a dozen seconds tremble in place before i can inflate my lungs with breath, one harsh swig of relief rushing in with the oxygen. the pain coiling from the back of my skull makes the whole world shimmer into a mirage.
i push up and wobble to the edge of the lawn to regard my father, steadily mowing grass. my bones rattle beneath my weight, partly adrenaline, but mostly because he was this close and hadn’t seen a thing.
i start toward the house, my universe unhinged.
and then i’m sixteen, insisting that i’m fine, that the kid i love is every bit as charming as he seems, we just fight a lot, that’s all. and i want them to leave me alone, let it go, but most of all see through my bravado to the girl knocked flat, gulping for relief that doesn’t come, drowning on solid ground.
but i’m too good at creating distance, i guess. and the pain coiling from the hollow of my chest makes the whole world shimmer into a mirage.
* * *
i'd be remiss to leave you sans-epilogue: that hope wins out in the end, and even this pain, brief but blinding, is redeemed.