Stagnant in the atrium, my thoughts wandered back. Conscious no longer present yet a sparrow, gliding effortlessly through minds ever-twisting thicket. I stand here, yet elsewhere, enveloped in my past. And alast through glazed eyes occupant with remorse, I stared at my reflection, and silently giggled a depressing laugh.
Deriding a predicaments’ incongruity is the only thing that makes pain sufferable. And maybe I deserved some due irony. So conceited I was long ago, to desire sickness to receive affection. Well, I guess it’s true, “Be careful what you wish for.”
It all started the doleful day that began the end. The prominent sting still feels new like it was only weeks ago I heard the doctor, as if through a fog, muter “Clarissa, I’m so sorry.” His tone so lachrymose I knew the worst was coming, “You’ve been diagnosed with lymphocytic leukemia.”
Prognosis at such a young age involuntarily forced me to learn onerous truths very early. For one thing, I’d always loved fairy tales but cancer patients don’t get to believe in magic. The last seven years, I've been trapped and to worsen things, the dragon who imprisoned me is my very own father. He’s imposing, strong, and territorial. Fearless, and whenever he wants something done it happened. Sadly what he wanted for me, was his idea of protection. So now I live as a demoralized captive, left to suffer the cruelest rot.
Here I am. My first day of high school. Let's pause you need an explanation to how I got here. The day had started off like any other shackles grinding painfully into my soul. However after 7 sorrowful years without rest last month I was awoken. Physicians tears told me what the outcome of this new procedure was but I regarded it as nothing because even Cesar had one good day before Brutus stabbed his back and I knew the blade was coming. The miracle that'd occurred was too good to be true so I forced myself not to believe it. Yet I'd never been less drained. Improvement surpassed my doctor’s foremost expectations., and all of my physicians deemed social interaction the next step crucial to recovery and reluctantly my father agreed.
I’d forgotten what it was like to crunch my boots across the grass yet I remember loving it. Maybe because it was the only spike that never pricked me? Alast before me stands Inquired Faith my new obstacle and I thought chemo was a battle. I know I seem hopeful but that does not mean my shield is down I don't have that privilege. Yet the moment of departure from my toxic tower my brain slowly begun to drop an anchor of resistance.
As I walk in my heart feels as if it was plummeting down a sinkhole at a thousand miles per hour. There's a terrifying amount of students packed in these halls. A surreal change to the stuffed animals that occupied my former classroom. Persevering I carefully weave my way through the crowd to find my locker, which thankfully opens with ease.
After a few bumps in the road, the day was off to an alright start. However, I could certainly do without a few of my teachers. It’s not that they weren’t nice just they all seem… surprised. Staring in disbelief when I answered a question I could basically hear their thoughts why is this 16-year-old so excited to be at school. Obviously, they have no idea what this is for me, to them I’m just another student. So, of course, my whole demeanor had changed! Only here I could escape stigmas on cancer that define my treatment in the world. Society’s always been just another dragon; never allowing me the chance to be a person without leukemia delineating. So without question, I feel what I haven’t been in years, happy. Not from learning, but the chance to interact in an environment where I could forget the scars across my chest and control everyone else has over me. Here I am free.
P.E even turned out to be my favorite hour of the day and astonishingly I’d been asked by the coach to meet her after school. This was insane I couldn’t be in trouble already this was only day one, but even crazier is what happened when I arrived. She said she’d seen potential in me as a volleyball player, when in truth until that moment the world hadn’t allowed me to see much potential in myself. Anyway, she invited me to tryouts next Friday. However, there are some major problems. My Father for one. No way he’d let me play a sport even only in intervals. Also, I don’t even know if it's safe “ I’ll think about it” was my somber reply. and Wednesday after school I took a slight diversion on the way home.
“You know I shouldn’t be talking to you about this without your father's consent, even hypothetically!” Dr.Rand said conflicted as he reviewed his notes. My eyes deadlocked with his own, gazing pleadingly into them. I’d come to Dr.Rand because I had faith in him- the same faith I hoped he had in me. It took a moment of serious deliberation before he proceeded. “Even if I tell you that all your tests look great. As well that you’d have no problem participating minimally in volleyball. There's still no ethical way I could give you an okay without your father's approval. Plus you’d need a signed physical from one of your primary physicians,” He took only a brief pause yet the torpid seconds felt eternal.
“Although, technically,” he resumed, “I don't need permission to sign a physical with accurate information.” He pulled out a pen and looked up at me with a stern expression, disguised behind I knew lay a smile.
Grinning wildly I swaddled Dr.Rand in a strong embrace. This was perfect. I had everything I needed except the parent signature, but I have that covered. “And Claire,” Dr.Rand shouted as I was on my way out “Be careful.” I gave him a silent nod as I exited his office. He was right I needed to be careful, but not in the way he was thinking of. If I got caught it would ruin everything. I’d be forced back into my prison and Lord knows I wasn't going without a fight. The game is on.
On Friday I walked into the gym ready to show everyone what I was really made of, but the moment I entered I was taken aback. There are a lot of girls here. A whole lot more than the twelve to thirteen that would make the team. Suddenly I was plowed by a wave of gloom and my knees began to tremble. I started breathing rapidly and now felt every heartbeat. No one noticed me yet so I dove behind the bleachers to obscure myself from view. In an instant, my pores had become a fountain and I couldn’t stop shaking, my mind encased in a chrysalis of impending doom. Worry was drawing me further and further away from the realm of reason and as I lay here I feel just as hopeless as the world thought I was.
Now I remembered, I wasn’t fine being the stereotype society created for me anymore. Slowly I open closed eyes and focused on my surroundings; distracting myself I note every detail imaginable. Gradually I force past hysteria and the attack discontinues.
Luckily everyone was too focused prepping to notice my brief anxiety-fueled meltdown. Now I stand up, wipe the sweat off my face, deep breath, and look outward at my competition. Now that I remembered what this was for me and I was no longer scared. This was my kingdom come. And I’d be damned if I didn't give it my all.
On the fourth when I approach the roster my jaw dropped. Right there, my name was written at the bottom of the list. I’d done it! But what had I done? Defied my father? Lied to my coach? I knew from here things would only get more complicated, Yet I smile. Oh, Dad, I thought. You have no idea what your daughter’s capable of.
After weeks of practice, our team had become a well-oiled machine. Things were happening quickly. To pull off this complex scheme, I devised a plan to maintain my secret. The first step was arranging rides. Next, giving my father a schedule of days I’d be home late from school working on my sophomore “Personal Project.” Last was the most important: I had to live, to try, and take chances.
I’d decided to reveal all after our last tournament. The sleeping would finally be awoken. Everyone thought the girl with leukemia was weak, but I was gonna show people leukemias not the problem, but their assumptions that torment us daily. They’ll see what I accomplished when I was treated like a regular girl because I am one.
Brutal months passed. Days slowly turned to night, and Neptune’s frost gradually seeped into the atmosphere. We’d given our all in every match this season and if we won the Semifinal against Coopersdale we’d go to the championship. The only problem came when the highly anticipated Wednesday arrived. We discovered Raya, our team captain, had sprained her ankle. This might not seem overly significant, but the truth was while coach kept us playing our best, Raya kept us acting that way. Now without her, our team could easily fall into disarray.
The Semifinal’s first half went by in a blur with many scrapes just in the nick of times. Our team was lacking focus arguing nonstop. Yet God truly must have been on our side, because an amazing hit by our powerhouse set us over the top. Now we're on our way to the championship and truthfully I’m terribly worried. This was only our first day with Raya out. If we kept playing like this we were definitely in trouble.
Every play was met with a stunning return each more baffling than the last. This was the hardest game of my life. Break was now ending and we were about to continue our final set down 17-23. We huddled as Raya usually had us do. The circle was there yet without the comradery. Once again blaming one another the girls quarreled. And as if run dry of ointment to a rash of pointless stupidity I did something no one expected. I spoke.
“Guys we need to stop fighting and work together because tomorrow I guarantee you won't be thinking about what you’re arguing now! You’ll be thinking about why we lost.” I didn't know where the words were coming from but suddenly I’d found my voice. “We are Inquirers we represent what it means to go to a school where faith is valued above all else. And right now we need to have faith in each other. Let’s go out there and win!” We all put our hands together and just like that we were back.
I don't know what it was, but I was on fire. We were winning, yet I don’t know how long that’ll last. I was running back and forth hitting strong returns, but then my legs started to falter trying to let the accursed dreariness seep in. I wouldn’t let it. I was so tired of my condition running my life. I was on top of the world. In these few months I’d become an entirely different person, and now I’d stepped up as captain. This is my moment. My team has this. There's no way I’d come this far to lose. Only one more point. Another devastating return. I jumped up. Not today. Not TODAY. Then everything went black.
Silence. Peace. Clarissa finally understood the answer to what some spent a lifetime looking for. This was death. Not painful just nothingness. A sort of drifting sensation like slowly being rocked back-and-forth in a canoe while flowing down a peaceful rapid. Maybe she was headed to be judged by a higher power or maybe her fate had already been decided, but Clarissa didn't care her soul was finally at peace. Yes, she was gone, no fairytale waking up to the rescue of a dashing prince nonsense. She died happier than she’d ever been. So this was the end of her story. Her final reckoning. Now all that was left for her to do was wade. Wade towards whatever reward or punishment destiny had in store for her. This was it, her final chapter. And with not another thought she let go. Gone.
No, not yet. Clarissa knew she wasn't destined to live the longest life, but she knew it wasn't over yet. This wasn’t her happy ending. She’d lived but in secret. Prospered but in fear. But no longer. Back. She willed every ounce of her body. BACK. Her story wasn’t through. Back she pushed. I have to be the one to give myself a happily ever after, not some hero. Back. Then she breathed.
“Ghh!” I took in my first breath, siphoning the cool air into my lungs. By the meer atmosphere of dreariness, I knew where I was. As grogginess faded I was met with the unpleasant sight of my father. And as what was happening around me came into clarity I found myself slowly became more and more infuriated; my eyes full of distaste, as my father clamored foul words at my doctor. All the other experts were too petrified to try and stop the dragon from breathing his fire. This was enough. I’d stood idly so many times before, yet now I couldn't stand it. He couldn't treat someone like that especially over me. I wasn’t a sapling anymore I’d blossomed. Outgrown my pot and no longer needed to be contained, it was time to relish, soak in freedom, and this was my moment.
“Not now Clarissa, not now.”
“For the love of God! I'm dealing with these incompetent-”
“Dad! Right now!” This was the second time I’d raised my voice since prognosis, but there'd never been a better time.
“Dad I know I'm stronger than this!”
“Young lady I don't like what's gotten into you! But I know that school had something to do with it! You’ll be re-enrolled in homeschool courses immediately. I swear on Margaret's name as long as I’m alive another accident like this will never occur!”
“No! No more letting you get the last word. No more living to your every will and desire. I have a life, friends, goals. I can't enjoy any of that trapped in my prison. People like you are bigger inhibitors than leukemia will ever be. Dad I know I'm stronger than this, God knows it!”
“I'm just trying to-”
“Why can’t you believe in me?”
Words to Think About
Watch carefully, the magic that occurs when you give a person the freedom to be themself.