Ever since she learned to read Erica Reyes has devoured every tidbit about women overcoming the limits set by their chronically ill or disabled bodies, has soaked up every story about fictional characters doing the same. Barbara Gordon used to be her favorite heroine until DC magically ret conned the use of her legs back.
She wishes she, too, could relentlessly triumph over adversity and excel at life. She wants it more than anything, makes the attempt to fight whenever possible. But some days when a recent seizure leaves her nauseous and shaky and exhausted, she just can’t.
Those days are getting more and more frequent.
At the beginning of middle school, things had been okay for a while. It seems to her, now, that the doctors had only just found the right dose of medication when her body decided to go into puberty and everything went pear-shaped. Dr. Martens keeps promising her that the wonky chemistry in her brain will level out and there will be less seizures at some vague point in the future. Erica has trouble believing him. And even if he’s right and provided a seizure doesn’t kill her before then, there will still be things she’ll never be allowed to do, like getting behind the wheel of her own car.
Already there are too many of her classmates getting shown the ropes by older relatives. Already she dreads turning sixteen.
Erica doesn’t remember the first time she had a seizure. Her mom and dad went quiet and still the one and only time she asked them. The only good thing that can be said about the event is that the month-old baby she had been survived it.
Since she spends more time in a hospital room than out of it, whenever she is fit enough to stay with one or the other the parental units have difficulties seeing her as an independent woman. Sometimes she is grateful for it because there are plenty of times when she needs their assistance. Other times, especially when they offer help and for once she’s perfectly fine, she feels like she is suffocating.
Sometimes she sees clothes she’d like to wear. Girly looking ones. Daring looking ones. Ones that Oracle would be proud to be seen in. But Erica’s body is gaunt in a way that would likely have them hang limply off her. Even if she had the money to have each item fit to her perfectly, she’d only throw up or soil herself or die while wearing them.
The idiots that make fun of her in and out of school would cry if they had to go through even a percentage of what Erica has to suffer several times a month. Cry like little babies. They are sheltered little toddlers who know nothing of life. Their unimaginative taunts fly right past her and dissipate into the wind. …Or not.
‘You’ll show them all when you grow up,’ Nurse McCall keeps encouraging. But what use is that hope to her now, and, more importantly, what if she doesn’t?
Grow up, that is?