Proxy: Chapter 7

Chapter Seven

The specialists and tests couldn't find anything wrong. Nothing that they could name, anyway. There were some strange fragments that didn't make any sense, but there was nothing that could be drawn together conclusively and given a name.

But Sheena got better. The doctors still didn't want her to drive, since they couldn't determine the cause of her seizures, but they cleared her to go back to work. My father drove her back and forth to work every day, and her skin regained its healthy pink and freckled tones, and the bruise like circles of exhaustion under her eyes faded out almost completely. I confirmed this in the available photographic evidence.

Like the circles, my own agonizing fear of loss faded to a faint, dull ache. I thought that we had returned to our newly formed normal. We went to rounds, we went to church, we read our books, we made our crafts, we ran our miles. It felt to me like we were finally a unit of three.

July wore on into August, and school began to loom in my mind. It would be another year of being utterly invisible, as indistinguishable from anyone else as one dust speck in a cloud. Before, that had been more of a comfort than anything else. It was reassuring, before, to have that kind of protective camouflage. But now, for the first time, I felt that someone had truly seen me, not as a project or an object or an obligation, but as a person. Sheena saw me.

One afternoon, in late August, it was stormy out, so I was playing in my room with the video camera again. I had taken down a few ceramic figurines of shepherdesses and princesses and set them up on the window seat in my room, arranging them in various poses and scenes, narrating to myself under my breath. I had some vague story in my head, about three young girls in a haunted castle, but it hadn't quite formed fully in my head. I couldn't make it go, or make it match up with even the half formed pictures in my head.

There was a gentle knock at my door. "Corinne? Can I come in?"

I let out a faint gasp, almost dropping the camera. "Um. Sure."

She pushed in the door and asked, "What are you up to?" There was no judgement or disapproval in her tone, just curiosity.

"I... Pastor Devan left his camera with me. He hasn't asked me for it back yet. I-- I'll give it back, I just wanted to learn how to use it..."

"Why would you be in trouble with me? I'm sure he'll ask for it back eventually. Besides... he showed me him and Dawn's vacation footage. He was no great shakes with a camera, trust me. Although he was pretty good at shaking the camera. What are you making?"

I gestured ineffectually at the arranged figurines with the camera. "Nothing, really. I'm just learning. I don't really know what I'm doing."

"I'm sure it's definitely something... have you tried putting it together, somehow? I'm... not sure how to do that, but I bet there's a way! We can figure it out!"

"I can put it on the computer, I figured that out. I put it together in this thing called Movie Maker too, but it's not really anything. There's no story."

Sheena's eyes lit up, and I shyly led her downstairs to the computer and showed her the random compilations of clips I had put together, with random effects tried out just to test. She laughed with delight. "This is fun! You could do really fun stuff with this."


"Definitely! Have you thought about what kind of things you'd like to make?"

"I thought maybe movies... but I can't... I'm not good with stories. All I can do is read them. I can't come up with my own."

"We all have stories of some kind. Some of them are even true. Maybe you could just... film what interests you for now? And then you could figure out what you want to make it later. Don't worry so much about a final product, huh? Just have fun."

"Like how you make your scrapbooks."

She laughed and nodded, resting a hand thoughtfully on her chin. "Yeah, kind of! I let it come together on its own. It's a little less than making a movie, I guess, but it's not totally different! You should bring that to the fair tonight, when we go with your dad! I bet you could get some cool stuff!"

I did capture some good footage that night at the county fair. I got clips of the bright neon lights of the rides and the fried food stands, people in their shining show clothes riding their horses back from the last competitions of the night, the bits and pieces of the demolition derby we could see through the chain link fence. I even got a clip of my father and Sheena riding the Ferris wheel, holding hands while they waved merrily down at me. My father had tried to convince me to ride with them, as part of the tradition. "It's fun, Corinne! You love it!"

He loved it. I had always been terrified of heights and spent the entirety of the red every year clinging to the safety bar so tightly that my knuckles went white. Sheena managed to talk him down and went up with him, laughing delightedly all the way. My father finally relented as the ride operator waved them into their car, handing me his own camera and asking me to take a picture, if I was going to stay on the ground. I did snap a few pictures from my spot, towards the end of their ride, but I could tell later, when he got the pictures developed, that he wasn't pleased with my work.

When we walked through the cow barns, my father posed the two of us on a straw bale there, painstakingly posing and framing us. Sheena even teased him about it. "Lonnie, I think you missed your calling as a portrait photographer. This isn't Sears Studio, and I don't think either of us are gonna be in the September issue of Vogue. You definitely missed the deadlines there. Come on. There's some funnel cakes calling our name."

My father flushed bright red in embarassment in a way that I wasn't used to seeing. "All right, all right," he mumbled, forcing out a laugh as he snapped the picture. Sheena and I both laughed, then bolted out of the barn, making a beeline for the funnel cake stand. I filmed Sheena taking the first, delicious bite of pastry, then Sheena turned the camera on me as I tried my own bite. It was sweet and powdery and perfect.

Maybe it was the sugar, maybe it was the lights, maybe it was the camera in my hand, but I ran and laughed like I never had before. I wasn't sure that I believed in perfect nights, and to this day, I'm still not sure that I do, but if they did exist, I think that this night would absolutely be one of them. My feet hurt from running, my sides hurt from laughing, and my cheeks hurt from smiling. I was half asleep in the car on the way home, listening to Sheena sing along with the radio, and I remember having the thought these are all good aches to have, I think. Maybe that's the kind of poetry we read into the blank spaces memory after the fact, but it would be nice to imagine it there.

Sheena got sick again that night. This time, I didn't see it happen. I was asleep in my room, awakened by the flash of red lights through my window and the murmur of unfamiliar voices in the hallway outside my room. I started to open my door and poke my head out, but the only person that I saw was my father. He was deep in conversation with someone that I couldn't see, and when he saw me, he shook his head, tears streaming down his face. "Honey, go back in your room."

"Dad? What's going on?"

"Just go!"

I retreated into my room. I tried to discern words in the murmurs of the voices down the hall, but all I could really detect was urgency and concern, and over it all, my father's voice threatening to break into full on wails. Eventually, the voices faded and went down the stairs, carrying something heavy. Then the ambulance began to howl, and it sped away down the street, and the flashing red lights faded with the sirens.

Later-- much later-- I pieced together what happened from the official records. Around 3 o'clock in the morning, Sheena got up in the night and went to the bathroom out in the hallway. Just inside the room, she collapsed and began to seize, hitting her head on the ceramic tiles of the floor. My father heard a thud and ran out of their room to find out what was going on. He found her there on the floor, in the middle of a grand mal seizure.

That seizure had just concluded when the paramedics arrived. Sheena appeared disoriented and did not respond verbally to their questions. The paramedics found a small quantity of blood on the floor, apparently originating from the wound that Sheena sustained to her temple when she hit the ground. That was when they became concerned that she had a concussion, in addition to whatever physiological issue had caused the seizure. They noted that my father was distraught and able to give very little information, until they asked him questions about Sheena's health. At that point, my father composed himself immediately and gave an account of her history that was detailed almost to excess. The medics were even unable to note much of it, and he was required to give the history again when they arrived at the hospital to admit Sheena Leonard for the second time.

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