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Chapter One

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I shouldn't be here.

No, not here, in the hot, sweaty kitchen of this rundown diner—although, to be honest, I highly doubt I should be here either.

No, I shouldn't be alive.

I was supposed to die eighteen months ago. That was supposed to be it for me.

I was ill for a very long time, so getting that final diagnosis of six months to go was as reliving as it was devastating. To be honest, my emotions about it were completely mixed. I didn't want to die necessarily—not that I think anyone does really—but I was so sick of the constant round of doctors, hospitals, tubes, pills, sickness...it was exhausting, and the thought of escaping that was something of a relief.

I just wanted an end to it.

Of course, not everyone felt the same. At least, not at first, but once my family and friends got used to the idea that I was dying, that I was going to be relieved of my suffering, they were intent on making my final months amazing, and boy did they succeed! I went travelling, I had parties, I did everything that was on my bucket list—except bungee jumping. I bottled that at the last second. It was fabulous, a real whirlwind of fun and excitement. Of course, there was the odd interruption with my health, but somehow we managed to work past that. Sure, we were all acutely aware of where it was heading but it didn't taint the mood. Not really.

"Lara what are you doing just standing there? I pressed the bell about five minutes ago...these burgers aren't going to take themselves to table twelve." The grumpy head chef, Alfie yelled at me. He didn't care about my internal struggle. He had no idea what it was like to know that you should be dead. All he cared about was getting this disgusting, fatty food out as quickly as possible so he could return home, to his sad middle-aged man 'bachelor pad' to smoke and drink his wages away.

I snatched the plates out of his hand and stalked moodily over to the table, where a couple were sat there smiling intently at each other. This could have been their first date, or they could have been married for years—that wasn't what I noticed. It was the light that was shining in their eyes, as they gazed at one another. Happiness. An emotion I couldn't even begin to understand anymore.

I shoved the food on the table in front of them, asking them if there was anything else they needed in the flat, monotone sound that had somehow become my voice. They didn't even acknowledge my existence, they simply waved me away. I was nothing to them, just as I was nothing to everybody.

I'd been that way for a very long time now.

Once my deadline had passed, and the high started to wear off, I wondered what was happening, why I was still alive. Confused, I took myself to the doctors and after a whole range of invasive tests, they told me something unexpected, something miraculous—that I was actually starting to get better. Against all odds, I was somehow surviving.

I felt numb as he said those words. I know he expected me to celebrate, to be happy with the news that I would get to live longer, but I wasn't. I'd gotten so used to the idea that I was going to die. I'd even adjusted to it, become comfortable with it, that to hear otherwise was utterly overwhelming. I had become so used to living in the moment, not worrying about the future because I was never going to have one, that with a long, black emptiness stretching out in front of me, I felt terrified.

What was I supposed to do? I had no future, no dreams, no plans. I had no idea where I was supposed to go next, how could I? How was I supposed to craft a new beginning out of zilch? It seemed like a ridiculously impossible task, that I couldn't even begin to overcome.

Then again, I still had no prospects, no real education, no interests, no desires...nothing, and I no longer had any excuse for that. A year and a half had passed. There was so much that I could have done with that time, but I hadn't.

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