A few days later, Cara sat in one of the comfy chairs her Mom had moved up to her room. She binge-watched all the media she’d missed while in the hospital, but barely registered what happened on the screens. She heard a soft rap at the window behind her. “Come in!” She said.
The soft rap came again.
“Come in!” she hollered.
Again the soft rapping.
“COME IN!” She shouted at the top of her lungs.
The soft rapping came again.
Before Cara could blow her top, her mother opened the door. “WHY ARE YOU—” Marissa stood outside the window tapping on the glass. Her face softened, and she walked over to let Marissa in.
She helped Marissa in and said, “Marissa June Wright, you are welcome in this house at all times and in all circumstances. But you come in the door and you leave by the door. I don’t want another—err—anything to happen to you. You got that?”
“Yes, Ma’am,” Marissa said.
“Now, I’ve got cookies baking and if you play your cards right, I might just share a few.”
“Thanks, Mrs. S.”
“Don’t worry about it.” She turned to Cara, “you holler if you need anything.”
“I need feeling back in my toes,” Cara hollered.
Cara’s Mom held her tongue and left.
“Did you bring it?” Cara asked. “The special kind?”
“You sure you want to do this?” Marissa asked.
“There’s nothing left for me here,” Cara said. “I can’t do gymnastics. I can’t go to college. I can’t even use the restroom without help. I want to remember the good times, the competitions I won, things I did. I wanna go out on a high note.”
“Please, before my Mom comes back.”
Marissa nodded. She put the blue and white striped, rounded off pill on Cara’s tongue and then lifted the water straw to Cara’s lips. Cara sipped and swallowed.
In a few minutes, her heart slowed. She became unresponsive.
She felt loose and free. She watched herself run and play as a child and use all four limbs as if they were nothing. Every one of her medal winning gymnastics rounds played before her. But she also saw the one two years ago where she broke her toe and was out for six weeks, missing the championship. Her acrobatics wowed the crowd, but she also saw the day her Dad brought his girlfriend to her exhibition. She saw her Dad laugh and the day his car pulled out for the last time, the wedding that took him away forever. Samara smiled with her the night they made prank calls to different boys’ houses in junior high. She saw the day they both got kicked out of Math for giggling and each bruise Samara explained away. And then she saw the night Samara didn’t wake up. But that wasn’t the end.
Her mind kept showing her images. She saw Marissa’s first day when the bully had pushed her into a puddle. When she’d tried to help Marissa up, Marissa had pushed her into the puddle to save face. She saw how they’d eventually bonded over a love for oldies music from the eighties and the time they dressed up like gorillas to deliver a presentation at school. She saw eighteen years of ups and downs and zigs and zags in wave after wave of joy and pain, glee and sadness.
All too soon Cara awoke, and despite her intentions, despite her circumstances, she wasn’t disappointed.
Marissa slept sitting on one arm of the chair and had draped herself around Cara.
On the other side lay her mother also asleep. She lay the wrong way in the bed, her face turned toward Cara.
Cara looked left, then right and back again. And she decided that despite its faults and challenges and the long road ahead, this was a place worth staying in.