It was two nights before she next visited. I was scared that I was losing my mind and had made her up. A figment of my imagination, to deal with the passing of my mother. It explained why she reminded me of her so much... I wanted to get her back. How do you tell your imagination to bring back a girl it made up? It is rather like I have no control of it. But, she only appeared after I had completely ruling out the possibility that she's real.
'Vanessa!' I hear a soft, faint voice call. 'Wake up! You promised!'
I roll over, groaning, thinking that it's a nurse, getting me up in the morning.
'A few more minutes...' I mutter, patting the air, my arm flopping back down on the bed. I hear little pattering of feet as they move to the side of the bed I'm facing.
'Vanessa!' it's a desperate whisper now. I squint my eyes open. I see the blurry outline of a child. Could it be? I sit up on my elbow, rubbing my eyes. I take my hands away from my eyes and there she is. Ivy. She's real? She's not just a piece of my imagination invented to help deal with Mum's death? 'Ivy? You came.' I say to her, trying to wake up a bit more.
'Of course I came. I like you.'
'Are you sure you're allowed here?' I ask, worried she might get in trouble. That might be why she didn't visit until now.
'They never notice me. I can turn invisible.' She replies, wiggling her fingers around her face. She puts her elbows on the bed, leaning her chin on them comfortably.
'Well, that explains a lot.' I say with a smile. 'How are you? Did you have any tests today?'
'They took some more blood. I don't like it. It hurts.' Her smile faded and was replaced with sad, drooping eyes.
'Hey, I hurt whenever I move!' I say trying to make her feel better by exploiting my pain. I feel sorry for her. She doesn't understand that if she does have Leukaemia, she has to suffer so much more than just a few needles.
'Is your tummy any better?' She asks me.
'Not particularly.' I answer, grimacing as I tried to move.
'That's too bad.' She says. 'I wanted you to come to my ward and meet the other kids.'
'I would love that when I'm better.' I tell her. She smiles at me.
'I knew you would!' She says happily. This girl has no trouble in the world. I would love to go back to being a kid, a time where the sun shone out of every pore. Your only worries were whether or not you'd be allowed on the playground that day. She has no idea about the things the world goes through. 'There's a lady I'd like you to meet.' She tells me. A lady? Why would she want me to meet a lady?
'I would love to meet her.' I say, trying to sound joyful.
'I think you'll like her. She's not from my ward but she visits a lot.' She explains, 'Someone set fire to her house.'
'Sweet , I'm sure no one set fire to her house-'
'No, they did.' She says earnestly. 'Someone got into a fight with her daddy about her work and they set her house on fire for payback. She doesn't have a daddy any more. Or a mummy. They both died. Her mummy got her out of the house.'
I don't reply, looking straight ahead, shocked by how someone could have literally set someone's house on fire for revenge. The poor woman... Her parents are gone too. I mean, I can't remember my dad, so I have no feelings of sorrow for him, but my mother was everything to me... But to lose both of your parents at the same time... I can't even imagine the pain the woman's going through right now. I look at Ivy. Maybe she does know what happens in the world, but ignores it to make her world a happy one. I haven't given her any credit for that tiny little mind.
'Are you gonna meet her?' She asks. 'Did you change your mind? Is that why you went silent?'
'No, no of course I'll meet her!' I say, scared she'll get the wrong idea. I'm only afraid that I'll say the wrong thing to her, if I do meet her. 'No, honey. I went silent because - because I need to think sometimes. Just in silence.'
'I like to think in silence too. But it doesn't happen because the kids in my ward have nightmares and scream a lot.' I lay down slightly, leaning on my elbows. This kid does go through a lot.
'Do I scream?' I ask myself aloud.
'You screamed that first night.' Ivy answers the question intended for me. I look at Ivy, taking in everything about her. Why is she different from other children? The children down the street were the same age and they would spew out nonsense. Yet this girl makes more sense than a college professor. A child's mind should not be underrated.
'You're strange.' She tells me moving from my left side, all around to my right. 'You're different from all the other grown-ups.'
'I'm not a grown-up.' I say, confused. Though, how am I different? I mean, I'm a teenage girl, who cries a lot.
'You look like a grown-up.' She fiddles with the bed sheets. 'But you don't act like them. You treat me differently. Like I'm not a baby. Like I'm a human. You don't talk to me in a funny voice.' She pauses. 'I like it.'
'Of course I wouldn't treat you any different.' I say, directly looking her in the eyes. 'You aren't any different from anyone else.'
'Then why does everyone else treat me different?' She asks, confused.
'Because everyone else,' I take her hand. 'Is an idiot.' She giggles and then looks over to the door, checking to see if anyone was there, or in viewing sight. She probably shouldn't be here. She's worried.
'Hey, don't worry about the silly nurses finding you. If anything happens, I'll protect you, ok?' I say, my thumb stroking lightly across her hand. She looks at me and smiles brightly, the smile reaching her eyes.
'I know you will.' She says, looking at her shoes. 'I'm still a little shaky about it.' She stays silent for a bit, twiddling her thumbs. 'I like you, Vanessa. You're funny.' She mumbles, looking at the space in front of her. Her face is so cute, so little. So honest. 'Do the nurses check on you?'
'No. Only when they give me meals.' I reply, 'I haven't seen a doctor once. I guess they're too busy and the nurses are capable of someone like me.'
'They check on me a lot. And the doctor doesn't talk to me; he talks to mummy and daddy.' She whispers, as if it's secret. 'I wish he would though. I don't know why I'm here. I guess it's because of Luke but I don't know for sure. I don't know what's going to happen to me though. They're taking me away tomorrow. Don't let them take me away. I don't want to disappear forever like the others. Don't let them-' Ivy starts sobbing uncontrollably; she crawls up onto my bed and hugs me, crying into my chest. Her tears soak through my hospital gown and drip down my skin. I feel the salt water fall down to my stomach, some of them falling into my stomach wound, causing it to sear and sting. I hug her, surprise written on my face. She's so scared. So scared because she doesn't know what's going to happen to her. I stroke her hair, trying to comfort her. Suddenly, I'm crying too. But not because of the pain. Because the feelings that had curled up inside of me to protect my pride had emerged. I let myself go, crying about everything that had happened; the stabbing, my mother dying, my future being a complete blur. It was all flowing out in the way of tears. I realise we're not that different. I have no idea what's going to happen to me after the hospital and she has no idea what's going to happen to her, full stop. The physical pain fades as my emotional pain increases. I hug her, patting her head lightly. My tears slow down slightly, as if I want to be strong for her. They still slide down my face but I can see through them now. Ivy clutches me, as if at any second I might disappear.
'Don't leave me.' She managed to choke out through tears.
'Never.' I promise her. I kiss the top of her head and cuddle her more tightly. Her hair smells like Forget-Me-Not's. Like Mum's. I love this child. I would do anything to save her from the monsters. To save her from anything. I wish I could do something. Something to save her from herself. To save her from Luke. After several more minutes of both of us sobbing into each other, I notice Nurse Roberts, standing in the doorway. How long she's been there, I don't know. She's crying too. Tears silently spilling down her cheeks, her hand wiping them away, helplessly. She looks right into my eyes, knowing that I've seen her. For a few seconds she stares at me with pity filled eyes and then quietly leaves. I didn't want her too though. It's 2 am when Ivy goes to sleep and I slip my blanket over her. She gently hiccups every few minutes. I let her sleep. I stay awake, knowing that I'll probably have a nightmare and wake her up. I cuddle her, trying to comfort myself as well as her. She's so sweet... She doesn't deserve to die. No one deserves to die. The voice in the back of my head hisses at me. Yes, but her life is only just starting. She doesn't need this burden on her. No one does. The voice has a point. But... I look down at her red, blotchy face. Her little eyelashes are coated with droplets. My stomach feels like it's dropped down so low when I think of her still and cold... I love this little girl. So very much. And I barely know her. After what seems like hours, I let the hands of sleep grasp my mind and pull me down.
I dive into the cool, ocean waters, and Ivy follows me. She glides so easily through the water, it seems like she's flying. Like she's a mermaid. She keeps going deeper. We should go up for air soon. But I don't want to leave her alone... She disappears into a cave, out of sight. I swim to the edge and hesitate going in. She looks back at me, gesturing for me to follow her. I rise to the surface of the water and gasp for air before gliding back down. But she's not there. I go deeper into the cave, my eyes flicking to every corner of the cave, searching and searching for her. I wait until my lungs are about to burst before I reach for the water's surface. I stay afloat at the top, wiping my face of water. I look for her on the surface and see her lying on the sand on the beach. How did she get over there? When did she get over there? I start to flap my arms, swimming closer and closer to the shore. Once I stumble onto the sand, breathing hoarsely, I get a good look at Ivy. Her chest doesn't rise, up and down. She is completely still. I crawl over to her desperately and put my ear to her mouth. She's not breathing at all. I scrabble for her arm and feel for her pulse. She's gone.
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