A dose of feigned affirmation

I heard a scream; the voice was raspy, strangled and pained …  it was me. I was being shaken. Then came a sudden flash of light — I opened my eyes and squinted at the bright light. I saw my uncle standing over me. When his face showed an expression of worry, I instantly said that I’m fine. Sitting up so quickly my head spun, more than it already is due to the lightheadedness I still feel from all that screaming.
Nightmares are not new to me, but the screaming was. I can see why my family is so shaken up about this. “I thought you were getting better,” whispered my aunt as she walked into my room and my niece in tow behind her. They slowly stepped closer as if they don’t want to rattle me more. I closed my eyes and sighed “I’m fine,” as my voice croaked while I tried to reassure them. My cousin walked in with a tall glass of water. I unconsciously swallowed not realizing how thirsty I was. When she handed me the glass, I chugged it in seconds.
“Seriously guys, I’m fine.” But the obvious quiver in my voice didn’t really support my statement. “That scream didn’t seem ‘fine’ to me,” my cousin stated while crossing her arms. I set the glass down my bedside table and ran my fingers through my hair — suddenly feeling so self-conscious, being only in my underwear. Everyone was silent for a while until my uncle sighed and placed his hand on the small of my cousin’s back. “Well, if you say so then just … don’t forget to pray. Okay?” He looked at me with worry still evident in his eyes. I tried to smile. “I never do,” I answered.
One by one, they emptied the room, turning off my main light on the way out, the only light emanating is from the candle that I lit, which was marshmallow scented, calming my nerves.
I lied on my bed, staring at the nude-colored ceiling, breathing slowly. “I’m fine,” I whispered to myself, closed my eyes.
I’m fine.

Short story by Evelyn Cooper

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