I can’t even face my best friend anymore, because no one understands
"How are you feeling?” Ma and Ta knock and peep into my bedroom.
“Fine,” I say.
“Back to school tomorrow?” Ta asks, coming inside.
“Libby, we had a look at your blood work again.” Ma holds her laptop open at an awkward angle. “Look at this.”
I try to focus, but my head hurts. “I’m too dizzy. Just tell me.”
“Your iron.” She taps a fingernail on the screen. “The normal range is 40-190. Your results are 38.”
“Okay.” My head is aching. “So?”
“So maybe that’s the whole problem!” Ta says triumphantly, like a detective pulling out a key clue. “Everything else has been coming up fine. Imagine if it was iron deficiency all along...”
I don’t like that idea. All that craziness for two points of iron in my blood? But hey, nothing’s impossible in this upside-down world of mine.
“So I should take iron pills or something?”
Ma takes over. “We’ve booked a hematologist appointment — that’s a doctor who deals with blood. They’ll check this out properly.”
The winter sun is low in the sky, a fiery ball of white-orange that makes me squint.
“I feel really sick,” I mumble to thin air. I lean against a wall, catching my breath.
At least I made it through the day today. I missed first period, though; the hematologist appointment was early this morning.
There are footsteps behind me.
“Libby! Why’d you run off?”
It’s Shana. I look at her, sleek ponytail over one shoulder and wide brown eyes. It’s as if I’m seeing a stranger. A stranger who used to be my best friend, who is healthy and well and not swallowed up with worry about what’s wrong with her and if it’s all in her mind.
There’s an ugly hole in my stomach, and it’s not just because all I ate today were some gluten-free cookies that taste of cardboard.
“Libby? Are you okay?”
I want to say no, a hundred times no, I am not okay. I’m trying to walk home but my legs and ankles hurt. My head is spinning, I’m so hungry and can’t eat anything, and I can’t even face my best friend anymore, because no one understands.
But instead I tell her, “Yeah. Just a little tired.”
“How was your appointment this morning?” She falls into step beside me. I shrug.
“Yeah, fine. The doctor was this Indian woman with the red dot and all… but she spoke English well enough.”
Well enough to let us know that I’m not anemic, but she can test for thyroid disease.
“And?” Shana prompts. Does she really want to know, or is she just trying to say the right thing?
“Nothing, she tested for something, waiting for results.”
It must be thyroid disease. It must be. Every other doctor says I’m clear. If it is, I’ll forgive all of Ta’s nudging to just push myself, because it’s him and Ma who found this iron deficiency in the first place.
“Oh, that’s — great.” For the first time, Shana looks uncertain. “I mean, is it?”
The world is a blur of glow and shadow and sunset-orange light in my eyes. “Yeah, whatever.”
She waits a moment, but I don’t offer anything else. Am I really excited for a positive result? I must be crazy.
“Wanna study tonight?”
I can’t answer her, I’m too tired. Too exhausted with all that I haven’t said.
“Libs? Study? My house?”
I can’t even walk home. There’s no way I’m walking anywhere else.
“Maybe in my house?” I offer, playing casual.
“Sure, what time?”
The street signs are fuzzy. “I don’t know… I’ll call, okay?”
“Great!” We are at my house — finally. Shana turns to go. It’s as if the first half of our conversation is totally forgotten.
“See you later, Libby,” Shana calls cheerily after me. Oblivious.
I wave back, feeling like a thousand miles have sprung up between us, and under the stone that weighs me down, my heart starts to ache, too.
*Names and details changed to protect privacy
(Originally featured in Teen Pages, Issue 806)
Oops! We could not locate your form.