She had everything set.
Her clothes were laid out, she had decided on make-up colors, her hair tie was sitting on the bathroom sink, her alarm was set. She was completely squeaky clean and her nails weren't gnawed-on nubs for once.
She had a date, and just needed to not freak out beforehand. The person was nice; they'd been nothing but endearing when they first met, and now she wanted to make sure everything was perfect so she didn't screw this up. There was only a month left before she left for summer break, but she needed a whirlwind to get her out of this funk anyways.
She was prepared for one date. What she wasn't prepared for was patience and sitting under a tree and the odd excited comfort that came with cuddle-groping and a discussion that flowed from cartoons to politics as easily as her conversations with the people she'd known for months now. She didn't plan on an exponential rate of experience or finding someone who she didn't feel she had to change for.
She wasn't prepared for such an intense longing that absorbed her emotions while she was away for three months, for a sensation that she thought she could only feel for the people she'd known most of a semester at least, for actually imagining herself in certain situations instead of just random characters.
Knowledge was how she would get through the world. She always knew that.
She would spend hours reading whatever she could find- books, magazines, pages on the internet, anything. Her dad- or were they her brother's?- kept a stack of Maxims on the bottom shelf in the bathroom. She would pick those up and read the articles and interviews, wishing there were fewer image spreads.
She knew how people were supposed to work. She knew facts and stories and how to pick apart details.
What she didn't know was herself. She retreated further into her books, into the tales that allowed her to escape, and forgot herself, forgot the very existence of the facts that caused her confusion.
When she finally found community, she was able to start taking a few steps through the maze she'd made for herself. Moment by moment, she kept reading, kept gaining more information. The people she knew posted articles and different politics and she devoured those like she had everything else.
On the way she came across real stories, the truths that the fictions always hid, and found out how people actually worked instead of just how they meant to. She found the terms she'd always needed, and began to categorize each turn she took.
It was a slow route, and there were days she made no progress, where she was so tired that she covered her ears and closed her eyes and didn't want to exist so that the confusion and false paths would go away. Other days she leaped ahead, covering what felt like miles in instants.
Finally, she reached the end of the maze, and met herself.
TW: Health issues, internalized ultra-concern for caretakers
She could not be sick.
Even if she had emotional issues. Even if she was constantly stressed out and she knew that stress was not good for physical health. Even if her brother had issues that were essentially latent Fetal Alcohol Syndome and even if she was unsure if their mother had been doing the same things. Even if diabetes and various cancers ran through her family.
Even though she'd had ghost cramps weeks before her period and her stomach was constantly in knots. That could just be a side effect of the stress, not from being sick. She just had to make it through this month, then finals, and then through the summer, and then college. Then she could be sick.
For now, she couldn't be sick. She couldn't lose a week of classes from a hospital-level fever. She couldn't create more costs on her parents. She had to keep all of her stresses bottled up and ignore them. She had to not do anything risky, be paranoid and then feel guilty when she slipped up so that she would be more so next time, had to stay in a set area and not venture outside of it.
She couldn't see a doctor because a doctor would see what was wrong and make her get medicine, a continuing cost. She couldn't admit she had issues because therapists were a continuing cost and her issues could not be solved without years of work. She couldn't give herself the cost of her parents shaking their heads with worry and people not-quite-subtly-enough blaming it on her father even though he had done the best he could after a mistake. She couldn't jeopardize her schooling or her environment.
She would not be sick.
She stood atop the cliff, looking down at the waves crashing below her.
It would be so quick, wouldn't it? A few different books she'd read had said you passed out after so long of falling. This was high enough she'd reach that point before her body could crumple on the rocks, or smash against the water.
It would be less messy than cutting open her own body, and less nerve-wracking than stepping in front of a train. Her corpse would disappear as well, and no one would be able to tell if she'd just fallen or jumped. That would be one less pain on her family, if they wouldn't know that she'd been at this point.
She inched forward, her toes over empty air. She just needed to be gone from this. Gone from the judging and the hate and the worry.
She was about to take that step when the clouds overhead rumbled with thunder, and the space in front of her flashed with lightning, and a gust of wind hit against her. She stumbled back, landing on her ass. She barely had time to get to her feet before the downpour started, and the wind lashed the rain inland, against her, as if trying to push her back.
Too startled to do anything else, she turned around and walked back up the path towards town.
This was the third time this had happened. Maybe she should find a different cliff.
Don't do that.
Your hair is better this way.
Don't eat that.
Tell the truth.
Don't tell anyone.
Live for others.
Be like this.
Think about it.
Just do it.
Have an adventure!
Have your scars.
Let them fester.
Find someone else.