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My heart skips and I think of my promise to Heather, but I push the thought away. Not every headache brings a seizure with it.
Once we all have our skates we make our way to benches around the ice. I can practically feel Heather’s eyes following me, but I sit down on one of the benches nearest to the door in the rink’s wall, a little away from where Jasmine and Erin have her cornered asking all sorts of questions about her makeup, and begin untying my shoes.
“This seat taken?”
I blink dumbly at Justin, smiling after a split second too long.
He takes a seat beside me and begins picking at his laces.
Getting one shoe off, I begin to fumble with the other and end up hopelessly knotting it.
“Need some help?” He says.
My stomach flips. “I swear I should just stick with Velcro shoes. Trying a knot is no problem, untying will be my undoing one day.”
He snorts. Slipping off the bench he kneels in front of me and undoes the mess I’d made.
“What makes you so sure I’m not the kind of girl who would be offended by you helping me without asking first?” I try to keep my face straight.
He stops, thinking for a second before picking up one of my skates and assisting me on with it. “A couple of things. The first being that you wouldn’t call yourself ‘girl’ at 26 and the second being you’ve thanked me before when I’ve held open the door for you.”
“So, you think I’m old fashioned?”
“Not too much,” he smiles, “but just enough for me to be the gentleman I was raised to be without stepping on any land mines.”
Heat washes over my face, my stomach doing flips. His eyes, good grief. How am I going to skate with those eyes trying to sweep me away? I stuff my foot into the other skate and let him tie it. Not trusting my hands to do any sort of a decent job of it.
“You two coming?”
Glancing up, I see Erin and Jasmine gawking at us. Heather’s back disappearing around a corner. After a few minutes, an upbeat N’Sync song fills the air.
“That’s what we’re skating to?” Erin says, her face twisting in a way I didn’t know it could.
I laugh. “It’s my favorite!”
“Birthday Queen’s choice,” Heather says, reappearing and stepping onto the ice. She begins skating backward, weaving and spinning to the beat of the music.
“Show off!” I roll my eyes.
“Ready to skate?” Justin says, his own skates on.
He extends his hand to me and I feel the headache increasing. A familiar tingle spreading through my abs. I smile, waving him to the ice, holding up my index finger. Just give me a minute, I think.
Frowning, he heads to the ice after the third time I shoo him away.
I pretend to be retying my skate and close my eyes. Please pass. Please don’t do this. Not now. Without warning, my energy level drops and I have to hold onto the lip of the bench to keep from falling onto the ground. I try to call for Heather, but I can’t say anything. My tongue feels like lead. Carefully, I lower myself onto the ground, lying on my side, praying for Heather to look this way…
Heather jumps into the air, spins, and lands perfectly at Erin’s request, showing her how it’s done. “Give it a try,” she says. Glancing at Justin, she sees him skating alone. Her gut knots. “Where’s Isabelle?” Heather says.
He looks toward the benches and shrugs. “I guess she had to go to the bathroom.
Heather’s heart begins to race. Stumbling, she digs her blades into the ice propelling herself forward not bothering to slow until she slams into the wall.
On the ground, Isabelle shakes, her back arching, eyes rolling back into her head, her arms and fingers bent and held tightly to her chest, ever muscle in her body rigid.
Ripping off her jacket, Heather runs and moves Isabelle away from the benches before shoving it beneath her head. “It’s okay, Issy. Listen to my voice, you’re going to be okay.”
Jasmine screams and Erin’s eyes widen. “What’s happening to her?”
When they begin to crowd her, Justin pulls them back. “Give her some room!”
Calmly, keeping her voice low and soothing, Heather explains what’s going on. “She was nervous and that’s what brought it on. She was scared to skate, nervous—” she glances at Justin, “nerves trigger her sometimes. The doctor has been changing her meds lately. We haven’t found the right fit.”
“Is there anything I can do to help?” Justin says.
She shakes her head. “As soon as she’s stable, I need to take her home. She’ll be sleeping for hours.”
“Is this as bad as it gets?” Jasmine says.
Heather glares at her. “If you’re asking if this was a bad seizure, then yes. It was.”
“Is it contagious?” Erin inches back.
“Of course not!” Justin scowls at her.
Raising her hands, she turns and leaves. “I just came to skate,” she says over her shoulder.
After a few minutes, Jasmine follows her. “Let Isabelle know I’ll text her.”
Kneeling, Justin pushes the hair out of Isabelle’s eyes as her seizure begins to quiet, her muscles relaxing. “Can you hear me?”
“If you’re with us again,” Heather says, “ask me for a bite to eat.”
“She’ll choke!” Reaching out, he nudges Heather back.
“Easy,” she says, “her signing that to me is the way she lets me know she’s aware of what’s going on.”
The two set, waiting for the sign, the seconds slipping by in silence.
From the corner of her eye, Heather watches him as he strokes Isabelle’s hair.
Finally, her eyes flutter open and Heather urges him back a bit. “Isabelle, can you hear me?”
She mumbles incoherently.
“Ask me for food.”
Swallowing, Isabelle’s wandering gaze settles on her. She signs asking for water and tries to set up.
“Nope.” Heather gently pushes her back. “Ask me for food.”
Standing, Justin begins to pace.
After a few more minutes, Isabelle signs for a bite to eat.
Squatting, Heather prepares to lift her, only to feel a hand on her shoulder.
“May I?” Justin says.
Stepping back she lets him scoop her friend off the ground.
“I know you’ll be sleeping,” Justin says, “but I’d like to be there when you wake up again.”
Thank you all so much for reading! I hope you have enjoyed this story. Have questions you’d like to “ask” Isabelle? Leave them in the comments below and I’ll be sure to add them to my next character interview. Want to learn more about epilepsy? Visit: epilepsy.com