I can feel my toes in the sand. I twist on the spot moving my feet from side to side with hips and arms in the opposite direction, trying to sink up to my ankles. I smile, because the ability to feel is such a relief. I look down at the palms of my hands. They look so real. I know it’s a dream but I’m so absorbed by this extreme sense of reality, I’m making what will soon be an amazing memory last a little while longer. ‘Sophie!’ It’s Conrad, he came for me... I knew he would. I wished for it with all my heart; I prayed; I dreamed. It wasn't going to be any other way. But I don’t turn around, I need to let him chase me a little. It’s his turn. So I face the waves. They are so beautiful and unpredictable, yet regular like a heartbeat. The thing I love the most is the horizon. Past that perfectly straight line that separates those restless waters from a bright blue sky there’s unknown. It can be whatever you’re capable of imagining. For me it was always an island where I can go and hide away from all the pain the hits me every day. I don’t close my eyes, it’s the only place where I don’t need to because there can’t possibly be anything more beautiful at the back of my closed eyelids. My mind would never create more inspiring and more exquisite picture. So I look with my eyes wide open as I take another deep breath with the rhythm of the waves that hit gently against the edge of the quay. Air fills my lungs. Like a car filled with a full tank of petrol I’m ready to take an adventure, I’m full of energy. This mixture of salt, particles of iodine and ozone is like a medicine for the broken heart I struggle with outside what I call my dream reality. If I could just breathe in one more time, if I could just get enough to last me for eternity... ‘Here you are beautiful’ I’m still facing the sea, but I can feel his arms slowly wrapping around me, his chin gently resting on my shoulder. I have to bend my head slightly to the right, but it’s not an inconvenience. I take another deep breath. Medicine is working, because my heart is mended and all I feel is this overpowering tranquility. I can stay here forever, until the end of time. My fingers interlock with his. I twist my neck to the left and he gives me a gentle kiss on my lips. Those little gestures of his mean a world to me. They are my world. ‘It’s so beautiful out here... why didn't you wake me Sophie? I would have come with you’. He’s concerned. He didn't want me to wonder by myself. I get it and I appreciate it, but it’s my dream, nothing could ever happen to me here. Even so, I love that he worries.‘You looked so peaceful, I didn't want to... I couldn't...‘ I lied. My dreams never started in bed with Conrad, it was always the beach, always the gentle tickling of the sand on my bear feet...‘Well next time just wake me up, I know how much you love your morning walks’.‘OK’ I lied again. He turned me around, his hands were now on my back, he looked deep into my eyes and pulled me close to his chest.‘I love you Sophie, I will never let you go’‘I....’ ***‘Shhhhhhh, I think she’s sleeping, would you give her a rest?’ My mom’s irritated voice woke me.‘I know mom, you say shhhh, but it’s not like you’re being extra quiet yourself. I’m going to get some coffee. I’ll be back in 5’‘That’s fine’. My mom was not in fact quiet. I’m pissed off, I can’t believe she terminated my dream, I never had enough time to say ‘I love you too’.My eyes open now laid themselves on the cracks of the overwhelming white hospital walls. I’m awake and no one knows it but me.‘Hi baby girl... I’m sorry I couldn't come yesterday, you must have missed me, although I know dad came, hope he didn't talk too much about his work, you know how crazy he gets at the restaurant before Christmas. All he talks about lately... But how are you feeling dear? You OK?’It’s a rhetorical question. I can’t answer. She knows it, but I guess talking to me like I’m a real person brings her peace. Exactly eleven months and twenty-one days ago, doctor came into this exact same room, bearing news that destroyed my family. Since then, I lay here while my family comes trying to make my life less boring I guess... Mom comes every day. Except for occasional Saturday when she has training at work. She’s an accountant. She works nine to five so she’s here every evening as soon as the traffic lets her squeeze through the busy city of Seattle. She stays for exactly three hours, talks about everything that went on that day. She gets sidetracked sometimes and tells me stories I've heard ten times before but I can’t exactly point that out. Dad owns a restaurant in Auburn. He’s a chef and works all day, every day. He comes when he can and I appreciate it. His visits are completely different than moms. He sits by my bedside stroking my hair. I love him for the peace and quiet he carries with him. He cries a little every once in awhile then takes a deep breath and says something along the lines of ‘my little girl’ or ‘you should have never gone before us’. He doesn't stay as long as mom. Not anymore. There’s nothing really to stay for. Doctors say I’m not responsive, that I don’t know what’s going on. My sister doesn't come in a week, she visits every Saturday. Lily is angry. She often shouts at me for being useless and for leaving her with parents who don’t pay attention to her because of what happened to me. I don’t blame her; I think I would probably feel the same way if roles were reversed. My family never comes together except for major holidays and even then my dad usually has the busiest time at work, so it’s only when he manages to take an hour or two off. Conrad never came. Not once, but it’s OK. He comes in my alternate reality. He hasn't come yet because he’s scared to see me this way. I know that’s the reason, I can feel it. But he will be here before I die. He’ll come to say goodbye; He loves me. Mom’s still talking. It’s Saturday, so my sister’s here and my dad’s at work. Lily seems even more on edge than usual. She’s giving me dirty looks and she always does that but there’s something different about her today. She’s holding a cup of coffee with both hands close to her mouth. She’s cold and the exaggeration of her discomfort is a manifestation. She wants to show mom how inconvenient these visits are for her. She’s busy with work, the hospital is freezing and full of sick people she has no intention of interacting with. She hates it. She’s a project manager for some fancy big company and she always gets what she wants. She can’t stand the fact her conscience doesn't let her get out of these weekly visits. Doing the right thing sucks, big time. It’s like court order; I have a feeling that in that smart head of hers she compares it to cleaning streets in a bright orange uniform. I want them to go now. I want to go back to sleep and take another deep breath of fresh air. Maybe I could take a walk on the quay with Conrad. But they won’t leave. Not yet, I have ten more days until they stop treatment and mom is trying to spend as much time with me as she possibly can. Take a good look at me to last her for when I’m gone, just like my deep breath of sea air. ‘... and Aunt Jane is getting married. Can you believe it? He finally got down on one knee. They will have a winter wedding up in Vancouver where he’s from. What else... Ahhh I saw your teacher Miss Greenwood the other day...’ ‘Mom stop it!’ Lily’s eyes watered. That’s what it was, here we go. I was waiting for this moment. Lily was like a grenade and my mom’s just pulled the pin and threw it against the wall. ‘You do this all the time! She can’t hear you, she’s not there! And you tell her all the stories and every little detail of your pathetic life! We’re not a family anymore! You and dad barely talk, you barely even see each other because you’re always at the hospital and you don’t even realize I exist. The only reason you ever call me is to remind me about Saturday. How the hell could I ever forget? I have been here every week for the past year. She’s my sister! My heart breaks every time I see her like this, we were best friends and now SHE'S GONE! I didn't do anything to stop it...’ Lily’s loud sobs break my heart the same way whatever happened to me broke hers. It’s the first time I've ever seen my sister cry. Lily was never the one to share tears. She was always the calm one, controlling the situation, making everyone feel soft and week. Even when we were little and got in trouble, like once for trying to bake a cake and nearly burning the house down, Lily managed to keep a straight face while dad’s oddly loud shouting nearly drove me into a panic attack. ‘I’m so sorry Lily... I’m so sorry ‘ Tears were now pouring down mom’s face. ‘You know that I love you, you know I don’t blame you for what happened, you’re all I've got left and we will be a family again. This – talking to her makes me feel like she listens, like she’s there and she needs it. She needs to know we’ll never forget her and that we love her...’ Lily took a deep breath, separated from mom and came closer. She took my hand and looked deep into my eyes.‘Soph... I’m so sorry... I miss you every day. Just wake up, for me, so I can tell you in person that I love you and I can’t live in this crazy world without you... I can’t go shopping by myself and remember that ice-cream place in Tacoma? They’re closing down next month. I keep thinking that you’d want to go, if you ever got better...’ She pauses. I can’t listen to it. It’s too painful. I want to go back to sleep now. I want her to stop; it’s not fair because I can’t answer. There’s nothing I can do to make her feel at ease.‘How could you leave me?’ I knew she missed me. We were best friends. We hung out with the same people, shared every moment of our lives with each other. I don’t know how she could have prevented what happened to me. I don’t really remember any of it. I have been diagnosed with persistent vegetative state. I've suffered a traumatic brain damage from the accident. Doctors say I’m not really there. Apparently my body has some reflexes. I smile, grimace, squeeze hands, grab objects but I can’t feel. I have been given twelve months to show improvement and so far I’m heading towards death... It’s not scary. I live in a shell surrounded by people who don’t believe I’m ever going to get better. I want to die, I’m just waiting for Conrad.I could never forget the desperation when I first woke up after a month from the trauma. I wanted to shout, get out of bed and literally slap all the people that stood over me in the face. I wanted to scream: ‘what the hell are you looking at?’. It was a Saturday, because mom and Lily were there. I opened my mouth but uttered no sound. I moved my arm but it rested peacefully on a bed. Then I cried but no tears were coming out and that lasted awhile... People came and went in the first two months. Old friends, ex-boyfriends, distant family I couldn't care less for. Half the people came because they have never seen anyone in a that state before. I was a monkey in a circus and lying perfectly still was my trick. I started having my dreams about the beach and about Conrad and life got better. They became so real, so comforting. I didn't need a body. Something told me this was better, my heart didn't feel broken in my world. Months flew by and I was getting closer to the D-day – Death Day. For all I care I could die today but it’s not fair on Conrad to find out that I’m gone before he comes to say goodbye. I know that when he will, he’ll see in my eyes that I’m there and for that one last minute or two we can be together again. And it’s worth every second of this frustrating life inside my little depressing shell.Mom and Lily calmed down. Mom is now holding Lily’s hand and they sit by me, quiet waiting for a sign from God that letting me die is the right thing to do. They stay for the next thirty minutes and it’s time to go. Finally, I can go to sleep. ***The beach again. Air feels even fresher this time. The storm is coming so the air is moist and the breeze hits my face with unexpected attitude. Sand turned darker shade of brown and feels colder underneath my feet. Conrad will call in just a second. I won’t wait this time; it’s enough chasing, I want him here and now. We’re going to make love on this stone-cold ground. It’s my dream so no one’s around. ‘Sophie!’ He shouts. He’s still so far away from me. I turn around, my back is now facing angry waves. They make so much noise I can barely hear my own thoughts. He’s standing on the path leading up to the beach. I’m so in love with the man that appears before me with his perfect big brown eyes, his perfect body and the perfect smile that shines in a distance making me weak in my knees.‘I love you, like from here to the moon and back’ I whisper, he can’t hear. He’s wearing jean shirt buttoned to the top, beige trousers and white converse trainers. He spent time styling his perfect black hair. He’s looking good for me. He’s tall, at least 6’2”. I’m 5’6” so we fit perfectly together. I run towards him and the wind pushes me. Nature wants us together. I throw my arms around his neck and breathe in the scent of perfection. This fragrance he's wearing is my favorite. He knows it. His lips press against mine. It’s not gentle anymore. The rough touch raises my heart rate. My hands are now grabbing his chest. I unbutton his shirt still kissing his flawless lips. I’m in the scene of a romantic movie. I want to die right here, right now, never go back to the body that doesn't let me do all those thing, body that doesn't respond to the tenderness of his touch. We’re both naked like nature intended connected with cold sand and each other. The uncontrollable warmth of his body let’s me ignore the breeze that now gained power and significantly lowered the temperature of the air we’re breathing in heavily. I want to scream and shout. I want to die, right here, stay... Live in my dream reality with Conrad who loves me and will never let me go...***Group of people in white scrubs are standing over me. What happened? Was I dying? Has God listened to my prayers? Is he letting me die? ‘We got her back’ Doctor Prewet’s worried face tells me I’m still very much alive. They use medical terms to describe my current condition. Screw this... I don’t want to hear. So I lay there thinking about my dream, about Conrad. Mom storms in. They must have called her. I wish they didn't. Her extremely annoying voice is stabbing my ears. ‘I’m not ready to lose you yet. Baby don’t leave me...’ She cries and cries and then it hits me. I can’t die earlier than planned because Conrad won’t manage to get here on time. The dreams always make me forget about what’s really important. The real Conrad, the one I’m so desperately waiting for. I don’t want him to miss my goodbye. I close my eyes and go back to sleep. ***The D-day is finally here. I have no more hours left. Just tension and excitement filled minutes. Soon, they will stop feeding me, sedate me and let me die quietly without pain. My whole family is already here. Mom slept by my bedside tonight. Only couple more minutes and he’ll be here, holding my hand, looking deep into my eyes, like I planned. Yes, everything is in a perfect setting. Thrill rushes through my veins. I wonder how I look. If I've changed a lot, is he going to be disappointed? My heart now pumps blood louder than usual, this rhythm of my heartbeat brings the memory of the unsettled waves. Doctor Prewet comes into the room. ‘It’s time to start saying your goodbyes’ On those words mom start with the tears. It’s so dramatic. I was afraid of that but here it goes. In the end Conrad will come and none of it will matter. ‘Baby girl... I love you. I will carry you in my heart every day for the rest of my life’. ‘I love you too mom’ I say in my mind because I do and I appreciate her presence. Dad is now stroking my hair as he does every time he comes in. My sister on the other side of the bed is holding my lifeless hand. They don’t talk. I guess they don’t feel the need to say anything else. Dad was never good at goodbyes and Lily already said hers in an unexpected outburst ten days ago. She wasn't about to have another emotional breakdown. So not her style. I have ten minutes. Where is he? I don’t want him to be late and doctors are preparing for my death. Five minutes... Two minutes...I feel tears in my eyes even though they are not physically there. I have this big lump stuck in my throat and my face is getting red. I cannot believe he’s late. He must be stuck in traffic swearing at other drivers for not moving fast enough. He loves me... He’s nearly here. His face will be the last thing I see. One minute...I’m starting to feel drowsy.‘Bye baby girl’.It’s not the voice I expected.My eyelids are getting heavier. I’m desperate, panicking... He’s not coming... ***‘I don’t love you anymore... I’m sorry’. Conrad’s calm voice is piercing my heart. I don’t exactly get what he’s saying. Like from here to the moon and back right? Forever, never let me go?‘I’m sorry. I know this is not what you want to hear... I know how I've been treating you for the last couple of months. I just can’t pretend anymore. I can’t be with you Sophie. I will always have a soft spot for you, but this is it’. He’s sitting on the kitchen chair, head down, can’t face me. I’m standing over him, shocked and angry a little too, tears are pouring down my face. I want to control them but what he’s saying is not right. Is that some kind of a stupid joke? I take a step back and hit the wall. I slide down and try to say something. Argue my case. Nothing comes out. Just more tears. I bury my face in my hands and let it all out. He levels with me kneeling on the floor. His hands resting on my shoulders and even though I want to push him away, the touch is so soothing. ‘I don’t get it Conrad... You made me fall in love with you. You said you’ll never let me go and you just changed your mind? You were never really in love with me, were you?’‘I’m sorry Soph...’ And then reality hits me. This is real, this pain is real. It’s like thousand knifes slicing through my heart, like a baseball bat hitting me right in a stomach again and again until I can't breathe. NO! I can’t listen to this... I have to leave I have to get out of this hell. I’m running down the stairs of his apartment. He’s shouting behind me. Trying to ignore the voice I’m already longing I storm out of the front door. I desperately look for keys in my handbag but I can’t find them. I’m trying to look inside but tears blur my vision. I need to leave. My head is spinning and I'm short of breath. God please let me leave...I found them, open the door and drive away in a rush. My heart is not broken. It’s crushed into millions of little pieces. I will never be able to put them back together. I've left most of them in Conrad’s apartment. I’m already dead, because what’s life without a functioning heart? Both hands grip firmly on a steering wheel. I know where I’m going. To the secret garden, place he discovered with a little river passing underneath this cute little bridge we always sat on. That's where I always felt whole, like no piece of the puzzle was missing - our spot. I imagine his hand holding mine. I replay in my mind all the walks we took, all the kisses shared. I get out of the car and sit on the edge of the bridge. That’s where he said I love you for the first time. I cry and hours pass. I’m thinking of this nightmare I’m having and how I would give my life to just wake up from it. Each tear takes a little bit of life out of me. I feel weaker, I’m dying... Big black SUV is coming my way... It’s my only chance to wake up. And then I remember. It’s like I’m watching from the distance the memory I suppressed, like it was too much to bear. I watch myself throw away the life I didn't want. Life I hated at that point in time. I hear sirens. Lily couldn't have ever prevented that...***Sunbeams gently kiss my soft skin. Sand feels warm as I dig my feet into it. I look up and I’m sure I’m in heaven because all that pain from my nightmare is gone. Something glued all the pieces of my crushed heart back together. I take a deep breath and exhale calmly because I know it’s not the last one I’ll take. I keep my eyes wide open and spread my arms. I’m free... This feeling is forever and I’ll cherish it. I’ll love it like from here to the moon and back.I’m no longer waiting. Conrad’s not coming.