Chapter 38: Suddenly
My alarm clock went off at its normal 7:15 and I moaned and groaned as I flipped over. Something wasn’t right. I realized that when I stood and felt something move around in my stomach.
Oh God no.
I rushed to the bathroom, lifted up the toilet seat just in time for whatever was coming up my throat to go out all into the toilet. I groaned loudly as the vomit came up and out so fast. My head banged and my throat burned and the throw up smelled worse than I thought it would.
I heard the creek of my door open and Liz’s voice. "Rise and shine little sister." She hesitated some, probably noticing that I wasn’t in bed.
"Liz," I groaned over the toilet. I heard her footsteps approach the bathroom. I stayed leaning over the toilet just in case anything else decided to spring up out of me.
"Oh goodness!" She said rushing to my side. She noticed the vomit and the smell and backed up some. "I’m getting towels and water and Liam."
"No," I muttered. "Leave him out of this."
"Are you out of your mind?" She screamed. She opened one of my cabinets and pulled out a tiny washcloth and turned the sink on. "You are throwing your insides up and you want me to leave him out of this?" She ran the washcloth under the water and then came over to me. She flushed the toilet once and leaned over me. She pulled me up from the toilet and sat me against the bathtub and wiped my face off.
"Stop talking," she muttered. Her eyes were glossy. "For one, your breath smells bad." She smiled. It was just like Liz to make a joke during a time like this. "And you’re going to be okay. Don’t worry." She walked back over to the sink and rinsed the towel again and then placed it on my forehead. "You stay here and if you have any more nausea feelings lean over the tub. It’s easier to clean." I nodded. "I’ll be right back."
I leaned back against the tub and sighed. Closing my eyes, I tried to think of how I got to this place right here. It’s happened before and too many times if I recall, but I don’t remember. My head started getting fuzzy and things weren’t as they seemed. I felt something coming up again and out of instinct I leaned over the toilet and heaved out everything that I could. My body shook, but I continued to release my body of the toxins that I was feeling.
As I finished, I leaned back and wiped my mouth with the towel that Liz provided me with. "She’s in the bathroom." I distinctively heard Liz’s voice. "It’s happening again." Was that fear that I detected in her voice?
"Alright Liz." That was Eric. "Go downstairs and call the family doctor."
"Don’t just do it yet." And there was Liam. "Remember mom talked her through one of these before? We just have to figure out the root of what she’s going through."
"Okay Liam," Eric said. "Thank you for the great advice, but that won’t stop her anxiety. She’s going to keep on doing what she’s doing to numb the pain."
"Either way it goes," Liam all but shouted. "A doctor would take too long to get here. Now one of us is going to go in there and talk her down with whatever is going on."
I wiped my mouth some more and sat up. Standing up wasn’t even an option because the more I moved, the dizzier everything else looked. "’Eric." Their talking halted abruptly. "Eric I need you please. I’m sorry for yesterday. I didn’t mean to pry."
"Call the doctor and get some water and her medicine," I heard Eric say. His footsteps approached the bathroom and he halted. I didn’t know if it was because of the smell or because of the way I looked. I decided on the latter. "Aw Briana."
"I’m sorry. I’m so sorry." I felt the tears brimming under my eyes. "I don’t mean to pry or worry or be selfish. Just tell me how your day went. I don’t want to be rude."
"Shhh Briana." I sighed as he gathered me in his arms and sat me on the counter.
"Eric, I’m so sorry. I don’t want to be this way. I’m so sorry."
He turned the water on and looked at me. "You’re okay. You’re not selfish and you worry because that’s who you are. And you are not rude Briana. There is not a mean bone in your body. Now I need you to listen to me. You’re going to have to stop crying for a second." I heard myself sniffle. "Briana please."
"Okay," I mumbled. "I’m trying. I really am."
He leaned over me and wiped my eyes with his hands. "Briana listen to me, stop crying. Stop it right now." I nodded. He kept his hands on my face and wiped each tear that came down. "You’re going to have to take deep breaths and loosen your mind up."
"Briana listen to me. You have to listen to me or else you’ll keep feeling this way." I nodded. "Now breathe in and out and do it slowly. In through your nose and out through your mouth." I did as he said and took slow breathes in and out. "Good girl."
"Okay," I whispered as I kept breathing in and out.
Liz walked into the bathroom with a pill bottle and a glass of water. She had red eyes and as I looked at her, I realized how glossy that they were. She stared at me, her hands shaking which made the pill bottle and the glass of water in her hands began to shake.
"Eric," she mumbled. He looked at her, grabbed the water and the pill bottle.
He turned and looked at me. He opened the pill bottle and handed them to me. "Now the next step to you feeling better is taking these." I looked up at him and a look of worry must have flashed across my face because he added, "I promise they are good for you." He put two pills in my hand and the water in the other hand.
I looked at Liz who was staring, but silently crying at the same time. "Are you sure?" I looked back at Eric and he nodded. "Okay." I popped the pills and then chased them down with the water. Immediately after that, Eric took the glass from me and sat it on the ledge nearby.
My eyes started to get drowsy and I sighed. Eric gathered me into his arms. Everything started getting dizzy and blurry until I couldn’t see anything else.
The sun showed through my eyes and I opened them immediately. The curtain to my window was opened and the sun was high in the sky which meant… I looked over at my alarm clock and I was correct. The time read 12:06 pm. I sat up slowly and sighed some. My mouth tasted chalky and disgusting. Everything seemed normal, but why was I home?
My door opened some and Eric’s head popped in. "’Hey, you’re up!"
"Of course I’m up." I glanced back at the alarm clock. "A little too late." I looked back at him. "Why am I still here? Why didn’t anyone wake me up?"
"You had a panic attack today."
I crinkled my eyebrows and looked at him. "No, I didn’t." I smiled at him and threw my comforter over my bed and stood up. My eyes started to blur again so I sat back down on my bed and sighed. Eric came to my side and kneeled in front of me. My hands started to shake. "I haven’t had a panic attack in three years." I looked him in the eyes and sighed.
"You tell me." I shrugged as he looked me dead in the eye. "You were apologizing to me for being selfish and rude." I looked away. "Is there something that you aren’t telling me Briana?"
I stood up slowly and paced. "I had this dream last night. You told all of us that you had cancer and I took it bad." He stood up too. "And everyone just started ragging on me." I crossed my arms and looked at him. "I don’t know what it meant. I just know that it had been bothering me. A lot of stuff had been. And you came yesterday and I was so happy because you’re usually my escape from the real world, but even you had your own things on your plate." I shrugged and paced more. "And I made it all about me. I always do. It just…" The tears were approaching so I covered my face with my hands.
"Briana…" Eric chuckled some as he pulled me into his arms.
"Please tell me you’re laughing at something other than my pain."
"I’m laughing because this is you. You’re the worry wart. You are not selfish. There’s no way that you could be. You are humble and you appreciate the little things." He pulled me back some and looked at me. "Just because you are feeling this way doesn’t mean that’s how you are. Of course you have your flaws, but in all actuality, who doesn’t." He smiled at me. "You’re the kindhearted and gentle person that I’ve ever met and I don’t ever want you to forget that." I smiled as he kissed my forehead. He looked me in my eyes. "Now go get washed up and I’ll take you to that diner down the road that you like so much."
"Okay," I said smiling.
I turned towards my bathroom and started making my way in just as he walked towards the door. He turned slightly and added, "And brush your teeth twice because your breath is baddddddd."
It took me twenty minutes to get ready. I had scrubbed the taste out of my mouth just to get rid of the foul taste that was leftover from the throw up, which Eric explained to me. I threw on some clothes and then made my way downstairs. Eric had patiently waited for me to get done. He smiled at me and then, like a child, raced me to the car and we drove off towards the little diner at the edge of our town.
We hopped out the car and I took in a deep breath of the whole area. It was at the edge of our town, closer to the lake that we always visited as kids during earlier summers. I had fallen in love with it when my father took me here to eat some shrimp right after we had an off day at the beach. This had always been my go to place. And believe it or not this was the same place that I met James for the first time.
He had approached me the day after I turned twelve. He was a year older and I was intimidated. He told me that he loved the way my hair looked right after I got done swimming and I laughed and told him that he was stupid. He frowned some and I looked at him, not realizing that he was serious and I couldn’t help but frown at my stupidity.
"Briana?" I looked at Eric and he had a concerned look plastered against his face. "Are you okay?"
I nodded. "Yeah. Just reminiscing on old times." He smiled and urged me forward so we walked into the diner. It was exactly the same as it had been a million years ago when we came in. It was self-seating as well so we just took a seat near the edge where we could see the docks out of the long wide windows.
"Nothing has changed," Eric said as he took a menu from the menu holder. I followed in suit and looked over it. "Fish and chips for me. I don’t think that I could come here and not eat that."
"Why am I not surprised?" I asked looking over my menu at him. He smiled.
"Can I take your drink orders?" There was a lady with a pad in her hand and a bright red smile on her lips. She looked to be about my mother's age and she had an obvious mole right above her left eye. Her name tag read Greta.
"I’ll have a Coors light." I looked at Eric and then at Greta as she wrote down his drink order without checking his ID. She looked at me.
"Same for you sweetheart?"
"No thanks," I said as I stared at Eric and he threw me a smile. I looked back at Greta. "I’ll just have a strawberry lemonade." She smiled, wrote it down and then walked away. I looked at Eric and he was cracking up. "Coors Light?"
"It’s not like I’m not 21."
"She didn’t even check your ID," I 'said clasping my hands together.
"She never does. Hasn’t checked mine for three years." I raised my eyebrows and slapped his shoulder as he laughed at me. "C’mon. Dad let me get away with it!’
"Mom must have never known this huh?"
"’What mom doesn’t know won’t hurt her.’’ I raised an eyebrow. "Hey, those were dad's words not mine. Stop looking at me.
"The usual I presume?"
We both looked up and I smiled from ear to ear. "Ernie!" I stood up and hugged the owner of the restaurant. He hugged me back. "I can’t believe that you’re still here!"
I leaned back and he smiled. "I didn’t think that I would see you here after all these years." He looked at Eric who had also stood up. "Don’t be shy Eric!" He hugged Eric tight and they both leaned back. "I suspected that you all wouldn’t come back here after all these years."
We both sat back down in our seats and I couldn’t stop smiling. Ernie owned this little fish shack/diner and he had seen us come in every single day of every single summer. He got acquainted with our whole family and soon fell in love with us like we did him. We gave him the most and best business since we hardly ever went to our house to eat. He was an old man as well. He was graying all over, but continued to hold down the fort.
"We had to come down to the best place where they serve fish!" Eric said gleefully. "There’s no way we could go anywhere and get the same good quality of fish that we would get here where it’s caught fresh!"
"There was a reason that I always liked you Eric," Ernie said and we laughed. "So can I get you your usual?"
"Only if you can remember what they are," I said closing my menu. Eric nodded, saluted and then walked in the opposite direction towards the kitchen.
Greta approached us with our drinks, sat them down and walked away quietly. Eric grabbed his bottle, drank, and then sat it down. "You’re missing out baby sister."
"Exactly," I said. "Baby sister. As in I’m 4 years away from being legal. As in I might just be missing out or I might just be waiting until I turn the right age."
"Touché spider monkey." He tipped his beer at me and saluted.
I smiled and then frowned and then the mood seemed to change into something that I couldn’t figure out. I looked at Eric and I think he sensed it too. "What’s going on Eric?"
"Why don’t you tell me first?" He replied. He clenched his jaw.
"I told you this morning what I think is going on with me-"
"No," he said. "You told me the meaning of your panic attack." I clenched my cup. "You haven’t told me anything since. You haven’t told me what actually happened between you and Ian and Kaleb and why it happened or why you haven’t had a web show up in a while or if you still think about James and what actually really happened there."
"Because none of it matters Eric," I muttered. "It seems like all the attention is centered on me and I cannot help but feel like everyone has their eye on me waiting for me to slip and I don’t think I can handle all the pressure."
"’Briana, you are not perfect. No one is." His eyes bore into mine. "We all know the depth of your struggles. No one is watching you slip. You’re over thinking that. You are who you are and you can’t change just because you have scars that cut deep. No one can. Your anxiety is not your setback and don’t make it be."
I sighed and leaned back into my chair. I tapped some and thought more about what he said and let it sink in. I looked at him and he was staring at me. "I’m sorry I didn’t tell you about everything. I know it’s like I kept it secret from you, but I didn’t. I just didn’t want to disappoint you." He opened his mouth to speak, but I continued over him. "You’ve always been my biggest fan with anything I did. You supported me and you always saw the best in me when no one else did. I just didn’t want to disappoint you in any form or fashion."
"Darling," he said grabbing my hands and squeezing them. "When people are fans of celebrities, they love them no matter what their flaws. They see past them. You are my celebrity and also my little sister so I’ll look past your flaws no matter what the situation is. You should always know this."
I smiled and squeezed his hands back. "I know." I sighed and looked down. "To answer your question, I do think about James a lot." I felt Eric’s hands tense up and he slowly pulled them back.
I looked up and pulled my hands back. "I’ve just been thinking about everything and replaying it in my head." I shook my head and shrugged. "I was 12 and of course it seemed ridiculous that I would know about love or even be in it, but what was it? He kissed me a lot. You know like those little kid pecks on the lips?" Eric laughed and nodded. "And I thought I was in love you know? I thought this whole time I was in love with him."
"It was your friendship set on fire. You had never experienced anything like it before." He picked up his beer and took a sip just as Ernie walked over with two steaming plates both with fish and chips and mine sprinkled with shrimp.
"Just the way I made ‘em years ago," he said smiling. "Bon appetite." And he walked off to deal with other customers.
I looked at Eric and he had already dug into his food. I smiled and ate too. "Is that also why you didn’t talk to me about the whole Ian and Kaleb situation because of the whole disappointment thing?"
"Part of it," I said eating a shrimp.
"And the other part?" I didn’t respond so he looked up at me from his fish. "Briana?" I just shrugged and kept eating. He raised an eyebrow and put his utensils down. "Briana, are you afraid of being in love?"
My hands were shaking as I sat my utensils down. I looked at him. "Yeah."
"That’s why you won’t give Kaleb or Ian a specific answer. You love them both, but at arm’s length as if you all were just a really good friends and not in any way than that." He sighed and shook his head.
"Doesn’t it sound ridiculous?" I whispered. "I’m in depression because of a guy I had a crush on and I can’t be in love with anyone because of the same reason."
"It isn’t ridiculous. Everyone is flawed." I looked away. "But Briana, you’re in love with Kaleb, aren’t you?" I sighed and looked in Eric’s eyes giving him the: you think look. "But what about Ian?"
I clasped my hands together and sighed. "He will forever be my best friend and I love him as if he were a brother to me, but that is just about it. I can’t see myself pursuing a relationship with him. That would be like me pursuing a relationship with you or Liam." Eric shivered and I smiled. "Plus, he’s dating someone."
"Is he?" Ian said clasping his hands together, placing his elbows on the table and leaning his head on his hands. "Are you jealous?"
I looked up in thought about that question. Was I jealous? I looked back at Eric. "Surprisingly I’m not. I’m just not happy about his dating choice. Still his best friend, I can say these things, but no. I’m not jealous."
"So what is holding you back from Kaleb? You can’t keep leading him on like this you know."
"I know," I said sighing. "I just am afraid of the hurt possibility you know?" I shrugged. "I know he won’t hurt me and all, but I just can’t get over James."
"You have to try. I know it sounds silly and stuff and you might not want to, but you have to break out of your comfort zone and give Kaleb the go that you can date now or whatever you had in mind." He smiled.
"You know what?" I nodded. "You’re right. I can’t keep playing these games with him."
"Exactly!" He said. "If only James were here to settle this matter."
"Yeah, right," I said laughing.
We spent the rest of the afternoon just laughing and joking around and talking about the memories of when we were younger. How Liam was always too scared to go into the water because of his "perfectly-sculpted hair" or how Lucas had always tried hitting on Liz when we were younger with cheesy pick-up lines that he would get off Google. I couldn’t stop laughing. When the check came, it had somehow mysteriously been paid for. Eric left a tip and we stood to leave.
"Just let me hit the bathroom before we go." Eric nodded.
"I’ll be waiting by the car!"
I nodded and walked towards the bathroom. The bathroom was right next to the men’s restroom and when I would so casually swing the women’s door open, it would hit the men’s door or it would hit any man that came out. I had to be careful.
Once I was don’t doing my business, I sighed and looked at myself in the mirror. I looked much more mature and much more different than I thought I ever looked. I had so much confidence from this conversation with Eric. He always knew how to put a smile on my face no matter what. He was my biggest fan.
I walked towards the door and pushed it open. "OW!" Oh shit.
I looked behind the door and saw a man holding his face from where my door had apparently hit him at. "I am so sorry." I walked over to him and he held up his hand.
"It’s okay. I’ve been here before. It isn’t the first time that it has happened to me." He chuckled some and removed his hand from his face and that’s when I took a few steps back. The smile on his face faded and he noticed exactly what I noticed. "Briana?"
My cheeks burned and so did my heart. "James?"