Buffy sat in her chair, her arms wrapped around her knees. It was a pose she used often. She had gotten home by her midnight curfew which seemed like hours ago now. Her parents would worry if they knew she had not slept. It was one of the things she had done a lot of before she was sent away to get better. She would have to be sure and slide into bed around dawn. Until then she stared out the window. Was she well now? Or had she been then?
She imbedded her fingers into her upper arms, drawing crescent shaped droplets of blood as she rocked on the chair. She felt the pain and tried to ignore that the nail marks would be gone by the time her mother came to check on her in the morning. "Not real," she murmured as she thought on her fast healing abilities. "This is real," she whispered.
She did not know anymore and it scared her. Doctor Stolmgren had been happy with her progress. He had told her at discharge that she was one of his most trying yet rewarding patients. He believed he had pulled her from a darkness that was a never-ending abyss for Buffy. She had wanted to believe that was the case, too.
She stood from the chair and walked to her bathroom. She took one of her pills and clutched the porcelain sink. The pills were supposed to keep her well. They apparently were not working, though, if she had been home for less than a month and was beginning to doubt what was real already.
She turned to the window and pushed the curtains aside. She felt him. His name was Angel, but if what she suspected was true he was far from actually being one. She had a hard time understanding why he would want to encourage her to go back to that way of thinking. She was not going to even think the word that she associated with him. She could not afford to.
She rested her forehead against the window pain. "Please work soon," she whispered to the pill she had just taken. In the hospital she had been on twenty or so different meds over the course of the year. Doctor Stolmgren carefully monitored her reaction to each and worked out a regiment perfectly tailored to her problems. Now she was down to two.
She sensed him. He was out there somewhere not too far away. Was that normal? She could not sense when anyone else was around, but she could with him. With that sense came the need to hunt him and drive a stake through his heart, to kill him. She shook her head, knowing she was leaving a smeary mark on the window and tears formed in her eyes. It was starting again. She was going to end up in the hospital and she was not sure she would get out this time. "Please work," she pleaded.
Realizing she could not stand in her bathroom all night crying Buffy sighed heavily and walked to the main portion of her bedroom and flipped the bedside lamp off. She was not tired, but her mom was prone to waking up in the middle of the night to check on Buffy. If she came in with the lights off Buffy could say she was going to the bathroom.
The urge to hunt had been curbed for a long time now, months. When she had first been admitted the only thing that stopped her from going out to perform her duty were the steel bars on the windows. The nurses wondered a time or two if the bars would hold under the brute force Buffy put on them time and time again.
The combination of medications Doctor Stolmgren put her on made those urges go away eventually. Once he had gotten them right she stopped feeling the need to slay vampires. When the urges stopped her doctor worked on getting her to realize she had been having hallucinations. Eventually, she believed it was all one big hallucination.
She walked to the window and looked out. She should have screamed at the sight of him. What person stood in the middle of someone's yard at this time of night? But for some reason the sight of Angel standing there was not scary.
She could only open her window a crack thanks to the adjustments her parents made before she came home. They would have no more of her ‘sneaking out and being gone all hours of the night.'
"Hi," she whispered, offering him a smile. She should not encourage him, but she was glad to see him. She did not want to be, but something about him made her feel at ease. She did not feel that way with her parents or her friends.
"You don't seem surprised to see me here."
"Why should I be?"
"You don't really know me."
"You don't really know me either."
He seemed to think on that one. She wished she knew what he was thinking. "I know more than you think."
"Is that right?"
"Some of it I don't understand," he said with a scowl. "But I'm here to help you."
"Who are you that you're here to help me?"
"I don't think you're ready to hear the truth yet."
"I'm not ready to admit the past year or so of my life was wasted."
"Thanks," she whispered.
"Can we talk?"
"I thought we were." He grimaced and she could not help but laugh. "What's so funny?"
"You. You look so pathetic."
"That's very endearing."
"What did that have to do with deer?"
She shook her head, realizing she had obviously misheard him. "Never mind."
"Can you get out back?"
She looked over her shoulder at the alarm clock by her bed. She did not have school tomorrow so her mother would probably let her sleep in, assuming Buffy could sleep. She did have a third prescription bottle in her medicine cabinet, sleeping pills. Buffy did not like taking them, though, because she slept too soundly and had weird dreams. She never remembered the dreams, only the feeling that they were weird.
"I can't leave."
"I wasn't asking you to go anywhere with me, just out back where we can sit and talk without bushes and a window separating us."
"Maybe I like the window separating us."
"I don't know," she said, biting her lower lip. "I should, I shouldn't want you near me."
"Why not?" he asked, walking toward her window. He was getting closer to her and that scared her.
She did not want him close. She did not want him to see she had been crying. She was scared and thought she was on the brink of having a breakdown. She shook her head severely. "No, you're not doing this to me."
"What am I doing?"
"You're making me want to throw those pills away and follow you."
She heard a low growl coming from his direction and looked around for a dog before realizing without a doubt that it was coming from him. "You're on medications?"
"Yes, depression, hallucinations, lack of sleep. You know the drill."
"You aren't crazy."
"You're not me. You don't even know me and I get the feeling you're not a doctor."
"I'm not but I know you're not crazy. Would you just let me talk to you?"
"No because if I do you're going to try and convince me to leave with you."
"Now why would I do that?"
"I don't know."
"You do, too."
She placed a hand on the window's glass, the desire to touch him strong. She sensed somehow that he was the only real thing in her world. Everything else around her was make-believe, fake. "I don't, you can't do this to me."
"I just want the chance to show you."
"Show me what," she whispered. She did not want to hear his answer, it would be her undoing but she had to hear it even if it meant the last year of her life had been wasted.
"I don't," she said, fresh tears falling. She could not tell him to go away and she did not want to walk away. All she had to do was close the window and draw the curtains closed and she would be rid of him. For tonight. He would be back. "Why? Why are you doing this to me?"
"It's your destiny, Buffy."
"That does it," she said, drawing her hand away from the window. "Please go."
"No, please go. I can't do this. You can't come in here and tell me that I'm not crazy."
"You're not crazy, Buffy."
"No, I don't believe you. None of it is real."
"None of what?"
"Shut up," she pleaded. "You know what I'm talking about."
"Do I what? Of course I do, I lived it."
"That hell called hallucinations. The things that nightmares are made of, I dreamt they were real."
"That's because they are. You can't hide forever, Buffy."
"You're hiding from your calling. You're turning your back on it and the world is going to go to hell because of it."
"It's the truth."
"There is no truth to it. I'm just a girl, Angel, just a girl."
"Come out back with me."
"No," she whispered. "I can't."
"Sooner or later you'll have to, you won't be able to control the urge to hunt, to kill."
"I am not a killer."
"Don't say it," she quickly interrupted. "I'm just a girl."
"If you say so, Buffy."
"I do say so," she whispered. She was going to the bathroom and taking one of those sleeping pills as soon as he was gone. She would not be able to sleep without a sleeping pill tonight. "Please go. I can't do this anymore tonight."
"Whatever you say, Buffy, but you can't avoid your destiny forever."
She slammed her window shut, careful not to be too loud about it so her parents would not wake up. She rushed to her bathroom where she downed a sleeping pill and a glass of water, staring at her haggard appearance in the mirror.
Earlier that night she had looked like her old self again, or at least close to the old Buffy. Her hair had been perfect, her clothes fit decently, and she felt good. Now she felt like a jumbled, depressed mess again. It was a symptom of the disease, she knew it but she could not help but hate the drastic differences in how she felt.
"I'm just a girl," she whispered as she turned off the light and returned to her bedroom again.
She stopped at the window and looked outside. She felt his presence, knew he was still close, but he was out of sight. "Good riddance," she whispered as she crawled into bed and pulled the comforter over her body. She was tired and hoped the sleeping pill would allow her to sleep tonight.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com