'Ellie, I'm afraid I have some bad news.' My Aunt Lisa sat before me which I found completely unnerving. I hadn't heard from much less seen my Aunt Lisa in just under ten years and it was strange having her sit so close to me.
Her eyes were blue, like mine, but hers were much paler, almost cold. Tendrils of dirty blonde hair hung past her face in messy curls, some streaked with grey. She had a stern face, very sombre and I remembered I used to be afraid of her when I was a little girl. So now here I was sat facing her, completely bewildered and a little frightened whilst she spoke in a soft voice.
'There, was an accident.'
'An accident?' I didn't like the sound of where this was going.
She took my hands in hers and I felt a ridiculous impulse to rip them away. Why couldn't she just tell me already?
'Your mother, Tania, she's...' her voice cracked and my heart dropped.
'Aunt Lisa, what's happened?'
'She was involved in a car accident. She...didn't make it Ellie. I'm so sorry, sweetie. She died.'
In those next few moments everything came to an excruciating halt. My heart felt like it wasn't beating, just an ominous object within my chest. My lungs refused to work properly, my breathing was coming in short, sharp bursts. I tore my hands away from Aunt Lisa and stared at her.
'You're lying,' I whispered.
Her eyes began to well up and I knew she was telling the truth. My own mother. Dead. I was waiting for the tidal wave of grief to hit me, to render me speechless, but nothing happened. I just felt numb, like I was in a slow-motion nightmare and I would awake at any moment. I had to.
My voice became detached, emotionless as I rose to my feet.
'I have to do something.'
'Just leave me alone.'
I let my feet guide me out the front door and into my car where I sat for several minutes, staring out the windshield. Why wasn't I crying?
My thoughts flashed back to when I was roughly five years old and my dad had just left. I remembered coming down the stairs to find my mother in tears. I didn't understand though, I was much too young. I just knew my mummy was crying and I didn't like it. So I wrapped my little arms around her, nestled my face into her neck and told her I loved her.
'It's just you and me now, Ellie-bear.' My mother whispered back. Ellie-bear was the name my parents loved to call me.
'Where's daddy?' I asked in that childlike inquisitive voice of mine.
'Just me and you now, sweetie. I'll promise to take care of you. I promise. I'll never let you down.'
I jerked back to the present with a sharp snap. My Aunt Lisa was stood beside the car, trying to open the door. How long had she been stood there? When had I locked the doors? What was happening?
'This isn't real,' I muttered. 'I don't belong here.'
I revved the engine and tore out of the driveway with only one place in mind: the hospital.
It wasn't hard finding Alex once I was there. She was surrounded by all the people who loved her. Nessie. Luke. Pippa. Logan. Even Eric. Where were her parents? All of their heads turned in my direction as I entered the room.
'Ellie, what's wrong? You look like you've been crying,' Nessie noted.
I brought my fingers to my cheek and they came away wet. Strange. When had the tears fallen? Had I even felt them?
'I have to leave,' I replied, my voice monotonous.
'Leave?' Logan repeated.
'Yes.' I simply nodded. 'I just came to say one thing. I'm so sorry for all the pain that I've caused each and every one of you. I never meant for that to happen. You've all been amazing and I just wish there was another way. Alex is very lucky to have you all.'
I parted my way through the barrier of Alex's friends and stared down at her motionless figure. She looked so peaceful. Her bright red hair spread out on the pillow around her head and tumbled down her shoulders. Her chest rose and fell slightly with each breath that she took. The skin around her closed eyes was tainted a faint purple colour.
I bent down and hugged her body, whispered in her ear, 'I'm sorry Alex. Love you.' and turned around, leaving the room. Leaving them all behind.
'Ellie!' Logan's voice called after me. I ignored it and continued walking. Through the doors. Along the hallway. Up the stairs. The stairs that led to the hospital roof.
'I'm coming,' I whispered into the sky. My life had taken a dramatic turn for the worse, but I knew what I had to do. I knew what to do in order to be happy. In order for things to work. Standing on the edge, I spread my arms beside me and inhaled the fresh air. I closed my eyes and smiled.
'It's going to be okay.'
I leaned forward and fell.
'Elizabeth,' someone's gentle voice stirred me from my slumber. I awoke with a start to find Matt staring down at me.
'What happened?' I mumbled, dazed.
'You were talking in your sleep,' he chuckled.
'I was?' I smiled. 'What was I saying?'
'You said, "it's going to be okay" and then you flinched.'
'Strange,' I grinned.
'Yes you are,' he laughed. 'But that's why I love you.' He pulled me closer into his arms and I sighed in contentment.
Things were going to be fine.