There is a story and it goes like this. There is a tower of brick and stone, raised up like a mountain. Its peak puts holes in the bottoms of clouds. A princess sits by the window at the top, and... [+]
Winifred Oaks realized the pain was escalating with no end in sight. Looking out the window she couldn’t help but to let one tear slide down her hot cheek. I will not cry, I will not cry, she chanted. Watching people walk in the warm sunshine, she had to tuck away the jealousy and rage. Shifting in her café chair she felt her joints in her hips and low back subluxate. The condition she had was progressing. Only 17 years old and having so many medical issues was in a word, embarrassing. Even worse, it is what they call an ‘invisible’ illness so no one believes her. No one.
Her phone buzzed, the pencils and pens vibrated loudly. Looking down she sighed; it would be her aunt. Her parents traveled around the world and were more interested in their business and social advancements than their children.
“Winifred, where are you? Are you okay?” Her aunt wasn’t much older, which was good and bad.
“I’m fine Aunt Liv, and it’s Win. I’ll be home soon.” Win hung up. Reaching to grab her books her thumb dislocated violently. Stifling a scream, she put it back in and flexed her fingers and was happy with a dull ache instead of shooting pains. Looking around the room she could tell nobody noticed. Good. Throwing the rest of her stuff into her bag, she gently placed the bag on her shoulder, careful not to dislocate anything else. Making her way out of the café she gazed down the many blocks to her car. Sighing deeply, she began walking carefully.
Win made it to her car, stopping twice to relocate her toes. Sitting in the car she cranked it over and eagerly let the AC blow her dark auburn hair away from her sticky freckled face. The heat didn’t help the pain levels. She wondered what it would be like to be normal, to not have multiple joints come apart every moment of every day. Only if, Win thought as she headed home.
“You’re late; did you get something to eat?” Liv asked while tapping her foot.
“I’m fine; I ate earlier. Thanks.” Tears stung her eyes as she made her way up the stairs. Taking in a deep breath she was careful not to shift her knee cap out of place. Then she entered her bedroom and collapsed on her bed.
Win wondered if she would hear from her parents today. They should have arrived in Spain, but Win never understood time zones. Spending the summer with her aunt in New Bern was not tragic. The worst part was discussing her condition with Liv. No one had believed her, not even her doctors. After pleading, Win finally saw a specialist she found. The doctor confirmed severe hypermobility Ehlers Danlos Syndrome-but that was years ago. She was still alone. Since her brother left for college, there was no one to talk to about her condition, but even Zack didn’t understand. No cure. No children. Terminal.
Glancing to her end table, she withdrew her grandma’s last gift- a scuffed-up leather bound journal. It had a frayed black strap that closed around a lovely green gem. She couldn’t bring herself to open or write in it. She missed her grandma deeply, she always listened.
Knock, sounded at her door.
“Hey Winifred, did you finish your homework? I still can’t believe you’re taking summer classes.” Liv sounded proud.
“Yes, I finished, and I’ll graduate faster so why not?” Win winced as she sat up because her collar bone slid out of place. She tried hard not to relocate it because it grossed Liv out. It felt like someone was pouring hot liquid down her shoulder, trickling down her bicep, searing her elbow and melting her finger tips.
“Are you okay?” Liv asked before leaving.
“Just fine,” Win lied. When you hear ‘you are being dramatic’ over and over again you tend to keep silent.
Liv shut the door and Win loudly snapped the bone back in. Instant relief cooled the sensation. Flexing her fingers, she could almost feel her hand. Bursting into tears she lay down cradling the bound journal. She thought the most truthful guilt-filled words, I want to die.
Win had another sleepless night of agonizing pain with multiple dislocations-sheets were dangerous. She finally strapped herself in numerous splints to feel stable-but claustrophobic. Win awoke in a brain fog and moved around her bedroom like a zombie. After a slow shower, she carefully got dressed-all of which was risky. She became dizzy and lay back down on the bed, wanting to sleep for another few hours-maybe days. Good thing her class was online.
“Are you up, lazy bones?” Liv shouted from downstairs. If she called Win lazy one more time Win was likely to explode.
“Yes, I’m up!” Win shouted and realized the deep breath it took to yell had subluxed her fourth rib from her sternum. Today wasn’t starting out well.
Win met Liv in the kitchen where Liv was already eating breakfast.
“Are you going to take tomorrow off?” Win asked nervously.
“No, I have a big case to finish up.” Liv chugged the rest of her coffee and quickly packed up her legal documents. Noticing Win’s silence, she added, “Did we have plans?”
“No, I was just asking.” They did have plans; tomorrow was Win’s birthday. No one remembered it last year. No one would remember it this year. Truly alone, not even Louie is with me this year. Louie her beloved lap dog passed three months ago. Having no one to talk to drains the soul. Win had no friends. None. After a while they all stopped wanting to hear about the pain.
Win didn’t go to the pond or the café. She sat in her car looking out over the river at the bridge and started to cry-then sob. “I can’t do this anymore!” she screamed. I’m alone. She grabbed her journal and took off running, her body screaming. I’m invisible. Her bones shifted out of place; she ignored them. She made it to the top of the bridge. Gripping her journal, she climbed over the rail. The distance below made her gut wrench. I’m desperate. Looking at her journal in her hands, words of urgency whisper to her. Not yet. Not yet. She didn’t care anymore. I’m tormented. Her hair whipped around her face stinging her green eyes. She vaguely heard horns and people shouting. I’m hopeless. Win closed her eyes and gripped her journal tighter. I needed you both. The journal’s gem sparked brightly. I am useless. Win jumped.
She felt no impact-only a green flash against her eyelids. Win felt warm sand beneath her hands, heard the sound of waves and inhaled the citrus breeze. For the first time, Win felt no pain. Remembering what she had done, her eyes snapped open. The cloudless sky was lavender and held three garnet suns. The sand was jet black with tiny golden hues. She sat up and felt nothing-smooth unhindered motion. She wiggled her toes, rotated her shoulders, and took in another deep breath. Normal. Win was overawed and wept.
“You’re early,” said a raspy voice behind Win. Jumping to her feet, Win saw a humanoid being with muscular limbs. The ethereal creature had navy skin with swirls of glittering liquid beneath. It easily pulled her to her feet, “You need to go now!”
“What the-” Win started but was now being pulled toward the clear water. Creatures great and small appeared all around. “No. Stop! Leave me alone!” Win cried.
“You have to go back.” They all said in unison.
Win at last broke free with tear filled rage. “I am not going!” The large creature put a webbed hand on her shoulder.
“Read the journal, Winifred. Have courage.” The creature smiled calmly. Suddenly the creatures turned into a barrage of iridescent bubbles and rushed into her face.
Win awoke in her car soaking wet gasping for breath with her journal in the passenger seat. The green gem burning brightly.
She lunged for the book and unwound the black strap. She opened the leather cover to reveal her grandma’s handwriting. You’re not alone. You’re forever loved. Have courage. Write through the pain and create your own world of lavender skies and garnet suns.
Winifred wept and embraced the tormenting pain and began writing.