|Live Like You're Dying
Author: GracelesslyFalling PM
Terminally ill. That means there is no cure. I am going to die. No matter what he says. So he can just go unimprint on me now. Because it's really not worth it. I'm not worth it.Rating may change. OC/EMBRYRated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Hurt/Comfort - Embry - Chapters: 37 - Words: 124,192 - Reviews: 667 - Favs: 370 - Follows: 364 - Updated: 01-19-13 - Published: 08-03-10 - id: 6204554
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
If I die young bury me in satin, lay me down on a bed of Roses.
Sink me in the river at dawn; send me away with the words of a love song.
Terminally ill. That means there is no cure. I am going to die. But try telling that to my mother.
"Mom, I don't understand how you think that the treatment up here is going to be any better than back in Nevada." It was too late to convince her to stay, as the plane had already landed in Washington, but that didn't mean I wouldn't try to convince her to hop on the soonest returning flight.
"Your Aunt told me they have one of the finest Doctors around." She answered defensively.
Right, one of the best doctors of his generation would take up practice in Forks, Washington instead of Johns Hopkins or St. Jude.
"Well I'd much rather spend my last months at home, where it's warm and sunny." As if to make my point we stepped outside of Port Angeles' Airport to a sky full of clouds and a chilly wind.
"Stop saying that. No one gave you a timeline for when you were going to die." She snapped at me, but I could see the tears glistening in her eyes.
That made me shut my mouth. I didn't want to put her through more pain or destroy what little hope she had left if it made things easier for her. Not after all she had been through with me the past four years. So the ride through the rain was a silent one as we drove past miles of trees that seemed to never end.
The scenery didn't change much as we made our way towards Aunt Karen's house and the only thought I had was what a depressing place to die. I know I should be more positive, but after four years of constant treatment only to have my health deteriorate has helped me to see the truth.
Every day I saw a stranger in the mirror: fragile and bruised. I was washed out, pale as a dove. My dark hair—cropped to just below my chin in order to make it seem fuller—only made the contrast more ridiculous. My body looked frail and useless. Standing next to my strong, golden skinned mother I looked ridiculous. The only part of me that hadn't changed was my eyes. They were still the same bright green they had always been. The only part of me that still looked alive, healthy, and strong.
Aunt Karen was waiting for us when we pulled up to her house. She wasn't really my aunt. Her and my mom had grown up best friends, and since my mom was an only child, Karen was always referred to as Aunt Karen. There were certain similarities between my mom and Karen. They both had dark hair, brown eyes, and sun kissed skin. Although mom's was a result from tanning and Karen's was a result of her Quileute background.
Karen's shocked expression when she saw me only further solidified in my mind that there was no way I would ever fit in around La Push. If Karen couldn't even hide her shock at my body's transformation from its healthier self to the state it was in the locals were going to think I was some sort of albino alien.
"Corinne, you look beautiful," Karen exclaimed while hugging me gingerly. I held back my humorless laugh at her lie. I was far from beautiful.
"It's Cori now, actually." I corrected when she finally released me.
"Right, right. You sound just like Kimberly. Hasn't responded to her full name since she was eleven." She gushed as she took my bags and led my mother and me inside. "I'm sorry Kim's not here to welcome you, but she's found herself a boyfriend and well all her free time seems to belong to him these days."
Kimmi had a boyfriend. That was news to me. I hadn't seen her since we were ten: before the sickness overcame me. Though I suppose just because I hadn't had time for a boyfriend between doctor visits and the various scares that lead to me being hospitalized didn't mean that Kimmi wouldn't ever date.
"It's fine." I answered quietly.
It was more than fine actually. I wasn't really looking forward to Kimmi seeing me this way. I wasn't looking forward to her knowing about my comdition because I didn't want more pity.
Karen's house was on the small side. It had two bedrooms upstairs and one on the first floor. That one was to be my room and I had a feeling it was because both Karen and my mom were afraid the stairs might be too taxing for me. There was a double bed with a blue-green bedspread like the sea that went nicely with the pale blue walls. On the back wall there was a sliding glass door that led out into a backyard bordered by trees. It wasn't as bad as I thought. At least it wasn't pink.
"Do you need help unpacking?" Karen asked expectantly.
"No, I've got it. Thanks." She nodded, hesitating a little before leaving to find mom. She left the door open. Figured.
Mom would be sleeping on a pull out couch in the living room several steps down the hall from my room. She was using the hall closet to hold what clothes she had packed, leaving me with the small closet and dresser in here all to myself.
It didn't take me long to get settled in. Two pair of jeans, a heavy red coat, a sweater and half a dozen long sleeved shirts hung in the closet while underwear, and several were folded neatly in the dresser. An old picture of my mom and me hiking at a National park six years back rested on my dresser as well as one of my old dog, a couple of my dad and one of me and Kimmi during one summer visit years ago.
Kimmi didn't return home until around dinner time. I had planned on hiding out in my room all night, but mom came hurrying into the room forcing me up so we could all eat together. As I stood there watching Karen and mom move food to the table Kimmi came in, calling out to Karen. She stopped surprised in the archway to the small kitchen staring at me with an odd expression on her face. Confusion mixed with something else.
"Kim you remember your cousin Corinne," Karen prodded her daughter forward, towards me.
"Cori," I corrected again. Then, feeling too awkward for a hug, I held out my hand.
"Oh, yeah, hey," her face seemed to relax into recognition as she took my hand. "You look different, I didn't recognize you."
Dinner was filled with Karen and mom doing most of the talking. Every so often they would glance my way to make sure I was eating enough or maybe to make sure I was stable. As soon as the dishes were cleared I made my way back to my room, putting on some quiet music I just laid on my side looking out into the trees.
"Cori," Kim sounded from behind me. I turned so I was facing the doorway. "Do you mind if I come in?"
I shook my head and she slowly came in, pausing at the dresser to study my pictures.
"I remember this one," she pointed to the one of the two of us. "It's from that summer I came to visit and you took me rock climbing."
Eventually she made her way to sit on the edge of my bed, looking down at the bed covers. She hadn't really even glanced at me since our introductions. Was the visible change that hard to take? Or was she too afraid to stare and hurt my feelings.
"Kimmi, you can look at me." I finally said, frustrated.
She finally raised her eyes slowly to meet mine and smiled softly. "I don't want to make you feel uncomfortable."
I laughed for real at that.
"I'm used to the looks. Mostly people whisper about eating disorders or self mutilation. Sometimes I actually wish that was all it was. Something that I can control, you know."
Kim's eyes widened at my bluntness and a faint bit of red flashed over her high cheekbones.
"What is it really then? If you don't mind me asking," She added hastily.
"I have an arachnoid cyst on the back of my cerebellum. It's swelling and putting pressure on my brain which causes headaches, dizziness and sometimes nausea. I'm getting treatment for it, to try to bring down the swelling and pressure, but eventually it will grow so much that my brain won't have enough room. Internal bleeding will occur and then—" I drifted off, unable to say the word in front of Kimmi.
She was silent for a long moment, taking it all in. Her face was ashen as she lowered her vision to the bedspread again, picking at a loose thread.
"Can't you remove it or something?"
I shook my head, slowly. "No one will touch it. A main blood vessel runs through it."
"Aw, Cori," Before I knew it she was hugging me tightly but then she caught herself and jumped back.
"Kim it's okay. I'm not gonna break."
I couldn't keep a smile off of my face when she attacked me again, clinging to me like I would disappear if she let go.
"You can't tell anyone," I choked out, "not even lover boy."
She squirmed at that. "But what if people start talking?"
"Then let them talk."
We were silent for a while after that, but then I changed the subject. Kim was more than happy to go on about her new boyfriend, Jared, whom she seemed to care a lot for. She admitted she'd a crush on him forever which was what made me remember his name as the boy she had liked way back when she visited that one summer. I just hope he wouldn't be a jerk and break her heart. I mean she had liked him all that time and nothing happened and then one day he just decided he liked her back. It was too fairy tale like for me to fully believe his intentions were all well. I did not, however, voice this opinion to Kim.
Karen eventually pulled Kim out of the room claiming that I needed rest. Truthfully I would have liked it if Kim had spent the night like old times. It would almost make it feel like nothing had changed. But Karen's careful gaze kept reminding me things had changed: I had changed.
I woke the next morning from the bright sun shining through the window. The intensity of the light made me momentarily forget that I wasn't at home. At least until I opened my eyes and found myself in the blue room that was meant to be calming. I had forgotten to close the curtains on the sliding door last night so the full force of the sun was shining through it. It made the forest look magical and my hands were itching to find my camera.
Instead I made my way to the small kitchen and poured myself some cereal: Frosted Flakes the breakfast of champions. The clock on the wall read eight forty-five, which was early for me. From the living room down the hall I heard my mom practically screaming, breaking through the early morning quiet.
"What the Hell do you mean Dr. Cullen isn't in today?"
She didn't sound happy at all.
"I don't care if he's taking a family weekend; my daughter was scheduled to see him today."
There was a long pause, probably while the poor nurse that had taken the call tried to appease my mother.
"Yes, yes, schedule us in for the first appointment when he returns." Her tone had settled into frustrated yet pacified for the time being.
I heard her footsteps as she approached, muffled by the carpet. They hesitated when she entered the kitchen, surprised to find me up so early.
"How are you feeling today honey?" She asked softly as she stroked my hair back from my face.
"Fine," I didn't mention the slight headache that was drumming against my skull. She would just overact and I would be sentenced to bed rest when I really wanted to explore outside.
"Good." She nodded contentedly, kissing me on the head. "Don't forget your pills."
Sliding off of the stool I followed my mom to the fridge, pouring a glass of OJ before taking my medicine. I didn't need the juice, with years of practice I could take the pills dry, but the orange juice took away from the aftertaste.
"I'm going to go out. Maybe take some pictures today." I had learned early on that if I was assertive and didn't ask permission to do things mom was less likely to fight against me.
"If you're sure you're up for it." She hesitantly agreed. "Just keep your phone on you."
It took me a few minutes to find my camera and an extra roll of film which I slid into my jacket pocket. Then I was on my way into the forest that surrounded the backyard. The sunlight was perfect today, filtering through the trees and casting spotlights in the forest. Mix that with the dewy mist that hung in the air and the atmosphere was very mystical.
After several shots of the tall trees and the forest floor carpeted in vegetation at different angles I decided to go a little deeper in. Several feet to my left was a stream teaming with rocks and moss and plant life. It was as I was kneeling to get a shot of a baby bunny drinking that I heard it: a twig snapping to my right, scaring the bunny away.
The growl came next. Turning I found a large brown wolf watching me with attentive eyes. I wasn't even sure if it was a wolf, it was the size of a bear but it was definitely lupine. My first reaction was to snap a picture, which I did. He didn't seem to like that. That's when my second reaction kicked in; to keep eye contact while backing away slowly and thinking oh my God oh my God breathe just breathe.
The wolf seemed confused at my reaction, its furry forehead bunching together in an almost human way. That's when he tilted his head, raised his nose, and sniffed the air. And then he was gone. Leaving me with a racing heart, a pounding head and vision that was affected by my increasing dizziness.
I started making my way slowly back the way I thought I had come, but it was harder to navigate with a headache and with my coordination not being up to par. Eventually I had to sit down. After several more minutes the dizziness went away and the headache dulled down to only a slight buzz. That's when I was able to remember my phone; it took me a little longer to remember the number.
"Corinne Marie Montgomery where are you?" Kim's voice buzzed in my ear.
"Somewhere in the woods behind your house. Could you please come find me?" I pleaded. "There is a scary wolf-bear hybrid around here and I don't want it to come back and find me."
I was babbling. I babbled when I was nervous. Being alone in woods where a giant wolf on steroids lurked made me nervous.
"Cori calm down, the wolves won't hurt you. Sit tight I'll be there as soon as I can." Wolves. As in plural. Dear God help me.
It took her twenty minutes and forty-four seconds to find me. I was sitting on the soft, damp forest floor against a tree, leaning my head back against the trunk. She didn't say anything, but took my hand, slipping my next dose of medicine into my hand. I was supposed to have taken it a half hour ago.
I vaguely remembered her helping back to the house and then laying me down in my bed. When I woke again I had a warm cloth covering my forehead and eyes. It was five thirty in the morning. I couldn't fall back to sleep and by seven I heard commotion coming from the kitchen so I figured it was safe to come out.
"Good morning," I mumbled to a perky Kim who was running around the kitchen.
"Oh, Cori, sorry. Did I wake you?" She asked as she started putting books into a bag by the kitchen table.
I had a similar one in my room that was full of my old books from Nevada. School, it was somewhere I seemed to frequent less and less these days. I missed school. I missed having friends and hearing words and conversations that I actually understood instead of the neurological terms all the doctors used.
"No, I couldn't sleep." It was Monday, a school day for Kim. I hadn't even thought about what day of the week it was for months now. When you didn't write the date down every day you tend to forget and the days all blend together.
"How are you feeling?" She stopped what she was doing to look at me when she asked, showing she truly cared about the answer.
"Fine," I dished out my automatic response. I rarely told anyone the truth because the truth was always construed as worse than it actually was.
"Well you scared your mother to death yesterday." Sighing I looked down at my hands. I could just imagine how mom must have reacted.
"She overreacts, that's all. I mean what's the point of acting like I'm dead during the short time I have left. I should be doing everything while I still have time to do it." Looking up from my hands I found Kimmi staring with wide teary eyes. I shouldn't have said that.
"Corrine Marie you are not going to think or talk like that." She choked out.
"Sorry Kimmi." I whispered.
She hugged me on her way to the stairs.
"I have to finish getting ready."
I turned my attention to studying the pictures that covered the fridge. Most of them were of Kim as she was growing up, some of her and her mother, and then there was one with some guy, perhaps the boyfriend, but I wasn't sure. I didn't have time to study more because a knock sounded at the front door, strong and steady, not a bit hesitant despite the early time.
The water was running upstairs, so Kim obviously wasn't coming down to answer it. Another knock sounded as I slipped off of the stool and made my way towards the front door. The third knock was interrupted by me opening the door.
Standing before me was a boy, no a man. A very tall man. A very tall, muscular man. Looking up into his face I found him staring at me with wide eyes. The normal reaction people had when they saw my pale boney-ness.
"You must be Jared, come on in. Kim's upstairs." I stepped further in, away from the door, and he followed closing the door behind him. "I've heard a lot about you."
"Um, I can't say the same about you." He had a very deep voice. It just went with the whole muscle man theme. I didn't think Kim would go for his type, but hey I guess we've both changed.
"I'm Cori, Kim's cousin." I returned to my stool, facing Jared who had stopped in the middle of the kitchen.
"You're related to Kim?" He asked in disbelief.
"Not by blood, but in all other ways, yes. If that even makes sense." I shrugged, trying to figure out what was so familiar about Kim's tall boyfriend.
"Yeah to me, it makes sense." His smile was secretive, like he was laughing at a private joke.
Karen was the one who interrupted the awkward silence that had settled between Jared and me after that. She came into the kitchen dressed in black slacks and a nice blouse with her dark hair in a neat braid.
"Good morning Jared" she smiled at him fondly. Her smile turned to an expression of worry when she turned to me. "How are you feeling this morning Corinne."
"Fine, and I've told you Aunt Karen, its Cori now." She shook her head as she went to fill her coffee cup. "You were christened Corrine and it was the name your mother meant for people to call you. But if it makes you feel better I'll make an attempt to remember your absurd nickname."
"That's all I ask." She rolled her eyes at me, turning back to Jared and striking up a conversation.
Looking for something to occupy myself with I found my camera sitting on the counter nearby. Mom must have put it there once I got home. Reaching for it I wound the film until it was ready for a shot, adjusting the shutter. I had one frame left on this roll, and I never left any empty frames.
So I busied myself trying to find an interesting enough subject. My reward came when Kim came bounding down the stairs and greeted Jared. The way they looked at each other was so loving it almost made my heart ache. Raising the view finder to my eye I focused on their faces and snapped the photo.
The flash got their attention. I expected Kim to be embarrassed or mad, but she simply smiled widely.
"I want a copy of that." She exclaimed before grabbing her bag and heading for the door with Jared in tow.
After the rumbling of Jared's car retreated until it was gone altogether, Karen began getting ready to head out to her job. She worked at a local pharmacy on the reservation. It wasn't a chain, but it fulfilled the community's need.
"Hey Aunt Karen does your work have a photo center?" I asked on impulse.
"Yes, but heavens knows it's out of date." I smiled; I liked old fashioned when it came to photography.
"Would you mind if I came in with you, so I could get my film developed?"
At her yes I hurried to get dressed so I wouldn't make her late. I left a note for my mom telling her where I had gone and assuring her I had taken my medicine then followed Karen out the door to her beat up Nova.
It wasn't a long drive until we pulled up to a building constructed fully of wood except for the roof, which was tin. It was painted an olive green that matched the trees and that was peeling at places. We parked in the back, to save room in the small lot out front for the customers.
Karen was the only pharmacist for the tribe, but she had a couple techs to help her out. I left her at the pharmacy counter and made my way towards the back of the store where I was informed the photo center was.
There was one old man working back there when I arrived. He looked up at me and stared for about two minutes before asking me if I needed help.
"I know this is going to sound odd and all. But could I use your dark room to develop my photos. I'm a little sensitive about sacrificing artistic quality."
He looked at me as if I had just asked if I could drink a bottle of the developing chemicals. "No unauthorized people may enter the dark room."
"Well, I'm asking for authorization. I have experience." He shook his head: unyielding.
"I'm Dr. Karen's niece." That got him to change his mind.
I was shown to the small dark room and given full reign of everything. After Harold, the old man, left I went to work, going into my zone. Working in a dark room made me feel at peace. The blackness of the room, with only the dull red light to see by, made me feel at home. I worked methodically, first developing the film then taking my time on each photo, timing how long they were in each chemically exactly before rinsing them and hanging them to dry.
By the time I was done Karen was ready to leave. I quickly unclipped all my hanging photos, only a few were still slightly damp, and stacked them up before following Karen out to the car. When I got home I spread out all the photos on my bed and found myself drawn to the close-up of the giant brown wolf. His mouth was open, showing his sharp, white teeth, and the light was reflecting off of his dark eyes.
I couldn't seem to look away from them. They seemed so familiar, so human. That's when something clicked in my head. Making my way as quickly as I could to the kitchen I snatched a photo from the fridge before returning to my room and shutting the door. It took several minutes for my dizziness to subside but once I didn't feel like the room was spinning I laid the new photo next to the one of the unnaturally big wolf.
My eyes flicked from the wolf's eyes to that of the boy smiling besides Kim. It might just be a freaky coincidence, or maybe I was going crazy, but Jared's eyes were the exact shape as the wolves and if I had used color film instead of black and white I was certain the wolf's would be the exact same shade of reddish brown.
A/N Hope you like this chapter and the story! I'm having fun with it. More to come soon :)