26 February, 2019
I guess life never stops. The world doesn't stop turning just because you're struggling. It doesn't wait for you. It keeps on going, and it leaves you behind. No matter how hard you try to get up, you continuously fall down to your knees. You feel helpless. Catastrophe after catastrophe, you fall. There's no end, there's no light. Just darkness, and fear, and pain.
And unfortunately, I've learned this in the worst way.
Six months before
27 August, 2018
I don't remember falling asleep. I was sitting comfortably beside my best friend, my head on her shoulder, her eyes focused on a crossword. I guess her voice lulled me to a deep slumber, because when I opened my eyes again, all I could see were the blue sky and the branches of oaks above me. I heard the noise of a metallic object hit the ground, before everything around me faded and the sound of my screams filled my surroundings. I was lying on a hard surface, and — was it grass? — because of the pain slicing my lower body in half, I reached down and gripped the side of my thigh. The faint smell of blood invaded my nostrils like it was some kind of venom. With all the strength I had in me, I sat up and leaned my body against the nearest tree. Its bark scratched my weak back, as I moaned and finally had the courage to look down.
Blood. That was all I saw. Hot, crimson red liquid spilled out of a wide cut, showing a bone that wasn't supposed to be broken. My head started spinning, but was it because I was losing blood? Or was it because of the disgusting sight I had just seen?
Nevertheless, I didn't have the time to ponder over my injuries, because soon another voice reached my ears and made me widen my eyes. Karlie? The voice echoed like a broken record, running around the trees like it was some kind of kid chasing the wind. Karlie? It became clearer with each second that passed, the ringing in my ears disappearing as blonde hair and green eyes materialized in front of me.
"Taylor? Are you—Jesus, you're bleeding,"
She knelt beside me, placing a hand over the open wound on my calf. I knew she wanted to help me by stopping the incessant flow of blood, but all she did was cause pain throughout my entire body. I writhed, groaned, and tried to push her hands away.
"Stop, we need to stop this bleeding otherwise you'll die!" she exclaimed exasperatedly, pinning my wrists to the soil. I let out a silent whimper, biting my bottom lip as she took off her shirt and wrapped it around my injured leg. "Damn it, your bone is broken," she muttered quietly. Still, she fastened the clothe around my cut, applied slight pressure, and successfully stopped the bleeding. The pain was there, but I could deal with it.
"Kar—what happened?" my words were slurred, and I looked up at her as she stroked my cheek lovingly.
"I—I don't—," she glanced around helplessly, and that was when I did too. "The plane crashed and we—I don't know where the others are, I don't—,"
Judging by her erratic breath and frantic gaze, she was freaking out. She was losing it. And if there's one thing you shouldn't do while there's a catastrophe happening around you, not losing control is one of those things. "Karlie, listen to me," breathing hurt, but I held on for the sake of my best friend. "Everything will be okay. Alright? We're going to get help and we're going to be okay. You hear me? Everything is going to be okay."
It was strange of me to say something like that while also struggling to breathe, my speech halting due to light hisses of pain. But I did, I comforted her, and took her in my arms as she firmly grasped my forearms. I properly eyed our surroundings, and there was no denying it; we were in the middle of a forest, in the middle of nowhere, with the body of the plane lying a few feet away from us. There were no sounds apart from our heavy breathing and quiet sniffles, and everything was just so calming and unsettling at the same time.
"We need to find the others," I stated, and she pulled away from me. I wiped the tears marking her cheeks, and some of the blood in my hand stained her face accidentally. Looking at Karlie, she wasn't a shambles, but the slightly deep cut on her forehead worried me, because what if she had hit her head when we hit the ground? What if she had a concussion and I didn't know? What if I lost her? "We—we need to cover the wound on your forehead."
"Is it deep?"
"No, but—," I sighed. "Are you feeling okay? Do you have a headache? Are you dizzy?"
"Hey, slow down," the smile on her face warmed me a little. "I'm okay, don't worry about me. What I'm worried about, though, is your leg. Do you think you can walk?"
I attempted moving my injured leg, but all I felt was a wave of nausea caused by the infinite pain. I shook my head violently, reaching for her hand as my head spun again.
"We need to move to the remains of the plane. We'll be covered for the night, there," she pointed to the open side of the plane, a leather seat previously belonging to the aircraft lying mere feet away from it. "Do you think you can at least stand? I'll help you," she sounded as unsure as she looked, but I nodded nevertheless, because she needed me, and I needed her. Apart from the gash on her head, she seemed to be okay, just dirty. She helped me by wrapping her arms under my arms, raising my frail body as I stifled a scream from the pain.
"Wait, wait, wait, I—," I didn't finish my sentence, because my body was quicker than my words. As soon as I got up, I placed my hand against the tree and threw up, coughing when all I could do was heave. Tears stung my eyes, because although everything around me was cold, inside I was burning. "I'm sorry,"
"It's okay," she whispered against my ear, and the soft sound of her voice soothed me. Limping, we walked towards the half of the plane. Where there was supposed to be metal to serve as the wall and a small circular window, there was nothing but a hole. It was the front of the aircraft, so when Karlie placed me on the wooden surface of the pavement of the plane, she stated, "I'll check the pilot," before climbing in and shuffling towards the cabin. I massaged my thigh in order to alleviate some of the pain, waiting for my best friend.
But when I heard nothing from her part, I looked in her direction and said, "Karlie? Is he okay?" nothing. Silence. "Kar?"
She came back a few moments later, a dazed look on her face, and that's when I understood.
"Don't tell me that—,"
"—the pilot's dead." She finished for me.
I gaped at her. My pilot was dead? "Are you—,"
"He's dead. He doesn't move and he doesn't have a pulse," she interrupted me, plopping down beside me and holding her head between her hands. "He's dead,"
I couldn't help but let out a strangled sob. All of this was my fault. If the pilot's dead, it's my fault. If we won't find my best friend's sisters and Abigail and my mom, it's my fault. If we will die here, if Karlie dies here, it's my fault.
"I'm sorry, Karlie,"
"For what? This is in no way your fault. You couldn't have predicted something like this. Don't apologize for something that is out of your control,"
"You—if you hadn't come to my Nashville show, you wouldn't be here, and—,"
"Stop," she cupped my tear stained cheeks. "Stop right there. Don't say what you were about to say, because that's not the truth. I wanted to come see your show. I wanted to see you. You didn't make me do anything, Taylor. None of this is your fault, do you hear me? It's not your fault,"
I cried like a baby, her hands holding my face as I hid it in the crook of her neck. Even though a plane crashed and I was worried about my family and friends, the scent of her skin still made me dizzy in the best way possible. After three long years of living in denial, I finally came to the conclusion that what me and Karlie had wasn't simple friendship; it was something more, whether she saw it or not. We were never supposed to be just friends, because I liked the way she sounded in the morning after having spent the night with her arms wrapped around me. I liked the way her smile brightened the room whenever she talked about computer science, and coding, and astrology and all the other stuff for nerds like her. I liked the way my hand looked small if held between hers. I liked the sound of her fresh laugh, how it reminded me of summer and of yellow daisies picked up during a getaway road trip.
"I'm sorry," I said, and before she could correct me, I added, "—for crying. I just—I know I should be strong and hold on, but I can't help it. My leg hurts, I don't know if my mom and our friends are still alive, and I don't know if we will ever find them, or if someone will ever find us. Either way, I—,"
"Hey," she stopped my rambling, stroking my dirty blonde hair. Even with blood on her face and bags under her eyes, she still looked like the most beautiful girl on the planet. "We'll figure it out. We always do."
In her eyes, I saw all the reassurance I needed to see. And perhaps she was right; we will figure it out. We always do.
Two months later
10 October, 2018
"She needs to get out of that damn room! It's been months, Tree. Fans are worried!"
"She went through a lot, I'm sure they can understand,"
"You don't get it, do you? After that fucking plane crashed, her world tour stopped and we were obliged to cancel all of the other shows, because guess what? She doesn't have a fucking leg! And she doesn't want to get out of her damn bedroom!"
"Do you think it's easy for her? Do you think she had fun while surviving for a week and a half in a stupid forest in the middle of nowhere?!"
"Scott, she lost someone who was really important to her, and you don't understand that! Give her some damn time!"
"I'm not saying that she has to tour again, I was saying that—,"
"What? What were you saying?"
"It's all about money for you. You don't care one bit about her well-being, do you?"
"I do, it's—,"
"She will get out of her bedroom when the time comes. We just need to let her heal, Scott, not yell at each other in front of her door, where I'm sure she can perfectly hear us. That being said, I'm done here. We are done, and we are going to leave her alone."
One month before
8 September, 2018
Hushed voices are all I hear. A sharp pain is all I feel.
"What do you mean you have to amputate?!"
I whined, languidly opening my eyelids and revealing my tired gaze. I felt weak, incredibly weak, and seeing dull white above me instead of dark skies, hearing human voices instead of growling wolves, made me panic. My heart rate increased, and as much as it hurt to move, I wiggled around to get someone's attention.
"Taylor, dear, it's me, you're okay. Everything's alright,"
A redhead woman stood beside me, appearing above me with a forced and gentle smile, her hands stroking reassuringly my forehead. I blinked, and blinked, but I couldn't speak. I didn't have the strength to.
"You've been intubated, don't try to speak, sweetheart. All that matters is that you're alive,"
Swallowing hurt, and not enough air filtered through my nostrils. I whined again, closing my eyes and arching my back when a sharp pain shot through my right leg.
"Can't you give her more morphine?! She's in pain!"
"Ma'am," another voice reached my ringing ears. "We've given her everything. A leg that needs to be amputated doesn't stop hurting until it is, in fact, amputated,"
"Oh, shut up," the woman scoffed, and with my peripheral vision I saw a man wearing a white coat standing near my bed.
"It's going to be okay, darling," it's all I heard before I felt a prick on my right arm, and everything turned black once again.
The next day
9 September, 2018
"Where is she? I need to see her, please,"
"Ma'am, you're not immediate family—,"
"I'm her fucking best friend! Please, just let me see her, please!"
A hand touched my arm, gently, and it almost felt nice to be touched by someone else. My eyes opened slowly, and met an anxious and concerned gaze of a dark haired woman. She looked vaguely familiar, fairly young, and just so worried.
"Taylor?" a tentative smile, a hand reaching up to caress my cheek. "It's me, Selena. How are you feeling?"
This is a question I had trouble answering to. I swallowed thickly, and forced out a rough response, "Alright," it was the truth. The headache I felt the day before was gone, I felt less weak, and the pain on my leg was—wait. With furrowed brows, I reached down and touched the spot below my knee, where it hurt the most, however I felt nothing but the soft surface of the blankets. "My leg," I whispered quietly, and given Selena's fallen expression, I understood everything. "My leg. My leg, where is it? My leg!" I started yelling, my best friend helping me sit up as I snatched the covers away from my body. It's gone. It's fucking gone. There, below my thigh, I saw nothing but a blank space. "No, no, no!" I whimpered, grabbing helplessly the mattress below my right leg. There was nothing. Nothing. "No!" I yelled, and I didn't realize Selena had called someone until I felt a pair of strong arms lie me down against the bed. "No! my leg!"
"Ma'am, you need to calm down," it was a nurse. I fought against him, but I was weak, and powerless, and just so fucking tired that I gave up easily. When all I did was cry like a toddler, I pushed the man away and fell into my best friend's arms, her own wrapping around my back and rubbing it soothingly.
"My leg, it's gone," I whimpered, and as Selena held me tightly, I saw the same redhead from the day before staring at the two of us from outside the room. The place I was in wasn't the woods where me and Karlie had spent the last week and a half in, but rather a hospital. A hospital with white walls and white beds and white coats. Everything was just so white that it temporarily blinded me.
"It's okay, you're okay," she whispered, but I couldn't believe her. Not when a part of my body was missing, not when I felt like everything was slowly falling apart. The thought of Karlie made me realize that I hadn't seen her in days, and I didn't know if she were still in the forest or if she was here in the hospital like me.
"Whe—where is Karlie?"
Selena pulled away and looked down at me. "Karlie's okay. They've stitched her forehead up, but she's okay, physically. She's just a little shaken up, that's all,"
"Where's my mom? Karlie's sisters? Abigail?"
"—I'm here, honey,"
Looking away from Selena's dark irises, I met my mother's teary one. "Mom," I cried, making grabby hands towards her as the various IVs attached to my body prevented me from stretching too much. She was in a wheelchair, so my best friend helped her move closer to my bed. We hugged tightly, and I found myself crying again. "Mom,"
"I'm here, baby. Everything's okay,"
She caressed my face as if it was the first time she's laid her eyes upon me, and kissed my forehead like when I used to scrape my knees by falling from the bike. I held onto her arms, shaking, trembling.
"Where are Karlie's sisters? Are they okay?"
"They're all okay, baby."
"What about Abigail? Is she okay?"
The silence from my mother hurt much more than the empty spot below my right knee.
"No, mom, please—,"
The cry I let out was the loudest I've ever heard in my entire life. Abigail was gone. Abigail wasn't here anymore. Abigail. "No, no, mom, please," I whimpered, because it hurt like hell. It burned, and I clutched my chest, where my heart hid, and tears showed everyone just how much I was in pain. This was not something that doctors could heal with morphine, or sedatives, or whatever drug they used to relieve their patient's pain. This was something much bigger, and it was overcoming all of my body, eating every single cell. Abigail was gone.
"I'm sorry, baby, I'm so sorry,"
I pushed my fists against my eyes, not wanting to let out anymore tears. My lips parted, my teeth clenched together, and my throat constricted. I've never experienced death firsthand, and I never imagined that my best friend's death would come so soon.
"I—I want it to stop," I cried. "Make it stop, please," I begged.
My mother covered her trembling lips with a quivering hand, and Selena called a nurse, who immediately put me back to sleep.
Abigail was dead.
One week later
16 September, 2018
You can go home. Four simple words that should have made me feel delighted when the doctor had said them out loud, but all they did was make me feel empty. Was I really going home? Or was I just going to a place that I used to call my home?
When one of my bodyguards wheeled my wheelchair inside my New York City's apartment, I almost didn't recognize it. There were papers strewn all over the coffee table in the living room, cat hair on the corners of the rooms, and guitar picks on the counter top of the kitchen.
Since Karlie had decided to be with me for a few weeks, just to not let my mental health fall into a depressing spiral, she told David he could go and that if we needed something she would call him right away. I was thirsty, but once I reached the kitchen, realized I couldn't just stand on my toes and take a glass from the wooden cabinet. But I was thirsty, and I had to drink some water. Therefore, without waiting for my best friend's help, I placed my hands against the countertop and used all my strength to raise my body up. I stood, it being weird to touch the floor with just one foot, and shaking I opened the cabinet and reached up for a glass. My fingers brushed against the cold material, and I accidentally loosened my grip around the object for a millisecond, making it stumble on the countertop. Within seconds, the glass broke, and plumping down on the wheelchair I cut myself with one of the smaller pieces of glass. I hissed, and I heard the sound of my best friend's footsteps come closer, followed by her worried voice.
"Hey, are you okay? What happened?"
She was by my side in seconds, looking puzzled at the broken pieces on the marble counter, before glancing down at me.
"I couldn't even reach the fucking glass," I muttered, unable to stop the tears from forming inside my eyes.
"Hey, it's okay. You know I'm here to help you," she said softly, kneeling beside me.
"I don't—want to ask for your help for everything! I just—want to be normal, damn," I exclaimed, feeling just angry. Angry at myself, for putting me and my friends in this horrible situation. Angry because my childhood best friend was dead and I couldn't even stand up when they had lowered her body in her grave. Angry for everything, because life shouldn't be this hard. "I just wanted a glass of water,"
Karlie stared at me, before she stood up and did what I was trying to do a few minutes ago. She gently handed me the cup, still knelt by my side as I let the pleasant feeling of fresh water massage the back of my throat. I closed my eyes, enjoying it while it lasted. When I gave her the empty glass back, we stayed there, me in a wheelchair with a heavy heart and her with a white band aid on the forehead.
"I'm sorry that I'm a mess,"
"You're beautiful, you're not a mess," she whispered softly, taking my hand in between hers. I gazed at our entangled fingers, how her long digits wrapped around my shorter ones. She run her thumb over the back of my hand, and here I was, reminded once again why I was in love with her. With a heartfelt sigh, a comfortable silence around us, I placed my other hand on top of hers, closing my eyes when I felt a tear stream down my left cheek.
"Hey, don't cry, baby,"
She held my face like she had done when we were in the forest, but this time I didn't hide my face in her neck. I let myself go while holding her wrist tightly, too afraid to fall completely if I didn't hold on to her. I felt her lips on my forehead, the softness of her kiss lingering on my skin as she pulled away seconds later. "I wish everything would stop, just—just for one minute,"
"It will stop, Taylor. It won't last forever,"
"When? When is it going to stop?" I hated how desperate I sounded as I met her warm green gaze.
Karlie brushed her fingertips under my eyes, wiping the last of my tears as she whispered, "Eventually. Eventually, it will stop, I promise."
She hummed. "I promise."
Two weeks before
30 August, 2018
The faint sound of a wolf howling woke me up. Not that I was in a deep slumber, but still, the noise made me shiver and tremble with fear. I think it's been what — three days since the plane crashed? I don't remember. The days seem to last longer every time I go to sleep, and whenever I wake up, everything just feels like a dream to me, until I realized that it wasn't.
I heard shuffling, a low moan, before she replied groggily. "You heard it too?"
We stayed relatively in silence, alert for any sound that might warn us that animals were nearby. We had extinguished the fire hours ago, but looking up at the clear sky now, millions of stars illuminating the trees across us, it felt like we went to sleep just a few seconds ago. The wailing went on for long minutes, minutes that seemed to last forever as we heard the faint sound of leaves rustling and of paws padding along the ground. I held my breath, and under the blanket that Karlie had found yesterday in the pilot's cabin, and that we now shared, I felt Karlie's fingers wrap around mine, loosely holding my hand as I heard her ragged breath and saw it vanish in the wind. When we were sure the wolves were gone, I turned my head and gazed at her face through the dark. Her eyes were wide, and I was sure that the hammering noise I was hearing was her heart.
"They're gone," she stated quietly. She didn't pull her hand away from mine, and for that I was grateful.
I nodded, looking away as I nuzzled my face against her shoulder.
It was going to be a long night.
Five days later
4 September, 2018
"I know, I am too."
It was getting harder to remain awake. I couldn't feel my right leg anymore, and I couldn't remember the last time I've moved it. I wasn't even sure if I could still move it.
"You need to stay awake for me, Taylor," Karlie whispered against my ear, her arm wrapped around my shoulder.
"I'm tired." I repeated. It was all I've said these days; I'm tired. I'm hungry. I'm thirsty. I want to sleep. I'm sure we haven't eaten in days, and yesterday we've finished the last bottle of energetic liquids. "Karlie, I'm tired,"
I don't know how it sounded different, since they were always the same words, but somehow my statement got Karlie's attention. She turned around, the crackle of the small fire in front of us filling her silence. I just wanted to close my eyes and never open them again, if it meant I could be free from this hell.
"Hey, hey, no. No, don't fall asleep now, Taylor," she said, her voice more worried than a few moments ago. She shuffled, my head tilting to the side as she stood up and instead knelt by my side. Karlie held my face in both of her arms, my lips slightly parting as I felt every ounce of strength leave my body. "No, no! You don't get to quit on me! You don't get to quit on me, you hear me?!"
"I just want to sleep," my words were incomprehensible, but she understood them anyway, because soon tears were landing on my bare thigh and rendering the world around me cold with her sorrow.
"Taylor, please, no," she pleaded. "You can't quit on me, you—don't leave me alone, I fucking need you, okay? Don't leave because we still need to find your mom, and Abigail, and my sisters and fuck—you can't quit on me. You need to stay strong. Can you do that, please? Can—can you do that, for me?"
I felt weightless, my eyes staying open just to see some of the vibrant green within her eyes. She looked desperate, her hands trembling around my cheeks. She was begging me to stay alive, to just hold on, but for how long will I need to hold on, before someone finds us?
"I'm here, baby, I'm here," she quickly whispered with a teary chuckle. She kissed my forehead, and somehow that was the only touch that I needed in order to reborn. With a weak grip, I wrapped my fingers around her thin wrist, holding her against me as she avoided my right leg while also lying half of her body against mine. A few feet away from us it was raining softly, the droplets falling on my feet given the fact that they were the only part of me not covered by the top of the destructed plane. "Please, don't leave me," she begged, her warm breath hitting my bare neck.
I shivered, muttering a promise that I wasn't sure I could keep. "I won't."
Two weeks later
23 September, 2018
"Can I come in?"
"You're already halfway through the door," Karlie smiled.
Having her here with me, I had to admit, has been good so far. She was a great roommate, making sure the house was always clean since she knew how much of a freak I was about tidiness and hygiene. Karlie always cooked and made breakfast, and she was kind enough to always bring it in my room since I was limited. David had bought me a pair of crutches, given the fact that I still had to try on some prosthesis and couldn't move unless I was on a wheelchair. But, my apartment had floors, and stairs, and I couldn't possibly descend the stairs on a wheelchair. I knew that sooner or later, I needed to go to the hospital and just move on with the next step — prosthesis — but it scared me so much. Having one meant that everything that had happened just a month ago was real, it happened, and I was somehow in a phase where I still believed that all of this was a dream, that it hadn't really happen. That I didn't lose half of my leg. That Karlie didn't have an horrible scar along her forehead. That Abigail wasn't dead. That the plane didn't crash.
But when Karlie sat down beside me, my legs hidden underneath my soft covers, her scar hit me with the cruel reality; the plane crashed. I lost half of my leg. Karlie had an horrible scar on her forehead, and Abigail was dead. It wasn't a dream, nor was it all in my head.
"I need to talk to you about something,"
I nodded, putting aside the book I was reading. Oh, and if losing a leg wasn't enough, me not having one obliged me to cancel the remaining dates of my stadium tour.
"Tree called," she started. "She wanted to know how you are doing,"
I chuckled at the bittersweet taste that the obvious question left on my tongue. Of course my publicist wanted to know how I was doing.
"Well, was she asking as a friend or as a business woman who just needs the money I give her?"
Karlie smiled at that. "She was really worried about you, Taylor. I think she genuinely wants to know how you're doing,"
"Well, I mean, my best friend is dead and I don't have a leg anymore, so...I—I'm fine. How are you?" I turned the question and aimed it at her instead, catching her off guard.
"I, uh, I'm—not so good, no," she replied, and I didn't expect so much sadness from her voice. She looked down at her fiddling hands, and without uttering a word, I moved slightly to the side to make room for her. Karlie grinned, taking the hint and sitting on the bed directly beside me, our legs brushing underneath the blankets. I waited for her to tell me more, but right when I thought that we were going to just sit here and stay silent, she spoke. "I—I broke up with Josh. He wanted to have the wedding in a few weeks but I—I'm not ready. I'm still not ready,"
I shouldn't have been delighted to hear that, but after I had cried myself to sleep when I saw her engagement on the Internet a few months ago, hearing her say that she had broken it off almost made me burst with happiness. Still, I refrained from showing too much delight, since she was obviously hurting.
"Are you—like—okay? How are you feeling?"
"I—he didn't understand. I told him that I still dream about the wolves, about how I once drank my pee just because I thought it was water. I still—I still hear your screams in my dreams," she admitted quietly. It was obvious that she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, and I knew she was seeing someone because of it, but we've never talked about it. "He just didn't understand my struggles, so I broke up with him. I don't need his toxicity in my life right now,"
I grabbed her hand, squeezing it tightly, as if to say, I'm proud of you for doing that. She placed her head on my shoulder, sighing, her arm gently wrapping around my abdomen. I loved when we cuddled together, the way she sighed happily whenever I stroked my fingers along her skin.
"I'm sorry, how are—how are you and Joe? Does he understand?"
"We actually took a break, before all of this happened," I stated. "I was just—," I paused. I am just in love with someone else at the moment. But it wasn't like I could tell her that, since she was the one I was in love with. "We wanted different things, so it was for the best. But he reached out. He asked me how I was doing, if I needed anything. He's a nice guy."
"It was great of him to do that,"
I smiled. "Yeah,"
There was some hesitation from her part, as she looked up at me and said, "Do you think that we will get over this? I just— I always feel like the time doesn't pass. Every time I go to sleep, it's like I'm in that forest all over again. I feel like I'm stuck in that week and a half we've spent there,"
I placed my chin against the top of her head. "I feel the same way," I confessed, and when I closed my eyes, it was like I was there. The sound of the wind, the smell of oil mixed with blood, the pain. The wolves, the night spent shivering and laying close to each other. I closed my eyes and I was there, all over again.
"I'm glad you're alive," she whispered, turning her head just to let her lips graze against my neck. "I don't know what I would do without you in my life,"
Her words were as soft and silky as her touch, as she rubbed her thumb along my knuckles. I stayed silent and kissed the top of her head. She wasn't aware of how much these words affected me, how much I wished she could mean them the way I wanted. How much I craved her lips against mine, just so I could show her the immense love that I was feeling inside of my heart. It was almost painful; to love her this much. To yearn her with my whole body.
"Thank you," she said quietly, and if she hadn't been so close to my face, I'm sure I wouldn't have heard that.
Confused, I pulled away so as to look into her eyes. "For what?"
Karlie softly smiled. "For not quitting on me when you had the chance."
One week later
1 October, 2018
"Does it hurt? How does that feel?"
It was weird; to look down at my body and see two feet instead of just one. Although, one of them was actually plastic. "Weird," I voiced my thoughts, not daring to move one bit. Sitting on the hospital bed of the prosthetist's room, I hesitantly reached out to touch the new addition to my body, and it felt strange; to not feel my fingers on what was supposed to be my calf.
"It's the first time you put on a prosthesis, so it's normal to feel that way," doctor Myers stated, kneeling in front of me and placing his hands onto my fake leg. "We just have to find the one that is right for you. It will take time, but we'll get there," he finished, removing the prosthesis and lying it beside me. I glanced at it quickly, feeling slightly cold. They made me wear a hospital gown so that it would have been easier to put the prosthesis on my right leg. "You want to try another one?" he asked with a tight lipped smile, lifting another one.
I was in the hospital for a few hours; trying prosthesis after prosthesis. They told me that Myers was an excellent doctor, with his forty something years old and his blinding white smile. He was tall, taller than my best friend, but his big hands were actually gentle and soft. I expected him to be rough, but he was actually the opposite of that. He tried to make funny jokes just to lift me up, but I've been waking up in a bad mood for the past several days, so all of his attempts were useless.
I tried five prosthesis today; none of them were right for me, therefore when I got home and Karlie greeted me with a kiss on the cheek and a smile that could probably replace the setting sun outside, I immediately made a beeline for my bedroom and locked myself inside. It was hard; it really was. And I was trying, but it was like attempting to empty a boat from the water, knowing fully well that it was of no use since it was already sinking.
Karlie knocked at my door a few hours later, telling me that dinner was ready, but I wasn't hungry. In fact, I didn't even want to eat. All I could do was lay on my bed, stare at the empty spot below my right knee and ponder. Ponder on what could have happened if the plane didn't crash. Ponder on my fans, who were absolutely worried about my health. Ponder on my family, on my lost childhood best friend and on my canceled stadium tour.
"Taylor? You okay?"
Karlie's head appeared from behind the door, looking at me with her big worried green eyes. I didn't glance at her when she came in without my permission, and I didn't tear my gaze away from my right leg when she sat beside me.
"Hey? How are you feeling? How was your day?" she searched for my blue eyes, ducking her head to properly look at my face.
"It was okay, I guess," I knew she could hear the lies from my voice, but she didn't show it.
"How many prosthesis did you try?"
Karlie nodded and her eyes widened. "That's a lot,"
"None of them fitted,"
"I'm sure you will find the right one soon,"
I couldn't help but chuckle dryly. "You sound like my prosthetist,"
"What's their name?"
Karlie nodded. "He sounds like a pretty good doctor."
We sat in silence for a few minutes, my hand going back and forth along my knee. I felt her gaze on me, but what could I do? Ask for her pity? She wasn't the one who's lost something along the way.
"Are you hungry? I heat up some lasagna from last night," she stated with a small smile.
"I'm not hungry,"
She sighed. "You need to eat, Tay. You haven't eaten since lunch,"
"I'm not hungry," I repeated, my voice low and aggravated. Another sigh from her part, an eye roll from mine. She stood up, walking a few steps before turning towards me. I looked up, she looked at me. Her lips were pursed, and even though one of us had yet to talk, I knew we were about to have an argument if one of us dared to open their mouths. We've never had arguments before, they were always small bickering, but I wasn't in the mood to talk tonight.
"Why are you like this?"
There she was, starting something that I didn't want to finish, knowing full well that I would say something that I would regret later.
"Why am I like this?" I laughed dryly, shaking my head and parting my lips. "I don't know if you've noticed, but I don't have a leg. I don't have a leg anymore. And guess what? If losing a leg wasn't enough, I've lost one of my best friends along the way, because, why not?" She stared at me, speechless. My tongue seemed to have a mind of its own, as I said, "I lost everything because of that fucking plane crash, and you ask me why I am like this?"
"Do you think that I had fun? Do you really think that I can be okay after what I—we've been through?" Karlie seemed offended.
I scoffed, shaking my head and crossing my arms over my chest. The scar of the amputation hurt, but I knew that it was just all in my head. That it wasn't really hurting.
"Are you really saying that I don't have the right to be affected by this? Are you really telling me this?"
I glanced at her, my jaw firmly clenched. "You look at me as if I should be okay. You treat me like a fucking delicate piece of glass that's bound to break whenever I speak! How am I supposed to deal with your fucking pity?!"
"I'm sorry, okay? I'm just worried about you!"
"Oh, so everyone is worried about me? Just because I'm a fucking handicapped now?" I spit out with venom. "I don't need all of your pity. I don't need Tree to call me every fucking day to ask me how I'm dealing with everything. I need nothing, from all of you!"
"We're just worried about you, Taylor! Can't you see that? Are you blinded by your own fucking stubbornness?!"
"Oh, so now I'm stubborn? Really?"
"Taylor," she sighed, rubbing her forehead. "You're being unreasonable right now."
"No, no, we're talking about this. Because you need to understand that I don't need you to cook me dinner or prepare me breakfast just because I need minutes to go down the stairs! I don't need all of this! I never asked for all of this!"
"Do you think that I asked for this, hm?!" she threw her hands up in the air, and if I had been able to stand, I knew I would have done the same. "I didn't ask for this! I didn't ask for you to lose your best friend! If I hadn't come to your fucking show, maybe we wouldn't be in this situation right now!"
Her words stung, and I felt my heart shatter, the memory of me screaming in the middle of a forest because of the pain flashing at the forefront of my mind. "Are you seriously blaming me?! Are you saying that this is all my fault?!" I couldn't help but tear up, my voice reaching a tone that I've never used with Karlie before. She was furious, but as I said those words, I knew she didn't mean them that way. I knew she regretted saying them, now seeing how much they've affected me. Karlie knew that I've been blaming myself since the very first time I had opened my eyes after the plane had crashed, but when she had told me that it wasn't my fault, I believed her. But now, hearing her say the opposite, broke down all the certainty that I had within me. "I lost everything because of that damn plane crash! I've lost my leg and my best friend because of that! I've lost everything! Everything! And now you're telling me that it was my fault?! What did you lose, uh?!"
Karlie looked mortified, tears shining in her eyes. I knew mine looked the same, as I felt the coldness of the droplets streaming down my red cheeks. She averted her gaze, unable to look at me. After everything we've been through. "Get out."
"I said get out,"
"Get out!" I yelled, pointing furiously at the door. "I don't want to see you! I don't want to talk to you! Get out of my fucking house!"
Karlie bit her trembling bottom lip, and as much as it pained me to see her like that, I watched her turn around and exit my bedroom, leaving me alone with just my guilty thoughts.
One week later
13 October, 2018
We haven't spoken to each other since that argument.
I've locked myself inside my bedroom after that, the time slipping between my fingers as if it were sand. Days had passed, but I didn't know that until Tree told me. My publicist came four days after the argument, knocking at my door gently before letting herself in. When she sat beside me on the bed, I felt like a phantom. I felt like the old me was far gone, buried deep inside my gut and impossible to find. Tree had talked to me, placed a hand on my shoulder, but all I felt was a cold touch against a skin that I didn't feel like it was mine anymore. I felt trapped into somebody else's body, unable to escape from this downward spiral.
I heard Tree say that she would be living with me. She told me that she had talked with Karlie, how my best friend was so worried about me and how she had left me my space. I was hurting. We both were, and I immediately felt bad when I recalled the way I had kicked her out of my house, telling her that she didn't lose anything like I did. I may have lost a leg and a best friend, but she had lost a part of her that she will never be able to find. We both did. We will never be the same after what we've been through. After the days spent in the cold of the woods, the nights spent shivering with fear and pain. We will never be the same, but perhaps we needed to accept that. We needed to understand that no matter how hard we tried, we will never find that piece of mental health that we've lost in that tragic plane crash. And maybe, just maybe, we should be healing together, instead of being apart.
Therefore, after spending days and days inside of my bedroom, doing nothing but think about that week and a half, about Karlie and everything that came along with her, I got up, put on the prosthesis that was right for my leg and got out of my haven. Tree was home, because I was greeted with the faint smell of coffee and the light sound of the television. She was in the living room, and as soon as I walked through the door and stood against the doorframe, she frantically reached for the remote and turned off the device.
My publicist looked at me with careful eyes. She was sitting on the couch, my two cats lying beside her as they slept peacefully.
"I'm sorry," I said quietly, not meeting her concerned gaze as I felt embarrassed.
"You don't need to apologize, darling. You've done nothing wrong,"
Her words made me emotional, as I ungracefully took a few steps towards the couch, having every intention to sit beside her. I didn't walk a lot with the new leg, but I was getting used to it. Used to the feeling of plastic underneath my knee. Used to the fact that a foot that wasn't mine was helping me walk.
"I just—," I sighed, squeezing my eyes shut and feeling her sympathetic gaze on me. "They say time can heal, but I feel like I'm stuck. I'm stuck in that week and a half and I can't move. I don't know how to, or if I'm able to, but I just want to stop feeling this way,"
"What do you feel?"
I pondered on it. "Empty," I replied. I still haven't met her stare, as I lost a hand between Olivia's white and soft fur. "I feel like a ghost. Everything around me goes forward, and I just—I'm unmoving."
Tree held my hand, and I realized that she's never done that. She has shaken my hand in the past, but she's never held my hand, as if to say, I'm here. I got you. "I can't say that I understand, because I've never felt like that, but what I do know, is that you won't feel like this forever. Maybe you'll need time, but this feeling will pass. You need your family, your friends, your fans. They all love you, and they will be your support system. They will help you heal, but it's you who needs to move on and turn the page," she said quietly. When I met her gaze, she went on, "That plane crash was just a terrible and horrible chapter of your life. But—this life, your life, is a book. It has millions of chapters, and you are the one who decides what happens next in the story."
What she said was right. I knew mourning my leg and Abigail wouldn't be easy, but I knew that my best friend would want to see me happy. "Abi wouldn't want to see me like this," I chuckled quietly, rubbing my fingertip under my eye. "She would say to me, Turn your pain into a work of art! Don't let this stop you, you're unstoppable," I imitated Abigail's voice, Tree laughing quietly by my side. When silence came, I let a tear escape from my right eye. "She wouldn't want to see me like this," I repeated. "But I just—," I sighed exasperatedly. "—I just miss her so much."
"I know," Tree replied, her voice quiet and sympathetic. "I know,"
I cried quietly, my shoulders slightly shaking as she rubbed a hand along my tense back. She's seen me cry before, but my publicist has never given me physical comfort. Seeing Tree act like this made me realize that perhaps she was more worried than I thought. "I think—I need to call Karlie. I need to go and see her. She doesn't deserve all of this," I stated, firmly getting up and picking the cane that helped me keep my balance.
I turned around, staring at her from the doorway.
"I'm sorry about what Scott said the other day," she said with an apologetic smile.
"I'm sure he is just bitter that I changed record label," I replied dryly, making her laugh.
It was great; smiling again. Stepping outside for the first time in a while. Wearing something that wasn't pajamas. It was great.
After my talk with Tree, I reassured her that she could go back home, that I wanted to try and live alone. She had hesitated, but then I said that if I needed something, I would call her or one of my friends. I was surrounded by support, therefore she didn't need to worry. I would be okay. When she was gone, and my apartment went back to complete silence, I felt the sudden urge to prepare something sweet. It was a little past five, so I prepared some cookies with every intention of giving some of them to Karlie later.
I ate dinner, feeling light after having spent days where the weight of grief had been crashing me. When it was around eight, I went upstairs and changed into something nice. I wasn't confident enough to wear something that would show my bare right leg, therefore I wore black jeans and a comfortable sweatshirt that matched my purse. When stepping outside of my apartment, I was grateful for the paparazzi's absence. It wouldn't be exactly nice to see me walking ungracefully with the help of a cane. So I enjoyed the calm around me, as I walked the short distance that was between my place and my best friend's. Normally, it would take me ten or fifteen minutes to reach her apartment, but as soon as I was in front of her front door, I realized that it took me twenty minutes to get here.
I suddenly started to get nervous, because what if she didn't want to see me? Despite all my paranoias, I leaned my weight on the cane and knocked with my left hand, waiting patiently as I heard footsteps from the other side. Karlie opened the door quickly, her surprise evident as we stared at each other in silence. I managed an awkward smile, inhaling deeply as I said breathlessly, "Hey,"
My best friend chuckled, speechless. She shook her head with a dumbfounded expression, pulling me into a hug. I was immediately overcome by her strong and sweet perfume, as I wrapped my arms around her and folded them underneath hers, gripping her shoulders tightly as she held me against her body. It was nice; feeling her against me. I felt complete, as if she didn't see the ghost within my eyes. As if she had seen the true me when opening the door.
"I missed you," I heard her mumble, her lips brushing against my neck. She pulled away, her hands grazing my cheeks as her lips found the skin of my forehead in a reassuring peck. She looked at me, her eyes filled with nothing but love and gratitude. Karlie hugged me, and I welcomed the second embrace, feeling lighter and lighter with each second that I spent in her embrace.
"I missed you, too," I said just as quietly. Hugging Karlie has always been my favorite thing to do, but it became a drug as soon as I started having feelings for her. They made me realize all the little things; how she sighed happily whenever I squeezed her tightly, how she nuzzled her head in the crook of my neck whenever she missed me too much. How nice it felt to have her heart beat rapidly against my chest. Apart from her hugs, everything about Karlie was just so incredible and magnificent. From her perfect smile and the dimples carving her cheeks, to her green eyes becoming little whenever her grin was too big for her face.
We pulled away, her closing the door behind me as I slowly walked through the familiar apartment.
"It's so nice to see you walk again," she stated softly, following me in the living room. I got easily tired, and having walked for twenty minutes without stopping made me want to just lay down and nap for a couple of hours.
I smiled, sitting down on the couch as she sat next to me. "I talked to Tree today," I said quietly. "She made me realize that staying inside my bedroom and not interacting with the world was doing me no good. And I just felt really bad about—our argument. I didn't mean to kick you out like that,"
Karlie forced a smile on her face, averting her gaze as I caught a glimpse of hurt in her eyes. "You were just really vulnerable, I don't blame you."
"I know, it was my first day trying prosthesis and I guess that—it really hit me that day. That I haven't got a leg now. I'm sorry,"
"It's okay," she reassured me, looking up at me. "I understand."
"I just—when I said that you didn't lose anything—I didn't want to hurt you. Perhaps you didn't lose something physically, but I know that you're hurting. We both are, and I shouldn't have told you those things and act as if I were the only one on that plane,"
Karlie stayed silent, fiddling with her fingers on her lap. She looked lost in her thoughts for a moment, her gaze wandering around the room as if she were thinking about what to say next. Her silence gave me the opportunity to properly look at her; there were bags underneath her eyes, she seemed exhausted, and the corner of her lips, no matter how hard she tried, were only turned downwards in a small pout. I hated myself for having put unasked-for distance between us, because it was obvious that we needed each other more than anything.
"I'm sorry," I whispered, grabbing her hand and squeezing it gently. "I really am,"
"I'm not mad at you, Taylor," she smiled sadly. "I was just hurt when you said those things because—after all that we've been through, after all that I've done for you in the past month, I—it was hard for me hearing those words from you. But I was never mad. I could never be mad at you."
She stroked my cheek and I felt my whole world stop. I leaned into her soft touch, closing my eyes for a moment as time seemed to stop. For a moment, it was as if I was finally on track with life, as if her fingers on my cheek had unlocked my mind from feeling always so stuck.
"I'm still sorry," I whispered quietly. She looked down at our intertwined hands, and in that moment, she was the most beautiful girl that I've ever seen. And so I told her just that. "You're beautiful,"
Seeing the smile bloom on her face was worth all the pain that we've been through the last two months.
Three weeks later
1 November, 2018
Today I visited Abigail's grave for the fourth time, but today was the first time I didn't cry. Perhaps it was because I wasn't alone, or maybe it was because I was healing. Maybe time was really doing its job with closing the open wounds that the plane crash had left on my heart.
Karlie was with me when I kneeled in front of Abigail's grave and said a silent prayer. She patiently waited for me, placing a hand on my back when I had stared at my redhead best friend's photo for far too long. I placed the flowers I had brought with me beside the marble headstone, kissing it briefly before standing up shakily. Karlie wrapped an arm around my waist, kissing my temple when I stopped walking just to nuzzle my head on the crook of her neck. I recalled my last conversation with Abigail, how she told me she couldn't wait to see her husband again. I had smiled, playfully pushing at her shoulders as she gave me that smitten and enamored smile. I remembered how it had been so hard to tell Matt that his wife was dead. How heart wrenching his pained face was, how his left hand covered his chest, clutching it as if his heart was bursting with sorrow. How he had to sit down because of how his sobs made his whole body shake. I remembered how much it had pained me, to see his fingers play with the golden band on his left hand. How I had to sit down next to him and console him, telling him how sorry I was. The image of his saddened face was still imprinted in my mind, a memory I wasn't going to forget anytime soon.
As I looked up at the sky, thinking that maybe my best friend was watching me from above, I smiled. I smiled, because even though Abigail wasn't here, she was still in my heart. She was always going to be a part of me, no matter what happened next.
"You had to see her gush about your performance that night," Karlie chuckled beside me. "She was so happy that night."
When I looked up at Karlie, her eyes were misty and sparkling. I loved how two of my best friends had bonded over the last few years. "The last thing she told me before falling asleep on the plane was; I love you, don't you ever forget about that," I chuckled, reminiscing her soft voice and her light giggle that had followed her statement. Karlie hugged me a little closer, as we stood at the entrance of the cemetery. I couldn't believe that it's already been two months.
"I'm glad you're alive," my best friend whispered against the crown of my head. "I don't want to know what it feels like to live in a world without you in it,"
Glancing up at her, my eyes fell briefly upon her lips. It was a quick moment, but a moment she noticed nevertheless. "I told you," I said just as quietly. "I will never leave you."
"Promise?" she asked hopefully.
I held her a little bit tighter. "Promise."
One week later
11 November, 2018
I dreamt about the plane crash.
Of what would have happened if me and Karlie had found the others that were with us. Of what would have happened if me and Karlie had found Abigail. I dreamt about seeing her death firsthand; finding her lying underneath the remains of the plane or under a fallen tree. In my dream, Karlie and I had ventured in the woods in spite of my leg's conditions. It had happened all so quickly; us finding Abigail, her empty eyes looking up at the sky as I kneeled by her side, sobbing and crying loudly while Karlie stood behind me. I had shaken her body, pleading her to come back, ignoring the dull pain in my calf. I recalled Karlie saying that it was too late for us, that she was already gone, but I didn't want to go back to our haven. I didn't want to leave her there, lifeless.
I woke up crying, clutching my stump because of a pain that wasn't actually there. Breathing was a complete struggle, and looking around myself, it was as if I didn't have my eyes open, even though they were wide and alert; darkness surrounded me, and not wearing glasses didn't help me at all, as my hands frantically looked for the switch of my table lamp. When finally a bit of light enlightened my bedroom, and I saw my two cats staring at me from the edge of the bed, I calmed down. I was able to breathe, inhaling deeply before exhaling shakily as I closed my eyes and placed a hand over my fast heartbeat. My right leg still hurt a little bit, but I was sure that the pain was all coming from my dream.
In a moment where I had lost clarity of thought, I grabbed my phone and immediately dialed the number that I knew by heart. While it rang, I glanced at the clock on my nightstand, three bright red numbers skeptically staring back at me. 3:28.
As soon as I heard Karlie's voice filter through my ear and reach my brain, I broke down crying. It was so soothing, to hear her groggy voice sound so worried, so understanding. I heard shuffling from her part, as she probably understood that it wasn't just a normal phone call.
"I'm—sorry, I know it's late, I—,"
"Hey, don't worry. It's okay. Tell me what happened,"
She sounded more alert, more awake, as her voice kept bringing me back to earth. "I just—I had a really bad dream. It was about—about the plane crash, and Abigail, and just everything. I'm just—," I paused, sniffling slightly. "I just want to feel okay again. I can't wake you up at three in the morning every time I have a nightmare."
"Taylor, darling, you don't have to worry. You know that I'm here for you, you can always call me, whenever you want," she reassured me.
"Can you just—," I hesitated, squeezing my eyes shut and placing a hand against my forehead. "Can you talk? For a little bit? I don't care about what, just—just talk about something." I pleaded. I didn't care how desperate I sounded. All I cared about was the sound of her voice calming down my racing heart.
"Okay, well—you remember Joe Joe? The shark dog? Well, he's back in my apartment but not for long, because he pees everywhere, and I'm not always home, so I technically don't have lots of time to clean the house. But—he keeps me company, you know? He's always so energetic, cuddling by my side when I want to watch the television. I think I'll be a little sad when my mother will pick him up next weekend."
I chuckled quietly, lying on my back and pulling the sheets to my chin. I turned off the light, fully focusing all my attention on the girl talking to me.
"You know what? You can come over tomorrow—well, technically, today, since it's, you know, three in the morning," we shared a quiet laugh. "But for real, I want you to see him again because I think he misses you."
"I miss him too," I replied unsteadily. There's a bit of silence, and I tried to imitate her breathing pattern, as it was gentle and calm and slow. "Karlie? You still there?"
"Of course, darling," she replied softly.
I hesitated, before whispering. "Thank you. You don't know how much this meant to me."
"It was no problem, really,"
We stayed quiet for a while, just hearing the other breathe. Even though neither of us talked, I knew we were both aware that the other was still awake.
I lied on my side, putting the call on speaker and placing the phone on the pillow, right beside my face. Olivia padded towards my body, falling asleep on my chest as I cuddled her close to my chest. Even Meredith, who was usually the insensitive one between my two cats, came a little closer to me. I felt loved, understood. I felt like I was surrounded by warmth, even though all I had felt in that dream was the coldness of the air and the moisture of the grass underneath my knees.
She sounded a little bit sleepy, but when I glanced at the clock, I immediately knew why. 4:06. She had stayed up with me for the entirety of thirty eight minutes, the majority of it being mostly silence. I smiled slightly, saying quietly, "Can you stay with me on the phone until I go back to sleep?"
"The first one who falls asleep wins," she agreed, joking lightly, and that was all I ever needed from her. It made me smile. "Of course I'll stay up with you, baby,"
Hearing her say that word made my heart flutter with tiny butterflies, and with the safety that just her breathing provided me, I closed my eyes, falling into a deep slumber in the blink of an eye.
Ten days later
21 November, 2018
Going back to Nashville was revitalizing.
Lying on a white blanket and being surrounded by two of my best friends and the green grass of the Edwin and Percy Warner Park, I looked up at the sky, as their voices kept filling the comfortable silence. It was early in the morning, a little bit past seven, and Ed and Karlie had agreed on going on a walk with me. It's been a long time since I've seen my ginger haired best friend, and watching him laugh and joke with Karlie brought me back to three years ago, when we've been in the same position as now. The only difference was, that one person was missing from our group. But I knew that, even though Abigail wasn't physically here with us, she was with us nevertheless, whether she was watching us from above or just listening to us speak.
When there was a pause in the conversation, I put my weight on my elbows as I let my long blonde hair fall naturally on my shoulders. I haven't brushed them this morning, but I wasn't afraid of showing my slightly wavy curls to my best friends.
"Today would have been the last day of my tour," I stated, two heads turning to me with a neutral frown. My stadium tour would have finished today, with the last date being in Tokyo. I missed my fans. I was sure that they missed me too, given the fact that I haven't posted something on my social media since the accident. They knew I was alive and well only because of the rare and blurry pictures that some paparazzi had taken. They were aware of Abigail's death, of her funeral — where some rude paparazzi had casually taken photos of me ugly crying beside her grave, everyone standing except for me — and lastly, of my amputation and prosthesis. I sometimes lurked on Tumblr, and it pained me to see videos or photos of me before and after the plane crash. It was evident, the change in my body, how that accident had affected my life. I lost some of the weight I had proudly gained over the last year; my stomach was now flatter, I was thinner, and my puffy cheeks were almost gone.
"I can't believe that it's been almost three months," Karlie mumbled quietly. I sighed, lowering my head and stroking the patch of skin where my stump met the prosthesis. Closing my eyes, I still saw the fear in Karlie's eyes when she had believed that I wanted to quit on her. I still heard the growling of the wolves, the wind cutting the atmosphere. I still recalled the hunger me and Karlie had felt for days, how one day she had to go hunting because she had been too blinded by the hunger eating at her stomach to care about her safety.
"I know," I said. "I can't believe either,"
"How's Matt?" Ed asked out of the blue.
"I visited him last night,"
This was news for both of them, as only my mother knew about me going to Matt and Abigail's apartment. I had thought, given the fact that I was back in Nashville, I could go over and visit him, just to see how he was doing. It turned out that he, like me, was slowly healing from his loss. He still wore his wedding band; said that he couldn't bear to take it off. I understood him completely, as I still haven't removed the photos of me and my best friend that were back in my Tribeca apartment.
"How is he dealing with everything?" Karlie asked quietly.
I shrugged. "You know, he's still healing. Just like us," I replied.
She nodded, understandingly. When Ed suggested we should keep on walking, we stood up without another word. There was a melancholy hanging above us, but it wasn't exactly an unpleasant feeling. It wasn't welcome either, but it was great; it meant that Abigail's death didn't hurt as much as it did three months ago.
We walked for a little bit, the ginger singer lifting both of our moods as he made old and bad jokes just to make us laugh. I loved him; he knew that the plane crash was still a sensitive subject for us, so without asking questions, he still made an effort to make us feel good. I loved that side of him; he was so caring, and understanding. I recalled that time, three months ago when I was still at the hospital, when I had woken up in the middle of the night, crying because Abigail was dead and because my right leg wasn't there anymore. Ed had been there, standing up from his chair and lying beside me as he kissed my forehead and stroked my hair. He let me cry on his chest, the sound of my sobs filling the small hospital room as he kept whispering reassuring words against the top of my head. I remembered how he had held me close, his arm wrapped around my neck as I cried until I was too tired to be awake. That night had been a nightmare; waking up thinking for just a second, that everything that had happened didn't actually happen. Waking up thinking that I had both of my legs, that Abigail wasn't dead. But instead, when I had seen the IV monitors, the stump under the sheets, the whiteness of the hospital's walls, I had realized that it was real. That Abigail was dead. That I didn't have a leg. And that made me cry, because three months ago, I was frail. Everything would have made me cry, even a simple glass falling on the floor and breaking into million pieces would make me cry. But now, I was stronger; the thought of Abigail didn't make me cry as much. It made me smile, thinking that she was happy and healthy, wherever she was. The thought of my amputated leg didn't make me as angry as it did two months ago, when I was struggling even during physical therapy.
Perhaps Tree had been right; time really heals people.
Three weeks later
5 December, 2018
I think that, after the plane crash, the relationship between me and Karlie had changed.
I didn't know how, but as the days passed and we spent more time with each other, I felt more connected to her. My feelings for her, obviously, had grown over the last three months, but apart from them, I felt like we were more comfortable around each other. We fell asleep in each other's arms, we cuddled, she kissed my forehead more frequently, and our eyes stayed locked more than they probably should. It was as if we were a couple, but I knew that wasn't the case. We loved each other — even though I loved her more than a friend — but she didn't love me like that. Well, as far as I knew, she didn't, but I couldn't let my hopes up just to get heartbroken and disappointed in the end. I didn't want to make a move either, because we were best friends, and then my birthday was in less than a week, therefore I didn't want to make things awkward. Maybe, in the near future, I would tell her how I feel, but today just wasn't the right day.
"What are you thinking about?"
The soft whisper against my ear made me flinch as I didn't expect it at all. Me and Karlie had decided to have a lazy day in, given the fact that outside it was snowing and it was freezing cold. We were at my apartment, lying comfortably on my couch, my back against her front as her legs protectively wrapped around my waist from behind. Her arms circled my abdomen, and I shouldn't enjoy this as much as I was.
"Nothing, why?" I lied, smiling nervously as I tried to understand just why she had asked me that.
"You always laugh when Addison arrives at the end of season one and says that savage line," she chuckled, her lips still close to my ear as I watched the end credits of Grey's Anatomy fill the black screen. Of course she had noticed; she noticed everything.
"I—," I stammered, not knowing what to say. "I was just lost in my thoughts, that's all,"
I saw her pause the television, even though the first season had finished with this episode. I tensed, already anticipating a serious conversation.
"What's on your mind?" she asked, prompting me to turn around and face her. I didn't want to, because then I would have to look up into her green eyes, and then I wouldn't have been able to lie to her face.
"I told you, nothing,"
"It can't be nothing. Humans always think, you must have something that is really bothering you right now,"
I sighed, tilting my head backwards and placing it against her shoulder. I looked to the right, not wanting to gaze at her. What could I tell her?
"Is it—is it the plane crash?" she asked, hesitantly. Her voice was careful and cautious, not wanting to overstep and say the wrong thing. "Because if it's that, you know you can always—,"
"It's not that," I interrupted her, already knowing what she was going to say. I stared at Olivia awkwardly sleeping on the stairs, her tummy turned upwards as her paws were stretched outwards. The sight made me smile and temporarily forget about what I was thinking.
"How can it be a comfortable position?" Karlie asked, probably catching me watch my cat on the stairs. She chuckled, her fingers rubbing the back of my hands as she held them tightly.
"She's Olivia. You know how she is," I replied with a giggle.
There was a bit of silence, and I knew she was giving me space, waiting for me to open up, since the Grey's Anatomy first episode of the second season was on hold.
"It's not the plane crash," I interrupted her, giving up and turning towards her instead. When hours ago we had decided to lay down on the couch, I had hesitantly removed my prosthesis, not wanting her to feel the plastic leg against her own body. I met her patient gaze, realizing just now how much our faces were close to each other. I quickly glanced down at her thin lips, refraining myself from kissing her right there. "It's just—it's the same shit over again."
"What is it?"
I sighed, loving how her warm hands were doing everything to calm me down by rubbing the patch of skin of my arms.
"I was thinking about everything. How I could have lost two of my best friends instead of just one," I started, not being brave enough to meet her expectant gaze. "I'm—just so grateful to still have you here, with me. And I guess—us cuddling made me realize how lucky I am to have you. I'm—I just—love you so much, I'm happy that you're still alive," my breath hitched in my throat when those three words escaped from my lips, but of course she didn't know I meant them that way.
When I didn't hear anything from her, I glanced up at her and saw something that I've never seen within her eyes. She was looking at me with such strong emotions, her lips slightly parted as my words probably echoed inside her head. Our faces being so close to each other wasn't helping my instincts, as all I wanted to do in that moment was to just close the gap and kiss her. But then, her left hand reached up and softly stroked my cheek, and I was so sure that we were going to kiss, because — did she just lean in? Did her eyes glance down at my lips or was it all in my head?
"I love you, too, Taylor," she whispered. Our faces were a few centimeters apart, and I was preparing myself for what was going to happen, slightly closing my eyes and parting my lips; but then, her mouth connected with the skin of my forehead and the sound of her lips kissing my head echoed around us. I shuddered, swallowing thickly as I had prepared myself for something that just wasn't going to happen. Not wanting her to see the disappointment in my face, as soon as she pulled away, I hugged her tightly, awkwardly embracing her as my arms wrapped around her waist and I nuzzled my face under her chin. Our bodies became one; a mess of limbs on the couch as we stayed there, just relishing in the warmth that our bodies produced.
It was as if I was drowning in her scent, because she smelled like home and reassurance and love. It was as if I was lost at sea, but I didn't mind, because her arms were the softest waves I've ever known, and somehow, there in her arms, I fell asleep, lulled just by the sound of her quiet breathing and the feeling of safety that her embrace provided me.
One week later
13 December, 2018
I posted a photo of myself on my social media the day of my birthday.
Cradled by the love of my family and friends, an hour before the clock signaled that the thirteenth day of December was over, I posted a heartfelt message on the internet along with a photo that depicted me holding my prosthesis and showing it proudly to the camera.
I post this picture because I want to share something with you guys, it read the description. The first thing I said was tell my fans how much I loved and missed them, how much I appreciated their patience and their unconditional support. Then I went on to describe what had happened in the last three and a half months. A disastrous tragedy had happened, I had lost a leg and a best friend, and I told them how I felt during the first month. How weak and powerless I had felt, how lonely it had been whenever I was reminded that Abigail wasn't here anymore. But then, I told them how much love has helped me move on. How time had helped me heal, how all of my friends had been there whenever I freaked out and cried about everything that had happened. I told them that no matter what happens in life, they were never really going to be alone. There was always someone there ready to support you no matter what. They were always going to have a support system, whether it was a boyfriend or girlfriend, or a sister, or a brother, or a friend. I told them that I was going to be there for them, always. I told them that it had been difficult, but now I felt better. Each day that passed, the invisible wounds inside of my heart were closing, and soon they were going to be just scars. Perhaps, in the near future, something — maybe a memory of that plane crash — would open them again, but they were always going to close again. They were always going to heal.
I told them that this birthday has been one of the best and worst of my life; the best because I had so many friends surround me with love, the worst because Abigail wasn't physically there with me. But I knew she watched me from above, it was as if I felt her presence, somehow, and that reassured me. Lastly, I thanked them for being so patient, for waiting for me when everything around me was falling apart.
The responses I received were endless and filled with love, and I spent the last hour of my birthday scrolling through social media, reading the messages from my fans and sometimes replying to them.
"Hey, what are you doing up at this hour?"
Karlie's voice startled me, as it pierced through the slight darkness of my bedroom. "Jesus, you scared me!" I laughed, placing a hand over my chest. Seeing me lying on the bed, she joined me under the covers and cuddled close to me. I blushed, not expecting so much affection from her at one in the morning.
"Sorry," she mumbled against my neck, and the vibration of her words sent shivers down my spine. I turned off my phone and put it on my nightstand, turning around and taking the tall girl in my arms, as she mumbled approvingly.
"I was going through social media, by the way. The fans appreciated my post, apparently," I chuckled softly. I felt her shift, as she laid her head against the pillow, a few centimeters away from mine. Even in the dark, her eyes were still so green and warm.
"Do you want to know something?" I nodded. "When we were in the woods, remember that day where you—where I was afraid that you were quitting on me?" I nodded again, waiting patiently for her to continue. "Seeing you like that — weak and unresponsive — I had thought that you were never going to turn twenty nine. That you were never going to be able to celebrate your birthday this year."
Hearing her confession, I smiled sadly. "You thought that I was going to leave you that night?" she nodded quickly, averting her gaze from mine. "Oh, Kar," I hugged her close, kissing the top of her head as I held her tightly against me. I hoped that hearing my heartbeat would calm her down. "I'm never going to leave you. You're going to be stuck with me for a very long time, so I hope you don't mind,"
She chuckled and softly kissed my jaw. "I don't mind at all."
Two weeks later
27 December, 2018
It's been exactly four months since the plane crash.
When I woke up today, the first thing I saw was a message from a person that I haven't thought about for weeks; Joe. The text was simple yet surprising, as it read, Are you in New York? I would like to talk to you. I've been in town for less than two days, as I had spent Christmas with my family back in Nashville. It had been really nice; my mother had had the nice idea to invite Matt over, but he had refused, telling us that he already had other plans with his own family, but appreciated our kind gesture. I still messaged him from time to time, just to ask him how he's doing, and I'm glad that he's been good. I was worried about him, but knowing that he was okay and healing made me happy.
Do you want to come over? I'm free right now, I replied to Joe's message. His answer came a few seconds later, warning me that he would be here in ten minutes.
I wasn't nervous for this meeting; I've been over him way long before we took that break, and I was sure he was going to ask me what we were going to do. I knew he expected a break up out of this encounter, and I couldn't blame him; over the past months, I've been picking up the pieces of my shattered life, plus, I was in love with someone else, therefore I didn't want to lead him on anymore. I knew it was going to be hard, but I also knew he would understand.
I thought about him and our memories together until a knock echoed throughout my apartment. Slowly, I got up and held the back of my thigh as I padded towards the entrance of my home. When I opened the door, our eyes immediately locked.
It was incredibly awkward, because we hadn't seen each other in months, and we didn't know how to greet each other; a kiss? A hug? We just stood there, his hand rubbing the back of his neck.
"Can I come in?"
"Oh, yeah, sure,"
I blushed, letting him inside. He didn't take off his coat. The actor stood in the middle of my living room before turning towards me. Right there, I knew what his question would be like.
"So—uh, how are you?"
Joe eyed my leg, my prosthesis obviously hiding beneath my large sweatpants. "Oh, um— I'm actually great, thank you. What about you?"
"I'm good," he nodded. "What about the leg?" he pointed towards my right knee.
"I'm wearing the prosthesis," I replied, feeling a little exposed under his gaze.
"I'm glad you're okay," he nodded.
"Well—do you want something? A glass of water, maybe?"
"Oh, no, don't worry," he smiled tightly. "I'm not staying for long."
I raised my brows, surprised upon hearing his statement. "Oh, alright. What did you want to talk about? I'm sure you haven't come here just to ask about my leg." I chuckled.
He shook his head. "No, right. I'm here—I wanted to ask you something. I know that you've been through a lot, but I've given you space. I just—want to know what you want out of this," he pointed to himself before pointing to me. "I want to know if there's still an us."
"I—," I paused, hesitating. "I'm sorry, Joe. But I—," I sighed, not knowing how not to hurt him in any way. "I care about you. You're a great guy, you're honestly the perfect guy, but I've realized that this is not what I want. The last three months have been—a rollercoaster. I feel like years have passed, not just three months. And I—I don't feel what there was once between us. I'm not in love with you anymore, Joe, but that doesn't mean that I don't care about you, because I do. A lot, actually, and maybe we—we can be friends, if you want to still be a part of my life."
I saw his jaw clench, his lips pursing as he nodded. "I, uh—I don't—," he paused, scratching his blonde beard. "Did I do something wrong? Is that why you don't want to be with me?"
"No! No, it's not that, it's just—I'm not in love with you. You didn't do anything wrong, Joe, you were perfect," I replied quickly. "I'm—it's actually a really complicated situation, but I—I'm in love with one of my best friends and I don't know how to tell them."
His eyes softened a bit at that. "You're—in love with someone else?" I hesitantly nodded, a little smile growing on his face. "What's the lucky guy's name?"
"I, uh—," I blushed, averting my eyes. "It's a girl, and you know her. It's Karlie. I'm in love with Karlie."
Saying the words out loud made my cheeks even redder, as if saying those words to someone else made it all the more real.
"Karlie? Oh—well, I can't blame you. She's a really beautiful girl."
Talking about the person I was in love with my ex-boyfriend was awkward, and I guess he sensed that, as he immediately said, "Well, I'm happy we talked about this. I'm sad that this is over, but I'm glad you were honest with me. I appreciate it,"
He walked towards me and unexpectedly hugged me in a friendly manner. "Thank you?"
He laughed at my half question, as he rubbed my back up and down. "I have to go now, but take care, alright?"
"Alright, you too," I smiled genuinely, walking him to the door and watching him leave.
Four days later
31 December, 2018
My Tribeca apartment was filled with family, friends, and friends of my friends.
I think there were at least thirty people on the first floor, with fifteen more on the second one. I'm sure my two cats were already under my bed, looking for safety in the place they know the most; my bedroom. Nevertheless, I still looked around the packed house, making kissy noises while shaking a small pack of treats so as to attract their attention. When I received nothing, I sighed and headed towards the kitchen.
I guess I got distracted by my thoughts, as I missed one of the steps and rolled down the stairs, falling on my butt with a loud thud. The sound of the music covered my awkward landing, but of course, between all of my guests, Karlie had to be the one to pass by the hallway when I was lying on my bottom. It made my head spin, to see my prosthesis bended halfway. The shoe touched my thigh, therefore if it had been my real leg, I guess I would have felt a lot of more pain. But instead, all I felt, apart from my sore butt, I felt embarrassed and exposed.
Karlie was by my side in the blink of an eye, confusing my prosthesis with my left leg. "Oh God, are you okay?!" she exclaimed, worried.
I lowered my head, shaking it as I started crying. But my whines soon turned into a fit of giggles; an uncontrollable fit of giggles, that made my whole body tremble. "I'm okay, it's just—I fell down the stairs and—look at my fucking prosthesis!" I laughed out loud, and my statement made her realize that she was worrying for nothing. She joined me, quietly chuckling as she sat across me. "I'm so clumsy,"
When I glanced up at her, my lips wide and forming a gentle smile, the look she was giving me made my breath hitch. It was so warm, her green eyes sparkling under the faint light of the hallway. I averted my gaze, blushing slightly as I directed my attention to the real problem; my fake leg.
"What are you going to do with that now? Is it broken?"
"No, I don't think so," I replied. "But if it is, I have another one in my bedroom."
Karlie nodded, getting on her feet before helping me stand up. We stood quietly, her hands clutching mine as we looked at each other briefly. She held me by the hips while I bended down and tried to fix the problem; fortunately, I was right, so since it wasn't broken, I didn't need to go and pick the other one I had in my room.
After the little mishap, we headed to the kitchen to pick a glass of wine. It was already a little bit past nine, so there were only three hours between us and the new year. With what we've been through since the end of August, I hope that what's coming next is going to be gentler and less depressing. I was grateful for the year that I had, because even though I lost a lot of battles, I also learned new things. I became stronger, I learned how to deal with pain, how to love myself again and how to accept myself. At first, I hadn't been happy with my appearance, because from now on, when I had — for example — to wear a dress that showed a little bit of skin, people will always see the difference between my fake right leg made of plastic and my left one. People will always feel a little bit of sympathy for me, because I had lost a leg, I had lost a childhood best friend. But I didn't want them to see me that way; I was so much more than my battle scars, and I hoped that with time, people would understand that, too.
While waiting for the clock to strike at midnight, I played beer pong and beat the majority of my guests at Scrabble. By the end of the night, I had been proclaimed the Queen of Words, and I had drunkenly accepted it, raising a glass in the air and making an impromptu toast. Ten minutes before midnight, I had made a heartfelt speech by the television, thanking everyone for coming and for being my support system. I had almost gotten emotional by the end of it, but fortunately Selena had made a poor joke and made everyone laugh and smile.
When I excused myself from the room, I passed by the kitchen and noticed that there were only seven minutes left before midnight.
I made my way to the rooftop, where I brought with me a beer and a flimsy jacket. It had been hot inside, so I instantly felt the coldness of the December night as soon as I had stepped on the rooftop. Unsurprisingly, it wasn't dark outside; New York was the city that never sleeps, but it struck me how much light was surrounding me in that moment. How many people were celebrating the last minutes of 2018.
I stood by the edge, placing my arms against the railing as I let the wind run through my wavy blonde hair. It felt good; to be outside and breathing in the fresh air, the faint sound of the music serving as the background. I looked up, thinking about Abigail, smiling. As much as I wished she'd be here, knowing that she was in the beautiful place called heaven made me happy, because I knew that she was happy, too.
"What are you doing here alone?"
The sudden soft voice startled me, but I wasn't entirely surprised to see Karlie standing a few feet away from me, a kind smile gracing her thin lips.
"Do you enjoy scaring me or what?"
We shared a laugh, as she stood beside me and imitated my position by placing her arms on the railing. I felt her stare on me, as I watched the joyous city beneath us.
"Why are you here alone, though? You know that it's almost midnight,"
"I could ask you the same thing,"
Karlie shrugged. "You're right."
Another quiet laugh. "I just wanted a little bit of peace," I replied sincerely and quietly.
"Are you okay?"
"Yeah. I'm okay," it was the first time in three months where I felt like I wasn't lying.
"Is your leg okay?"
I giggled. "It is, don't worry. I'm more worried about my bottom though,"
We chuckled side by side, shuddering from time to time when a particular cold air blew and hit our exposed skin.
"I told you why I'm here, now it's your turn," I said after a while.
She immediately became nervous, as she averted her gaze and anxiously smiled. "I—I was just thinking about everything and I realized—life is too short to live in a lie, you know? That plane crash almost scared me to death, because I had been so afraid to lose you. I was so sure I was going to lose you that I just thought—here it is, you're losing the one person you care about the most and you're letting them go that easily. I just—I think I should—I have to tell you something, Taylor."
I wasn't sure if I had heard her correctly, but judging by her serious and tense look, I understood that what I've been waiting for was happening right in front of my eyes.
"Okay. You can tell me everything," I replied, trying not to sound too breathless.
She nodded. "Okay," she said quietly. "I'll tell you now,"
I waited and waited, but no words were coming out of her mouth. We just stared at each other, and when I focused on what was going on around us, I realized that the people inside my apartment were slowly counting down. I saw her eyes fall down on my mouth, and as soon as I heard my friends say, "Happy New Year!", Karlie cupped my cheeks and closed the gap between us and—dear God. I closed my eyes, relishing in the sweet taste of her lips as they molded with mine in the best kiss I've ever shared with someone. People say that when you kiss the person you love, it is as if fireworks explode within your body, but in this occasion, they were exploding right a few blocks away from my place, their sound filling the dark night along with the noise of our lips colliding and the cheering inside my apartment.
I held onto her arms, as our eyes remained closed even when we pulled apart. Fireworks were still going off, and the feeling of her fingerx stroking against the skin of my cheeks brought me back to earth. I met her gaze, a giggle falling out of her lips as she stared at my dumbfounded and love-struck face.
"Did I break you?" she asked teasingly, pecking my nose playfully.
I laughed, taking a deep breath as she pulled me a little bit closer. "No, it's just that I've never expected this."
"Well are you—surprised in the good or bad way?"
"In the good way, obviously, otherwise I wouldn't have kissed you back, you dummy," I chuckled. She pushed at my shoulder, a blush covering her cheeks. "You're so cute when you blush,"
"Shut up, dork,"
She shook her head, shutting me up in the best way possible. Her lips found mine once again, but it didn't last long, as our smiles were too big. "Abigail would be so proud of me,"
"What?" Karlie asked, shocked.
"I mean—this means that you like me, right?"
"Of course, or else why would I kiss you?"
"I don't know, don't judge me," I laughed embarrassedly. "It's just that, I like you. I have had feelings for you from a very long time, and when I told Abigail, she told me that she would have been so proud if something actually happened between us."
Karlie smiled, wrapping her arms around my waist and pulling me against her. "Well, I think she saw us,"
We quietly chuckled, and together, we looked up at the sky, gazing at the stars above us. "Do you think that everything will be okay?"
"Of course," she replied reassuringly while kissing my cheek. I loved this about her; she always made sure to comfort me in some way, whether it was physically or with words. "And if it won't be okay, then just know that I'm here. I was there for you after the plane crash, and I'll be there for you if everything will fall apart once again."
I looked up at her, slowly kissing her lips while stroking her cheek.
2019 had started just a few minutes ago but it was already the best year of my life.
Two months later
26 February, 2019
Like I said, the world doesn't stop turning just because you're struggling. It goes on and on, but if there's one thing that I've learned in the last six months, is that, along with the help of time, love can heal you. I surrounded myself with family, with friends, and with people who truly loved me, and now I can proudly say that the wounds on my heart have fully closed. They've become scars. The memories that I've made are just that; memories that had helped me grow as a person. Memories that don't hurt me if I think about them.
The person I was in love with loved me back, and we've been together ever since our first kiss up on the rooftop. I've been through a lot, I've overcome the feeling of weakness and of sadness, I've lost some battles and I've won others.
But one thing's for sure; when everything falls apart, I know I can always count on Karlie.