January 16, 2:30 p.m.
“Are you sure you want to do this, Isabelle?” Heather says, buckling herself into the driver’s seat.
I rub the tweed pattern on my coat and nod. “I’ve always wanted to try ice skating. Today is my 26’th birthday and if I’m not going to start trying things now, then when will I?” I try to give her a convincing smile, but I’m not sure it works. I do want to do this, but the knots in my stomach would call me a liar if I tried to say I wasn’t scared.
“If you feel one coming on, you have to tell me. Don’t worry about what anyone else will say. Don’t think about anything but yourself. Promise me you will tell me.”
“What are you, my mom?”
“No, I’m your friend. However, she does pay me to make sure you don’t do things like crack your head on the ice.”
I buckle my seatbelt. “Let’s go.”
“Promise first, drive second.” Folding her arms, she scowls at me.
Why does she treat me like I’m five? I sigh, seeing her eyebrows practically shake hands over her nose. We’re not going anywhere if she doesn’t get her way. “Fine.”
The meeting above her nose letting out, she sticks the key in the ignition and we head down the road. “Why don’t your friend’s know you have epilepsy?” She says.
“Gee, I don’t know. Maybe because it might make me seem not quite normal to walk up to strangers, stick out my hand and say, ‘Hi, I’m Isabelle Grand. If you see me start twitching, zoning out, and or spassoming for no reason you can see, don’t be alarmed, that’s just my brain throwing a tantrum.’”
“Not funny, Isa!”
Her tone makes me laugh.
“Did I run when you told me? No. I didn’t—”
“You’re a nurse. You’d suck at your job if you ran at the first sign of a different sort of life. Other people aren’t like that.”
“They’re more like me than you think. Why would anyone hold it against you?”
I keep my eyes forward. Heather has been my live-in care nurse for three years since I moved away from home, and my best friend for two, but no matter how many times she might say it she doesn’t get the way other people can be. “I’m not scared, you know.”
She snorts. “If you’re not scared, then I’m on fire.”
“I’m not. I’ve just lived with this my whole life. For years, I let it control me. I let it force me to live at home longer than I ever wanted to—”
“And you’re still letting it dictate your life by saying how you interact with your friends.”
“No, I’m living on my terms and what I deal with is no one else’s business.”
As we pull into the empty skating rink’s parking lot, she shrugs. “Okay, if you don’t have epilepsy, then why are you bringing a nurse with you to your birthday party?”
“Today you’re just my roommate. You can’t tell me you haven’t wanted an extra day off every now or then.”
Before she can say anything, I spot Justin’s red Porsche pulling in and I’m out of my seat and sprinting. “Hi!” I wave my arms. Seeing his eyes widen, I slow down.
Yeah, like a hyper woman charging him is less freaky than my flopping around. I stop, waiting at a distance praying for him to still get out.
I can’t help but grin when he smiles and waves. He gets out of the car, the light bouncing off his blond spikes, and I swear I feel my knees go weak. So, yum.
“Hey, birthday girl!”
Oh my gosh, he has a perfect smile! I take a deep breath. “Hi. Thank you for coming.”
“I’ve never seen this place so empty.” Leaning into the open driver’s side door, he grabs a red box. “I know you said no presents, but come on, it’s a birthday. This is their one upside.”
“Hi.” Heather sticks out her hand. “You must be hunky—”
My mouth goes dry.
“— I mean Hunter…And I must be having a low blood sugar moment.”
Through gritted teeth I say, “Hunter isn’t coming, remember?” Hunter? That’s the best save she could think of? I don’t even know anyone named Hunter!
She mumbles something about me being right and Justin clears his throat.
“Who else are we waiting for?”
“Jasmine and Erin,” I say.
He nods and the three of us stand looking at each other in silence. Awesome.
After a few more minutes the girls get there and we all head inside.
“Is this place even open?” Jasmine says looking around the empty check in area.
Heather walks over to the counter and hops over it. “Not for anyone but us today. It’s my uncle’s place and he’s out of town taking care of my sick aunt without enough extra staff to run it.” She heads for the rows of skates. “What sizes does everyone need?”
My head begins to hurt and I close my eyes and take a deep breath. It’s all fine. We’re all smiling. They have no idea. It’s just a normal birthday and a normal party.
“Everything okay, Isabelle?” Erin says, touching my shoulder.
I bat at the air. “Oh, yeah, totally.”
To be continued…
Want to learn more about epilepsy? Visit: epilepsy.com