Waiting

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When I was younger, watching my mother go through the phases of infection, I could escape it. My friends would pull me away; we would play with our dolls and video games. Distracting myself was easy. My mom was important to me, sure, but it wasn't so hard to distance myself from it.

I was small, and sometimes, she wouldn't let me have what I wanted. I loved her, and she was my best friend. I could get away from it, though.

This time, I can't escape it. The loss of Isaac is first and foremost in my brain, tearing me apart from the inside out. Breathing burns my lungs; opening my eyes is near impossible. Time ceases to pass, standing still and leaving me to my own guilty thoughts.

He would be alive if it wasn't for me. I could have pulled him into the room with me. I could have left him at the Al-Ma with Mandy and Ollie. I could have told Jane to take him back to Compound 3 with her. Maybe, I could have escaped without his help, leaving him here to his job guarding the wall.

Yet, I was selfish. I wanted company, someone to talk to, gripe at, and boss around.

I miss the gentle tone in his voice, the way he would laugh. I miss his contagious smile, his deep green eyes. I wish I could analyze his sketches deeper, trace the indentations of his pencil on the papers. Every thread of my being wants to touch his hair, be carried in his arms, and sleep with our heads touching.

It only becomes clear to me when he isn't beside me just how much I've been taking for granted.

All around me are white walls. They're soft, like someone has covered them in cushions. I don't have a bed. There are no windows, only a bright white light that blinks occasionally overhead. I've squeezed into one of the corners, head tucked between my knees, balling myself up as small as I can.

Occasionally, someone will open the hole in the door, sliding a paper bag through it. By now, I have a sizable pile of them under the slot in the door, the smell of molding food drifting over towards me. Eating seems impossible, though, because I feel like I deserve to die.

Isaac would be so disappointed in me for giving up, but just thinking about him cripples me even more.

How much time has passed is a mystery to me, but I drift in and out of nightmarish sleep, sometimes just screaming out for anyone to hear. I turn to praying to a God I've always somewhat believed in. If anyone deserves to be saved, it's Isaac.

Eventually, a nurse dressed in white comes in, bandaging my arms and telling me how I need to eat. She says I'll kill myself if I don't. I don't answer, not even to tell her that's my goal. After brushing my hair and wiping my face, she opens one of the newer bags of food, putting a sandwich and a bag of water on the floor in front of me.

After she leaves, I kick it away, turning my back to the door.

I count the tiles on the ceiling. Nine down, fifteen across. That's a total of 135 tiles. I carve into the cushions with my finger nails, the ones that have grown back at awkward angles since I stopped biting them off. Then, I pick at the caked up blood on my jeans. Clare's blood, Isaac's blood, my blood.

Most of my time, though, is spent screaming and crying, rocking back and forth on my knees, begging for someone to tell me if he's alive or dead. Not knowing is what kills me the most.

I've taken to ripping up my jeans when I hear the door unlock, and I cover my eyes as new light rushes in with the silhouette of a person.

"Hello, precious."

Fear and rage rises up in my chest at the sound of Hartley's voice. I uncover my eyes, gritting my teeth at the sight of him, leaning leisurely against the door frame.

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