Daughter of Air

DIANA – mother

NATALIE – daughter

HENRIETTA – Natalie’s best friend

CHORUS of doctors and nurses
(either by two or more actors in unison or alternating lines)

CHORAL LEADER

GABRIELLA – Diana’s elder daughter

SETTING: A hospital room. Modern time.

On one side of the stage, illuminated, DIANA sits on a cushioned chair. She’s slouched over, drumming her fingers on her knees and chewing her bottom lip.
The other side of the stage remains dark.

A CHORUS of doctors and nurses enter the room.

DIANA
Oh, hello doctor.

LEADER
How are you feeling?

DIANA
Alright, I suppose. I do believe… I do believe speaking with you has been helpful.

LEADER
Good.

DIANA
But my mind is still a mess.

LEADER
That’s okay.

CHORUS
(to the audience)
Red-rimmed eyes, sallow cheeks,
the darkness surrounding her face
tell a story long suppressed.
But her lips fail to utter the story her tired body tells.

LEADER
Take it slowly. The puzzle pieces will come together, piece by piece, row by row.

CHORUS
Make up your mind to explore yourself. You have stories to tell.
Let the truth be revealed.
Search in your past for what sorrow may last.
Make up your mind to be healed.

DIANA
We were both undergrads… architecture… the baby wasn’t planned, neither was the marriage… I’d always expected to be too busy but… then the baby came and it all seemed to make sense until…

LEADER
Until?

Lights fade to black on DIANA’s side of the stage. Lights up on the other side, revealing HENRIETTA clutching NATALIE’s lifeless hand, NATALIE asleep on a hospital bed. Suddenly, NATALIE’s eyes shoot open.

NATALIE
Henri… Henrietta?

HENRIETTA
Oh, thank God you’re awake!

NATALIE
What… what happened?

HENRIETTA
You… you’ve been out for three weeks… You’ve been asleep for three weeks! I found you in my bathroom; you’d collapsed… And your pills were scattered all over my rug. The bottle had rolled across my room. And I… do you remember what happened?

NATALIE
shaking her head
No… no. Nothing.

HENRIETTA
The doctors said you had a high amount of Ativan in your system.

NATALIE
Oh.

HENRIETTA
If you were upset… you know you could’ve talked to me… You can talk to me about anything.
Is this about…?

The lights illuminate the entire stage, showing both DIANA and NATALIE at once.

DIANA
My daughter… Gabriella, she… We’d rushed her to the hospital… I was screaming at the doctors, and… they told me to wait, but no one ever said that… that we were too… we were too late. I remember the feeling of… the moment of dread. Someone simply said… your… your child is…

LEADER
How long ago did she –

DIANA
Seventeen. Seventeen years.

NATALIE
It always seems to come back to her, doesn’t it? Always…

DIANA
I couldn’t… I couldn’t…

NATALIE
She couldn’t forget, she couldn’t let go.

DIANA
She… I just couldn’t believe… I wouldn’t accept…

NATALIE
She let the wound fester, she let it turn into a scar.
We all hurt with her.

DIANA
Do you know what it’s like?

NATALIE
And it hurt so much.

DIANA
To die alive?

NATALIE
Do you know what it’s like to feel jealous of the dead?

DIANA
He… my husband… he would… would always be there for me, to catch me when I fall. But…

NATALIE
Our house was a home… but that was a long time ago.

DIANA
I never would’ve learned what solid ground felt like, if I’d stayed. I just wanted to see if I could do it.

NATALIE
She made a choice.

DIANA
If I could… all on my own.

NATALIE
She walked out.

DIANA
It was… It was only… God, I can’t believe it.
It was only six months ago.

NATALIE
She walked out on my dad.

DIANA
I… I tried. I wanted to try to do it alone.

NATALIE
And I followed her.

DIANA
But I…

NATALIE
I wanted to try and make her listen. I wanted to see… if I could talk to her, if she actually would realize that I exist… and maybe, maybe she’d be able to see me but… I couldn’t.

DIANA
I couldn’t do it.

NATALIE
She kept looking for her precious Gabriella; She wanted the daughter she’d lost, not the one she had.

DIANA
He… my husband… he… he took care of Natalie. She was all his. I don’t know her, I don’t know anything about her, not her favorite color, her favorite food, what flavor of ice cream she likes.

NATALIE
I was stupid to think I could make her listen. I was stupid to think that…
she’d see me, that even though she couldn’t get over the fact that her first child died,
I was still there; I was still alive. I thought I’d be able to fix her,
that she wouldn’t be haunted by ghosts if I could only make her realize…
I was there.

DIANA
I regretted… I was so, so sad that I… I couldn’t see Gabriella grow up.
Not see her first day of kindergarten,
not help her with her math homework,
not sit with her while she cried about a fight with her friend.
I couldn’t stand by her and comfort her through a sleepless night, not see her suffer through high school or apply for college. I regretted not being able to see her grow up.
I regretted missing those moments, especially the smallest ones.
And because of that, I missed the same things with Natalie.

NATALIE
I wonder if she would’ve forgotten my name, if I’d not come with her.
I wonder if she’d have forgotten all about me.

HENRIETTA
Natalie…

NATALIE
Would she remember how old I was or anything?

HENRIETTA
You know she cares about you.

NATALIE
Does she?

LEADER
How old is your daughter?

DIANA
She’s… seventeen. She’s seventeen now.

LEADER
Do you think… she wanted to commit suicide?

DIANA
No! No, I don’t think… I don’t think she would do that.
Not on purpose. But she…
She was diagnosed with depression when she was…
When she was only fifteen.
But I didn’t think it would ever have come to this.

HENRIETTA
Did you… did you do it on… on purpose?

NATALIE
I…

DIANA
She… she was prescribed a lot of medication…

NATALIE
I don’t remember.

DIANA
I guess… I guess sometimes, it was hard to keep track of them all.

NATALIE
I think… I thought that I hadn’t taken my medication yet, I don’t think… I just felt so anxious I thought I couldn’t have taken it yet. So I took the dose, I thought it was my first dosage for the day. Oh, oh. It wasn’t the first.

DIANA
Under the medication, she’d seemed fine. She’d seemed much happier, from what I could tell. She never told me she had any problems. She never talked to me about any of it.

LEADER
Accidental overdose, then?

NATALIE
I’d taken some in the morning before I went to school. And some after lunch… I swear I didn’t remember taking it. I swear I thought I was supposed to.
No, it wasn’t. It wasn’t on purpose, I swear.

DIANA
An accident. Maybe… maybe. I believe so.

NATALIE
Though maybe, maybe it should’ve been.

HENRIETTA
Please! Don’t say that!

DIANA
Yes… But…

NATALIE
Some days I felt like dying…
I spent most of my life wishing I were dead.
That feeling… it felt like it would never go away.

DIANA
At the very least… I hope so.

NATALIE
It was like I wasn’t even there.

DIANA
I hope against hope it was an accident.

NATALIE
The way I was living…
It was a slower suicide.

HENRIETTA
You’re only barely awake as it is
And you might not be for much longer.

DIANA
Natalie… she told me that Gabriella wasn’t…
She told me that Gabriella was gone, that she’d died, she’s dead,
she has been dead for so many years.
I wouldn’t listen…

NATALIE
She never listened to me.

DIANA
I lashed out. And she left.

NATALIE
She hasn’t listened to me for the past seventeen years.

DIANA
I let her go.

NATALIE
All these fears just sat inside me… They slit my skin, clawing, screaming to be heard.
DIANA
I let her go… and she…

NATALIE
I know they won’t though. Not a single word.

DIANA
I… I still see her. Gabriella.
I still see her, not just in my mind’s eye, but
I see her… as if she were alive.

NATALIE
I just need her to take one look, just spare one glance. Take a look at the Invisible Girl. Please find her before she fades away.

HENRIETTA
But you still stayed… and you stayed… Enduring, coping, hurting, hoping…
For day after day, trying to get through for just another stolen hour.

DIANA
I still remember that day, that day when she… when she… when she died.
As if it hadn’t been so long…

HENRIETTA
Stay with us now. We all want you to survive. We all want you to live!
Please, just hold on a little longer…

NATALIE
I’ll… I’ll try. But it’s… I’m tired.

HENRIETTA
You should rest.

NATALIE nods once, before she falls back asleep.

DIANA
That hospital room… that gloom…
She lay there so still… so cold.

Lights shut off on NATALIE’s side of the stage.

CHORUS
It may not be clear to you if she’s flesh and blood;
a wandering spirit or a construct of your mind.
But you see her, we know you see her still.
Why is it you still believe?
Do you simply dream? Or do you grieve?
You have to let her go.
She had died seventeen years ago.

LEADER
You’d lost her… but Natalie’s still there. She’s still alive and breathing just in the other room.

DIANA
I want to go see her… my daughter. I want to go see Natalie.

DIANA exits her room. Lights dim on that side of the stage as lights come on the other side, where NATALIE is. DIANA enters NATALIE’s room, stopping at the doorway. HENRIETTA looks up, gazing at DIANA through glazed eyes.

HENRIETTA
She woke up.

DIANA
Oh.

HENRIETTA
You just missed her.

HENRIETTA hastily exits, pushing past DIANA. DIANA goes to sit beside her daughter’s bed, reaching out to an eerily still hand.
The CHORUS stops at the doorway.
GABRIELLA appears, but no one takes notice.

GABRIELLA
Mom? Mom, can you see me?

DIANA doesn’t respond. GABRIELLA brushes her hand through her mother’s hair, but DIANA’s gaze remains fixed on NATALIE’s still form. GABRIELLA backs away slowly, then turns around and exits.

DIANA
This might be our chance… and it may be our last… to be free…

CHORUS
You wished you could run…
You wished you could fly.
You wished you could just disappear
fly far away from here.

DIANA
The price of love is loss; I never really realized that I…
I was never willing to pay that price. And I was trapped…
And I trapped you with me.
I’m sorry I hurt you. I…

CHORUS
So many years spent wandering so blindly,
Trying to fight the things we feel.

DIANA
How I wish I could be the mother I should. I tried, I tried so hard, it’s true.
It kills me that I never could.

CHORUS
It’s an endless game.
Time and again we come short of the rules.
No solution, no way to win.
But that doesn’t mean we don’t fight.

DIANA
We’ll make a new start, somewhere far from what keeps us apart.
We’ll keep fighting.

CHORUS
Some hurts never heal.
Some ghosts are never gone.
But we go on.

DIANA
We’ll find that light.

CHORUS
The night is dying.
The day will dawn.

DIANA
We’ll find that light in the dark.

CHORUS
The nights may seem endless now.
But I swear, somewhere in the night,
There is a light in the dark.

DIANA
It’s just you and me. We’ll live, you’ll see.
Give me pain if that’s what’s real; it’s the price we pay to feel.
But we’ll suffer the pain together. I’ll suffer here with you.
I know it’s not perfect, but it’s what we’ve got.
It’s all that we’ve got.

Maybe… maybe we can never be okay.
But maybe, we’re tough and we’ll try anyway.
I’ll let go of the past, and I promise
I will finally see you.

You just need to wake up. Please.

CHORUS
It takes strength to admit what one has lost
And wisdom to learn how to live with the cost.
Though at times it does hurt to be healed,
Acceptance of sorrows leads to far greater joy
Than harboring ghosts of the past.
For ghosts come and haunt those who hold onto them
And cause greater suffering
A greater loss
A greater price.
Perhaps in the end fate will be merciful.
Fate will be kind.
Perhaps, in the end,
This misery will suffice.

NATALIE flatlines.

DIANA
Natalie?

Anjelika Amog, Age 15, Grade 10, Stuyvesant High School, Silver Key

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