Adult Grace runs. Her torso is wrapped in old gauze wraps and she favors one side over the other. The world is quiet. Her feet hit the pavement, muffled thuds in the foggy atmosphere. Her short, jagged breaths cut through the dense air.
She looks left and right, searching for something. Her brow furrows, trying to recall memories. But she doesn’t stop running. She runs and runs and runs.
A glimpse of white flickers in the distance, enshrouded in fog.
Adult Grace slows to a jog. The white comes up again.
“Hello?” calls a voice.
Grace slows to a walk.
“Hello?” calls the voice again. It belongs to a small girl.
Grace raises an eyebrow, concerned and confused at the same time. The white figure turns and faces Grace.
Grace freezes. She’s staring down at Little Grace.
“How could you let this happen?!”
Adult Grace screamed at Chex from across the waiting room.
“I didn’t know this would happen.” Chex said.
“You didn’t know this would happen?! You almost sent us back there! And look what you’ve done to her!”
Adult Grace points towards the door in the direction of the examination room. Inside the room, Little Grace received oxygen through a mask. She seemed even more fragile than she already was.
“If I thought this would put her in any danger I would never have let her go through it again!” Chex shouted back.
“Well you did put her in danger, Chex. And you put me in danger, thanks a lot.”
“You’ve made it clear that you take care of yourself. I care about Grace!”
“And what, you think I don’t? I am her, Chex.”
“It’s not that I don’t think that you don’t care–”
“You afraid she’ll see you the way that I do?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Afraid you’ll lose her ever-present adoration of you? That she’ll realize is that you’re the one who put us in hell? That I’ll shatter that dream for her? Do you think I would do that to her? Because I wouldn’t. She’s eight years old. You’ve been with her for almost her whole life. You’re all she knows. I wouldn’t take that away from her.”
Chex put a hand to his head, exhausted.
“Yeah, but you’re exactly the same. Except that I dropped you in hell.”
Adult Grace crossed her arms.
“I’m twenty-five, Chex. I’m not a little girl anymore.”
“No, but see, you are to me.” Chex pointed to the door to the examination room. “You know me just as well as the little girl in there. But I don’t know you at all. You’ve grown up. I don’t know who you are.”
Chex sat down on the couch and rubbed his face, trying to stay awake.
“I get it.” Adult Grace said. “You want to keep her safe. But I know best how to do that, not you. Not anymore.”
“Then why are you here?”
“Because we needed to get out of there.”
“Because you were dying. I know you think I don’t get, it, Grace, but I do.”
“You don’t get anything, Chex. It wasn’t just that the place was lonely or killed you quickly. You don’t get what that place was like. It was a perpetual shadow. Forever cloudy with no chance of rain. Or sun. Do you know that does to a person? The place was empty. And you were empty. You wake up each morning and take a look around and you know what you see? Nothing. There’s nothing. Nothing to do. Nothing to see. Nothing to feel. So what’s the point of anything anymore? Who knows? But you keep living from day to day and you have no idea why you keep doing it until one day you just give up because you’re too tired. You’re too tired to try anymore so you sit down and put a razor to your wrist.”
Adult Grace collapsed onto the couch. She refused to look at Chex. He sits up, attentive, genuinely concerned.
“So what happened?” He asked.
“She happened.” Grace said, pulling her legs up onto the couch. “The first time I heard her in my head. And you know what she said? ‘Don’t leave me alone.’ That’s what she said. So how could I?”
“You stayed alive, because of her?”
“What did you think I was doing the entire time? Partying with the tin cans? I was looking for her.”
Chex looked at her profile. She still wouldn’t look at him. Slowly, he laid a hand on her arm. She let it stay.
“I’m sorry, Grace.” He said.
A commotion broke out in the direction of the examination room. Tools clattered to the ground. Adult Grace and Chex jumped up and burst through the door.
Little Grace seized in a chair. Her entire body shook and convulsed uncontrollably. Doctors and nurses ran around in a frenzy.
“What’s going on?! Help her!” Adult Grace shouted.
“Ma’am, please stay back.” A nurse said, holding up a gloved hand.
“No, what’s happening to her?”
Chex took ahold of Adult Grace’s arm.
“She’s having a seizure, Grace.” He said.
“Well do something about it!” Grace yelled.
“They are doing something.”
“Give her 100 milliliters of anticonvulsant!” A doctor shouted.
Chex and Adult Grace watched as doctors thrust a syringe into Little Grace’s neck and squeezed. The little girl kept shaking.
“Her heart rate’s bottoming out.”
“We’re going to have to move her. Let’s go!”
Doctors lifted Little Grace up onto a hospital gurney. They strapped her down but she still continued to convulse.
“Take her to the ER. Go!”
Doctors grabbed either side of the gurney and wheeled Little Grace past Adult Grace and Chex and out the door.