By ten o’clock Sunday morning, I’m ripping old pages out of my spiral notebook and crumpling them into makeshift basketballs. I inherited Dad’s habit of playing wastebasketball when I’m nervous. And boy am I nervous—no, full-on FREAKED OUT—because the deadline is less than twenty-four hours away and I have more than fifty pages left to write.
Doing this by myself seemed like such a good idea at Miranda’s house.
I don’t know why I expected Dad to be of any help. When I called him last night to ask if I could come over today, he was all cool about it even though it’s not an official visitation weekend. Convincing Mom was a bit trickier, but I used the excuse that I needed to talk to Dad about the panic attacks. I know she agreed only because she thought it would make him feel guilty. I felt kind of bad for taking advantage, but really, she’s the one trying to play mind games. I just want to finish my script.
So much for planned guilt, though; ten minutes after she dropped me off this morning, Dad was running out the door with his laptop computer and a promise that he would be home in time for dinner.
So, here I am with all the peace and quiet in the world, and again, nothing’s going on in the creative department. I drop the notebook on the bed and stretch out next to it, my head propped on my hands. This play is not going to happen. The theater cluster will move ahead with The Scarlet Freakin’ Pimpernel and the budget crunchers will kill the creative writing program. Oh, and the first and last memory Patrick Martin will have of Kelsee Lewis, geek extraordinaire, is me turning pink and squealing in the school hallway. Can you tell me what animal that is, boys and girls?
Sigh. Some prodigy I am.
As I turn onto my back to stare out the window, I feel the familiar tightening in my chest. Oh, this cannot be good. What’s going to happen if I have a bad attack by myself? I’m on the seventh floor of a high-rise condominium building. What if I decide to imitate a bird this time?
These thoughts stumble through my mind as I try to turn on my cell phone, which I turned off earlier to avoid Miranda. The humming in my teeth starts, followed by that locked-jaw sensation. I manage to turn on the phone, but I can’t find the right buttons to select Mom’s entry in the phone book; my fingers will not do what my brain tells them to do. I suddenly regret blocking her from the walkie-talkie connection. I drop the useless phone on the floor.
I start to hyperventilate. Dr. Henry’s voice comes back to me (in a creepy Obi-Wan Kenobi talking to Luke Skywalker way) “Use the breath, Kelsee.”
I have only one option. I slide off the futon and twist my legs into an awkward lotus position like Mrs. Norwood has us do at the beginning of every yoga class. Then, with every bit of forced relaxation I can muster, I struggle to control my breathing.
The vibration in my jaw lessens a little. I keep breathing on the same five-count pattern, pushing as many thoughts out of my head as possible. Nothing matters but the breath. Inhale and exhale.
Eventually, I realize that while the symptoms of the panic attack have subsided, I now feel weird on a whole new level. I’m too aware of the room around me: the way the sun slants in the window and illuminates the dust particles in the air, the whoosh of the air through the floor vent, the woven texture of the black futon cover next to me. I pull myself back onto the bed, hearing every creak and whisper of movement from the frame and cushion.
Instinctively, I reach for my notebook and pen to write down what I’m feeling. I flip to the first blank sheet of paper and begin writing, but what comes out is not a journal entry but lines of dialogue.
Keira Lea released her debut novel in April 2011. She is a devoted fan of the TV show FRINGE, a card-carrying member of the Apple cult, and a mother to two human children and three feline ones. She is working on a sequel to Replay.