You can do this Lily. Just breathe. Put one foot in front of the other. You’ve been preparing for this for months… years. Jack believes in you, Tara believes in you. You’ve got this.
She absently twirled the silver ring around her thumb.
Remember what Dr. Martin said. “All your time, effort, and hard work was set up to prepare you for this day. The biggest accomplishment of your life.”
Her palms were sweating, and her legs felt like they would give out, as if her bones had turned to jelly. Her entire body quivered, and her bladder felt weak. She would rather do anything than this: poke herself in the eye, burn herself with a hot poker, get a root canal… die!
What if I can’t do it? What if I freeze again? The last time I tried, it was a disaster, and I vowed never to try again. Maybe I’m not cut out for this. I should’ve just laid low, kept the status quo. Who am I to think that my life could be any different, any better than the mundane hell I’ve gotten so used to?
Lily ran her fingers through her hair and then slapped her hand to her thigh.
Why is this so hard for me? Other people do this all the time! Every damn day, Lily! You can too! Come on, break through. Show them all you can do this.
She had been preparing for this day for a long time. Visualizing herself walking with confidence, back straight, chin firm, head high. She repeated the whole scenario in her mind daily, as her coach advised. She visualized and meditated on her success every day, on the belief in her own strength.
Now, the day was here.
“I need a drink of water,” she said
“You’re stalling,” said Jack, but handed her the water bottle anyway.
She took a sip and looked at Jack’s face as she handed it back to him. Her eyes pleaded for a miracle, something to give her strength. She fiddled with her thumb ring again.
“All your hard work is about to pay off, Lily. The rest of your life hangs on this moment.” He put his hand on her shoulder. “It’s your time, babe. Your time to shine.”
How can he believe in me so strongly when I don’t even believe in myself? How did I get this amazing guy?
She felt like she might pass out and began taking slow, deep breaths. In through the nose, and out slowly through the mouth. Lily steadied her shoulders and began her countdown. Five… four…
“I think I need to go to the bathroom,” she said.
“Lily,” he sounded exasperated. “You went only ten minutes ago. You’re good, sweetheart. Let’s go.” He smiled his usual confident smile.
She remembered the same feeling from her childhood. Lily had been walking home by herself from elementary school. She must’ve been about seven or eight years old. She couldn’t even remember exactly what triggered it- a stranger behind her maybe, or the fear of coming up against an angry dog. Whatever it was caused her insides to quiver and wiggle. The sensation happened low in her body, well below her tummy. She couldn’t tell where exactly, but somewhere deep down inside her little body. It was a quivering, uncontrollable, sharp, horrible sensation. It felt like she was going to lose control of her insides. As if they were going to just fall out, right there, on the sidewalk.
She ran all the way home, feeling that sick, wiggling feeling the whole way.
Lily never told anyone about it. Even when it happened again. How many times in her young life? She couldn’t recall. Why didn’t she ask someone about it? Maybe other girls had the same experience. Or was she the only one to feel that?
She was feeling it now.
Oh, God. Why did I say I’d do this? I should never have agreed to it. Stupid, stupid, me.
She felt sweat pop out on her forehead and her stomach took a dive, like she was jumping out of an airplane with no parachute.
“Come on, Lil’. There all waiting for you.” Jack prompted when she made no move to proceed.
“That’s not helping, Jack.”
She could taste the acidic coffee and the sickening sweetness of the cereal she ate for breakfast. The thought of it made her gag. She felt her stomach heave and fought a nasty wave of nausea as her head spun and weaved.
“I’m going to be sick, Jack. I have to go to the bathroom.”
“Breathe, Lily. Just breathe in and out.”
Lily took a pause and did as he said. The wave passed for the moment.
Her face suddenly brightened as she had an epiphany.
“I can do this another day. I mean, it doesn’t have to be today,” she smiled and gestured with her open hand. The idea felt so good to her. The very thought of postponing it at once calmed her heart rate and slowed her breathing. “Okay, Jack? I can… I will do it next week. Next week, for sure.”
She started for the hall but closed her eyes and then stopped when she felt Jack’s hand on her shoulder.
“Lils. It’s got to be today, babe. Everyone’s here. You’re ready. This is happening now.”
His voice was soft and calm. She knew that tone. There was no backing down. She had to go through with it. She had to bite the bullet, or she’d never get another chance to show them, show Jack, show herself, damn it, that she was worthy of their belief in her, that she had what it took. It was now or never.
Lily swallowed hard and took a huge, deep breath. She exhaled in a long, shaky blow and silently summoned her courage. A battle was going on in her mind between her belief in herself and her strong self-doubt.
Her coach told her to imagine two knights, fully armored and engaging in an actual battle. She watched in her mind’s eye as Sir Confidence bashed Sir Fear’s head in. In the past, Sir Fear refused to die and would rise to continue the fight. This time, though, Sir Confidence’s foot pressed down on Fear’s chest as he struggled and squirmed beneath the metal boot.
She fought to keep fear down with every sinew of her being. Lily squeezed her eyes tight and held her breath, trying to ignore the quivering deep down, the hammering in her chest and the gorge rising in her throat. She forced her hand onto the doorknob and turned it. She felt the spring inside the latch give way, releasing its grip, freeing its perpetual hold.
The door opened, and brightness penetrated through her eyelids. Cool, fresh air brushed her cheeks and blew against the fine hairs on her face, and for the first time in almost three years, Lily stepped outside.