Hey everyone! Welcome to the 59th segment of my fictional story, When Life Hands You Lymes. I have a surprise for y’all that hopefully you’ll like. In an effort to finish the first draft of the book this year, I’m going to be posting longer segments each Friday. I hope you enjoy!
“Do you feel ready for tomorrow?” Darrick leaned against my doorframe, his thumb hooked onto the pocket of his jeans, looking for all the world like a cowboy in training. Knowing of his aversion to horses, I can’t help but laugh.
“I’ll take that as a yes?” Darrick smiles.
“Well, not exactly.” I shrug, still smiling. “But for the first time I actually feel like I will be ready and that I’ll enjoy it.” My eyes wander to the calendar hanging next to Darrick’s head where the 30th of June has a big circle on it.
“I hope Ashburg Symphony knows how lucky it is to get such a talented musician as you playing with them.”
My brother’s loyalty is so sweet I hold back the snort I feel coming on. I’m the one who’s thankful to have been offered a place with the Ashburg Symphony, not the other way around. Darrick must be able to see my thoughts on my facial expression because he comes across the room and raps his knuckles on my head.
“Hey, you are an amazing musician you know. I’ve never heard anyone who’s still in high school that can even come close to you.” Darrick taps the sheet music I’ve been studying. “Want to play it for me?”
“Sure.” I positioned my violin, gave Darrick a smile, thanking him for his support, then I lose myself in the soothing sounds that fill the room. I’d spent so many hours playing this particular piece that I could probably perform it in my sleep. Actually, I did dreamed of it several times during the previous week and Mom said she came in to check on me once and my fingers were moving even though I was asleep. I guess practice pays off.
When I was done Darrick gave me a high five. “That was amazing, Madalyn. You’re really talented.”
A warm feeling springs up in my heart and seeps it’s way through my body, making me feel loved and special.
“I know this last year has been really hard for you with your health problems and all, and I just wanted to let you know I’m praying for you. I can’t imagine what it must be like going through all that you’re going through, and I’m sorry. I want to support you and be there when you need me.” Darrick gently took the violin and bow from my hands, put them away then sat down on the couch and patted the cushion next to him. I sat down and pulled my legs up under me. For some reason my legs get all achy and tired if I sit with my feet on the floor like I used to. “You’re really an amazing girl, Madds.”
“Thanks.” Darrick’s words mean so much to me, but I’m not sure how to tell him that and not burst into tears. I’d been feeling so helpless, so worthless to my family recently. As if I’m a lot of work and add an element of unease to the whole family.
“I’ve been watching how you’ve dealt with the pain, the change in lifestyle and the hurt you’ve been experiencing and I’m amazed at how grown up my little sister acts. You’re strong. You’re a fighter. You are someone who I want to mimic when I go through hard times. I’m proud to have you as my sister and my friend.”
I have no clue what brought this all on, but I’m thankful for it.
That night as I got ready for bed I played Darrick’s words over and over again in my head, smiling each time I recounted them. Lately I had found myself craving acceptance from my family members, knowing that they were the people who really mattered in my life. I used to be in the middle of dozens of friends who adored practically everything I did, but lately I’d found being in a group setting to be exhausting and I’ve become an expert at declining invitations. As my interaction with my friends decreases, my dependence on my family increases.
It takes me a moment to figure out what is going on when I wake up. The light streaming through my windows takes me by surprise, making me wonder if something is wrong outside. All at once, it hits me what’s wrong. It’s morning. Grabbing my phone from off my night stand I click the home button and feel a huge grin spill over my face when I see that it’s 7:15. I slept for a whole night, all the way through, without waking up once. Try as I might, I couldn’t remember the last time that had happened.
Throwing my arms over my head, I yell out a loud and excited “Thank You, Jesus!” Then jump out of bed and dance around it, pulling the covers up. I’m feeling so amazing, pain free, wide awake and joyful that I begin to wonder if the last fifteen months were a dream? Maybe I wasn’t sick after all. The giddy feeling building up in my chest is deflates when I walk into my kitchenette and see my morning regimen just waiting to be made up.
“Oh well!” Still feeling bubbles of laughter washing through me I run through the motions and almost before I know what I’m doing I’m done with the task that normally takes me a half an hour or more to go through.
Practically gliding I get dressed and then slide down the railing and skip into the dining room.
“Good morning!” Throwing my arms out in a all-encompassing gesture, I give my family a verbal hug. I stand there for a moment, making funny faces at my stunned family members before sliding into my seat and dishing some grits and cheese into my bowl.
“Looks like someone is excited about their performance tonight,” Mom says at last.
Putting down the serving spoon I laugh, “Actually, I forgot all about that.” Leaning froward, I put my hands on the table and make eye contact with Mom, Dad, Katie and Darrick. “The craziest thing happened last night.” I lower my voice as if I have a huge secret and they all lean in to hear better. “I slept the whole night.” After I make my announcement I sit back in my seat and clap on my hands on my cheeks, framing my face. “Can you believe it?” I’m being overly dramatic just for the fun of it, and boy am I enjoying watching their reactions.
“That’s wonderful, honey!” Dad seems genuinely pleased for me.
Hey Julie, you busy today? I send the text and then start a load of my laundry, trying to decide if I would rather go on a run or take a swim.
Afternoon is free. What did you have in mind?
Want to hang out? I hold my metaphorical breath, hoping she’ll say yes. Julie and I used to hang out all the time but I’ve canceled so many get-togethers that I’m afraid she’s probably given up on me and moved on in life.
Sounds like fun. Shopping? Horseback riding? Coffee? Her almost instant reply gives me some hope that I haven’t totally alienated one of my best friends.
We set a time, deciding to just hang out at my house and then I go on a fifteen minute half walk, half jog and then spend the next several hours in my music room, practicing on my violin for my upcoming performance and throwing in some piano playing for good measure. I look at my guitar sitting sadly in the corner and decide I need to play it more. I used to take my guitar to youth group and to hang out with my friends all the time but didn’t play it much on my own so it’s been rather neglected recently.
I look up from my playing It is Well on the piano to see Julie standing next to me, a cute navy blue skirt with white poke-a-dots and a ruffled white blouse on. “Well aren’t you fancy looking today.” I give her a hug and then wave toward my bedroom, “Let’s go in there.”
“I had a job interview this morning and came straight here afterward.”
I open my mouth to ask how it went, but Julie’s squeal of delight stops me.
“Oooh, these are the curtains Abbie made you, right?” Julie touches the fabric, then give me the thumbs up signal. “They fit your room perfectly.”
The next couple of hours are spent doing some much needed catch-up. We brew ourselves mugs of tea and curl up on my window seat overlooking one of our meadows where some of Dad’s purebred horses are grazing.
“Have you been able to make any headway in figuring out what’s going on?” Julie asks after a while. I can tell she’s uncomfortable bringing up my health and I feel bad that we’ve drifted apart so much.
I give her a searching look.
“I know I haven’t been the most understanding in the past and I apologize.” Julie runs her thumb along the rim of her cobalt colored mug and refuses to make eye contact. I sit there waiting and finally she looks up at me. “I’ve been learning a lot and one of the things that I’ve been realizing is that I’m not very good at relating to others and I want to change that. I can’t promise that I’ll be able to understand what you have to say, but at least I can listen to you and love you and be there fore you.”
“Thanks.” Now it’s my turn to rub my mug. I search my mind, trying to figure out where to start. My thoughts aren’t coming in order, but at last I give up and let them spill out of my brain, into my mouth and then speak them. “I can’t even remember when I last felt normal. It’s been a long process and not a cool one at all. Today is one of the first days this year that I’ve actually felt anything close to normal. I can’t sleep most nights, the insomnia is horrible. I can’t stay awake when I finally do have something I’ve been looking forward to and nothing has helped so far. Sleeping pills make me feel so drugged up and horrible I’ve given up on them. That’s only part of it though. I’m in constant pain.” I give a shaky laugh. “I can’t even remember the last time I went for a full hour without hurting.”
I watch as Julie’s eyes widen, and I stop, wondering if I should go on.
“And?” Julie prods me.
“You really want to hear everything?” I give her a skeptical look.
“Everything.” Her nod isn’t hesitant so I go on.
“I have this frustrated feeling all the time. Like I have something trapped inside me that can’t get out. Sometimes I feel like I’m a wild beast that’s caged up. I kid you not when I say some times I have to lock myself in my room because if I’m around people every. single. thing. they. do makes me feel like I’m going to explode. I’ve lost my temper more times in the last month than I did in the first fourteen years of my life.”
I don’t see condemnation, only a nod, so I continue.
“The exhaustion is beyond belief. My heart races for no reason. My eyes are so heavy sometimes that even on threat of death I don’t think I’d be able to open them.” I take a long sip of tea, not because I’m thirsty but because I’m on the brink of tears and I’m trying to regain control.
“I had no clue…” Julie’s voice is a murmur.
“I’ve had the most splitting headaches you can imagine and they continue day after day, night after night. Sometimes they let up, but eventually they always come back. Sometimes I feel so lost in pain I don’t know how to keep going any longer.” I’m just rambling now, speaking in a monotone, but I don’t care. “When I go for long periods of time without sleep I’m left with a sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach. It feels just like when you get really bad news or you’re guilty of something. The problem is nothing except a lot of sleep can make it go away and I’ve discovered how powerful sleep is and how very far out of my grasp it is.”
Reaching over Julie squeezes my arm and that’s when I realize I’m crying. I take a deep breath and let more words fall uninhibited out of my mouth.
“My stomach is constantly in knots. Sometimes the mere thought of food makes me throw up. Some days I can’t stand the thought, the smell, the idea of food until late morning or early afternoon. It reminds me of when my aunt was pregnant and had morning sickness which is really embarrassing.” I use the back of my hand to splash some of my tears off my face. “Doctors have different ideas of what’s going on. Some say I’m a lazy teenagers, like duh, I’m not. Others say I’m just a hypochondriac. Um, thank you very much but before this stupid sickness I had the perfect life. There is no way I’m going to suddenly get a phobia that turns my wonderful life into a nightmare.” By this time I’m pacing back and forth in front of Julie. “I have had so many tests done that I’ve lost track of them.” I throw my hands up in the air. “Sometimes I think that doctors have no clue what they’re doing and should all go back to school or something.” I run my hands through my hair and then slide my hands down my face, trying to erase some of the tension.
“I had no clue.” Julie looks chagrined.
“I know, that’s another thing. People don’t understand and most of the time I don’t have the energy to try and explain it to them so I just let them think whatever they want to, but then I feel alienated from the world going on all around me.” I think back to all the school I missed last year. “School was a horrible experience. I dreaded each day with a passion I can’t even describe. My grades sunk so low I don’t even know why I didn’t drop out. My brain was so fuzzy I would read a paragraph and instantly forget it.”