The real sleeping beauty

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Sarah suffers from a rare neurological condition which causes her to collapse and fall asleep at a moments notice. With help from her long time time four legged companion will she be able to withstand her brutal step father and the group of enemies who make her life seem like a living hell? and can she truly live when she is constantly battling this chronic condition?

Submitted: May 16, 2015

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Submitted: May 16, 2015

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The real sleeping beauty

 

 

“Each day is a little life: every waking and rising a little birth, every fresh morning a little youth, every going to rest and sleep a little death.”

Arthur Schopenhauer

 

The German Sheppard leapt up onto the bed of a teenage girl and howled with alacrity as he began to lick the girls face. The girl irritably rolled around to face the other side brushing the dog away as he crept up closer to her. The strident breathing of the dog continued as his head bowed and tongue protruded when he sat even closer to the girl. ‘Alright Alright!’ yelled the aggravated girl who sat up from her bed and lifted her arm to pet the dog.

 ‘Are you happy now Achilles?’ she sarcastically remarked.

 ‘Sarah!’ shouted the girl’s mother who distinctively folded her arms by the bottom of the stairs.

 ‘I’m up! ‘Sarah defensively replied.

Sarah’s book was left open beside her bed and so she turned the corner of the page and closed it to reveal the book title, Narcolepsy and me: living with a neurological disorder. The book had been a birthday present from her mother who thought it was a good idea her daughter learn more about condition she was inevitably struggling with. The book was of no help to Sarah who felt no one could really understand her life and so she left the book in the bottom of one of her draws.

 

Sarah raised her arms as she involuntarily opened her mouth to yawn, Achilles stood tenderly beside her wagging his tail in a repetitive motion.

‘I’m okay’ she announced noticing the protective stance of her dog.

Sarah walked towards the other side of her room and opened up her closet to reveal the chewed end of a ballet flat which fell beside her feet.

‘And what’s this Mr. Gnaw paws?’ holding up the evidence before the German Sheppard who sat in defeat.

Sarah was not as angry as she thought she should have been. Those were her ballet flats she had worn to her ballet classes but Sarah knew they were just sitting there at the back of her closet as she felt she longer had use for them.

She took out her outfit for the day and placed them neatly on her bed but upon further inspection she decided that the skinny jeans with the white blouse and converse shoes were better than the green cardigan and black shirt with the black boots.

Sarah opened her door carefully and tip toed her way into the bathroom which was on the other side, across the hall. Sarah was avoiding running into her beefy 6 foot step father. She then routinely brushed her teeth, washed her face and combed her hair which fell into soft brown tendrils just below her shoulder.

 

Thirty minutes later she found herself yawning again and tempted to crawl back into her soft bed. Sarah found it difficult to resist the urge to fall asleep but wobbled with her backpack down stairs and into the kitchen.

‘Have you got your medicine with you’ Sarah’s mother asked.

Before Sarah could reply Achilles appeared in the room with the bottle her Provigl between his teeth. Sarah took it graciously and scratched him behind his ear, she went to the kitchen, opened up a bottle of water, twisted the cap and washed down her pill with her head tipped back. She swiped her mouth with the back of her hand and looked at her watch, 8:24. I’m late Sarah thought.

‘Achilles!’

Sarah grabbed the harness from the top shelf of the cabinet and Achilles came running beside her which made her jump. Her heart beat raced and she felt her knees go weak and stumbled onto to the floor.

‘Sarah?’ Sarah’s mother gently shook her and lifted Sarah’s head which remained slump down. There was no rise in panic at the sudden collapse of her daughter which suggested that this was a common occurrence. Her mother waited for her daughter to regain consciousness and fitted the harness onto the dog in the meantime. Sarah’s mother looked down on her daughter and made a small wish that her only child could one day wake up and fall asleep like a normal girl. Sarah’s eyes twitched as she woke up and gradually lifted herself from the carpet floor. Thank god for carpet Sarah though. She looked at her watch, 8:32. ‘Let’s make a move’ Sarah announced, holding the leash and she kissed her helpless mother goodbye.

23 minutes later Sarah rushed into her class which had started already. Achilles sat beside Sarah at the back of the classroom. Sarah always knew the back was the best place to sit and the position everyone was least likely to stare when she had an attack that would result in her landing face down onto the table. Only ten minutes had passed when Sarah found herself so tired that she couldn’t hear her teacher speak, even though it was her favourite teacher and one of the lessons she looked forward to the most. She couldn’t stay awake long enough to find out how to solve quadratic equations.

 

A knock outside the classroom door made Sarah blink her eyes slowly and lift her head from the table. Toby O’Neal walked in with an apologetic smile that made Sarah blush.

‘Late again O’Neal’ Mr Beachy stated.

‘Sorry, I just came from P.E’.

Toby looked across the room and for a moment, he locked eyes with Sarah and sat on the empty seat beside her.

‘So how are you doing this fine morning sleepy head?’

‘Just fine if you’re asking whether I haven’t fell and cracked my head open on the desk’

He smiled and just like that Sarah blushed and lost her senses...

 

‘Sarah?’

Sarah’s head was spinning. She opened her eyes slowly and saw an empty classroom and Mr Beachy standing in front of her with a concerned expression on his face.

‘Are you alright Sarah? You’re not usually out cold for this long’

Sarah still had a puzzled expression across her face and remembered seeing Toby before she passed out. She wanted to kick herself for dozing off at the wrong moment and in front of the wrong person.

‘What time is it?’ Sarah asked

‘It’s almost half ten, you better hurry or you’ll miss your next lesson’

Sarah held on tightly to Achilles leash because she knew that she needed him extra sharp for today and she hated it when he was distracted by the beckoning cries of the year 7 pupils hugging him as he waggled his tail.

 

There were an infamous group of girls that always found a way to publicly humiliate anyone who threatened their leadership or distracted them from the centre of attention. Jess, Trisha and Stacey were 3 girls that Sarah came to identify as “The she-devils of Brampton school”. Those three had found a way to spread misery faster than the spread of the Ebola virus. Stacey, who had her blond hair wildly teased like the Maine of a lion, caught Sarah looking at Toby from across the hall, Stacey planted an evil grin on her face.

 ‘Hey Toby’ Stacey blocked his exit and made sure that she had his full attention.

‘Ermm yes’

‘There’s a house party going on at Trisha’s house next week’

Trisha’s face contorted into a very confused expression ‘there is?’ jess elbowed Trisha in the rib

‘Ouch!’

Stacey quickly gave a threatening stare at the girls before she resumed. ‘So’ Stacey continued ‘I was hoping you could make it, maybe we could talk about that physics test we have coming up next month or maybe we could just y,know relax, party, have a good time.’ Stacey smiled flirtatiously but Toby didn’t seem to be swayed.

‘I guess I could make it, what day did you say it was’

‘Friday 7 o’clock oh and there will be plenty of booze’  

‘Great just one more question’

‘Yes?’ Stacey replied sweetly. Sarah thought if Stacey were to bat her eyelids any faster her false lashes would fall off.

‘Can I bring a date?’

The look on Stacey’s face was enough to make Sarah want to laugh but she knew she had to hold it in or she would trigger one of her episodes and once again her face would become one with the solid ground.

‘ssure’ Stacey lost the smile on her face and her mouth instantly closed as if she were afraid to open it.

 

Before Toby left he turned around and shyly smiled at Sarah, mouthing the word “bye” and then he was gone. Stacey fumed and left the school herself, with her two other accomplices struggling to follow behind. Sarah daydreamed about the grey eyed, dark haired boy. She thought about the creases of his smile, the lightness that shown from his eyes whenever he spoke to her and she thought about the pleasant feeling that would rise from her heart if she kissed him.

 

Toby O’Neal was the student who roamed the halls with a walk that expressed his confidence. When His lips turned up into a smile, all the girls would be forced to smile back, then giggle and whisper to their friends who stood beside them. Toby was the object of many girls affection however Sarah didn’t just see Toby’s rather attractive appearance. She saw the way he always held the doors open for people as they came by and the way he would act as if he didn’t think everyone was drooling over him. Sarah especially liked the way he behaved so differently around her than anyone else. Most people decided to stay away from the girl who had a condition that made her collapse haphazardly and fall into a deep sleep without a moment’s notice. Toby however would talk to her like he always wanted to know more about her and the both of them had one thing in common that would bring them closer: The absence of a father.

 

Sarah looked toward Achilles who patiently sat while she stood there like a love drunk fool.

‘Let’s go home’

Sarah regretted the words that came from her mouth. As long as her step father was living there it was not her home. It was a place where she no longer felt could be called a home. 

 

‘Mum?’ Sarah opened the front of her house door very slowly, peeking her head in side first and then her body. Sarah took off her coat and placed it on the hook then loosened the cord on Achilles harness.

‘Sarah! Are you home?’  Sarah’s mum appeared from the stairs. She hid her face slightly by turning it to the side whenever Sarah tried to look closer.

‘What happened?’ Sarah saw the colourful bruise that framed the corners of her mother’s eye.

‘Nothing’ Sarah’s mum insisted.

‘Where is he?’

‘He left. We were having an argument about that girl I saw him with... and he got angry... and... left.’ Her tears were not of the pain her husband inflicted on her but of longing for the man who she thought loved her. Sarah’s mum decided it was her fault for starting the fight so she put on a smile in front of her daughter.

‘It’s okay, you know how angry Steven can get but we will make up _wha what are you doing?’

Sarah already began to dial 999 although she felt her muscles spasm, Achilles howled and suddenly Sarah dropped the phone. Sarah collapsed and found herself momentarily paralyzed although she had sense of everything going on around her. She could hear the whimper from her concerned mother as well as the growls from her protective dog as they both surrounded her. Sarah felt the tug of her arm and soft purrs from her dog as well as the gentle stroke of her mother’s fingers against her cheekbones.

 

Sarah woke up in her bedroom feeling alert as the last moments of her consciousness came back in flashes. Her hand instinctively reached for her mobile phone but instead a glass of water and a post it note lay on her bedside table. To Sarah’s disappointment her mother had ignored her warning and was out to search for Steven probably to ask him to come back home Sarah stubbornly imagined. Achilles was curled up and asleep on her bed as Sarah got out searching for her phone. She was surprised to see she had two missed calls but it wasn’t from her mother, it was from Toby. Sarah was both confused and a little nervous as she called him back.

‘Hello?’

‘Hi Toby its Sarah I just got your missed call’

‘Oh ah yeah about that, I just wanted to ask you if you wanted to go to that party with me this Friday at Trisha’s’ Sarah could hear the anticipation through Toby’s muffled voice.

Sarah didn’t think twice but did not want to seem too eager.

‘ um yeah sure that sounds cool’ Sarah slightly regretted using the word “cool” which she felt could otherwise make her sound more pathetic.

‘Really? That’s great so ill pick you up at around 7 then’ Toby instantly wanted to kick himself for sounding so surprised. He knew that Sarah would be thinking he sounded pathetic.

‘Okay, so I’ll talk to you later. Thanks. Bye’ Sarah hung up the phone and thought to herself oh my god it’s a date. Toby O’Neal asked me out on a date. She smiled and for a moment forgot about her mother and made a little prayer to thank god but as she smiled to herself she heard the loud engine of a car pulling up on the driveway.

 

 The bang of the front door was an indication to someone’s unpredictable temper. Heavy footsteps creaked as someone was making their way up the stairs. Sarah knew instantly that it was not her mother as she could feel the coldness of his presence. She closed her door and as she did Achilles awoke from his sleep on Sarah’s bed, sat up readily and barked.

‘shhhh’ Sarah beckoned.

The footsteps were getting closer and Sarah’s door rattled.

 

He stepped inside Sarah’s room. His face looked grey and his eyes were red and animal like with a black core. His ash grey hair looked ruffled and messy but he didn’t seem to take notice on his own appearance. He was staring at Sarah like she was something to eat. The carnivorous instinct of the man was to stare at her chest. She wore a vest which clinged to her body and she took notice of his lingering gaze and folded her arms in front of her chest.

‘What do you want?’ Sarah demanded.

‘Where’s your mother?’

‘She’s not here she went to look for you’

His lips turned into a half smile as he came closer to the girl who instinctively stepped back. Achilles barked aggressively toward the man who had bad intentions. He didn’t take heed of the warning from the dog and instead came even closer to her. The smell of alcohol on his breath made Sarah feel queasy. His hand stroke Sarah’s arm and before he could go in for a kiss she slapped him hard on the face.

 Sarah hand turned red and she felt a sharp tingling sensation on the palm of her hand. She hated the man in front of her and knew that it was a possibility that she couldn’t escape. Sarah was grateful when Achilles bit him in the leg but it was the man’s roar which made her scream.

 

Steven grabbed Achilles and clenched the jaws of the German shepherd in great strength.

‘Stop it, get away from him or ill call the police’ Sarah cried.

Steven locked Achilles in the bathroom and Sarah quickly tapped 999 on her phone but it was too late. Steven had already entered her room and shut the door behind him carefully.

‘You’re so much like your mother’ he grabbed her phone and smashed in across the wall. Sarah’s attempt to escape had failed and he pushed her so she fell on top of the bed.

‘Please. Stop’ Sarah’s body violently shook but Steven had no concern for her convulsions. ‘Please I need my medicine’ she tried to come up with an excuse which could save her time but he was already on top Stroking her, kissing her. She plead with her body not to shut down but gradually she felt herself let go of reality and her body felt limp eventually leading her into a sleep paralysis.

 

 

Sarah’s mind drifted into the forgotten corners of her memory...

 

 

Sarah was walking down a path hand in hand with someone. As a small child she looked up into the face of a man whom she identified as her father. This was the only father Sarah ever knew and loved. This man was lovingly embracing his wife with one arm and held the other with his precious and only child. Sarah was skipping joyfully as she swayed her pink princess dress. She wore her favourite dress which was a sleeping beauty costume she had happily cried over receiving as a gift and refused to take off ever since. This was a picture from a scene that Sarah had remembered. The happy family walking into the direction of the sun until suddenly the little girl collapsed.

‘Sarah’ her father called. Both parents had panicked as they feared the loss of their beautiful child whose body was frail and limp. The little girl did not respond...

 

Another scene flashed from Sarah’s past and she found herself lying against her seat but cradled by her mother and father as they sat before a doctor who wore a white coat and held a sympathetic expression.

‘I’m afraid your daughter suffers from a rare neurological disorder that is caused by a biochemical change in the brain. There is a loss of the brains ability to regulate sleep-wake cycles normally’

‘What does this mean?’ Sarah’s mother persisted

‘Essentially this disorder causes excessive daytime sleepiness and frequent day time attacks but that’s not all. You see 70% of narcoleptics also suffer from cataplexy and further testing shows that unfortunately your daughter is one of them. Cataplexy involves a sudden loss of control in the muscle where strong emotions can cause a person to suffer a sudden physical collapse.

‘So this, this condition can it be treated?’

‘I’m afraid there is no simple cure although I can prescribe you some medication to control the attacks and to help with the excessive sleepiness’ tears from the girl’s mother fell onto the shoulder of her husband. There was nothing but silence after that moment...

 

 A few years flashed past and a young Sarah Atkins found herself idly standing against the wall inside a service dog centre in Woodlake. Sarah’s father was in discussion with a specialist who was holding a file of documents. ‘I think you’ll find that an assistant service dog can perform many tasks for the disabled and those who seek to lead independent lives. Some of our fully trained dogs perform many skills in response to verbal commands. We have a few dogs in particular who are capable of helping your daughter, you see humans have around 5 million scent receptors whereas the German shepherd has over 225 million and they are able to detect the chemical change in the brain which follows your daughter’s narcoleptic attacks. A few of these dogs have been trained to wake up their owner especially in dangerous places and areas where your daughter may have an attack. The dog will be specially trained for your daughter if you wish to choose one.’ The lady pointed in direction of the few German Sheppard dogs that were arranged in a line.

‘Sarah?’

Sarah smiled at each of the puppies which in turn had all remained still and obedient except for one which approached the girl and playfully rolled around as she had scratched his belly. Sarah continued to chuckle and smile at the dog whose tongue was protruding and breath had heavily pant until the woman next to Sarah’s father stood in between them with a cross face.

‘Get back Achilles! I’m sorry Mr Atkins I do apologize this dog is one of our less experienced and still has some training to do’

‘No harm done’ Sarah’s father had seen a smile on his little girl which had not been seen since she was first diagnosed.

‘Achilles?, whoever thought of naming him that?’

‘Oh it’s just a nickname given by some of my colleagues and I because of his particularly large build and robust behaviour but you can name him whatever you like after you sign some of these papers’ 

‘I like it.’ Sarah announced while looking into the eyes of her future companion...

 

Finally a vision of the back of Sarah’s head appears. She is surrounded by people in black suits, black veils and an atmosphere that expels misery and loss. Sarah is 13 and she refused to wear black. She wanted to honour her father by wearing a satin pink gown that was two sizes too small. Others had looked at her like she was mad and troubled for wearing a tiara on her head but no one really understood that she was her father’s princess and this was the only way she could say goodbye for the last time. It was always her and her father’s private joke. She was his sleeping beauty but now her father was asleep for eternity and a kiss could not wake him...

 

... As if she had risen from a deathlike sleep, Sarah awoke to find herself trembling and in pain. Sarah reached for her glass of water and instead of drinking it she had poured it over her head as if to wash away the desolation of her mind...

 

 


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