Sooner or later, everyone got tired of her. It was a novelty for people to watch the first time; to lead her outside when she started to panic, to imagine they could soothe her with a calming word or two. But anxiety can be boring when you’re not the one who has it.
Jess never got bored.
No matter what the problem was, she made sure she was generally nearby. Even stuck in a hospital bed, she remote-controlled herself into a sitting position and listened as Jennifer stammered her way through her latest worry.
‘I- I just keep panicking that something’s going to happen-’
‘Something has happened, Jenny. I had a bloody brain operation.’
‘I mean something bad. I don’t sleep at night-’
‘Don’t worry, Jenny. I’m fine’, she bared her teeth, but it didn’t look much like a smile, ‘Living til eighty, remember? Having the cute ginger twins? None of this ringing a bell?’
‘I just worry about you so much.’
‘Right. Jesus’, Jessica bit her lip, fumbling at the charm at her neck- and then, among the bruises, her eyes lit up. She scrabbled at the clasp of the necklace, let it drop loose into her hand and held it out, ‘There you go. Insurance.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘I mean you take this while I’m in here, and then I’ll come and get it back once I’m home’, she twined the chain around Jennifer’s fingers, tucked the charm into her hand, ‘Don’t lose it, though. That would ruin the gesture.’
‘But it’s your favourite-’
‘Well, you’re my favourite too. You better run along now, it’s almost dinner time, and I’m not at my most attractive getting fed with a spoon…’
Even ten years later, it was unbearable not to have Jess anymore- but it helped, sometimes, to hold the charm around her neck.
By Molly Duffield