Charlotte Chronicles, III

Charlotte Chronicles III

Charlotte

“Do you think I should just shave my head or wait until the hair falls off during radiation?” I close one eye and lift my long hair off my neck.

“Are you going to get a pirate patch?” Nick asks. He is lying on the hospital bed next to me playing on his DS. Mom and Dad had moved an extra wide hospital bed in here after the surgery because someone was always lying on the bed with me. Not that I minded it but I didn’t even know that they made beds bigger.  The nurses grumbled because apparently it was harder to take my vitals when one side was squished by the body of some teenager.

But friends from school came over and invariably they ended up beside me. Or Nate who’s been here every night like a giant muscle bound teddy bear. He’d disappeared before and after my surgery and then came back late that night and sat with mom all night until my mom left to get something and Nate nudged me over. I like it more than I should because I’m sure that Nate is just being brotherly. But it’s a nice change from him always giving me a hard time. His default mood for the last year has been pissed off. Even Nick gives him wide berth. When I got sick, I was sure he was thinking I’d ruined something for him and that’s why he took a runner during my surgery.  But now he’s back to being big brother Nate. Unfortunately I have some not so fraternal feelings toward him.

But a girl whose got a tube in her neck, a slightly enlarged noggin, and a bald head isn’t going to get someone like Nate to notice her in that way.  I should probably just enter the nunnery now.

“No, why? You think that goes with a bald head?” I ask Nick trying to shove Nate out of my head. I have weird feelings toward Nate and I’m not really up for dissecting them right now.

“I’m wondering why you are closing one eye.”

I punch Nick in the shoulder. “I’m just trying to see it from a different perspective.”

Nick sets down the DS and pushes me upright. He pulls up the hair tight and away from my face. And then he closes one eye and then the other. “I think we should shave our heads today.”

“We?”

“Hell yeah,” Nick looks at me like I’m bonkers. “You know I’m shaving my head in solidarity. A bunch of us are. Even Meghan.”

Maybe its the drugs but I start to cry. Even Meghan? My best friend from gymnastics?

“Ah shit, don’t cry.” Nick awkwardly pats me on the shoulder but I don’t stop leaking water everywhere. I’m afraid and I’m grateful to my friends and I love my family and everything that is going on is overwhelming me.

“Shit shit shit.” I hear Nick say and then I feel him moving off the bed. I want to call out to him that I’m fine but I can’t because I’m really not fine.  What Nick doesn’t say and that we both know is that I have to shave my hair off because they’ve already taken a huge hunk of it off to operate on my head. And who the heck cares about my hair when they are sticking a plastic tube down the back of my neck to drain off excess fluid that is now collecting in my brain. And the fact that I have a hard time comprehending reading or writing words down. It’d be a struggle competing at a 2nd grade spelling bee right now.

I know I should be so happy that I made it out of surgery but all I can think of is how my seven years of gymnastics training is being flushed down the toilet; how everyone will stare at me when I go back to school; how my mom won’t stop looking at me like she’s afraid the next breath is my last.  My mom is never worried. She’s this business powerhouse who can climb giant mountains.  But she’s afraid which tells me I should be shitting my pants.

So I can’t stop crying even though I’m making Nick feel so bad he has to leave the room.  The bed dips and a pair of strong arms gather me up. It’s Nate. I recognize his smell and it makes me cry even harder because I have such a stupid idiotic crush on him and I’m afraid no one will want to marry me because I don’t have any hair.

“You’ve done what legions of other girls at school wish they had the power to do.”

“What’s that?” I mumble into Nate’s t-shirt clad chest.

“Make Nick leave them alone.”

Nate’s bad joke prompts a watery giggle and I’m able to quell my hysterics. Pushing away, I wipe ineffectually at my wet face. Nate nudges my hands aside and sops up the tears with a couple of kleenexes. I notice that the clock says its just after one in the afternoon.

“Isn’t your dad making you guys go to school?” It’s Tuesday, at least I think it is. I’ve been here since Saturday.

“Nope. You’re little brain tumor is getting us out of school for the week. Mom’s orders.” Nate leans back against the pillows of the hospital bed. Even though the bed is slightly larger, his big frame takes up most of the space so that when I lean back I have to rest partially against his chest. I remind myself that Nate is like my brother. Just a brother.  Like Nick.

If only I could just convince myself of that.

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