Damaged The Dillon Sisters - Layla Frost
I WAS DYING.
Not metaphorically. Not exaggeratedly. Not dramatically, in my teenage angst of I-can’t-even.
Again, not how I would literally die without chocolate. The real literal.
At sixteen years old, I was dying. Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia.
Or, as I called it, all the bullshit.
I could feel it happening. As if my cancer were walking from room to room within my body, flicking the OFF switches to power it down. But it was moving too slow. A meandering stroll, painfully poking and jabbing as it dragged its feet through me.
The absolute worst part—which was saying something because there were a lot of worst parts—was there was no escape from my cancer. I couldn’t zone out on YouTube or escape into a book. I didn’t have the blissful moments where it slipped my mind for the briefest second. Even in sleep, my pain seeped into my dreams, taking away any break I might’ve had.
It was worse in the hospital. I was surrounded by death and pain and sorrow. The sharp antibacterial smells. The nurses. The doctors. The tubes coming out of my body, leading to the annoying beeping machine next to my bed. The ever-present rumble of voices outside my door, and the frequent crying and screaming from the other patients or their loved ones. Even the lack of darkness.
I’d never appreciated total darkness until I was surrounded by the harsh glow of lights that never fucking turned off.
It was like a constant spotlight, shining on my disease. Stealing my peace. Robbing me of any comfort I might have found at the end of my short life.
Closing my eyes, I willed my body to just give up. If I had the energy, I would’ve dragged myself out of the room until I found something to end my pain.
People don’t understand the pain of cancer. Not really. Because cancer was scary and huge, that was what everyone focused on. They didn’t know it wasn’t just the horrendous disease itself. How each new symptom needed a new treatment which led to a new side effect that would need a new treatment. It was a never-ending cycle, and every part of it was awful. The treatment sucked. The side effects of the medication sucked. The wear on my already frayed mental health sucked.
The stuff that was supposed to help me ended up hurting me, and that fucking sucked.
Tears burned behind my closed lids. Not because of the pain or because I felt sorry for myself. They were rage tears directed at the universe and myself.
I should’ve killed myself when I had the chance. When I felt it getting worse. I shouldn’t have been such a coward and a failure. Now I’m stuck in this damn bed.
Out of control.
But I wasn’t alone. Beyond all the nurses, docs, techs, cleaners, and other pediatric patients, there was my constant companion.
I knew he wasn’t really there—I might’ve been crazy, but I wasn’t totally bananas. But sometimes in the middle of the night, in the light shining in from the hallway, I could see him. Lurking in the corner.
When I was first diagnosed, Death was an invisible specter I was running from. I hadn’t wanted to die. But after aging a hundred years in six months, I was ready for him. Racing toward him. I wanted him to take me and end the pain.
He never did.
I wasn’t sure how long I stayed like that, my eyes closed against the sunlight that streamed onto my face, gloating that it was free while I was trapped. When I eventually dozed off, my dreams were invaded by the sounds I heard outside my door and the pain I felt in my bones.
When someone touched my hand, hope flared in my chest before I was even awake. But when my eyes flew open, it wasn’t Death.
It was an angel with a backlit halo of dark hair.
“Aria?” I croaked, wondering if I was still dreaming. Or maybe it was a fever hallucination. Either of those made more sense than her actually being there.
Thanks to our eight-year age difference—not to mention our everything else difference—my sister and I weren’t exactly close. I meant that literally, too. She’d long ago fled to attend school across the country, which was just another thing I was jealous of.
Rubbing the sleep and bleariness from my eyes, I dropped my hands to see she was actually there. Happiness surged through me.
My big sister obviously didn’t feel the same. Tears filled her eyes before sliding freely down her cheeks.
“I look that good, huh?”