You don't have to do it right now, but at least hear him out. Do you still love him?”
I sigh. “Of course I still love him, mom. I love him very much.”
“Well talk to him about it when you’re ready. And please come downstairs for breakfast.”
“Okay.” I’m drawn to the smell of flaky, buttery croissants. At least I won't be hungry.
“Hey.” Ashlynn pours me some milk in my favorite cup.
“Hey.” I grab a seat at the kitchen island.
“You okay?” She sits next to me.
“I don’t know. I think I made a mistake last night.”
“What do you mean?” She puts some butter on her croissant.
“I was pretty cold. I don’t know why I was taking my anger at that girl out on him.”
I’m really starting to feel bad.
“Did he text you?” I ask, hopefully.
“Yeah. He said he was sorry, and that he was going to give you the space you needed, but he also needs some space too.”
“I really did hurt him.” Tears stream down my cheeks. “I didn’t mean to.”
“Well I think you both are in the wrong, and you should take some time away from each other, to figure out what you really want.”
“What do you mean?” I take a sip of my milk.
“Don’t reach out to him.”
“Why? I just want to apologize.”
“Give it a week. Then text him and ask him if he’s willing to meet up, and talk about what happened. But you need to get rid of the bitterness before you can love anyone right now.”
“What do you mean?”
Ashlynn shrugs. “You’re still very bitter about what happened to you, Alex. And I don’t blame you. Maybe you need to just focus on yourself, and focus on loving yourself and the situation that you’re in.”
“I do accept it!” I answer, defensively.
“Alex, please try not to get so defensive. It’s a lot to accept. I’m not saying you just have to accept it, and move on. But maybe you can use your bitterness and anger for good.”
“What do you mean, I’m studying medical research. I am using my bitterness for good.”
“That’s not what I meant.” She says, elaborating on her point. “You need to find some way to release your anger and bitterness, without hurting other people. Maybe try writing about it.”
“I see what you mean.”
“Just try writing about your feelings. How you’re still bitter and angry about your situation. It’ll go a long way.”
“Yeah.” Maybe I will try.
“Do you work today?”
“Yeah. Thankfully. I’m trying to keep occupied.”
“Do you need me to drop you?”
“Yeah, thanks.” I clear my dishes away, and take a shower, even though I don't feel like it.
What if my sister is right? What if I haven’t accepted myself, and Leo doesn’t want to be with me if I can’t accept myself? What if I am taking my anger out on the wrong person?
“Bye Ash, love you.”
“What time is work over?”
“Six.” I hop out of the car.
“Okay, have fun.”
“I’ll try, love you.”
I watch Ashlynn pull away and walk through the automatic doors.
“Hey, Alex.” The receptionist greets me with a smile. At least she isn;t mad at me.
“Hey.” I clock in, and walk to the wing I’m supposed to be in today.
Is this a sign?
I walk into the first room on my rounds, and see a baby, sitting up and playing, happy as ever.
“Hi.” I introduce myself to her mom, and the music therapist. “I’m Alex.”
“Hi.” The therapist smiles. “I’m Yvonne, but you can call me Yonnie.”
“Hi.” The baby’s mom smiles. “This is Celesse.”
“How old is she?” I ask.
“She’s fourteen months.”
And she has Cancer?
Her mom must read the look on my face. “Yeah, I don’t get it either.”
Yonnie begins lightly strumming her guitar, and humming.
“How do you cope?” I ask, quietly.
“It could be worse. I’m just glad she’s alive. And look she’s so happy.”
I notice Celesse laughing and giggling with Yonnie.
Children are so amazing, they don’t know of their struggles, so they’re constantly happy, and smiling. I wish I had the strength, and the heart that baby Celesse has.