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   Cora curls into herself on the uncomfortable seat and buries her head in between her knees. She feels like she's being held at the bottom of the ocean. Where there's nothing but darkness and where no one can find her. She can't get back up, the weight and pressure crushing her. Can't get that breath of oxygen until she knows. God, she just wants to know.

 

    It's torture. She doesn't know if she can handle another minute of it, but she keeps telling herself it will be okay. Not long now, Cora, she says to herself, You'll see, everything's fine. You've been waiting for more than two hours, you can wait for another few minutes. Maybe more.

 

    But she knows the longer it takes, the worse it is.

 

    Cora hugs herself tighter, like doing so would help her in some way. It doesn't. Her body is trembling like a leaf in the wind. She can't stop replaying the events leading up to these horrifying hours of wait. Guilt racks her mind and it's all she can do not to sob out loud.

 

    She hears laughter and cries of joy. Bitterness crawls up her chest and she forces herself not to look up. She knows what she'll see, and the ugly feeling building up inside of her will only double.

 

    She looks up anyway.

 

    A couple is hugging each other, tears of joy streaming down their faces. They're saying nonsense and holding onto each other like lifelines. Cora grits her teeth in shame when seeing their smiles make her feel sour. She should be happy for them. At least someone in this wretched place finally got answers, and good news to go with it.

 

    If she's being honest, the dread of what they'll tell her is a tiny bit stronger than her need for them to just tell her already. Yes, she wants the wait to be over with, but she'd prefer good news, you know? Is it wrong that a small part of her would rather not know at all than to hear that she was waiting for nothing?

 

    She laughs bitterly, the shame and guilt almost unbearably suffocating her. She doesn't know what she'll do if she gets bad news. Especially when this wouldn't have happened if she just listened to the right people. Cora couldn't help but feel disgusted with how she acted lately. Trailing after her boyfriend like a lovesick puppy. And now look at what it cost her.

 

    Cora almost let out a sob at the situation at hand. She didn't want this to be happening. It's all her fault. She's a complete failure. What kind of person can be this stupid?

 

    "You don't understand! He'll break up with me if I don't go with him," she had yelled, like that was a perfectly reasonable thing to say. "I love him!" No, she didn't. She was in love with the idea of love. "Don't treat me like a kid!" A fool is what she was. Being an adult didn't mean all the decisions you make reflect maturity. "You're not dad! Stop trying to act like it." It was true, but that might've been the worst thing she has ever said and she never should have. Not to the man who has been taking care of her for years. The wounded look on his face... Cora thinks that might be something she will remember for the rest of her life.

 

    He had told her, "No man who will break up with you so easily is worth it. Cora, you deserve better." He gave her words of wisdom, and yet, Cora still went. "I just want you safe, Cora. Please." Why was she so damn stubborn? How could she be so fricking dense when all he did was be kind?

 

    "You can disapprove of my boyfriend all you want but you can't forbid me from dating him. Just leave it. I'm an adult and it's time you accept that." She thought she was so smart while saying that. She really thought.

 

    He had crossed his arms and shook his head disapprovingly at her. "You are no adult, Cora. You have no idea what you're doing. He's taking advantage of you and you're letting him." She had hesitated then, but instead of taking his words into consideration like a sane person, she stormed out of the house. It had felt like a betrayal at that time. That he didn't trust her enough to make her own decisions. Now she knows she was being a self-centred idiot who just didn't want to see the truth.

 

    She had gone to the stupid party. Danced her mind off her troubles. Only had a single drink, thank the heavens. And then she got assaulted. By her own fricking boyfriend.

 

    Cora whimpers into her arms, almost feeling the hands that were on her only a few hours ago. It started out simple. They were just kissing at the back of the building. But he did more and she didn't want it. She felt so disgusted, the filthy words he had whispered wanting to make her puke. "Wait, stop. I don't want this. Can we just go back to kissing?" she had said, and the man laughed and continued. No matter what she said, he wouldn't stop.

 

    The only thing that helped her were the self-defence classes she took a few months ago. She hated it before because she didn't see a scenario in which she would need to know such things. Now she wants to thank him for putting her through it. She also wants to apologize for yelling at him because he was right all along and she should've listened.

 

    Rae's Diner. She only remembered the name because she was so relieved to see it. It was cold outside—still is—and she just wanted to go home. When she got her phone out, there were a few seconds where she thought maybe he wouldn't answer. What if he was still mad at her for what she said earlier that evening? But he did, asking if everything was okay. Cora had spoken through shivering teeth and whether that was because of the cold or because she was scared shitless, he didn't need to know.

 

    (It wasn't because of the cold. The diner was warm.)

 

   (He knew. Somehow he always knew when it came to Cora.)

 

    Cora asked if he could pick her up from the diner, and was relieved to find that he absolutely would. He would get there as quickly as possible. Cora planned to tell him about the assault when he came to pick her up. He would know what to do. He would help her. He always did.

 

She hadn't apologized on the phone, and she regrets it so, so much. Stupid. Fricking. Pride.

 

    She had waited, and waited, and waited even more. She had waited for a whole hour when it should've only taken twenty minutes for him to get there. She called again, but he didn't answer. Again, and yet nothing. Perhaps he was still angry. Maybe he wanted this to be a lesson to Cora. Whatever, she had thought. God knows she didn't deserve any of his kindness anyway. She had been a brat after all.

 

    If only she realized then that he would never leave her hanging. That the fact that he didn't pick up meant something much, much worse.

 

    So she called a cab. Gave the driver the address and sat there thinking of all the ways she could apologize to him. Maybe she could bake him something. She always used to do that when they were younger and it always made him happy. Food is the way to the heart and all that. And then, maybe she could put on Spy Kids because no matter how many times he denied it, she knew that it was his all-time favourite movie.

 

     And now, she might never be able to watch it with him ever again.

 

    That's when the dreaded call came. It was a private number and Cora had debated on answering, fearing that it might be her so-called boyfriend. She answered it anyway. It was a surprise to find that the police called her. They asked if she was Cora Evergreen and she replied with a yes. She briefly thought that the person on the other side of the line might be a scammer but then they mentioned him.

 

    She could remember how the conversation started word for word. It's funny how well you remember the worst moments of your life. Perhaps funny isn't quite the right word for it, though.

 

    "Hello?"

 

    "This is the San Diego Police Department. Am I talking to Cora Evergreen?"

 

    "Uh... Yes. Is there something wrong?"

 

    "I'm afraid there is. I regret to inform you that your brother has been in a terrible accident and is currently undergoing surgery. He has..."

 

   She doesn't remember much of anything after that. She thinks she probably directed the cab driver to the hospital and she has felt numb ever since. Not her mind, though. Not her thoughts. No, why would she ever get that sweet relief?

 

   Cora rests her head on her knees, looking around the room for the first time since she came in. There aren't a lot of people as opposed to what she thought previously, and despite her earlier claims, there's only one family that's sobbing uncontrollably. They had gotten bad news. That might soon be her, she thinks and then instantly shuts her burning eyes as her throat painfully closes up.

 

    What a horrible place to wait in.

 

    Cora's head snaps up the moment she hears her last name. The man repeats himself and she launches herself across the room, "That's me." The man looks at her with sad eyes, "Are you Carson Evergreen's emergency contact?" Cora blinks hard, her stomach dropping anxiously and head throbbing at the sound of her brother's name. "Yes."

 

    The man's face is sombre and Cora prepares herself for the worst. What can prepare you enough to handle the loss of your brother though? She feels like running away, the coward that she is. You're not a coward, she can almost hear her brother say. That's right, she can't run away from this. This is her brother. He needs her and she will be there for him. Always. Ever since their parents died, it has been them against the world. Through it all, her brother has consistently been there for her—every step of the way.

 

    Cora was wrong to say that he isn't her dad because Carson has been her dad and more. He has been her mother, father, brother, and best friend all in one. Cora is not going to run away at the first sign of trouble. Her heart soars in hope for the first time that day.

 

    "His condition is serious, and there's a lot of internal bleeding that is dangerous to his body," the doctor says and Cora shuts her eyes tightly, heart plummeting to the ground, crushing that little hope she had. 

 

    "But he's going to live."

 

    Her eyes snap back open and there's a moment of white noise where she just can't believe her ears. Then she's falling to the ground and sobbing in relief, tears finally tumbling down her cheeks.

 

    "Thank you," she cries, "Oh, thank you."

July 08, 2020 04:54

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