"Julia. Julia, let's go. We don't have all day."
Mom waves me over from the front door. Though, reluctant, I force myself to my feet, moving away from Logan on the couch and toward her. My pink and purple My Little Pony backpack weighs me down, causing me to drag my feet across the floor.
Logan, who has been throwing up at twenty minute intervals for the past two hours, stays curled up on the soft brown couch in our living room. A small white trash can sits on the ground next to her, making for easy access. I feel bad seeing her feeble, pale body laying there, though at the same time I'm jealous. Why can't I just skip a day of school once in awhile?
Mom takes my hand once we get outside, guiding me through the giant heaps of snow to our already-warm car. Even though it's February, winter has refused to go away yet and there's ice and snow all over the streets, roofs, sidewalks, and lawns around us. A cold wind smacks me right in the face, leaving my nose with a strange tingling sensation, as if I have to sneeze but can't quite get it out. With me slipping and sliding all over the place, it's a miracle that Mom manages to get me into the car safe and sound.
"Buckle in," she tells me, before shutting the door and heading around to the driver's seat in the front. I fight with the seat belt for a moment to get it clicked in the buckle, taking me longer than it should with my furry mittens getting in the way. Mom is checking behind her to see if she can back out when Dad comes running out of the house, mug in hand. All he has on is a pair of black and blue plaid pajama pants, a white shirt, and slippers on over his socks. I wonder how that's even possible without freezing to death.
Dad works his way over to the door and opens it up, smiling brightly. His teeth are as white as the snow on the ground. "I made you this before you go. And don't forget that I'm picking you up after school today."
I gladly accept the orange and black mug from him, the hot chocolate inside warming my hands and smelling delightful. He put five miniature marshmallows in in, like he always does. He tells us that it's the perfect amount; not too many and not too few.
"Thank you!" I squeak, barely containing my excitement for a simple liquid.
"You're welcome," he says, smiling down at me. His bright blue eyes crinkle at the corners, leaving crow's feet even after he's stopped smiling. "Drive safe, Holland," he warns, though he doesn't look worried about it. "I love you."
Mom smiles for the first time since she's woken up today and repeats it back. With the hurry she's been in all morning, I think hot chocolate and love was probably the last thing on her mind.
"I love you, too, Juliana," he adds, kissing me on the cheek. He backs away and shuts the door before I can say it back, though we wave at each other through the foggy window. Mom pulls out of the driveway, leaving me watching Dad as he goes back toward our house for as long as the window allows me.
I take a long sip of my hot chocolate, wanting to savor it but not lasting very long. It's gone within a few minutes and I set the mug on the floor, wishing I had more.
"Yes?" She glances at me through the rearview.
"Why can't I stay home? Just this once?"
"Because you have to go to school. You gotta learn things and get smart like me."
"You're not smart," I giggle.
She shoots me a quick look. "You take that back," she says, though I can see her smiling.
I giggle some more and take a look out my window, which is difficult because it's gotten even more fogged up than before. There’s a flash of light, and it takes me a minute to realize that those lights are coming toward us. I squint at them for what feels like a long time, though it’s probably only a second, and it hits me that those are headlights.
The impact knocks the breath out of me. All I hear is screaming--both Mom's and my own--as I'm tossed around the car. Glass cuts through my jacket and into my arms and chest, as well as on my face and neck too. My head bangs against the door several times, and the last thing I feel before I black out is something sharp jabbing into my spine right at the small of my back. A blood-curdling scream escapes me before everything stops.
I wake up in a cold sweat in my bed, trembling and out of breath. It's been awhile since I've dreamed about the accident, but I guess my paralysis has been on my mind a lot here recently. It's been such a long time ago that many would assume I've forgotten it, or at least some of it, but I still remember the incident as clear as crystal.
I was only seven at the time, and I didn't learn until later what exactly happened, but it all came flooding back after that. Apparently, as Mom passed through an intersection, another driver’s brakes went out and they rammed into the side of our vehicle. I'm sure the ice on the roads didn't help anything either. Somehow, during the mess, a piece of metal ended up severing my spine and....that was it. Paralyzed for life.
Now that I've woken up from the dream, I'd rather not go back to sleep in case that it repeats itself. I drag myself off the side of the bed and into my wheelchair, a difficult but not impossible movement.
Wanting to draw my mind away from not only my paralyzed legs, but Dad as well, I set up a canvas for me to paint on and start working on it. The brush shakes along with my hand, and after a moment I just sigh and set the brush down so that I don't screw up the entire painting right at the beginning.
My eyes clench shut as I attempt to push away the image of Dad smiling at me and handing me that mug of hot chocolate. That wasn't the last memory I have of him, being that he didn't die until two years later, but I can't get it out of my mind right now for some reason.
Though I've been telling myself not to, my mind continues to wonder about what would've happened had I actually been bit by that man in the alleyway that day. From some of the various things I've read on werewolves, it seems possible that they heal from their wounds incredibly fast--inhumanly fast. Which leaves me wondering: how far will it go, if it exists? And, more importantly, could it heal me--heal my paralysis?
Stop, I tell myself, shaking my head. It's not worth it to get your hopes up. And you're fine without your legs. It's been years now--stop thinking about it. Remember: there's more to you than this wheelchair.
I wheel myself out of my room, making my way down the hall and into the kitchen. My breathing continues to sound ragged, probably because I'm thinking about Dad. Even though my paralysis doesn't bug me very often anymore, thoughts of Dad do, and they're stabbing me right now with their sharp swords.
I make myself a mug of hot chocolate a few minutes later, the microwave beeping loudly before I can get to it.
Now I've probably woken up Mom and Logan, or at least one of them, though I hope not.
Sighing, I pull out a bag of miniature marshmallows from a drawer and toss it onto the yellow and brown speckled countertop. Five of them drop into my hot chocolate a second later, slowly merging with the liquid as it melts. It creates a fusion of white and brown, like coffee when someone first drops creamer into it.
Logan stands behind me, her eyes droopy and her hair a mess like she just crawled out of bed. "What are you doing?"
I hold up my mug for her to see. "Hot chocolate. I couldn't sleep.
She stares at the hot liquid a bit longer than usual. "Five marshmallows, huh?"
I nod, my lips tightening in a short smile. "Five marshmallows."
We stand there, looking at each other with tired eyes in silence for a moment as I sip my drink. The flavor bursts with intensity, waking me up even more so I probably couldn't go back to sleep even if I wanted to. It tastes just like it did in my dream.
"Do you ever do that?" I ask, lowering my drink. "Dream about Dad, I mean."
Logan nods, rubbing her eyes. "Oh, yeah. And it sucks whenever I wake up and he's still gone."
I nod, biting my lip as I struggle to bite back tears as well. "Yeah," I whisper, barely able to get it out. "I wonder what he'd think of us now."
Logan flinches, her eyes filling with tears all of a sudden.
Was it what I said?
"Yeah, I–I wonder too," Logan says, looking down. Tears trail down her face in a solid stream, probably mirroring the ones on mine.
Is she crying because she's thinking of Dad, or is it something else?
I reach out and take her hand in mine, wishing I could just stand up and hug her instead. She grips it back, managing a small smile through the tears.
"Logan, can I ask you something?"
She nods. "Of course."
I swallow, working up the courage to get it all out. "Is there something going on with you? You've been....I don't know...distant here lately."
She releases my hand, pulling back a little. "No. Nothing's going on." Her fingers thrum against her leg and her eyes dart around the room, refusing to make contact with mine. Still lying.
"Well, if there is something going on, you know you can tell me, right?"
"Yeah," she says quietly, nodding.
"Good," I say. "And I'm telling you this because I care, okay? That's why I'm so overprotective sometimes and that's why I don't want you going to the cabin this weekend. I care."
She looks at me, the corner of her mouth curved upward in a slight smile. "When did we become such yuppies?"
I laugh, some of the tension fading away. "I don't think that's what yuppie means."
"Probably not, but you know what I mean," she says, sniffling and wiping her nose. "Anyway, I'm going back to my room now." She takes a few steps before stopping and looking at me. "You coming?"