I hated hospital gowns. The strings cutting into your shoulders, the incessant draft, the self-imposed shame of wearing a giant baby blanket complete with ducks in sailor’s hats all because, technically, I was only seventeen and therefore still belonged in the children’s ward.
My mom was downstairs looking for something to eat, no doubt trying to decide between the hamburgers that tasted like greasy cardboard and the chicken strips that tasted like greasy cardboard. She’d go with the chicken.
We’d developed a routine a long time ago. Turn the TV to some awful reality show, open the curtains, and pretend we were on vacation instead of in the hospital. In fact the word hospital was not even allowed to be uttered in the midst of our little game. Instead we’d say resort or timeshare or hotel or we’d skirt around the specifics of the location altogether and just not say anything at all.
I usually preferred the silence, although it never lasted long. My mom would always start rambling about something and it didn’t take long for me to absorb her nerves and do the same. I hated being tethered to her like that but it had always been that way, two mirror reflections on the opposite end of the emotional spectrum, her fear sneaking up on me when I was trying my hardest not to let it. Because I was her daughter.
And that day as I lay in that hospital bed, trying to bury the hope and the anxiety and all of the other things pricking at my skin, I just couldn’t bury the fear. So I was afraid. Because I was sick. Because I was Elena Reyes’ daughter and as she slipped back into the room clutching a greasy bag of hospital take-out she looked scared too.
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