by Elizabeth Morse
The sky was brighter than Kathy had ever remembered. Beds of red and yellow flowers surrounded her. Women and children strolled along garden paths around a sundial. One woman crouched low and looked her tiny daughter in the eye. ‘Look at the shape of the petals,’ she said. The little girl clapped excitedly, hair shaking as she laughed.
Farther away, girls her own age stood, like the ones in her sixth grade class. Only two other students sat with her at lunch after Mary, her best friend, told the others about the boy Kathy had a crush on.
‘Oh my God!’ her mother said. ‘You must have had a seizure! Longest three minutes of my life!’
Kathy’s tongue throbbed. Her head and back ached as well. Her mother pressed her hand for the entire ambulance ride.
‘Did she have a fever?’ The doctor asked. ‘Insomnia? Was she starving to lose weight?’ Kathy’s mother shook her head. ‘Well, it’s one seizure. Could happen to anyone.’
No one should know this happened. Seizures were serious.
The next episode was a couple of weeks later. A girl Kathy’s age with a long, blond braid introduced herself as Becca. They sat together on the sundial. Both had devoured the Harry Potter series. Each had a room that was light green. Kathy confided that Mary had told a group of girls her secret.
‘Oh, no!’ Becca exclaimed. ‘I wouldn't do that.’ They laughed and talked, and Kathy had a positive feeling about the friendship.
Overhead, the trees shimmered with unusual light. The colors were more intense than Kathy had ever seen. The sky’s blue almost had a taste, like a blue popsicle from long ago.
‘No!’ her mother said
. ‘Not another one!’
Again, pain shot through Kathy’s tongue and back. Wetness seeped through her jeans.
This time, there was no hospital visit. Kathy’s mother picked her up from school before lunch. As they walked down the school stairs, Kathy looked behind her. She would say it was a dentist appointment if someone asked. She and her mother rode the bus uptown to see a neurologist who had wisps of gray hair on either side of his bald head. He said, ‘She has epilepsy, so I’m prescribing Keppra.’
Kathy’s mother sighed.
The doctor turned to Kathy. ‘You’re twelve. Many kids outgrow seizures.’
Reassured, Kathy nodded, hoping the capsules wouldn’t be too big. Maybe they’d work and she’d never have another one. Still, she had a feeling that her brain had warped.
The next time, Becca was smiling and waving. She had on a fuchsia t-shirt. ‘My mother is going to pick us up,’ she said. ‘She made chocolate chip cookies.’
‘We’ll go to your house?’
‘It’ll be fun.’
She followed Becca to the garden gate. Outside, there was a two-lane road bounded on the other side by a stone fence. Becca’s mother waved from the front seat of a gray car, and the two girls got in.
In the kitchen at Becca’s, the sink, stove, and refrigerator were all turquoise. Becca offered saucer-sized cookies from a ceramic jar. When Kathy bit into one, she’d hardly tasted anything better.
‘Can I use your phone to call my mother?’ she said.
Becca gestured toward a white landline phone, and when Kathy picked it up, there was no dial tone. She must be having another seizure. Was she in another dimension or was all this an illusion? People with epilepsy were known to have unusual perceptions, like déjà vu or the smell of smoke when no one was lighting up.
Becca’s mother served them chicken curry and rice. There was homemade vanilla ice cream that glinted silver.
When they’d finished eating, Becca led Kathy into the backyard. ‘Let’s have an adventure,’ she said.
‘Want to learn to fly? I’ll show you!’ Becca jumped. The air lifted her to the second floor window and back down. How was this even possible?
‘Now you try.’
‘Just jump. The wind will carry you.’
Kathy closed her eyes and sucked in her breath. This wasn’t going to work. She hopped, and incredibly, her feet lifted off the ground. She rose past the roof and looked at the tiles. Becca joined her and they went soaring past houses, fields, and hills. They crossed a river with a train moving swiftly over a high bridge. The sky was still blue, but the shimmering light began to dim as the sun dropped toward the horizon.
Kathy’s head filled with sand. Now she was in a hospital bed and her tongue wouldn’t stop hurting. There was an IV drip. The sky through the window was dark.
‘I’m so glad you’re finally awake. The seizures just wouldn’t stop.’ Her mother sat in a chair by her side.
She and Becca had just been talking as they’d ascended over the landscape. This was the worst time to be back.
Before her visit to Becca’s, she was in class Both of them sat at the back of the room, away from the other students.
Her classmates avoided her. The boy she had a crush on never turned in her direction anymore. They must sense something was wrong, as though she were a defective book, one with half the pages torn out. Sometimes her thoughts flew apart. She’d never have friends now, let alone trustworthy ones.
The seizures would just keep coming. Clearly, Kathy wasn’t going to outgrow them. Becca’s radiant face returned for a moment. Even if she didn’t exist, she was still a friend. Soon enough, the two of them would be flying over brilliant, new land.
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