by Eden Harriman '23
Ink is thrilled to start publishing our first serial novel, Candlelight, with the beginning of its first chapter, by Sophomore Eden Harriman. Her writing will be published as a chapter each month, and readers can follow through the book on this website!
I loved riding my bike down the busy streets. All of the buildings and people seemed to blur into one, beautiful mess as I zoomed down the sidewalk. The beige of walls, the purples and lilacs of flowers in pots, the light blue of the sky. They all mixed harmoniously as my bike pedals spun out of my control. I let my feet fly, the air rushing over my body. It was exhilarating. These rides were the only times that I truly felt alive anymore, and I cherished every second of them. If only the sun would come out just a little more...
I skid to a stop in front of a tall, white building in the middle of downtown. I had almost flown right past my destination. Lavender lilacs sat royally outside the sliding glass doors that made the entrance to the building. As I looked up, I could see the hundreds of windows that neatly lined the building up to the roof, giving a sense that everyone inside was watching you. I shivered at the thought.
“I hate hospitals.” I mumbled, quietly enough that no one could hear.
Slowly, I leaned my bike against the rusty bike rack to the left of the flowers. They were so beautiful. The velvet petals glistened in the sun, the dew drops from a recent rainstorm decorating every little crevasse. I wanted to pick one to take with me, but I knew that that wasn’t allowed. Still, a flower is the standard “nice gift” to give to the sick. Moving my body in front of the bushel enough so that no one in the hospital could see them, I quickly plucked a flower from the group.
I shuffled as innocently as I could through the front doors and into the lobby. My breath hitched as I looked around. The bright, white walls matched the outside of the building, and everywhere else to be exact. Everything seemed to be either a lighter or darker version of the same white. It was disturbing. I made my way to the check-in desk, avoiding as many eyes as I could. The man at the front looked up from his papers and gave me a well-practiced smile. He knew why I was here, why I always came here every week after school. I moved the flower halfway behind my side, blocking his view of it.
“Hi Andy. How are you doing?” Dave asked me. I was such a frequent visitor here that I was on a first-name basis with the desk nurse. How pathetic is that?
“Fine,” I shrugged. “You?”
“Good, good.” That’s what he always said. Not just to me, but to everyone. As a nurse, he couldn’t show his true emotions. He had to put on a smile and convince all of the depressed people that everything was fine. If he didn’t, well...
“Is he... how’s my dad doing?” I gulped. I dreaded this question. I never wanted to come here, because I knew that every time I did, I would have to ask. My stomach dropped to the floor, my anxiety rising up as the silence stretched on. I wanted to puke and scream. But I knew I
couldn’t. I had to be strong. I had to have hope. Because if I didn’t, if I stopped believing in his recovery, then my dad might too.
“He’s the same as he was last week. Stable, yet unresponsive.” I sighed, the tension in me snapping like a rubber band. He was okay, I thought. Well, as okay as a comatose patient could be, but still. It’s better news than I’m always expecting.
“Would you like me to take you to him?” Dave asked.
“No,” I answered. “I know where he is.” Dave gave me his usual pity smile, which I hated. You don’t need to remind me of my problems, Dave. Jesus. I turned away, a small scowl escaping my lips. I marched down the hall to my left. I wanted to leave. I didn’t want to be here anymore. I was done with Dave, this hospital, my dad’s state, everything. I missed being normal. I missed not having to visit my dad in a hospital every week, praying that he would wake up, but knowing better. I missed not being judged by my “friends” at school for having the sick parent. I missed having dinners with my parents, who would laugh at each other’s jokes.
God, I missed that the most. My dad’s laugh sounded like someone turned the bass up on a huge speaker. It would rock you to the core, but make you feel so alive. I used to try and make him laugh as much as possible when I was younger so that I could feel the vibrations run through me.
I snapped out of my funk once I got to the door. My feet seemed glued to the floor as I debated whether or not to go in. No matter how many times I did this, it never got any easier seeing him the way he was. The way he had become. I was about to reach for the doorknob when the door flung open. I flinched, surprised. A girl around my age walked out in full nurse uniform. She wasn’t one of the normal nurses. There were always two different nurses, much older than she was. They never changed. Never. I swallowed hard. I didn’t want to know what this could mean.
“Hi.” She said awkwardly. I realized that I had been blankly staring at her for the past minute. I blinked a few times and looked away, a small blush creeping up my face.
“Sorry. Hi. Um, what are you doing here..?” She gave a look, as if to say what do you think?
“Eden. My name is Eden, and I’m a nurse-in-training. I work here.” She said slowly, like she thought I didn’t understand. I scowled internally.
“Oh okay. Sorry, it’s just that you’re not one of the usual nurses.”
“Oh,” She said, surprised. She must not have thought that I paid attention to that stuff. “Well, I got asked to come here and do the daily check instead of them. To practice my skills in the real world.”
“Okay.” I didn’t really believe her. She seemed nice enough, but something was off. Maybe she was just nervous about messing up on the job. My eyes flickered to the door, which had floated back until only a sliver of the light inside was visible. She noticed my change in focus, following my eyes. Once she realized what I was looking at, she turned back to me.
“Do you want to go in?”
“Uh, ya... My dad’s in there.” Her mouth made an ‘O’ shape, and I wanted to scream. I hated people’s pity faces. Yet, her’s wasn’t all pity. It was mostly surprise and realization, which made me feel a little better.
“Oh sorry. I... I didn’t know. Go ahead.” She quickly shuffled out of the way, all the while looking down in embarrassment. I smirked at her. She was kind of awkward, but in a funny way. Before I went into the room, I turned around to tell her that it was okay, but she was already walking away. I got the urge to yell goodbye. I didn’t want our talk to end so awkwardly, even though it had been awkward to begin with. Before I could overthink, I blurted out her name.
“Eden!” She, along with two other people who had been close enough to catch my call, turned to face me. They all looked very confused, though the two passersby looked more annoyed. My face felt like fire.
“My name’s Andy, by the way. Have a good day!” I said after a moment. I didn’t want to say goodbye; it felt too simple after screaming at Eden across the hallway to get her attention. Yet ‘have a good day’ felt stupid the second it left my mouth. She seemed to think it was stupid too, because she turned and smirked at me. No, smiled at me.
“Thanks. You too!” She waved before flipping around to continue walking, her hazel hair flowing behind her majestically. My face was so hot that I felt like I had put myself inside a furnace. One of the passersby shook her head slightly as I slammed the door behind me. My body felt numb and heavy at the same time, like if someone were to open the door now, I would fall to the floor and stay there. My brain was static, my thoughts broken radio waves coming in and out of focus. What the hell is wrong with me?
A quiet beeping was trying to push its way into my ears, but my head was too out-of-touch to acknowledge it. It started to get louder and louder, until I couldn’t ignore it any longer. My eyes began to flicker around trying to find its source while my lips curled into a slight scowl. This beeping was really starting to annoy me. Eventually I found its source, and reality came crashing back. My brain reset, reminding me why I was even here in the first place.