Struggling

A/N: Sorry I haven't done anything in a while. Been busy moving and getting ready for boarding school and getting a job. Fun stuff. Anyway, I'm baaaaccckk.

Also: So this is a really depressing story, and it's actually from real life. This happened to me. I just wrote this to help me deal with it. Anyway, whatever. Read.

oOo

I don't know where it came from. There was silence, them bam! A shriek pierced the air. "Ohhh my god!"

It was a female voice, high and distressed. In pain. I recognize it as my mom's voice. She sounds so terrified.

I hear my dad say, "Honey?"

Another scream. "Oh my god, the pain," my mother wails. A sharp cry follows. I can hear her stumbling around in the next room over. The vibrations ripple through my room. I hear muffled cries, like she's screaming into a pillow.

There's one last scream, shrill and painful to hear. "Ahhhhh!"

I sit up in bed, breathing as if I just ran a marathon. One hand flies over my chest. I can feel my heart jackhammering away, pulsing in my chest. I look around and listen. There's silence, except for the sound of my breathing and my heart. I take a deep breath.

I hate that dream. It always comes unexpectedly, triggered by seemingly nothing. Once it comes, it comes over and over again. It gets struck in my brain like a splinter. I sigh.

In the next room, I can hear my dad snoring softly. Everything seems fine. No one's hurting. No one's dying. I exhale, trying to relax. My stomach is twisted up like a knot. I feel an overwhelming sense of foreboding, and I can't shake the feeling, or the tightness in my chest.

I can't help but to cry a little. I cry, partly because I'm glad I was dreaming, and partly because I'm sick of the nightmare. It never ends. When I can't cry anymore, I look around my room again and think about what to do, since I'm too strung up to go back to sleep. I slip into the ballet flats by my bed and grab a flashlight. I make my way to the kitchen.

There's a light on under one of the counters, giving the kitchen a soft, dim glow. I sigh and head for the coffee machine. Maybe some caffeine will calm my nerves. While I wait for the coffee, I lean against the counter and think.

Mom hasn't had an episode—a gall stone—in weeks. That's the good part. The bad part is, they come and go. Sometimes, she can go months without an attack, and then suddenly they start up. It's cruel, really, because just when I think she's finally recovered, she has another wave of episodes. It's already sent her to the ER once. I'm not voting for a second trip.

The coffee machine beeps at me, telling me it's done. I pour a steaming cup of coffee and inhale the delicate aroma. At once, I relax. My tension eases up, but doesn't go away. It's going to be a long night.

oOo

The next day, I feel terrible. My stomach is still twisted over last night, and I have a killer headache, which I'm sure is from stress. I grab a quick breakfast and leave for school but not before checking on my mom to make sure she's really ok.

At school, I feel like a zombie. One of my friends shares her coffee with me, which helps. Sort of. I can't seem to focus in my classes. My mind keeps coming back to last night. During lunch, several people notice how depressed I look.

"You ok, girlfriend?" my friend asks.

"Fine. I was just up late studying for my test," I lie. I don't want anyone to know what's bothering me. My closest friends know about my mom's sickness, but they don't know about my reoccurring nightmares. They've think enough is wrong with my life already. I don't want to add to that by complaining about my fears.

When school finally lets out, I rush home. The feeling a sick anxiety hasn't gone away. I can't make myself believe everything's ok. In fact, I feel like something's wrong. Maybe the dream was a warning? I race up the stairs and yank the door open. "Mom?" I call out.

She pokes her head out from the kitchen, a warm smile on her face. "Hey, home already? I'm working on dinner. Wanna see?" At once, I exhale and the tension dissipates.

"Yeah. I'll be right there." I hang up the car keys. "Oh, man, I'm getting paranoid," I mutter to myself.

I check out dinner in the kitchen and help her finish it. My fears slowly retreat. I feel almost human again, but my fears and bad memories are all loaded in the back of my mind, like a jack-in-the-box ready to spring open. Sadly, as strong as my mom and our family is, my mom doesn't control her sickness. It controls us.

oOo

A few days later, my world shatters again. Just when I feel like things are starting to improve, it all goes down the drain. It was late at night. I was reading a fantasy book and enjoying the ending when I heard something from my parents' room. "Oh shit, not again," my mom whispers.

I stop reading and listen intently. I hear my dad saying, "It is the pain again?"

"Yes," my mom replies, fear already creeping into her voice. There's silence for a few minutes, then the whimpering starts. Soon, I hear the first dreadful scream. I get out of bed and rush into the room.

My mom is curled up in a ball of pain, her hands racking her stomach. She gasps into her favorite pillow. "Mom?"

"It's bad," my dad says. His face has disaster written all over it. I sigh and climb onto the bed beside my mom. She rolls over to one side, her face contorting in agony as she moves. I massage her back slowly, but there's nothing that can relieve the pain.

She quickly deteriorates. After five more minutes, she's screaming constantly and swearing up a storm. I hear the word hospital get thrown around a few times. My heart jumps into my throat. "Is it that bad?" I ask dad. He's putting his shoes on and grabbing his wallet.

Mom shrieks and rolls over. "Yeah," he says glumly. He looks at me with hundred-year-old eyes. I sigh and go grab my shoes and blanket.

The car ride to the hospital is frightening. Mom screams and kicks and throws up. Twice. I can't imagine how dad doesn't crash. We make it to the hospital and they take her in at once. The receptionists won't refuse a woman screaming bloody murder and vomiting all over the floor. I sit out in the waiting room and hug my knees to my chest. I can hear mom's dull screams from a nearby examination room. Each one tears at my heart, like sharp animal claws. I lower my head into my hands and stare off into space.

A time later, someone comes down and tells me my mom's going to live—for now. She'll be in the hospital for a while. The lady pats me on the shoulder and says, "She's really suffering right now", as if I had no idea. I nod and she leaves me. I want to cry, but I can't,

I have to be strong to help my mom. She needs me, and my dad. I can't cry or run away. I have to stay, even when it gets ugly. I have to carry on, and help her through her struggling. I let a silent tear slide down my cheek. As much as I want the nightmare to end, I know it won't. I have to face reality. I cry some more, and wish I could be a teenager again.

A few minutes later, Dad comes back out, his face tight. I wipe away my tears, swallow the lump in my throat, and hold my head up. I even manage a tiny half-smile. It's hard, but I have to look strong. I can't let him know I'm weak. Not him, or mom.

I can't let anyone see I'm struggling.

oOo

That's it. Hope someone's still reading my stuff. (Pulsie I'm counting on you...) I'll add some more stuff later.

-The Ember Raven