I woke up to the sound of persistent beeping. There was not one part of my body that wasn't in pain. My head pounded repeatedly. My vision was blurry.
I blinked rapidly, feeling disorientated, and frowned when all I saw was white. I was lying in bed and my body felt heavy, but my I wasn't in my room; my room was a bright sunny yellow that Claire and I chose together when we redecorated our rooms.
My vision still blurry, I tried to interpret the hands on the clock on the opposite wall. I squinted, but it didn't help.
I could hear voices talking outside the room, but it felt like I was underwater; my ears were too blocked to hear what they were saying. Through my distorted vision, I could see the familiar dark hair of my mother.
"Mum," I croaked, my voice hoarse. My throat was dry and my lips were chapped. I needed a drink.
I squeezed my eyes shut. The door opened and my eyelids fluttered open.
"Lucy," my mother's voice said, letting out a heavy sigh of what I could only presume was relief. My vision no longer blurry, I fixed my eyes on her as she rushed to my bedside.
"Mum," I repeated, flinching at the effort. My lips felt like paper.
"Do you want a drink, love?" she asked, and I nodded. It hurt too much to talk.
My hands curled around a cold glass, shaking unsteadily as Mum helped me sit up straight. I had struggled to do so; my leg felt strangely heavy. The cool liquid trickled down my throat.
"Sip it," Mum told me firmly, taking the glass from me. "Or you'll make yourself sick."
I nodded and reached for the glass again. She gave it to me and I sipped the water, basking in the cold relief it provided.
Leaning back against the crisp pillow, I realised that Dad was leaning against the door, looking helpless. I stared at him for a moment, surprised to see him.
"What happened?" I asked, my eyes flickering from Mum to Dad and back to Mum.
I could only presume it was something serious if both of them were here and not at work. My parents were extreme workaholics.
"You were in an accident, honey," Dad said. I narrowed my eyes. It had to be serious if Dad was using terms of endearment.
"Where are Emma and Ricky?" I asked hazily.
"Outside," Dad said, his voice hoarse. I briefly wondered if he had been crying.
"I want to see them."
"In a minute," Mum said.
I wanted to argue, but I was too tired. Instead, my mind wandered to our previous conversation topic. I was in an accident.
My mind swam, desperately searching for memories. When was I in an accident?
"An accident?" I repeated, frowning.
"I don't drive."
"Not a car accident, sweetie," Mum said in a steady voice. She was a therapist, and therefore had a lot of experience of dealing with people that had gone through various traumas.
But what trauma had I been through?
"What do you last remember?"
I thought back.
I remembered it being Halloween and my birthday, both of which I hated. Unfortunately for me, they conincided; my birthday was on Halloween. After enduring a day of celebrations arranged by Mum, I prepared for a party Claire had organised . . .
"Going to the party," I said. "With Claire. And Maria. And Tyler."
Claire. My best friend. It was only because we were so close that I agreed to go to the party. She knew I disliked making a fuss on my birthday and so made the excuse that it was really a Halloween party. I smiled at the thought.
I remembered being annoyed Maria was going. Since we met her in year nine, she had been trying to take my place as Claire's best friend. I got my revenge by dating her sweet but slightly dim twin brother, Tyler.
"Anything else?" Mum asked, her hand brushing my hair behind my ear. I jerked away.
Hurt flashed in her eyes, but I barely noticed as I struggled to remember.
"We left the party . . . "
"Who's we?" Dad asked, also speaking in a steady voice. His lawyer voice.
"Claire, Maria, Tyler and I."
"Where did you go?"
"The asylum," I whispered.
It was Maria's idea and, of course, Claire went along with it. Tyler agreed to join and I somehow did the same.
The plan was to spend the night in the abandoned building, make a film, take a few photos and leave at dawn. Claire had a love of horror and wanted to look for the children's ward, where she planned on using a ouija board to contact any lingering spirits.
It was a daft plan, and full of risks, but Maria wanted to join the list of people that had done the same.
No one ever went into the asylum alone, though. One kid had done so years ago and messed around with the pulley system. He ended up getting trapped on the other side.
His body was found six months later.
Parents argued that the building was dangerous and it should've been taken down years ago, but it stayed where it was as a warning to other teenagers that planned on exploring it.
I looked at Mum, who had turned pale, and then at Dad, whose jaw had clenched.
"I'm sorry," I said.
"You knew that building was dangerous," Dad said stiffly, but Mum shot him a look she thought I didn't see. I pretended not to.
"The building collapsed." Mum looked at me closely, watching my reaction, before continuing. "You were trapped in a pocket of air, but by the time the ambulance arrived, you were unconcious."
"What's wrong with me?"
"Your leg is broken." I lifted the cover and saw the heavy cast surrounding my leg. That explained why it felt so heavy. "You broke a rib as well, but none of your organs were punctured."
Mum was hiding something from me, I could tell. I frowned.
She didn't meet my eyes as she answered. "You've got a few cuts and bruises on your face, but they won't leave a scar."
"Can I have a mirror?" I requested. Mum looked like she wanted to argue, but realised it wouldn't help. Instead, she took a hand mirror out of her handbag and handed it to me.
It wasn't as bad as I expected. As Mum said, there was several cuts and bruises but nothing serious. My lip was split as well.
Pushing back my hair, my eyes flickered to Mum, who was watching me anxiously. We were nothing alike. She was olive-skinned and had thick dark hair whereas I was pale with blonde hair.
I gave the mirror back to Mum.
"You can come home tonight, if you feel up to it," she said, putting the mirror away and smiling weakly.
I nodded. "What about Claire?"
Mum blinked. "What?"
"What about Claire?" I repeated slowly. "And Maria and Tyler? Are they ok?"
Mum didn't answer. I looked at Dad, but he refused to meet my confused gaze.
"Can I call Claire?"
"Is she here? Are they all here?"
I looked around before realising that I was in a private room. I wondered if Claire was also in a private room; she'd love that.
"Can I go see them?"
"Lucy, honey, they were at the asylum with you," Mum told me gently.
Mum stared at me with pleading eyes. I stared back at her, confused. I was slightly disorientated, but I didn't need everything repeated back to me. I knew that Claire and Maria and Tyler were at the asylum with me.
"They . . . didn't make it," Dad said in a gruff voice, ducking his head. I stared at him.
"How?" I asked, my voice barely above a whisper.
"The building collapsed, Lucy." Mum tried to take my hand, but I yanked it away from her.
"I know," I snapped. "But how?"
"It was an old building. You know that."
"We told you it was dangerous," Dad added. I glared at him through the tears that had gathered in my eyes.
"My friends are dead and all you can do is gloat?" I demanded furiously.
"He didn't mean it like that," Mum said quickly, trying to soothe me. "Lucy, dear - "
"Are you sure they didn't trapped too?" I asked, a hot tear sliding down my cheek.
Claire was dead.
My best friend was gone. The image of us walking into secondary school together for the first time sprung to my mind. I was so scared and she held my hand, assuring me that it would be alright.
Claire . . .
"We're sure," Mum said. "They found the - " She cut herself off.
"They found the what? Bodies?"
"Remains," she whispered.
Nasuea rolled over me.
"They didn't make it, honey. I'm so sorry."
It was sunny on the day of the move.
I stood on unsteady legs, not yet used to not having a cast or crutches anymore, and stared down at the three gravestones that were lined before me. Claire, Maria and Tyler's names were inscribed on them.
I wanted to cry, but I couldn't. I'd been crying for what felt like years and now that I was leaving my best friend behind, I couldn't.
Mum sat in the car, and I could feel her eyes on me. She was forever watching me.
I couldn't blame her. Finding your youngest daughter sobbing hysterically in the bathroom with bloody wrists and shards of glass surrounding her did make one want to keep one's eyes on their daughter.
It was my idea to move. The doctors considered having me sectioned. I suggested moving instead.
"I see Claire everywhere," I'd said. "I see her at home. And I want to go back to school, but I'll see her there as well."
So we decided to move.
We were going to London, which was a big difference from our tiny community. In London, I could easily get lost in the crowd and pretend I was vaguely normal, rather than see my dead best friend everywhere I looked.
Emma and Ricky had agreed to it without complaint; I couldn't have asked for a better sister and brother.
A honk from behind was a not so subtle reminder that we had to go. I shivered, even though it wasn't cold, and pulled my cardigan closer to me.
I wanted to say something to Claire, something that - despite being dead - would stay with her. I wanted to tell her that I'd miss her and how grateful I was that she was my best friend for a majority of my life.
Another honk made me jump. Mum was getting irritable.
"Bye," I whispered. "I'll miss you."
I turned around as Mum honked the horn a third time.
Taking in a deep breath, I walked away from my old life to start a new one.