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Castle of Glass

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It had been three days since Jo had woken up and she was still struggling with everything. Even the simplest tasks felt ridiculously difficult. She felt weak and shaky, and her head constantly hurt. Tired and confused, she kept losing track of what day it was. Jo looked at the calendar on the table by her bed. Everything seemed to merge into one in the ICU and there was no clear distinction between the days. She blinked hard a few times, trying to make the letters come into focus. Friday. Today was Friday. Friday the 18th December. It was a week until Christmas day, not that she really cared. Being stuck in hospital wouldn’t even be the worst Christmas she had had. 

 

She tried to wriggle into a more comfortable position, but the world lurched and spun and her body protested at even the slightest movement. Jo groaned quietly, had been lying down for so long, and her blood pressure was so unstable that even sitting up for too long made her feel dizzy. 

With everything else stripped away, Jo was scared. She could hear and sense everything that was going on around her, the sounds felt too sharp and the lights too bright. She was constantly fighting back against the panic that gripped at her chest. All she wanted to do was get up and run away from everything but she wasn’t even capable of that. Everyone kept going on about her progress and how well she was doing but all she felt was useless. 

 

She’d had another seizure that morning, again it had come on almost without warning. It was terrifying and confusing to lose control of your body in such a way.  

She couldn’t communicate properly. All her words came out in a stuttered jumble and no matter how many times she was reassured that it was normal, or to be expected, it didn’t help her feel any better. 

 

The hardest part was all the time alone. The time alone with her confused and ever darkening thoughts. 

Her memories still felt so jumbled, she couldn’t put the events into place properly and she only ever caught flashes. T he Lorry park. The crack of the guns. Kate lying on the floor. Desperate confessions of love. 

Fragments and the faintest whispers, that was all she had. No matter how hard she tried she couldn’t properly remember.

But even with her memories muddled, every time she closed her eyes, all she saw was Kate bleeding out on the damp concrete of the lorry park. Blood mixing with rainwater, pooling together in the dingy half-light. It felt as if she was trapped in a living nightmare. 

 

And his voice was beginning to haunt her thoughts again. Pulling her back into the darkness. 

 

The only thing she could remember was how she felt about Kate. How the few touches they shared had been electric. How Kate had been a shining light of hope in her otherwise bleak and broken life. And now Kate could die because of her. 

 

But knowing Kate was nearby helped, even if she wasn't able to see her yet. It was her one comfort in the chaos and confusion. Yet in thinking of Kate, she was reminded of how she failed. How she had hurt her.

 

It’s all your fault, Joanne.

Always there. Taunting her.

Kate’s going to die and it’s all your fault.

 

“I…” Jo stuttered, desperately trying to drown out the voice. He was only in her head but that didn’t make it feel any less real. “I tried to help her. I didn’t want any of this to happen,” she thought. She scrubbed at her eyes, trying to wipe away the tears, but they kept falling. He was right. She was the reason that Kate was still fighting for her life. If she hadn’t lured her to the Lorry Park, if she hadn’t been the reason Kate had gotten shot…

Jo wasn’t the one to have pulled the trigger, but she might as well have been. 

Kate was the one good thing in her life and she’d betrayed her. She’d brought her into danger and was the reason she had gotten hurt. She wished the bullet had found her instead. Then it would have been all over and everyone would have been better off. Jo only brought the bad things. She was broken, useless and poisoned everything she touched. She didn’t deserve to be alive. She wished she wasn’t. The van crash should have killed her. Why hadn’t it killed her? If she had just died there and then it could all have stopped. The torment, the anguish. The pain. He was sneering at her again. The voice she would never be rid of. Not now that she knew… She knew who he really was to her. What he had done. It just got worse. And there would never be an escape. She’d fallen so far and was trapped so deep in the darkness.

 

She wanted to give up. It if hadn’t been for Kate she might have already. The chance of seeing Kate was the only thing keeping her going. Even if all she could do was tell her how sorry she was. 

 

She’d been promised escape, freedom. The chance to be whoever she wanted. Only she didn’t know who that was. 

 

And the darkness she had been running from her whole life, it still lingered. It lay patiently in wait, crawled slowly into every part of her mind. Lying awake in the early hours of the morning, Jo realised there was no escape, not really. Steve had assured her that the OCG had been systematically dismantled, there were no more voices on burner phones or anonymous messages on her laptop dictating her every move. She wasn’t a puppet, strings being pulled by dark forces intent on destruction. But in many ways she still was. Only this time, the darkness in her own mind was the puppet master and she was being controlled from within. Maybe on the outside she was free, but her thoughts, hopes and dreams were tainted. And the whispers, the whispers that she had been able to drown out as she fought for survival and rebelled against the control and coercion, the whispers, well now they roared. 

 

Another voice whispered through her thoughts. A different voice. More familiar. Softer, kinder. 

Kate.

“I love you, Jo.”

She sounded so far away.

She was sure she had heard it. Heard Kate saying those words, but perhaps it was just her injured brain playing cruel tricks. It wouldn’t be the first time that her own mind had turned against her.



“How are you doing, Miss Davidson?” The friendly face of a nurse appeared in her bay. 

“I’m just going to check your obs.”

 

“J… J… J-Jo. C… c-c… c-call, m… m-me J… J-Jo.” 

Jo grunted in frustration, she couldn’t even manage the simplest of phrases without stuttering over every word.

 

“Take your time Jo. It’s okay.” The nurse smiled at her. 

 

Jo half smiled back but it was quickly replaced with confusion. They looked familiar but Jo couldn’t remember their name. She was sure she’d been told it multiple times but the information wouldn’t stay in her brain.

Words were feeling difficult so Jo pointed towards the name tag, but the text was too small for her to read. 

 

“Ahh, sorry. I’m Jay. I’ve been looking after you since you’ve been here.”

 

“K… k-keep f… for… f-forget… t-ting.” 

 

Jay just smiled. “Don’t worry, you’ve got more important things to concentrate on than remembering my name.” 

 

Jo grumbled again. She felt so broken and useless, unable to even remember the name of the nurse who had been looking after her. Everything felt foggy and her head hurt. She reached up and tried to massage her temples, but her movements remained sluggish and uncoordinated. 

 

“Is everything okay Jo?”

 

“H… h-head… a… a-ache.” 

 

“Would you like me to dim the lights in here?” 

 

Jo nodded. “P… p-please.”

 

“Any better?” Jay asked quietly.

 

“Mmh,” Jo nodded slightly. Without the harsh lighting, the thumping faded to more of a dull ache.

 

“Can I sit for a moment?” Jay motioned to the chair by Jo’s bed. Though Jo was struggling to communicate, they could sense their patient’s pain. Physically Jo was doing remarkably well, even if she refused to acknowledge it. But beneath her obvious difficulties lay a deeper pain. They had noticed the scars that marred her arms and the torment that flashed across her dark eyes when she thought no one was watching. Both signs that Jo had been fighting inner demons for quite some time.

They wanted to help Jo, they just weren’t sure if she was ready to accept it yet.

 

Jo looked cautiously at Jay for a moment before nodding.

 

“Thanks,” Jay smiled.

They turned slightly towards Jo, making sure she could see them clearly but still respecting her personal space.

“I know things feel really difficult right now, but I just want to let you know that it’s okay to be struggling or to be feeling overwhelmed. Just to reassure you that everyone here wants to help you. I can't even begin to imagine all the things you have been through.”

 

Jo opened her mouth as if to reply but quickly fell silent when she realised even if she did know what to say she wouldn’t be able to get the words out.. 

 

Jay continued.“I can see you are scared and worried and still feeling overwhelmed and confused with a lot of things. That’s okay, being in hospital can be scary and disorientating. And recovery can be a slow and frustrating process but I’m confident you’ll get there. It’s my job to help you Jo and if there is anything you need, if you ever want someone to sit and chat to, or just someone to sit with then that’s what I’m here for. Or if you need things explaining, then please just ask. We all want to help you Jo, even if you find it hard to believe that.” 

 

Th… th-tha… n… n-nks,” Jo let her head fall back against the pillows and closed her eyes. She could feel the tears welling up but she didn’t know why she was crying, her emotions were just another thing that remained jumbled and confused. Jay was right, of course they were. She was terrified and overwhelmed and she didn’t know how to deal with everything that had happened to her in recent weeks. 

 

“You’re stronger than you believe Jo. And it might not seem like it at the moment but things will get better. Just give it time. Even the deepest scars fade over time.” Jay offered Jo a smile that was deep and heartfelt. 

“I’ll be back soon for your next obs check, but if you need me before then, just press the call button.” 



A few hours later Jay managed to catch Steve as he was coming into the ward.

 

“Steve, have you got a moment?”

They knew he wanted to get to Kate and maybe later Jo, but they needed someone to share their concerns with. Aside from Kate, Steve had been Jo’s only visitor. He was the only person outside of her medical team that seemed to care.

 

“I know you’ve got a lot going on at the moment, but we’re worried about Jo.  She doesn’t show it but I think she is really struggling and she doesn’t seem to have anyone else.”

 

“I am too,” Steve agreed quietly. “I was concerned about her before she ended up here. Some of the things she’s been through…” He trailed off unsure of how much to share.

He was glad that both Kate and Jo had Jay looking after them. They were clearly very good at their job and he could tell they cared deeply about their patients.

 

“I think she blames herself, for everything that happened. For what happened with Kate. I want to help her but w hat can I do though, really?”

 

“Just be there. I know you’ve heard it so many times recently and it must be hard to see how it can help but it really does. Jo needs people she can trust. She’s scared and confused and she needs reassurance that she isn’t alone and that there are people here to help her. She needs to know that she is safe.” 

 

“I hope I can be one of them. Hopefully Kate will too, if… when she wakes up.”

 

“They care a lot about each other don’t they?” 

 

“Yeah, they really do.” Steve replied. 

 

“I thought so. Seeing Kate seems to be the only thing Jo is certain of. It’s a good motivation for her but I’m worried she’s pushing herself too hard, too soon.”

 

“God this is complicated.” Steve sighed. Complicated didn’t even begin to cover it really.

“Kate is me best mate and I let things get between us. It was petty and stupid and I’m proper kicking myself for it now. And Jo, I got her so wrong. I realised too late that Kate had been right about her all along, that she wasn’t the person everyone made her out to be. She’s so vulnerable and I promised to protect but I failed there too. I wish I could go back and do it all differently”

 

Jay offered Steve a comforting smile. “Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but not always the most helpful. Just concentrate on what you can do, here and now.”

 

“Yeah”.

 

“You’re doing more than most would. Visiting when you can, spending time, talking. Just being here, believe me, it all helps.” 

 

“Thanks,” Steve smiled wearily. 

 

Visiting, talking. Sometimes just sitting. It didn’t feel like enough but it would have to do.