Is death supposed to smell like latex gloves? Jade really wasn't expecting that, to be honest. She expected a tunnel. Bright lights. Pearly gates. Maybe a fire, if that was where she was meant to go. She hadn't directly killed herself, sure; her attempted suicide had taken her a few years, but she finally got to this point. She had finally done it. She had said over and over again that she didn't want to die, that she just wanted to cope with her stress, but she had been such a fantastic liar she couldn't detect it herself.
There's an incredibly annoying beeping somewhere, too. Beep, beep. Beep, beep. What, is this hell? This is the eternal torture she had been asking for? Beep, beep. Well, Christians had been making a huge deal out of nothing. This was cake. If this was death, this was pretty good. Even if there was a lot of beeping and it smelled really sanitary. Better than fire.
She wasn't sure if she should try to move. Maybe that would mess things up or something. It was weird because she could still feel her arms and legs. They felt really long and far away, but they were there. She tentatively raised one finger. It rose and fell. Hm. She boosted it up a notch and moved her whole hand, squeezing her hand into a fist.
Ow. Ow, that hurt.
Her wrist screamed. She quickly flattened her hand, sucking in a breath at the pain. Death doesn't exactly come with a handbook, but she's almost positive that her wrists shouldn't still hurt. She was supposed to find peace in death, not the same kind of pain.
Which meant only one thing.
Her eyes opened slowly, pupils shrinking painfully as light assaulted her. She tried to raise her hand again to block the glare, only to find her arms wrapped in a collection of cords. Jade studied them groggily. Her head felt like it weighed a hundred pounds, so she didn't even attempt to raise it and glance around. Not that there was any need. A rustle captured her attention, carefully turning her head toward the sound.
A wave of red flashed before her eyes. It was hard to focus, like everything was shrouded in fog, but she only knew one person with a shock of red hair.
Jade blinked the girl above her into focus, a hand raising to try and find her face. Jade couldn't be sure, but it felt like her hand was to Cat's cheek, being held there, and Jade released a soft sigh of relief. She had missed touching Cat.
"Hey, Red." Jade coughed, her throat dry. She didn't feel angry, just happy, relieved to see Cat floating above her like the angels in the cemetery, only with more flesh.
Cat smiled down at her weakly and Jade could tell by the puffy, red circles around her eyes that the girl had been crying. Jade struggled to piece together how she got here, where she was ... she was certain she was in a building she knew the name for, but her thoughts were scattered so far across her brain she couldn't keep up with them. It didn't matter, though. Cat was here, soft beneath her hand.
"How are you feeling?"
Cat's words seemed to move through sludge and Jade's brows met at the center of her forehead. "Woozy," Jade replied slowly, trying hard to push herself up with her free hand. Cat's face twisted, her hands raising to push against Jade's shoulders.
It hit her then, the word she had forgotten; hospital. She was in a hospital. The cords running in and out of her were probably keeping her alive.
She was alive.
"Lay down, baby."
"Baby?" Jade laughed softly, still holding Cat's cheek. "I'm your baby, hm?" It felt nice to say it, made her heart swell a little bit. She had never been called baby before.
Cat's lips were beautiful and they made a beautifully sad smile down at her. "Yeah, you're my baby." She made a strangled choking noise and then tears fell on Jade's neck, hot drops of water hitting her skin. Jade didn't like that, didn't want Cat to cry, her other hand struggling to find Cat's opposite cheek so she could brush the tears away. Her fingers were clumsy and sluggish, but she managed.
"I'm sorry," Jade said, because somehow she understood that Cat was crying because of her. "I'm sorry, Cat."
Cat shook her head, waves of red hair falling to touch Jade's cheeks and in a surprised inhale Jade could smell her, could really smell her, and for a moment she has so pissed that she had nearly died without smelling Cat one more time, without kissing her.
"Kiss me, Cat. Please."
Cat didn't have to be asked twice, pressing her mouth hard against Jade's. Jade's lips were numb at first and it was hard to get her brain to react but eventually she was kissing her back, hands holding tight to Cat's cheeks. It felt like ages since she had kissed her, touched her, smelled her, and how could she ever think that death was a better alternative to having this all the time? She could have Cat. She did have Cat.
The seconds seemed a lifetime when Cat pulled away, brushing Jade's hair from her forehead. "I love you," she said, so soft it was barely a whisper and Jade tried to say it back because it was the most truth she had ever felt but her head was too heavy to keep up and her eyelids were falling hard over her vision. Cat was dissolving.
"Is she awake? Jade? Jade, honey?"
Jade's eyes barely managed to slide toward the corners and watch her mom hurry into the room, and then she was gone, captured by sleep.
Jade looked peaceful, resting against the stark white of the sheets. Cat could ignore the cords running in and out of her, could ignore the beeping, and just study her face, soft and free of the usual stressful lines around her eyes and mouth. Cat felt like painting a picture of her, frozen like this.
She wondered if Jade would look just as peace resting in a casket.
Cat growled and snaked her fingers into her hair. There was no time for thoughts like this. The doctors said she would be fine, but that she would need to be transferred to the psych ward as soon as she regained total consciousness. She had lost so much blood and Jade's mediocre bandaging hadn't been enough to seal off her veins. She could have died had Cat been a little later, had the ambulance been just a few more minutes behind -
Cat shook her head and wiped her sweating palms on her jeans and stared at Jade, pale and broken on the bed. Her wrists were wrapped in white gauze. She had had to get stitches for the scars, but Jade had been so pumped full of drugs she probably didn't even remember it. Cat glanced at Jade's mother across the room, slumped in her chair, asleep. Jade's dad was here, too, wandering around somewhere talking to doctors. Cat didn't know.
They had told her to go home a hundred times, but she wasn't going anywhere until Jade woke up and really talked to her. Their earlier exchange hadn't been enough for her, the messy kiss, the almost incoherent mumbles leaving Jade's mouth ... no, she wasn't leaving with that. She wanted Jade to look her in the eye and really talk to her.
"I never understood."
Cat's head snapped back to Jade's mother, who was sitting up and yawning, rubbing her eyes.
"Jade's always been unhappy. I never really got why."
Cat frowned, chewing her lower lip and looking at the sleeping girl again. "Some people are just ... sad," Cat mumbled, rubbing her hands on her legs. "And scared."
"You think she's scared?" Jade's mom leaned forward on her knees and Cat could see her watching Jade with the same kind of tragic love that Cat could feel twisting in her chest. "What's she afraid of?"
Cat shrugged her shoulders slowly. There was really no answer for that question. But did it really matter why Jade was sad, as long as Cat made her happy again? And not even happy again ... but happy for the first time?
"Everything," Cat said softly, and Jade's mom nodded in the corner of the room and the two of them watched a girl sleep away her pain.
The next time Jade woke up, it wasn't to the pleasant sight of Cat floating above her face. It was some strange doctor, poking and prodding at her arms. Jade instinctively tore them away, trying to sit up, but the movement was too fast and she got so dizzy she had to lay down again. The doctor smiled down at her, the woman's eyes kind and her hair a fluff of white.
"Well, good morning, sleepy head. Welcome back to the living."
Jade thought that was kind of a crude, dark joke for a doctor to be making, but Jade didn't have the effort to argue, really. She mumbled incoherently, her lips numb, though she managed to croak out an impressive "Cat?"
"Oh, your friend? Her parents came and got her." The woman started buzzing around, checking the beeping machine next to Jade. "She was here for hours, though, waiting for you to wake up. Do you want me to go get your mom?" The doctor smiled warmly down at her and Jade blinked the fog away, glancing blearily around the room. She remembered being awake earlier, though it was briefly, and she was positive she hadn't been in this room.
"Where am I?" Jade's throat was dry, her voice raspy and far away. A bottle of water hovered before her face, eager fingers breaking the cap away and drowning herself in it. Jade couldn't think of anything that tasted better than that lukewarm bottle of water just then. She crumpled the plastic in her hands and sat up, wiping at her lips as the doctor perched on the edge of her mattress.
"You're in the psych ward," the woman said, offering her a smile that really didn't belong there.
Jade stared at her for a long time. She had assumed that she would, at some point, end up here, but that didn't make the words any more comforting. The psych ward. She was a loon, a total nutcase. She looked down at her arms, at her thickly bandaged wrists. Never had she felt so stupid. So hopelessly idiotic. Suddenly, all of those cheesy things those counselors back at Stowe's had been saying seemed like they made sense ... what had she been trying to do, solve her problems? Like death was the answer or something. She touched one wrist and then the other and felt the doctor's eyes on her, chewing her dry, cracked lips.
"I don't want to die," she said slowly, and for the first time she actually felt like she was telling the truth.
The doctor reached out, touching her hand. "Those scars say otherwise."
Jade pursed her lips and felt an odd twisting in her chest. "No, really, really, I don't." She pressed the back of her hand to her mouth and closed her eyes, an unfamiliar sense to just explode overwhelming her. Her eyes stung, an uncontrolled sob tearing through her throat. "I want Cat," she choked.
The doctor swept out of the room only for her mother to return, tears pouring down her cheeks as she all but tackled Jade in her bed. And she wasn't Cat, but it was good enough. Jade melted into her mother's shoulder, crying, clinging to her. Her mother, she loved her. She really did. And then her dad was there, his eyes sad and swollen with tears and she buried herself in him, too.
She didn't want to die, she just wanted to remember why living was important. And with her mother's sobs and her father's hand on her head, she was starting to recall.