Authors: Kirsty Dallas
Breeze of Life
Who I would never kiss, because that would just be weird…
This book is a work of fiction.
Names, characters, places and incidents are either a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual people living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
© 2013 Kirsty Dallas Wood
Caught in a Rip
Rip – a strong current that drags out to sea; a dangerous place for swimmers and surfers
I shivered as I pulled the quilt up around my ears, my body curved into a pillow at my side. At midday it was light outside but my room still held the darkness. With the curtains drawn, no light could touch me. November on the east coast of Australia meant it was summer, warm bordering on hot, but I was freezing. I just couldn’t shake off the chill that had invaded my body eight long months ago. I had lost so much weight I would no doubt be lighter than a wisp of air, but I felt heavy. My soul was no longer treading deep waters, it was drowning in it. I had eclipsed sadness months ago and now I existed in a deep well of nothing. The world I lived in now was silent, my guitar sat abandoned against the wall in the living room, I’d pushed all my friends away, there was nothing left but fear and disgust. With a long, drawn out, shuddering breath, I forced myself from my bed, I had to pee. It irritated me that my bodily functions kept me from existing in the comfortable cushions and blankets of my bed. The mirror had been covered with a sheet long ago to prevent my sullen reflection from staring back at me. I hated the girl who looked back at me from that mirror. It wasn’t me, it was an impostor. My eyes were darker somehow, my cheeks hollow, my full lips were cracked and dry, my body thin and spindly. Worst of all was the smooth bald scalp that ridiculed and taunted me, not to mention my non-existent eyebrows and eyelashes. The hair on my arms and legs was gone which at least saved on waxing but the bald look I now sported down below, well to me that just felt damn weird. Some women paid top dollar for that look, to me it just looked like cancer. The girl whose reflection used to consume that mirror had bright eyes that were a little bit blue and a little bit green. Her lips were usually glossed in a cherry flavored lip balm and her high cheeks accented with a quick dash of color. Her hair was long, thick and golden. That girl was gone.
When I went to the doctor eight months ago complaining of fatigue and an unusual lump in my neck, the last thing I expected to hear was cancer. Hodgkin’s Lymphoma which was thankfully discovered at an early stage. A rigorous combination of chemo and radiation therapy had racked my body, and nobody told me with my body I would also lose my soul. I have no idea where it went, I couldn’t even tell you when it went. One moment everything was fine then the next it felt like the world was crushing me. Eighty-seven percent of survivors live past the five year mark following treatment. I had been fairly healthy at the time of my diagnosis and they caught it early, so Dr. Kwan assured me the outlook was positive. My brain refused to receive that information. For some reason all I could focus on were the maybe’s and pessimistic facts. I knew I was depressed, I knew the pity party had stayed on much longer than it should have, but I couldn’t pull myself out of this funk. I was trapped.
As I washed my hands, I glanced at the shirt that lay over the washing basket in the corner of the bathroom and my chest ached with a whole new pain. It belonged to Harper, my best friend, the guy I had loved my entire life. I didn’t just love him, I was in love with him. Harper, his cousin Sean, and I had practically grown up together. The three of us had been inseparable up until Harper began surfing on the world tour. That part of Harper’s life was an enigma to me, it overwhelmed me and I had been content to remain quietly on the side lines. So now Sean was living in Sydney, Harper was on tour and I hadn’t whispered a word to either of them in eight long months. Harper would normally have come home by now. In fact, he would normally have come and gone a few times by now. His absence had made it easier for me to keep my secret and the few bland and boring emails I had sent him no doubt kept the illusion that all was well on the Gold Coast. Harper’s betrayal before he left in March had also made it easier for me to ignore him. I call it a betrayal, but there was really nothing for him to betray. There was no ‘us’. We were friends, plain and simple. Unfortunately, Harper had tried to make it more. After one drunken night, a slip of the ‘L’ word and earth-shattering kiss later, our relationship had been irrevocably changed. I didn’t want to be Harper’s drunken mistake, so I had pushed him away and straight into the arms of his ever reliable fuck buddy Naomi. Naomi, the only person I could ever admit true dislike for. She had tarnished two men for me now and I was beginning to think perhaps she was doing this to me for a reason. Maybe I killed her cat or something?
So, while Harper was partying and surfing his way around the world and Sean no doubt screwing most of Sydney, neither of them knew anything about the ugly girl who had invaded my body. George had been threatening to call Harper if I didn’t get up and leave the apartment soon and stubbornly I remained indoors. Poor George, who sacrificed so much for me, was the closest to a father I had ever had. My mother was a hippie, a hard-core pot smoking hippie—she lived in a commune in the middle of the desert for goodness sake. She had no idea who my father was, seemingly several men were a possibility, and I had decided all the men who lived in the ‘motherland’ were a bunch of sex craved perverts anyway. George was the perfect adopt-a-dad. He lived in the hall directly across from mine and Harper’s apartment. I vividly remembered the day we met George, he had been dressed in a ratty old t-shirt and boardies, his thinning hair a chaotic mess; he looked as though he had just got out of bed. He strode from his apartment as Harper and I exited the lift, our arms full of boxes. He walked straight up to me and took the box from my arms. “Howdy neighbor, let me help.” Harper and I stood a little shell-shocked, staring at George as he turned and walked through our open doorway like he owned the place. He then introduced himself and helped us bring the rest of our boxes and belongings up before cooking us dinner. The next morning he was knocking on our door with his arms full of everything required to make banana pancakes. We had all become friends instantly, and somehow he had settled with ease into the role of a father-figure. But even George, who loved me just like a father should, could not prevent the cancer from ravaging my body. What he could do for me though was take care of me, and that’s exactly what he had done. He began working from home; he did something with investments that I knew nothing about, but according to Harper, he was good at it. After selling my car to pay for my medical bills, George drove me to and from my appointments. He cooked for me and cleaned up the apartment when I was too tired to move from bed. George was my rock and I knew this shattering depression was destroying him too and I hated myself all the more for that. I was sure George would honor my wish not to call Harper. Even so, there was a small part of me that desperately needed my best friend and I guess I hoped George would see through on his threat. I pulled off my tracksuit and climbed into Harper’s shirt. It smelt like him and it gave me some likeness of peace to have it close to me. Dragging myself back to my bedroom, I instinctively pressed the play button on my iPod that sat docked with speakers on a large retro style desk, painted in a dusty shade of worn yellow. I loved my desk and right now it was buried under a sea of paper, bills and clothes. The clutter bothered me, I was a neat freak but right now I couldn’t gather the energy needed to divest my treasured desk of the mess. Avril Lavigne’s voice filled my room as I dived under the covers and pulled them up tightly around my ears. Her ballad,
Wish You Were Here,
entered through my ears, rolled around my mind and sent an ache to my heart so painful I thought it might finally break. I knew this song was a form of torture on my heavy soul, but the words were full of so much truth I couldn’t ignore them, I couldn’t not listen to them. With the song dragging me further away from happiness, I reached for the worn leather note pad stuffed like a dirty secret under my pillow. This book used to be full of love, happiness and heart. Now its pages were laced with darkness, sadness and death. This was where I emptied the thoughts clouding my mind, this was where I confessed the truth of my hurt and sorrow. With pen in hand I let the ache pour from me.
As the tears began to fall again, I closed the book trapping all the ugliness inside, stuffed it back under my pillow and sunk into the mattress. I forced my eyes shut trying desperately to trap the tears beneath my closed lids and allowed the soft music in the background to lull me into a place of detachment, sleep. In sleep, I was numb, completely oblivious to the disaster my world had fallen into. Sleep was where I wanted to live right now, so sleep I did.
I was pulled from a deep abyss, my consciousness clawing its way back into a world of light and consequently pain. I struggled against it, fought it, hating that world where my heart was lost to constant ache. Inevitably wakefulness won and my eyes fluttered open, then fell shut in heavy protest. Reality seeped into my thoughts and I realized that a soft light was coming from the lamp beside my bed. Had George snuck in while I slept in an attempt to rouse me? My eyes fluttered open once more and I was greeted with a vision that flooded my body with immediate comfort. I must have been dreaming again, an image of Harper sitting by my side. I had dreamt of him a lot lately. He looked good, though tired. His hair was a carefree mess, his eyes, so blue they battled the ocean for supremacy, looked tired and watchful. His face was a scruffy mess suggesting he hadn’t shaved in a few days and his full lips were turned down in an irritated scowl. My eyes gently caressed his body, it looked so strong—his wide shoulders sculpted by endless hours of surfing, his chest also wide, tapering off to a narrow waist and long powerful legs. He wore a shirt that displayed his strong, powerful arms covered in an array of tattoos that I yearned to reach out and run my fingers over. His legs clad in worn denim with a small rip in the knee. I sighed, of all the dreams this one was pretty damn good. I could even smell him, a subtle blend of surf wax, ocean and sand. He smelt clean and alive. My hand tentatively reached out to touch him. Why was I so reluctant to? Dreaming was safe. In my dreams I could love Harper the way I had always wanted to. His eyes watched my hand as it finally reached his arm and my finger traced the curve of his bicep, down to his elbow, along his arm and finally to his hand. I threaded my fingers in his reveling in the warmth and comfort it gave me when he squeezed my hand back with a soft sigh.
“You feel so real,” I whispered.
“Because I am real, baby, I came home as soon as I found out.” My brow furrowed in confusion. Was I dreaming? I sat up slowly and pulled my hand away. I missed the contact immediately.
“Harper?” He took possession of my hand again, taking it to his lips where he placed a lingering kiss to the back of my fingers. My breath caught and I could only gape, morbidly fascinated at the pain that seemed etched into his features.