Two Months Earlier…
“What ya doing girl?” Ava asks into my ear as I park my car in front of my sister, Julie’s place. Turning the car off, I prepare myself to battle the rain coming down. Jumping out, I shut the door with my hip and ducking my head at the same time as the rain splashes onto my face, I race to the awning above the entrance door to her building.
“Just stopped at Julie’s,” I breathlessly answer while pushing the glass door open.
“Do you mind asking her what the title of that book was, please?”
I roll my eyes at her pleading voice. “Okay, why didn’t you ask her last week?”
“I did. She told me but I forgot.”
Her reply makes me laugh.
“You’re bloody hopeless.” I push my drenched hair out of my face.
“Shut up, you,” she hisses playfully, making me laugh again as I trudge up the chilly stairwell towards Julie’s apartment.
“Okay, I’ll ask,” I reassure her before hanging up and pocketing my phone.
Pulling my key out, I unlock the door and step inside.
“Honey, I’m home!” I call out to Julie, but she doesn’t reply.
Normally, she’ll call back, reminding me this isn’t my place. But, it’s dead silent. Her car was in her usual park so she should be here. Scrunching my eyebrows up in confusion, I make my way towards her room, thinking she may be in the shower. Pushing her door open, I freeze and feel the blood pumping through my veins turn ice cold.
“Julie!” I scream, finally finding my voice.
I dash to her side, fall to my knees and gather her limp body in my arms.
“Julie, come on sis, wake up!” I shake in fear and tears pour from my eyes, making everything blurry. Reaching into my pocket for the phone, I pull it out and punch in 000. I rest it between my shoulder and chin waiting for it to connect, all the while begging her to wake up.
I glance around the room and I notice what looks like a syringe lying on the floor at the same moment someone on the other end of the phone speaks to me. Turning back to check Julie, I notice her arm and the piece of rubber tied tightly around it.
“No, no, no, no, this can’t be happening.”
The woman on the phone shouts to get my attention. Through wrenching sobs, I try to explain what is going on.
As I watch my sister being lifted onto the gurney by the paramedics, I reach for her hand and feel how cold to the touch she is.
“Ma’am we need to move her, now.” The soft voice penetrates my head and all I can do is nod before following them out. When we step onto the street, I reach into my pocket, pull out my phone and press call on the first number that comes up on my screen. I’m not even sure who I’m actually calling as I climb into the back of the ambulance. Hearing a soft voice answer my call, I simply answer, “Julie.”
“What’s wrong?” Alexis’ voice clears my mind and through my sobs I manage to tell her what’s happening.
A numbing feeling settles deep in my bones and before she can reply, I end the call. To be honest, I’m not sure if she understood a word I just said. Everything seems so methodical, like I’m on autopilot.
The ambulance pulls to a sharp stop, I register the doors being pulled open and then Julie is raced into the ED. Someone is talking to me, leading me into a building. I think it’s a nurse but my brain has seemed to shut off. I feel like I’m in a tunnel, voices echo around me and they could be speaking English or gibberish for all I know. Everything around me seems to be unraveling. The pieces and threads of every happy memory we’ve ever shared together, shatters around me in disarray. It could be moments or, even hours later, that I’m ushered into a small room. I take nothing in as the beating of my heart echoes around me.
A middle-aged man in a white coat enters the room. “Harlow Rodgers?”
He’s holding a clipboard and has a grave look on his face. Even before he speaks, I know what he is about to say.
It’s all he gets out before a raw, agonized cry tears from my throat. Tears fall thick and fast down my cheeks. Wrapping my arms around my waist, I try to ward off the chill which has blanketed me. My heart feels like it’s being shredded into tiny pieces. I watch as his mouth moves, but I’ve lost the ability to hear or even speak. My mouth is dry, my breaths are coming in pants, numbness overtakes every one of my senses.
This can’t be happening, I repeat over and over again, as if my words alone could be strong enough for the news to be undone. Feeling like the walls are closing in on me, I move past the doctor without a word. His voice sounds far away as he calls out to me, but I don’t stop. I keep walking until I reach the sliding glass doors which lead outside.
Stepping outside, I breathe in the fresh clean scent as rain pours down around me. My body is gripped by despair so strong it’s hard to breathe. I feel like I’ve become a prisoner in my own body and no matter what I do, I’ll never escape it. I’ll never be free again. Giving in, I fall to my knees onto the rain-kissed footpath and let it consume me.
“Harlow, we have you,” someone calls out.
Arms wrap around me; multiple voices cocoon me. In the deep recesses of my mind, I allow their warmth and soft words to soothe me even if it’s only for a short while.