"What is that?" I asked aloud, albeit to myself. I rolled over in bed, trying to detangle my legs from the sheet, to find where the noise was coming from. It was close and unsettling.
I got onto my stomach and leaned over the edge of the bed, trying to see if the sound was coming from underneath, but I lost my balance and my legs flew over my head and I landed on the floor.
"Ouch," I grumbled, rubbing the back of my head as I sat back up.
After getting back on my feet, I checked throughout my bed for the source of the obnoxious noise: under the pillow, within the blankets, even between the mattresses. Nothing.
I groaned, already passed annoyed and going on irritated. As a final idea, I leaned over and checked in-between my bed and the wall next to it. And sure enough, there was the source: my cell phone.
When I picked it up, the vvvverm-chunk changed into a light vibration in my hand. I looked down at the screen. Graduation in 1 hour. I cancelled the alarm and put the phone back on my nightstand.
As I got settled back in bed, someone knocked on my door. Dad's signature knock.
I sat up in bed, thinking it would be rude if I ignored him yet again. I've been hiding out in my room—mostly sleeping—for the past week, only leaving in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and grab snacks from the kitchen. "Yeah?" I called out.
Dad took this as a signal to enter. "Hey, Had." He made his way over to my bed and took a seat at the foot of it. I moved my legs in, wrapping my arms around them. "So I take it we aren't going?"
I glanced over at the dress that was hanging on the back of my door and back at him. The dress that Mom had picked out a month ago. "If we were going, I'd be yelling at all of you to get your butts out the door." I looked up at Dad and he smiled at me, which made me smile back.
"Well," he said, standing up, "dinner's in about twenty minutes. We hope you'll join us."
I stretched my arms up and over my head. "What's Fran making?"
"Spaghetti," he replied, rubbing his neck. "So we'll see you?" I nodded my head and stood up next to him. "That's good." He kissed the top of my head and left my room.
I quickly checked the time—7:12 pm—before making my way to the bathroom I shared with my younger sister. I started the water and as it warmed up I stripped out of my clothes. Before I got in, I looked over my body in the full-sized mirror that was on the back of the door. I was thin before, and I was even thinner now; probably almost dangerously so. I had to get my life back to normal. No more letting what happened a few weeks ago affect me like it has been.
I tested the water, stepped into the shower, and let the water engulf me.
We figured out there was something wrong, but not before it was too late.
I was sitting at the kitchen table writing my Valedictorian speech when the phone rang. Corinne (my younger sister) hobbled over to the phone with her wet toenails.
"Hey!" I exclaimed as I noticed the color she had used. "You used my bottle of Ditzy Delilah."
"Yup," she responded, sticking out her tongue as she picked the house phone up and pressed the button the answer the call. "Hello?...Oh, hi Daddy…Yeah…Yeah, she's right here…One second." She hobbled over to where I was sitting as she mouthed, He wants to talk to you.
I set down the pencil down I was using to write on the notecards for my speech and took the phone from her hand. She hobbled back to the living room. "Hey, Dad."
"Hey, Had." It was our signature greeting.
I put the phone between my ear and shoulder and picked the pencil back up, biting the eraser. Conclusions were not my forte. "I'm writing my Valedictorian speech. Can this wait until you get home?"
He took a deep breath; he sounded tired. "Um, not really, Hadley. No." It wasn't everyday he used my full first name, so I knew this had to be settled now. "We're at the hospital. Mom collapsed at dinner and—"
"Is she okay?" I interjected, immediately worried.
He was silent. After a moment, he said, "Uh, no. She isn't. Basically, at his point, there's nothing they can do."
My stomach dropped, and I felt like throwing up. Actually, no. I stood up and ran towards the kitchen sink, retching into it.
"Ew!" Corinne exclaimed from the other room, not knowing the situation.
"Shut up!" I shouted back at her, wiping my mouth off with a paper towel and running the faucet to clean the sink. Into the phone, I said, "Can I talk to her?"
Another deep breath from Dad. "She's been in a coma-like state since we got here. I'll head home in a few hours when the whole ordeal is over."
Looking back, as Class Valedictorian, I should have realized what he meant. Instead, I asked, "You mean, when she's feeling better?"
I felt empty inside. "Okay, Dad. See you later."
"Okay. And Had?"
"Would you mind telling your sister? I know it isn't the right thing, but I want to stay with your mom and I still need to call and tell Fran."
I nodded, but realized he couldn't see. "Yeah."
"Okay, Had. I… We love you." I clicked off the phone and sat down at the kitchen table, continuing to work on my speech and ignoring my dad's request.
Later that night, I was woken up by yelling and crying. I had fallen asleep at the table, a notecard stuck to my face from drool. I made my way into the room where my dad and Corinne were. We all sat down together, hugging. Not talking, no sound except for the sound of our breaths inhaling and exhaling.
The next day, our older sister Fran moved back home to help Dad out. Even though she just graduated from State with a bachelor's degree, and moved into an apartment with her boyfriend, she decided to come back home.
After the funeral, I decided to just stay up in my room. Not replying to texts, not using the computer. Just lying in bed, either sleeping or wide awake. Like I was a mindless zombie, just doing pre-programmed actions.
I turned the knob and stepped out of the shower, grabbing a towel to dry myself off. The mirrors were steamed, so my figure was blurred. I made my way to my room, got dressed, and went downstairs.
In the kitchen, everyone was sitting down to dinner and I sat down in my usual seat next to Corinne. Fran sat across from me, Ryan (her boyfriend) to her left, and Dad sat next to me. Across from Dad, at the other end of the table, was an empty chair.
The silence was deafening. Well, it wasn't exactly silent. The clock was ticking and the washing machine was hitting the wall in the other room like it always did, but those were normal sounds. They blended in since we have all been use to them for so long. But, eventually, Corinne's phone vibrated against the table, bringing us all back to the present.
"Corinne," Dad scolded, and held out his hand. She reached over me and put her phone in his hand. "No phones at the table," he recited, and put her phone down on the table next to him.
The clock continued to tick and tock before Fran spoke. "So why didn't you want to go to graduation, Had?"
I looked up at her, at the empty chair, and back at her. It was like glancing at objects had taken over my verbal responses lately.
"Oh, come on," she said, swirling some pasta around her fork. "You only get one high school graduation."
"Fran…" Dad warned, looking over his glasses at her. He only ever wore them for work-related activities, so he must have just finished something for a client in his office.
"No, really," Fran continued, sticking the forkful of noodles in her mouth, chewing while talking. My sister was gorgeous, but was not one for manners. "So what if Mom can't be there? It's still a life moment."
"Mom got to see you graduate from college a month ago, Fran. It's unfair if you get two graduations and we," I said, motioning to Corinne and me, "don't get any." I rolled my eyes and got up from the table, plate still as full as when I got to the table, and walked towards the stairs.
"Hadley!" Fran yelled after me.
"Francesca…" Dad said after her.
Up in my room, I reached my hand under my bed until I found the shoebox I kept a bunch of memories in. I fished around in it until I found the note I was looking for: a sticky note that was put on top of the unopened envelope from Stanford that I discovered when I got home from school.
Whatever this letter says, know that your father and I will always be proud of you. I love you, sweetheart.
Seeing her familiar loopy handwriting made me smile, and for the first time since she passed, I cried. I was never an emotional person. I never cried; not when our dog died when I was eight, not when I broke my arm playing soccer when I was eleven, not even when my grandma passed away three years ago.
But something about seeing this specific handwriting I would never see on a new piece of paper ever again just got to me. So I put the sticky note back in the box, wiped my eyes with the back of my hand, and refused to let my emotions get the better of me.