“Sweetheart, we will be late for your appointment. You should hurry.”
The sickly-sweet voice of her mother reached her through the sheets.
Fiona opened her eyes. Her mother stood in front of the mirror, trying and horribly failing to tame her mane of thick, red, curly hair. Her blue eyes surveyed the contents of the dressing table and finally landing on the searched possession widened in happiness while her pale hand involuntarily reached out for the object. Her fragile stature stood bold and confident, ready to take on the world.
She turned around and her expression morphed into one of disappointment when her eyes landed on her lazy daughter. “Get Up!” she demanded.
Fiona rolled off the bed and landed on the cold ground. Her mother gave a hearty laugh at her ‘not so elegant’ detour and went outside the room.
She was one of a kind, her mother. Sundays were compulsorily spent at the church, distributing free supper to the needy. Fridays were spent watching TV marathons and Tuesdays were used either to catch a movie or eat out. They lived in a very small apartment but they were a happy family. A family of two.
Fiona had often asked her mother about her father. Although, she had got no answer during her formative years, as she grew older her mother finally did tell her one day. This was exactly what she said, “I think the man was crazy.” Although the answer didn’t do much but raise her curiosity up a notch, she trusted dear mum’s judgement and kept her silence.
Indulging in these reveries, she fought her way off the ground and into the shower. Once she had scrubbed herself clean and brushed her straight black hair, she was as good as new.
As soon as she opened her bedroom door, the tantalizing aroma of freshly baked goods tickled her olfaction. In a trance, she walked down the stairs and in front of the oven. Hot cross buns! Eyes fixated on the target, a greedy hand reached out to grab one, only to be slapped away by her mother. “Hush you! I baked those for Mrs. Stalwart! Don’t you dare touch them!” A look of hurt washed over the innocent black eyes and her mother relented. “Ah! Okay…you can have one.”
And as they giggled like schoolgirls on the breakfast table, the unnoticed sticky note which read ‘School bake sale. BATCH NO. 2’ was carried away by a mellow breeze.
“Get a move on girl! We need to collect your test results from last time.”
Like always, they headed out hand in hand, her mum guiding her through the sparsely crowded street. The winter was chilling and frost had settled over most signposts and advertisement boards. The trees were huddled together like withered skeletons seeking warmth.
As they walked their way, Fiona filled her in her mother with the gossip from school.
“You know, there’s a rumor, that someone’s tested positive for the virus.”
Her mum’s forehead creased; no doubt anxious for her young daughter. This small chit chat continued as they walked. From the corner of her eye, Fiona could see passersby eyeing the mother daughter duo and that made her smile. Some of them even outright stared. Why wouldn’t they? They were both happy, in good health and beautiful.
They reached the bus stop. The cold morning air kissed their bare cheeks and made them rosy. The bus was late. After a silent wait of ten minutes, the bus arrived. Huffing and puffing, the bus was probably older than the man who drove it.
Happy that she managed to secure seats for two, Fiona beckoned towards her mother. Owing to the pandemic, there was only one other person on the bus and he pretty much looked like a standard homeless guy just enjoying the cozy seats of a free government service.
The bus coughed to a start and the hearty driver said, “Heave Ho!” to no one in particular.
Fiona’s mum was thoughtful during the ride which was quite contrary to her nature. Finally letting out what was troubling her she said, “Fifi! I am quite worried. You have no friends at all. Although I quite love spending time with you, what teenager just hangs with their mum?”
Fiona grumbled, “I have good grades mum; besides, friends don’t matter.”
“They don’t? I won’t forever be with you forever, you know. Besides me, you have no support system, and that, my dear daughter, is a cause of great worry to me.”
“Oh! leave it alone!”
The bus screeched to a stop and they got off at the hospital. Once they were inside their bodies gradually warmed up to their artificially heated surroundings. The hospital was not as packed considering there were only a few cases of the virus till now.
Peeved by her mother’s truthful sentences in the bus, Fiona collected her reports and raced to the doctor’s office, her mum sharp on her trail.
Once she got in, she wished him a pleasant morning and took her position on the examination stool, while her mother made herself comfortable on the couch.
The doctor’s forehead creased as he read Fiona’s reports but it disappeared the very moment it had appeared.
“Do you have any family, Miss Mullens?” he asked.
“Yes. I do. That’s my mother on the couch right there.”
“Very well.” he said.
He picked up the intercom and dialed someone.
Then he resumed. “Any family or close friends besides your mother?”
“Do I need to get operated immediately?”
“No, Miss Mullens. Your report seems to tell me that you have fluctuating Dopamine levels, and there is no cure for it.”
“Am I going to die?”
The doctor piteously looked at her, “No.” he answered.
The door opened and five medical personnel entered the room. They silently stood beside her.
“Can someone tell me what the fuck is going on!?” she was panicking. This place seemed dicey. She wanted to dial 911.
“According to your reports, Miss Fiona, its highly likely you have Schizophrenia. It’s been classified as a psychological disorder which stems due to biological causes.”
Fiona couldn’t understand a thing this old guy was blabbing. She was much too tensed. Her eyes wandered, searching for an exit.
“Therefore, you may be subject to manic depressive episodes and hallucinations at times.” He finished.
Fiona scoffed evidently, “Nothing of the sort. You can ask my mother. I have none of these symptoms. You are a quack! Come on mom, let’s go!”
The medical personnel blocked her way to the door.
The doctor cleared his throat and stated in a cool voice that sent shivers down her spine, “Miss Mullens, there’s no one sitting on that couch.”
Fiona glanced towards the couch. It was empty.