Authors: Nikki Rae
Tags: #New Adult
Sunshine Series Book One
Copyright by Nikki Rae Colligan. All rights reserved.
The author acknowledges the copyrighted and trademarked owners of the bands, music, and movies quoted in this book.
First, I would like to thank my family and friends. You know who you are, and you are always there for me when I need to bounce ideas off of someone. And most of the time, you don’t act like I’m crazy when I ask you insane questions.
For my writing partners, Ryan and Sara. Sunshine would not be what it is, and I would not be as strong of a writer without you guys.
I’d also like to thank Jayanti Tamm and her creative writing classes. Without them, and the people I worked with in them, Sunshine would not have been finished, and I would have never been coaxed into sharing it with anyone.
H.D. Gordon for coming into my life and befriending me. You are an amazing writer and a true friend. If I had never met you, I would not have thought this entire thing remotely possible.
And last but not least, Al Shelkonovzeff. I cannot describe how grateful I am for your patience with me and this project, which is almost as old as our relationship. You are always a person I can tell my worries to, real or fictional. I love you.
…Also, Amanda (Fucking) Palmer, for touching my life in so many ways.
“I wear my sunglasses at night.”-Corey Hart
There are only a few precious days of summer left and I have to spend one of them like this: waking up at the crack of dawn, getting into the car, and driving an hour out of the way to go to the doctor. No, I’m not sick. At least, I don’t think of myself as sick.
“Ready to go, Sophie?” Jade, my brother asks, flipping his multi-colored mane out of his face.
The only reason I agreed to go to this stupid doctor was to keep my mom happy in her own little perfect-pretend-world-where-everything-must-be-perfect, including abnormal me.
The reason why I am up so early?
Solar Urticaria. Reason numero uno why I am not a normal human being. I was diagnosed with it when I was a little kid. Well, kind of. They don’t really know what the hell is wrong with me. Nice, right? Whatever. In simplest terms, I’m allergic to the sun or sun-like light. If I’m out in sunlight for more than a few hours, I get these red itchy spots on me.
Then they turn into these sun poisoning-type-spots.
Then I get super sick and it’s not so nice.
So just stay out of the sun. No big deal, right? When you live in a place like Bumblefuck, South Jersey, where it rains pretty regularly anyway and even when it doesn’t, there isn‘t too much to do outside, it seems easy enough.
But when it happens to be sunny, I can’t leave my house without slathering SPF 120 all over. Then there are the industrial shades that cover half of my face, and a trench coat that sweeps the ground when I walk. I look like a walking Looney bin in eighty degree weather. My light blue Oldsmobile—passed down from who knows which relative—has black tinted windows, so driving is always fun. Especially when you get pulled over and have to explain that,
Yes, Mr. Officer, I know they’re illegal, but here’s the thing…
Living in a small town is also never good when you have something wrong with you.
On the grey scale, my skin registers at about corpse white. This little characteristic fuels most of the kids at school. It’s great to see that calling people names will just never go out of style. That whole sticks and stones saying has no meaning to the people at Lucky High. They have tons of nicknames for me: Casper, Elvira, and of course the various vampire comments are never in short supply.
But hey, Casper is cute, Elvira has an amazing body, and vampire? C’mon, like it took you all night to think of that one. Plus, I highly doubt that any of the three could pull off dark magenta hair and tattoos as I have.
And I can guarantee none of them look as good in combat boots.
There are worse things than being made fun of. Like having people feel sorry for you. I’ve over heard people in school talking about me. How it must
Like, totally like, suck not being able to go tanning or like, go to the beach, or like, do anything outside
. But in all honesty, I don’t really think about it. You can’t miss what you never really remember having, I guess.
My only memory of being out in the sun is so fuzzy I can barely make it out anymore.
Pieces of it come to me in my sleep sometimes. Flashes here and there. I was about five or six. Mom had taken my little sister Laura and I to the park. I remember screaming, burning, crying. I remember what the sun looked like, shining so bright off of the metal surface of the slide I was standing on top of. Then someone carrying me away, shielding me from the sun, but it wasn’t my mother. I know it wasn’t. It was definitely a guy. Later, Mom would tell me that of course it was her, and who else would it be? I think it could have been my father. Some guy I barely have one memory of. A memory without a face.
Anyway, I’ve never had a problem with being different. You’d think singing and playing piano for the best band ever and having more than a few body modifications would be enough to tell me apart from the next person, which is fine with me. The whole sun issue is just one more thing that makes me different. Different is fine.
However, my mother has
had a problem with different.
The sun allergy issue has always been the worst thing to happen in her perfect little life. She has the rich husband, the clone daughter, the cute little girl, the loveable but—gasp—gay son, and then me. She used to hate Jade the most, but since he moved in with his boyfriend, Stevie, she really doesn’t pay him much attention anymore.
What a blessing that must be sometimes.
We had been through countless doctors before I was even old enough to ride a bike. All of them said the same thing. That it was an allergy. That my body sees something in sunlight as “invasive” and that the “skin reactions” are just its way of protecting itself from “unwanted toxins.” I found this comforting in a way. My body knowing how to protect itself.
“So how do we get rid of it?” was the only question Mom ever asked.
And there would always be the same answer. There was no way to “cure” it. There were only ways of “eliminating accidents” and “preventing” my skin from getting burned. It was highly likely that I would grow out of it, and all I had to do was be careful until then. This was fine with me. I wasn’t dying. I wasn’t deformed. Nothing uncontrollably
was happening; it would eventually go away and my mom would love me the way she did before soon enough.
But that never happened.
I’m eighteen, about to start my senior year of high school. I have yet to go to the beach with friends or slip on a bikini to go tanning.
A few years passed and it seemed like Mom had given up on fixing me, but I was wrong. Someone told her about this doctor at the hospital that was into experimental treatments. My mother called him, asked if he could fix me, and he said, “he’d be delighted to try,”…I wish I was making that up.
Doctor Helmet entered our lives three months ago.
“C’mon. The sooner we do this, the sooner we’ll be done,” Jade says to me.
We’re sitting in my car, staring up at the menacing hospital building ahead of us. He tosses his floppy, fading rainbow mohawk out of his eyes again. I shove my sunglasses on and wrap my coat around me, inching out of the car and into the sweltering heat.
“Why don’t we just tell Mom we went and see a movie instead?” I ask as we enter the nice, air-conditioned lobby.
Jade encloses an arm around me, pushing me toward the elevator because my feet will just not move. “Why don’t we just go and if he wants to do anything to you that you don’t want him to, say no. You’re not a lab rat, Sunshine.”
I groan as we get into the elevator next to some nurses dressed in pink scrubs with cartoon characters on them. They look nice, but the smell is making me sick.
Why does the stupid doctor
to be in a hospital? No matter where you are or who you are standing next to, it smells like latex gloves and stale coffee.
We get to our floor and start to get closer to the office. My feet feel like they’re in Jell-o. “Seriously. We can forget we were even here,” I say to Jade.
“If you’re good, I promise I’ll ask the nurse for a lollipop and a sticker for you.” He smiles.
“You know, if we weren’t in a hospital, I would soooooo try to kill you.”
The yellow office greets us with its framed paintings of artists I’ve never heard of and its diplomas hung above brown chairs. I sign in on the clipboard the receptionist hands me, then I sit down next to Jade. The receptionist pops her gum.
Jade places his hand on my knee. “I don’t think we’ll have to wait that long. It looks like we’re the only people here.”
For the most part, I don’t mind doctors. They’re usually pretty cool in my book. If I’m sick, I go to one, they make me better, and that’s really neat. There’s just something about Doctor Helmet that I don’t like. Maybe it’s the way he talks to me, or doesn’t look me directly in the eye.
Maybe he’s just hoping he can fix me so he can be a well known, rich doctor with like, five books describing how he helped this poor girl that was deathly allergic to the sun.
Whatever it is, I don’t like him touching me. Some doctors avoid touching you when they examine you. Not Doctor H. He always to makes a point to have his rough hands come in contact with my skin as much as he can. I can’t describe how much I hate that.
I hate it when people touch me.
Soon the receptionist tells us that we can go inside and a nurse leads us to a room with a table covered in waxed paper. The only
thing about Doctor Helmet’s place is that unlike other doctors, they don’t make you wear those itchy paper gown things. And I wouldn’t be caught dead here if someone wasn’t allowed to sit in the room with me.
After the nurse leaves, Doctor Helmet comes in. He’s not too old, maybe forty-five. He has a pink dress shirt on under his white coat, and he’s wearing a red tie and grey pants. I always think he looks too tan.
Like a worn out leather bag.
He doesn’t say hi. Doesn’t look at us. He stares at my chart.
“So how have you been?” he says. I know he doesn’t mean “how is your life?” like most people do when they ask that question. He means “how is your illness?”
“Okay. Nothing major has happened or anything,” I answer.
He looks at my chart some more.
“It says here that your eyes are sensitive to the sunlight as well,” he says.
“Mmhmm.” He already knows this. I told him the first time we met. I don’t know what he wants me to say here.
“Does the sun
bother your eyes?” he asks like I’m acting dumb on purpose.
I shift on the wax paper covered table under me. “Yeah,” I answer a little less than nicely.
He nods like he’s happy about something then finally glances at me. “We’re going to try some eye drops today. We just got them and they are supposed to help with sensitivity to light.”
He waits. It’s my turn to talk.
Jade looks at me to make sure that I want to do this.
“Okay,” I answer.
He pats me on the head like a dog. “I’ll go get a nurse,” he says.
Doctor H leaves Jade and I alone in the yellow examination room for what seems like an hour. Jade gets so bored that he starts going through all of the drawers and pocketing things like tongue depressors and cotton balls. “You know, you don’t have to try those drops,” he tells me.
“I know, but I want to. I mean, if they work, I won’t have to wear my big black glasses anymore.”
How awesome would that be? To walk outside and not worry about going blind if it happens to be sunny and I forget my sunglasses. Sure, I would still need the coat, but hey, no more shades.
“Okay. Just as long as you want to do it for you. Not to make him or Mom happy.” Jade studies some cottony looking stuff he’s ripped out of a wrapper.
“Of course not.”
Jade hurries to shut all of the drawers and cabinets when we hear the doorknob turn.
One of the nicer nurses walks in with what I can only assume are the drops in a white plastic bottle. “Hi there, Sophie.”
She’s young, probably about twenty-five. Her blond hair is a quality I usually hate in a person, but I let it slide. She tells me to lie back so she can get to work. I have no problem with being comfortable around her. If Doctor Helmet hadn’t been able to find a nurse, he’d be dripping the chemicals into my eyes and probably touching me way too much.
So I do as she says and open my eyes real wide. One, two drops in the left eye. One, two drops in the right. Then she tells me to sit up.
“How do they feel?” she asks.
“I don’t know. Kind of tingly,” is all I can say to describe it. It sort of feels like when you have a cold and you use that vapo-rub stuff and your eyes water a little bit because of the way it smells.
A few milliseconds pass by and my eyes kind of feel dry, so I do what any normal person would do: I blink.
My eyes are on fire. Not only that, but under and around them, even my cheekbones burn.
“What’s wrong?” Jade asks immediately.
“It burns. Damn, it
burns,” I blurt out.
Then it feels like I have no control over what my body does. My arms start flailing, my legs start kicking in every direction, and I can’t stop screaming.
It takes about four nurses, Jade, and Doctor H to hold me down long enough for them to put some other type of drop in my eyes that makes the burning stop.
“Open your eyes,” Helmet says, sounding slightly annoyed that I interrupted his morning coffee or something.
As soon as I do, I can’t see anything but a blur and my eyes start burning again so I shut them. I swear I can hear him sigh in frustration.
“What the hell was that?” Jade asks.
The nurse hands me a cold, wet paper towel that I press under my bottom lids. That helps a lot. Especially the her being nice part.
“An allergic reaction,” Doctor H shoots back like Jade has something wrong with him.
Of course it was an allergic reaction. Everything they’ve ever tried has resulted in an allergic reaction. Why do I always seem to forget that when they have something new for me to try?
The experimental sun lotion gave me hives.
The experimental pills made me hallucinate little purple kitty cats everywhere.
Then throw up.
So why would I not think that the experimental eye drops wouldn’t blind me?
“Just wear your sunglasses around any type of light until the redness goes away,” Doctor H says like he’s telling me to eat my vegetables.
“Why can’t I see anything?” I ask.
“Because you had an allergic reaction. You’ll be able to see normally within a few hours.”
All I want to do is get out of here. I think Jade is thinking the same thing because he asks, “Are we done here?”
I’m guessing Helmet nods because Jade grabs my hand and starts pulling me out of the room. A nurse stops us and gives me a pill that will help with the pain. I really don’t like taking pills. There’s something about how one tiny thing can alter the way you act that makes me uncomfortable, but in this case, I would have taken horse tranquilizers if they had any. I gulp it down dry and leave with my brother.
We’re in the elevator when I try to open my eyes again. The light doesn’t seem to bother them now that I have my sunglasses on, but I still can’t see anything except blurry outlines of people.
“Are you okay?” Jade finally asks. He knows I hate this question.
“Yeah. I have to pee.”
The elevator reaches the bottom floor and we get out. The pain killers seem to be working already because the fuzzy outlines start shifting and moving and changing color a little bit.
“I’ll take you to the bathroom,” Jade offers, but I’ve already pulled my arm free from his.
“I can find it by myself,” I assure him, “I’ve been here so many times that I can find it with my eyes closed.” And I may have to.
“Okay.” I can tell by the tone of his voice that he doesn’t want to let me go on my own.