Isabelle props herself up in bed, Justin hovering over her like a helicopter while Heather looks on from a couple of feet away.
“You don’t have to do this, Issy,” Heather says.
“I want to, honestly. Please, take a seat.” She motions to me and I silently perch at the foot of the mattress, my notepad and pen at the ready. “Any more attention brought to epilepsy is good, right?” She fidgets with the bedspread, twisting it around her left index finger. “And if I didn’t want anyone to know, that train is well and truly a mile out of the station.”
Lacking a better option, Justin rests against the nightstand as Heather crosses her arms.
“I actually have questions for all three of you, if that’s okay.”
A shadow of uncertainty falls over Justin’s face. Heather shifts her weight from one foot to the other. After a moment, they both silently assent to the idea.
“The last time we saw you, Isabell, you had just fallen victim to a pretty serious epileptic seizure. Have you had any more since?”
At the word victim, Heather’s jaw tightens.
“I appreciate the concern,” Isabelle says her cheeks going crimson, “but you need to know I’m not a victim. Am I happy I have epilepsy? No. But a victim by definition is someone who is defeated. That’s not me. I have this, I’m living with it, and it’s a part of my experience in life. Not something that stops me from having one. But, coming back from that rabbit trail my brain just hopped off on, I believe—” she glances at Heather, “—I’ve had three more seizures in the week since?”
“Four,” Heather sighs. “All tonic-clonic.”
“Meaning big and scary,” Justin runs a hand over his face.
Isabelle cringes but says nothing.
“Were you here for all of them, Justin?”
He shakes his head no. “I was at work, but we’ve been hanging out a lot.”
“Why didn’t you run?”
At this, Isabell’s gaze shifts toward him, her head still facing me.
“Why would I? Isabelle is a cool person. I have panic attacks and she has seizures. When I have an attack it feels like everything in me freezes up or twists over on itself. People run from that too, but the way I see it, everyone faces something.”
“Was he there when you woke up after skating, Isabelle?”
“Yes.” She turns her head halfway looking at him from beneath her lashes, her hair falling like a curtain between them. “He’s been very sweet, and a very good friend.”
His shoulders slump almost imperceptibly.
Heather rolls her eyes. “Am I the only one seeing this little dance?” She says to me. “Please, tell me I’m not.”
Both their heads snap toward her and I have to stifle a laugh.
“How did you come to be her nurse, Heather?”
“You meant to say former, didn’t you?” Isabelle says, the slightest edge to her voice.
Heather smiles. “Her parents interviewed me when she decided she wanted to move out on her own. We talked like old friends, fought like sisters from the second we met, and generally clicked. So, basically, no matter how many times I blurt the truth, we both know I’m not going anywhere.”
“When were you first diagnosed, Isabelle?”
“I was six months old when I had my first episode. A lot of kids grow out of it, but I didn’t. I ended up being homeschooled because otherwise I never would have graduated. It took way too long for us to get my meds right, and even so, it’s always something that can change overnight it seems.”
“Do you ever think you’ll wake up and not have it?”
She shrugs. “I don’t like to think that way. I did for a while when I was little and that was a dark and deep hole.”
He eyes me warily.
“—if Isabelle asked you out, would you say yes or no?”
Heather cocks her head to the left, her eyes as alert as a Doberman’s.
“You don’t have to answer that,” Isabelle says.
He frowns. “Why not? The answer is yes.”
“I told you so!” Heather snorts.
Isabelle scoots down a little deeper in the bed, looking as if she would like to melt into it. “Did I actually skate at all?” She clears her throat. “I never thought to ask.”
They both shake their heads.
“Maybe that can be our first date,” Justin smiles.
“Nope!” Heather steps forward. “Time out. No dates where she can knock her head while I’m not there. I’m putting my foot down. No.”
“I am going to do this eventually, you know.” She says.
“Fine,” Heather pouts. “But not when I can’t be there.”
After a moment, Isabelle nods. “Fair.”
I cough, drawing their collective attention to regain control of the interview. “Where would each of you like to be in ten years?”
Heather speaks first, this question clearly having been put to her before. “I’d like to have my own summer camp for kids with epilepsy, cerebral palsy, and other challenges along the same lines.”
Justin fidgets, massaging his throat. “The whole picket fence experience, I guess. Dogs, kids, a wife, and a job that doesn’t include fries.”
“Hey,” Isabelle says, “if it weren’t for that fry job, we wouldn’t have met.”
“I think I’d like to be more independent,” she says. “Maybe have my seizures under control enough that I can take the bus and walk to the grocery store by myself.”
“Final question. Isabelle, what would you tell your ten-year-old self?”
The room falls silent, and she thinks for a moment, her eyes going soft. “Live. Don’t worry about tomorrow. Don’t think about what will happen five minutes down the road. Just live.”
Thank you so much for reading! I truly apprecaite it. Want to learn more about epilepsy? Click here.